BrewReview: Castle Island Brewing Co.
By: Tim Corcoran
Castle Island Brewing Co. – Norwood, MA
BeerSeeker on the Job: Tim
Anyone familiar with the history of Boston has come to know Castle Island as an important landmark, as well as a great place for an outing on a nice summer weekend.
Not a history buff? That’s fine.
Maybe you’ve heard of Sullivan’s - one of the spots to go for a burger, onion rings or a soft-serve ice cream as you walk the Boston Harbor coastline. Castle Island Brewing, located in Norwood, Massachusetts, derives the name from the popular landmark in South Boston.
While looking for a place to open the new brewery, founders Adam Romanow and Matt DeLuca wanted to set up shop close to the iconic Boston landmark, but found South Boston was far too expensive. Opening in Norwood maintained the proximity to Boston enough so the name still made sense.
Currently, Castle Island is operating with a patio setup, which is always beautiful in the summer. With tables set up in a portion of the parking area, they have closed it off to really make it feel like a nice, comfortable beer garden. Nothing like it on a beautiful day.
We were fortunate to get over there pre-pandemic as well, so we’re going to discuss who they are in normal times. Perhaps one day they’ll have an amazing indoor and outdoor setup!
The space in Norwood is a 20,000-square-foot warehouse that has been turned into a brewery and taproom that encompasses all of Castle Island’s needs.
The first thing you’ll notice going in is its immense size. Throughout the taproom there are a variety of places for you to relax, whether that’s at large picnic tables, high-tops or living-room style furniture offering a nice homey feel.
A large space for crowds opens up at night and on weekends to fit a makeshift stage constructed using shipping pallets where bands can play. The crowd really started to gather as I made my way out for the evening.
What stands out the most is the bar itself, which is decorated with a combination of LED lights, lit-up signage and chalkboard art. The setup draws you in right away and is full of information visitors need to know about the brewery and its beer.
Finally, in BeerSighted’s view, a brewery would not be complete without sufficient merch offerings. Castle Island has some of the best and most extensive I have seen to this point.
Castle Island offers numerous beer options (and wild flavors), and as a solo BeerSeeker on the job, trying all of them just wasn’t in the cards. With many beers on tap, flights are something we at BeerSighted feel is essential to be able to gauge the full range of brews as best we can. Castle Island frequently collaborates with other brewing companies too, and even on one with Jameson Irish Whiskey.
Between the flights and full-size beers, I was able to sample 7 they had on tap that day. The menu was broken down into “On Tap,” which are their everyday beers, or “To-Go’s” that were also available in cans. The other portion of their menu was labeled “Taproom Exclusive Draft,” which is self-explanatory. That’s where I switched over to pints.
One of the beers I tried was called Raspberry Go Lucky - a 5.6% ABV dry IPA. If I’m being honest, I could not stomach it. It had an overly harsh raspberry bitterness combined with an extremely dry IPA taste that I personally could not finish. I’m sure some would enjoy the taste, but it simply wasn’t for me.
Aside from that one, the beer selection was exceptional. The creativity was apparent, offering beers such as Vanilla Cakewalk (Nitro), Apple Bottom Jorts Barleywine, and Double Dip, which is a dessert sour made with lactose.
My suggestion, however, is to try as many as you can. Castle Island’s website lists 71(!!!) different beers. With that many choices, there should be no problem finding something to enjoy.
Let’s get into the good stuff:
Han Solo SZN - Graff - 6.5% ABV
I won’t lie, when I ordered this beer, I did so blindly. My Star Wars fandom overwhelmed me completely and I couldn’t help myself.
My first couple of sips I had no idea what to expect, which added to the intrigue. Come to find out what I had ordered was something called a “graf,” which apparently is a beer and cider mix. A completely brand-new concept to me.
This graf had all the characteristics of what a nice light, drinkable beer offers while carrying those strong flavors and texture of a craft cider. This particular beer was made in collaboration with Medusa Brewing Company in Hudson, Mass. We love seeing local brewers work together!
The Han Solo is a beer perfect for drinking in the Castle Island taproom setting, as it offers excellent drinkability but remains just heavy enough to enjoy at a steady pace. If you do stick around and enjoy a few though, maybe try making the Kessel Run on another day.
Loki Doki - Mischievous Pale Ale - 5% ABV
I can absolutely see why some reading this might think, “Wow, Tim is the nerd of the group.” While I do label myself as somewhat of a nerd, this beer was not picked as a result of the name and my affinity for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I worked my way to this beer after trying a few of Castle Island’s heavier beers and I wanted a change of pace.
What makes this beer different is its use of Kviek yeast in the brewing process. This yeast has been used for generations in Nordic brewing cultures and industries, but is just now making its way to the United States.
The main appeal of this type of yeast is that it can be bought and used in liquid form, and makes temperature control less of an issue during the brewing process. The slight variation in the way this pale ale is made results in a taste that is largely unique.
This interesting take on a classic beer, combined with a tame 5.0% ABV, makes drinking a few of these pale ales no problem at all. That being said, if you find that the Loki Doki is going down too easy, be careful. Because like its Marvel namesake, you may end up on the Mischievous side.
Whether it’s a trip to the actual Castle Island in South Boston or a trip to Castle Island Brewing in Norwood, both are solid suggestions when it comes to a day trip in Massachusetts. The brewery offers space, variety and good beer options for all guests. They’ll typically have a food truck on site on the weekends as well. And as a bonus, this place is dog friendly.
We’ll be sure to head back to see what new beers they have on tap later this year, and we’ll bring along our own furry friends to join in the fun. You can visit Castle Island Brewing on their website, and be sure to follow them on social media for all their latest news and updates on new beers, limited can releases and collaborations with other local breweries.