• Steven Solito

BrewReview: Great Marsh Brewing Company

By: Brandon Lawrence

BeerSeeker on the Job: Brandon

The North Shore of Massachusetts has quickly (and perhaps semi-quietly?) turned into a hotbed for breweries here in the Bay State. The immediate Boston suburbs aside, towns like Lynn, Salem, Peabody, Beverly, Ipswich, Essex and Newburyport have been sprouting breweries over the past approximate-decade like springtime cherry blossoms. It won’t take you much searching to find at least a couple within a short drive of each other.

Among those is Great Marsh Brewing Company, located in Essex. And as the name suggests, it sits right on the salt marsh, across the street from the marina.

Fans of Woodman’s famous clam shack likely know the spot - roughly 150 yards from the heralded seafood joint.

Great Marsh has been in business for about two years and has quickly become an authority for producing quality Bavarian-style and region-specific beers. Hungry too? Head on up to their second floor restaurant in partnership with Webber Restaurant Group for OUTSTANDING food (all caps isn’t enough emphasis for how delicious the food truly is).

Looking for some more in-depth info on Great Marsh? Check out our Industry Insiders video we recently shot with Josh and Mac! Two outstanding guys who are essential to the operations over there and full of fascinating info. Let’s dive into the brewery!

The Setup

Essex is a historic, quintessential New England coastal town that draws you in with maritime beauty and TONS of antiquing available.

On the main strip headed into the center of town sits Great Marsh, a massive new building fit for housing huge brew kettles, a taproom downstairs and the restaurant upstairs.

Up top there’s a catwalk that takes you entirely around the first-floor brewhouse, so you can see what’s going on down below. There’s a sprawling bar as well with several TVs - perfect spot to catch a game.

Despite the contemporary appearance on the outside, the inside appears rustic with warn-looking metal stairs and railings, exposed brick walls and piping on the ceiling, and caged hanging light fixtures above.

No matter where you sit (inside or out, upstairs or down), you’ll get a beautiful view of the marsh. Especially if you decide to set up camp out on the patio or at their new beer garden, located in the adjacent lot.

I’ve been to Great Marsh a handful of times in the past few months and have spent equally as much time taking photos of the property and the building as I have drinking the beer.

Certainly come for the beers and stay for the views, as they say. And speaking of the beer...

The Beer

When we chatted with Mac, who’s one of the head brewers at Great Marsh, we found out just how detailed things get when it comes to their brewing process. Right down to making sure the water they use essentially mirrors that of the region the style of beer is from.

So for instance, their Munich Helles is made with water that resembles that of its German counterpart. Can you imagine the intricate process it must take to nail not just one water process down, but nearly a dozen?? And that’s just the water! Hats off to the brewers for the extreme attention to detail.

I said before that Great Marsh specializes in the Bavarian- and region-specific styles, but they also have a healthy assortment of experimental IPAs at the taproom and in cans to go, along with an American Pale Ale and an American Wheat. So no matter what you’re looking for (IPAs, lagers, stouts, porters, wheats, etc.) you’ll find it there.

We also got some cool new info about upcoming projects on our Industry Insiders chat, but you’ll have to watch that to find out what’s coming!

On my “official brewery visits” I try to follow some personal rules: always have at least one IPA, always have at least one style I wouldn’t get at an ordinary bar, and if I order a flight, don’t get the same style twice. Everything I’ve tried in multiple visits at Great Marsh has been terrific. So with that, I’ll try my hardest to pick a few favorites:

Double-Take Pick

Cologne Kölsh (Kölsh) 5.5% ABV

There’s nothing better than sitting outside on a hot day and ordering an incredibly refreshing beer. That’s exactly what I did when I tried this Kolsh.

We’ve been doing BeerSighted long enough now for us to have picked up some beer knowledge, and I know it can be tricky brewing a standout beer that’s signature tasting note is “crisp.” Great Marsh makes sure this one pops.

This is indeed a crisp ale that has a strong hoppy finish but doesn’t overpower like a typical hoppy IPA. They ferment this one at lager temperatures to really make that clean taste jump.

Combined with the summer heat and sitting outside near the water, it’s the perfect refreshing beer!

Brandon’s Pick

Munich Helles (Helles Lager) 4.9% ABV

My most recent try from Great Marsh, and it jumped straight to the top of my list. It’s balanced, it has complexity to its flavor profile and it’s also a refreshing beer. Unlike the Kolsh, though, this one diverts from any hoppy notes and instead boasts a malt-forward, lighter Bavarian lager body. It’s bready, but don’t think wheaty.

It comes in at 4.9% ABV, so certainly on the lighter side of the scale, but I’m hesitant to classify it as “crushable” due to the full-bodied flavor. Again, another one of the Bavarian brews Great Marsh handles with perfection.

I do love their experimental IPA sampler as well and think there’s a solid variation among the style, so I would highly recommend picking up a 4-pack if you happen to be in the area and are looking for a good well-rounded IPA experience.

Final Word

Great Marsh has everything beer drinkers and craft beer tourists love! I live relatively close by, but despite the numerous options in proximity there’s a reason I have gone back to Great Marsh on multiple occasions.

And even if you’re not a beer drinker, there’s plenty of choices for you! They have craft hard seltzer on site, and the bar upstairs does cocktails and wine as well.

Did I mention the food? I know I did but it’s so good that I will again. The food is phenomenal.

If you’re visiting the North Shore, we highly recommend stopping in. You’re supporting much more than a great local brewery when you do - the people who run the show are awesome and true professionals. Cheers, Beerseekers! Enjoy the brews, the views and eats!

To find out more about Great Marsh Brewing Company, visit their website here and check them out on social media @greatmarshbrewing.

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