Come to think of it, we won’t have a Heineken. But what will we have? That’s what we asked ourselves over and over as we surveyed the tap (and can/bottle but heavily weighting draft) selection at restaurants all around town. In the end, we fully expect people to come to blows over our list. Because, really, we did. But if you’re going to throw down, choose pilsner over politics. Truth is there are lots of great places to get your draft on – some at the actual source of the suds like Wormtown, 3Cross, and Cold Harbor, which (like Dive Bar) miss this list because they aren’t restaurants. The ones we did finally settle on we felt had a stronger point of view (meaning attitude) than the others – a curated list rather than just a great selection. Which isn’t a dig at all the runners-up. Those that missed didn’t fall short by much more than a matter of taste and a need to choose. What no one can dispute is our beer game is strong these days. The expectation is that can will find a great selection of craft and select national/mass brews by tap or can or bottle anywhere you find great food. Just don’t have your heart set in anything: What’s perhaps most amazing is how few brews and brewers repeat on each of these and ever-evolving and changing lists. Which is only a drop in the U.S. bucket these days: There are now 6,000 breweries in the country and the vast majority (98%) are designated as “craft” or small, traditional and independent.

Armsby Abbey

Anyone who makes a list like this and doesn’t include Armsby is either wrong or claustrophobic, because Armsby deservedly continues to pack them in for drink and food a solid decade after changing the face of Worcester dining by putting its stake down on Main Street. The list is a regional, national, and global education either through a range of choices from a single brewer like Hill Farmstead (six options on one February night) or single choices like Ayinger Bavarian Pilsner, Finback Split the Night, or Kyritzer Mord Und Totschlag (which we put in not only because it’s delicious but we like to make people try and pronounce it). Special props recently for the Trillium trio on tap recently: Day & Night, Puny Partridge, and Six. For the uninitiated, flights are always the way to go or you’re going to deprive yourself.

 

BirchTree Bread Company

The smallest selection on this list gets extra props for its clear devotion to Worcester and Massachusetts brewers and for the fact that there is no brighter more family friendly place to sip suds in the Woo. The big, open space is bookended by big bright windows that make drinking by day a salute to sunshine and a toast to tippling. (BirchTree is only open after 6 on Wednesday and Friday pizza nights and for its fabulous first Thursday of the month beer dinners like 3Cross and Flying Dreams.) Beer is really like Forrest Gump’s a box of chocolates here: You never know what you’re gonna get – even if it is on the board (taps get tapped frequently). But trust us: Something good is waiting in the back. Special props recently for Rapscallion Brewery’s Honey American Pale Ale and a nice non-beer choice: KrafTea Ginger Hibiscus Kombucha from Worcester.

 

Civic Kitchen + Drink

Civic Kitchen seemingly has two strikes against it: It’s located in Westborough where, aside from Korean, foodies rarely default to, and it’s on a golf course, where food usually goes to die. Nope. Even if you never tend to tee off and the mere idea tees you off, Civic Kitchen can be your exception to the rule. Decent even good grub with local sourcing is made all the better by a great rotating list of local and unusual brews worth putting on madras pants for. Special props to the huge and warming SingleCut Beersmiths’ Heavy Boots of Lead Imperial Stout (11.2% ABV), Lawson’s Finest Liquids’ Sip of Sunshine IPA, and local brewer Cold Harbor’s Indian Summer.

 

Smokestack Urban Barbecue

Beer and barbecue. I mean just say that and we challenge you not to smile. Two things that make the world better and better together. The list is enough to make you Google “How to Get a Wooden Leg,” because you’ll need stomach space for the food (especially the outstanding wings). Seeing as The Cana District space is always hopping, it seems perfectly apt the tap list should be too. This is a nicely curated list designed to complement the food and stand on its own, which is really NOT what you expect from a joint like this. Too many places we’ve been similar to Smokestack, populate taps with the usual suspects. Not here. Come to think of it, I won’t have a Heineken. I’ll have an Equilibrium Brewery MC2 IPA imperial double when the weather is cold and damp and a Cold Harbor Indian Summer IPA when it’s not. Special props for Fiddlehead Brewing’s Second Fiddle IPA and for always having a couple of great sours, including last we were there Deciduous Brewing Company’s The Light.

 

The Rail Trail Flatbread Company

Let’s hear it for the rebirth of Hudson! Five years ago Karim El-Gamal did for that town what Alec Lopez did years before for Worcester: put a stake down where no one else dared. What followed was everything from a cheese shop to an ice cream parlor and Rail Trail anchored it all. Quite frankly, that MetroWest I-495 corridor was a drag before that. Now, it’s just not a place for a desperate stop when Worcester or Boston are miles away but a destination. Spend the day working your way through the town and the list. Watch for Tap Takeovers by brewers like Jack’s Abby and Reserve. Special props for the Ommegang Smoked Porter, Kent Falls Shoots, and WOW: Founders Backwoods Bastard wonderful scotch ale that smells smoky and scotchy and makes an argument that Rail Trail should open a nap room in the back for afterwards.

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