Sip ‘n Savor: Take a Refreshing Break Today
- David Ginisi
A walk along a cool, leafy trail. An afternoon spent picking fruits from heavily-laden branches in a hillside orchard. A paddle down a quiet river, with, perhaps, a bit of fishing along the way.
There are so many opportunities this summer to sample the pleasures of North Central Massachusetts, even with social distancing in mind.
But there’s another way to enjoy a taste of the region — in a glass, a can or a bottle! Settle into an Adirondack chair, or on a picnic bench, or at a cozy café table and let the flavors of Johnny Appleseed Country quench your thirst and brighten your day. And with today’s pandemic-related regulations, local businesses are offering an innovative array of options for enjoying a fine beverage on-site or “to go.” There’s no need to miss out on a variety of great taste treats!
Visitors and local residents alike have long enjoyed the fruit wines and craft beers of the region. Wachusett Brewing Company has been enticing beer-lovers with great craft brews for more than three decades, and Moon Hill Brewing Company at the Gardner Ale House has a long-term and devoted following — with good reason. The list of local brews will always bring a smile to your face, from Give Your Hops a Hug to Pufnstuf, Mass Soul and the venerable Wachusett favorite, Green Monsta IPA.
Nashoba Valley Winery and Hardwick Winery have solid histories of creating New England-centric wines — from peach to cranberry apple, Yankee Boy White and Prescott Pear — that capture the essence of the region. Looking for something different? How about an adult “slushee” at Hardwick? It will definitely cool you down on a hot summer afternoon!
But wait! There’s more! Newer to the local beverage scene are a palette of hard ciders. Yes, you can enjoy the taste of local apples while sipping a cool, refreshing cider (with a bit of a kick). In 2019, the Red Apple Cidery — a collaboration between Moon Hill Brewing the Red Apple Farm — debuted its Hailstorm Hard Cider. And don’t forget to check out Wachusett Brews Fifty Trees Hard Cider, in both original and cranberry versions. At Carlson Orchards in Harvard, is Honey Crisp, Shandy Stand and Oak Hill Blend feature the orchard’s favorite apples.
While it’s easy to grab a beverage to go — at Hardwick Winery, you can even drive right through the barn to pick up your order — it’s oh, so relaxing to take a refreshing break as you continue on your tour of the region! Plan an afternoon to soak up the sun and linger over a frosty glass of goodness.
So many choices … you’ll just have to return again (and again) to get a well-rounded taste of North Central Massachusetts. Be sure to check out these fine local businesses on social media, to see what’s new.
Here’s a little tour guide to get your started on your way:
Bolton Beer Works and Nashoba Valley Winery in Bolton. Joining the venerable winery, the brewery was begun to create beers for the property’s restaurant and wedding operations. Since then it has expanded, with its own bottling operation, and now offers a variety of seasonal and traditional brews and hard ciders. The winery produces both traditional wines, from Chardonnay to Rieslings, along with an assortment of interesting local fruit wines. 100 Wattaquadock Hill Rd., Bolton. 978-779-5521. Open daily from 11 am to 5 or 6 pm (updated information available on Facebook)
Bull Spit Brewing
Located at Kalon Farm in Lancaster, Bull Spit was launched in 2019 and has become a real presence on the local scene. Its “Following the Heard Music Series” will keep you entertained while you sample favorites like Larger Than Life Lager and Brown Cow Ale, and Apple Knocker hard cider. 339 Seven Bridge Rd., Lancaster. 978-706-1479.
A popular spot for pick-your-own (or pick up at the farm stand) produce, Carlson Orchards’ history dates back to 1936 — and in keeping with the times, now produces hard ciders to complement its long-standing favorite sweet cider. Visit the tap room to quaff some cider or enjoy a pizza (don’t miss the Peach Pizza!), pretzels, or cider donuts.115 Oak Hill Rd., Harvard. 800-286-3916.
Drive up to — or through! — Hardwick’s barn to find a great assortment of New England wines. Visit for a while to enjoy snack plates, sangrias, slushees and live music, too! 3305 Greenwich Rd., Hardwick. 413-967-7763. Open 7 days, 11 am – 8 pm.
Moon Hill Brewing
The Gardner Ale House is a local dining favorite — and home to this downtown brewery, where you can do a parking lot pickup, or enjoy food and beverages indoors or out. 74 Parker St., Gardner. 978-669-0122. Open 7 days a week. You can also find Moon Hill beer and cider at the Brew Barn at Red Apple Farm in Phillipston.
Red Apple Farm
The Phillipston farm is a local institution, but the Cidery and Brew Barn are new additions to the local beverage scene, offering ciders made in cooperation with Moon Hill Brewing, wine from Hardwick Winery, and Moon Hill craft beers. Live music, BBQs and more add to the weekend fun at this scenic location. 455 Highland Ave., Phillipston.978-895-9658.
Wachusett Brewing Company
A spacious brew yard (along with a drive-through window, indoor and outdoor dining) have made this a popular Westminster destination. But it’s the great craft brews that have kept people coming back for decades, anxious to see what’s new. As pandemic restrictions began to ease, Wachusett added drive through windows and home delivery, and expanded its Brew Yard. Open daily at noon. 175 State Road East, Westminster. 978-874-9965.
Story by: Pat Gale