There’s little doubt that beer is back in Worcester. Between Wormtown Brewery, 3cross Brewing Co., and Flying Dreams Brewing Co., beer lovers have plenty of city offerings to choose from. While locally brewed beer may seem like a modern phenomenon, it is in fact a return to the idea that beer is a local product.
Except for Prohibition and a period from the 1960s through the early 2000s, Worcester was home to a number of businesses dedicated to beer.
Like traditional New England hard cider, beer in early Worcester was brewed in the home or served in a tavern. Stylistically, they skewed toward high-alcohol ales. Sometimes even served warm as a flip; a beverage made with beer plus molasses, sugar or dried pumpkin that was popular in Colonial times.
As transportation and technology improved, beer became more refined and commercial variants readily available. Signature ales, India Pale ales [IPAs], porters and lagers were imported by Geo. F. Hewett in the 1870s. Companies, such as M.A. Worcester, sold commercially available hops, yeast and malt from its warehouse near Mechanic and Summer streets. It was not, however, until the Bowler brothers arrived in 1883 that the city’s first big brewery was born.
John and Alexander Bowler emigrated from Ipswich, England, with their father in 1859. Born into a family of brewers, they entered the family business and launched their namesake brewery in 1883. They offered lager and porter under the Bowler name, but their signature beer was Tadcaster English style ale.
More history from David DuBois: All aboard! The heydey of Worcester trolley service
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