Family Fun on Tap
- David Ginisi
Beer, bands, and BBQ. And don’t forget the hayrides, hot dogs, and cornhole games. You won’t any Clydesdales hoofing it around the craft breweries of North Central Massachusetts, but you will find plenty to enjoy – for the entire family. If you like craft beer, you’re going to love a visit to this region. It’s been a quarter century since three college friends launched the Wachusett Brewing Company in Westminster, bottling up local favorites like Green Monsta IPA (a tip of the hat to the Boston Red Sox).
In that time, Wachusett has grown (and added the capability to can its popular products), and it’s been joined by Moon Hill Brewing Company in Gardner, River Styx in Fitchburg, Stone Cow Brewery in Barre, and Honest Weight Artisan Beer in Orange. A visit to each of these breweries is a tasteful adventure, featuring signature beverages like Pufnstuf IPA, Nitro Shilelagh (Nitro) Irish Dry Stout, Farmer Phil’s Pils, Mass Soul IPA, The Dawn of Hyperion Sour – Ale, Ego Trippin’ porter. (Tip: This Summer will also bring some interesting new offerings from Wachusett: Watermelon and Strawberry ales.)
Their facilities have evolved, too, as River Styx settled into a new brewery and tap room in Fitchburg, and Moon Hill opened a brew barn in Phillipston. To celebrate its 25th anniversary, Wachusett is renovating its brew yard, and reaching out to visitors of all ages.
So where does the “entire family” fit into the picture?
It’s no secret that visitors to North Central Massachusetts are looking for a “country” experience – and they find it, across the entire region. These are farms and fields, orchards and mountain trails, lakes for swimming and rivers for kayaking. Johnny Appleseed’s backyard is an ideal vacation spot – or day-trip destination – for the whole family.
So it’s only natural that some of the area’s great destinations for adults – the terrific craft breweries – want to accommodate travelers of all ages. With that in mind, they’ve found ways to cater to young and old alike. What better place to start than with food? The Gardner Ale House, which is also home to Moon Hill Brewing, is the area’s only real brew pub – and is a popular destination any time of the year, dishing up great food in an iconic downtown building. Last year, though, Moon Hill teamed up with the Red Apple Farm in Phillipston, opening the Brew Barn, serving up local brews, fresh roasted nuts, and popped-on-the-spot popcorn from June to October, along with your farm favorites and a special co-produced Rick & Al’s Apple Ale.
Lots to Do!
Red Apple Farm, of course is known for family activities ranging from apple-picking to hayrides, and opportunities for kids to meet farm animals up close and personal. Voila! That’s an instant family-oriented day trip that everyone can enjoy! Want more? Fridays offer a special treat, with free hotdogs and ice cream for kids. Kids are always welcome, too, at Stone Cow Brewery in Barre, where there’s more than fine beer on tap. How about joining in for a craft or event? Adult classes in everything from CPR to watercolor painting are offered, and kids’ craft workshops run from creating flax sock bunnies to making seed “bombs” to launch at family gardens. Kids can also visit the animals, check out the playground, bring a ball or Frisbee and enjoy some refreshing ice cream! There’s no doubt about it: a visit to Johnny Appleseed Country is always a family-friendly affair!