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Trillium Brewery

Trillium Brewery
Gabe Bellegard Bastos

Beers of Boston – Trillium and me, the new guys.

I thought it would be fitting, given that it’s the spring and this is my first feature, to write about a new brewery. So, on what seems to be the first pleasant Friday afternoon of the year, my girlfriend Clare and I head on an “adventure” to Fort Point’s Trillium, the first brewery to open in “Boston proper” since Jamaica Plain’s Boston Beer Company, the makers of Sam Adam’s.

I will not go into my issues [1] with how prominently they try to market that “first since BBC” bit of trivia; it should suffice to say that it is much more of a technicality than a brag-worthy point. But it is impossible to write about the brewery without talking a little bit about Fort Point which, along with the area known simply as the Seaport, forms Boston’s “Innovation district.”[2] As you might have guessed, the area is full of start-ups, luxury lofts and “cool nerds” — the distinction between the two is a matter of branding, not geography. The Seaport is where celebrity chefs, conventions and generic chains live, multiply and thrive. It is typically seen as particularly touristy, predictable and unexciting. Fort Point and its people are, allegedly, a more authentically local, less corporate recent development – and in comparison to their neighbors, they are  – in a part of town that not so long ago was criminally overlooked by developers and restaurateurs.

Part of the fun of visiting a Boston brewery is exploring its often industrial, always sketchily desolate neighborhoods. There’s an element of feeling like an insider in that that complements the joy of getting your hands on a rare or brewery-only beer quite well. You will not get that in this trip. Instead, you will walk by the dystopian looking building that houses the Federal Reserve Bank, a museum for the Boston Tea Party, the children’s museum, and a giant Hood milk bottle. And all the trendiest restaurants in town. Feeling adventurous yet? To be fair, actually finding the retail space requires you to realize that the entrance is not on the main drag but rather around the corner in an alley. Don’t let the fact that there’s a brand new Tesla [3] parked there distract you from the fact that it’s an alley and you are adventurous.

Trillium Tap Room

Trillium’s retail space itself is a very cramped yet carefully designed bar in which you can purchase growlers to take home. The tap handles are hand carved, the brand’s glassware is prominently displayed, the crew wears matching uniforms (gray Trillium t-shirts[4]), and the bar itself is covered in a beautiful dark wood. I squeeze behind the last middle-aged guy (who just happens to be wearing a Tesla track jacket. Subtle.) in line and patiently wait for my chance to choose between the Trillium house brew, a farmhouse Ale, and Pot & Kettle, an Oatmeal Porter. “What is this? A brewery?” asks the middle-aged construction worker who walks in behind me. I briefly explain that for now, due to liquor licensing rules and lack of space, it’s more like a keg station and there’s nowhere to drink the beer after you purchase it. He seems rather disappointed and suggests that I try a “Double-wide, from Boulevard of Colorado [5]” instead and leaves. A couple minutes go by, a lot of explanations on how to use and clean a growler are given out, and soon enough they run out of Pot & Kettle, which is okay since I can’t think of anything I would want to drink less than an Oatmeal Stout when I am trying to celebrate the arrival of the spring. We pick up my growler of Trillium Farmhouse and two Trillium-branded tulips, get an apology for the wait and the lack of Stout from the nicest cashier I have ever seen in Boston, find out they will make the Pot & Kettle [6] year-round and head home, which is not close to Fort Point [7] in any way.

Anyone that has ever lived in a city will tell you that your relationship with your city is like any other relationship: it has good days and bad days. And those days are largely dependent on your public transportation experience. Well, because this was a “hard to love” sort of day, we get back to the busiest train station [8] in town right at rush hour, carrying a growler and two delicate glasses. I also mention this because I know that the long commute from Trillium to my apartment inevitably altered the taste of my beer regardless of how hard I tried to wrap it with my jacket and preserve its temperature. After cooling it a little bit in my fridge, I pour it into the tulips.

Trillium Farmhouse Ale

Trillium’s signature Farmhouse Ale is a beautiful pale gold and that is perhaps its most outstanding trait. It has a thinner body than other beers in the same style and a very small white head that quickly dissipates. Its bouquet is underwhelming at best, with the expected spiciness and very little else. It has a very pleasant pronounced yeast note and a surprisingly strong bitter aftertaste, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Overall, it is a pleasant drinking experience and a good example of a Farmhouse Ale albeit not a very exciting one, especially considering this is Trillium’s signature brew and they take themselves quite seriously. Essentially, it executes a classic like a recipe, a paint-by-number equivalent of a beer. Although their tagline is “the craft of great beer” I could not find this beer’s personality anywhere, but maybe that is by design.

Maybe Trillium’s goal was just to prove that you can make quality beer out of  local ingredients. Or maybe I am just not their target and this was never meant to satisfy adventurous and experienced beer geeks, the type of people who actively seek out beers not because they execute a style well but because they expand on it in a surprising way. I seek out the ones that make me say “so this is how this should have been done all along” not just “yeah, this is how it is ‘supposed’ to be done.” I think it is telling that there was nowhere I could have drunk my beer while it was still chilled and that affected the taste and my experience of it. Maybe, like its neighborhood, Trillium only seems risky and edgy when compared to the most corporate sterile options available and it is there to serve those for whom parking their Tesla in an alley will feel like an adventure.


[1] Sure, Boston, Cambridge, Sommerville, Medford etc. are technically different cities. But, as someone who travels between almost all of them on a daily basis, it is a pointless distinction. Needless to say, the same claim could not be made about the more commonly used “Greater Boston” area.

[2] Because Innovation usually occurs best in its designated area. Or something.

[3] An electric car that has become synonymous with “geek-chic.”

[4] These were available for purchase and were quite a hit with the other customers in line.

[5] Yeah, I know, he’s wrong. But since he seemed like the only relatable human being in the whole place I did not feel like correcting him.

[6] Bold move. I get that Boston is not the most tropical city, but still.

[7] Not much is. Also, no train line will take you there. It’s convenient if you are in a hotel there, if you live there or if you have a car. Notably, that leaves out most students and 20-somethings( rent ain’t cheap).

[8] Boston’s South Station, which combines the local subway lines, Amtrak, and buses at 5 on a Friday could most lovingly be described as a cluster…

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