If the Northeastern Seaboard is on your vacation map, specifically if you’re starting in Boston, there’s no finer summer eating than a paper basket of fried clam bellies (and maybe a lobster roll for good measure). And wash all this down than with some of the region’s great craft beers. So grab a spare Saturday and have at our North Shore beer and seafood jaunt, which is meant to be devoured in the order below.
1. Night Shift Brewing
This two-year-old brewery moved to a bigger space a few months back, so it’s able to produce more of the sour, barrel-aged and “wild” (that is, fermented from wild yeast) suds that it’s known for. Up front is a spacious tap room for tasting beers like JoJo, a hibiscus IPA, or Viva Habanera, which is smooth and fruity with a chile kick; flights are $8 for four 4-ounce pours. In back is the brewery proper, which you can tour on the odd hours (1 p.m., 3 p.m., etc.) weekends, and Fridays on odd hours starting at 3 p.m. Night Shift often collaborates with other local producers, including Tazo Chocolate (for a Tazo Stout that’s available in winter) and Island Creek Oysters (for a summery Oyster Goze that’s brewed with whole bivalves). 87 Santilli Highway, Everett, MA; 617-294-4233
2. Salem Beer Works
Though not exactly a tiny craft brewer these days (the two-decade-old company has locations all over the state), this place does make award-winning beers in-house. Seasonal options are a popular pour: there’s Watermelon Ale in summer, Bunker Hill Blueberry Ale in spring and Pumpkinhead Ale come fall. Salem Amber Hefeweizen is a good summer bet that tastes of banana, pineapple, and clove. Definitely get an order of beer dough bites to soak up the booze — the mini bread rolls, made with spent grain, are served with a mustard- and stout-laced cheese for dipping. Multiple locations; see the full list here.
3.Woodman’s of Essex
Anyone who grew up in Mass likely knows and loves this legendary seafood haunt, which opened in 1916. Regardless of whether these are really the world’s first fried clams (rumor has it the summer staple was born when Lawrence “Chubby” Woodman, grandfather of the current owners, tossed some bivalves in with his homemade potato chips), they’re undoubtedly some of the best. Order the bellies and the tender part of the clam pops in your mouth beneath its breaded coating. (As a bonus, all the fried food except for the excellent onion rings is made with corn flour and therefore gluten-free.) The restaurant has expanded over the decades, even adding a roof deck — the better to seat the crowds who mob the place all summer long. 121 Main St., Essex, MA; 978-768-6057
4. J.T. Farnham’s
Another area contender for best fried clam, Farnham’s is scenically situated on Eben Creek. Boats are encouraged to anchor and order — in case you’re arriving James Bond style. In addition to the excellent clams, the place makes a mean seafood chowder, chock full of huge chunks of scallop, lobster and other marine proteins. The homey, old-fashioned spot offers views of the creek and the Essex River beyond from both its indoor wooden booths and outdoor seating area. 88 Eastern Ave., Essex, MA; 978-768-6643
5. Cape Ann Brewing Company
This brewpub and restaurant is located right on the water in historic downtown Gloucester. Cape Ann’s six-beer flights are a fun way to try the brewery’s range of pours (in fact, order two flights and you can try all 12 options on draft at any given time), from Fisherman’s Ale, a light-bodied Kolsch, to the full-bodied and intense Fisherman’s Harbor Master. Brewery tours are by appointment weekdays and 11 a.m., 3 p.m., and 5 p.m. on weekends. There’s a full food menu that ranges from bar bites like burgers and nachos to fried seafood (in case anyone wants to cram in more breaded clams). 11 Rogers St., Gloucester, MA; 978-282-7399
6. Lobster Pool
This classic seafood shack is a worth-it drive to Rockport, practically at the tip of the state. Make the pilgrimage and you’re rewarded with serene Ipswich Bay views and the “no nonsense” (no celery, no filler and practically no mayo) lobster rolls that have made the place a favorite since it opened in 1954. The live lobsters in tanks near the entrance are also served steamed or in a surprisingly tasty quesadilla, and there’s chowder and fried seafood, as well. Prepare for lines and bring a picnic blanket for on-the-grass seating on weekends — the spot is BYOB in case you pick up any bottled brews at earlier stops. 329 Granite St., Rockport, MA; 978-546-7808
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