The Liquid Assets of America's Hometown

Plymouth is known for a lot of things: Thanksgiving, cranberries, and Pilgrims…. but locally made beer, wine and rum? Plymouth actually boasts it's own microbrewery, winery, and distillery. Who knew?

Mayflower Brewing Company is a craft beer microbrewery founded by a tenth great grandson of John Alden, beer barrel cooper on board the actual Mayflower, dedicated to celebrating the history and legacy of the Pilgrims by creating unique, high-quality ales.

On September 6, 1620, the Mayflower set sail for the New World on one of the boldest voyages in American history.  On board were 102 passengers, including fifty-one Separatists and fifty-one “Strangers” – hired hands, indentured servants and others who came for their own reasons.   The history books most remember such prominent figures as William Bradford, Edward Winslow and Myles Standish for their leading roles in the adventure.  But it was a young hired cooper named John Alden who held perhaps the most important job – building and tending the wooden barrels which carried the Mayflower’s most precious cargo, thousands of gallons of beer that sustained the Pilgrims on their arduous journey to America.

Indeed, beer was the staple drink on board the Mayflower. Unlike water, which quickly spoiled when stored in the hold of ships, beer contained no bacteria, and the then-recent introduction of hops made it keep longer. It was also a terrific source of carbohydrates.  Men, women and children drank beer daily, and sailors on board received a daily ration of a gallon.

After sixty-five grueling days at sea, the Pilgrims were cold, tired and, most importantly, low on beer.  In the words of William Bradford, “we could not now take time for further search or consideration, our victuals being much spent, especially our beer.” And so it was that on December 20, 1620 the Pilgrims chose the site for their new colony in Plymouth.  Set on high ground and protected from the sea by the natural harbor, the plantation was easily defended. Most important, the plantation contained a “very sweet brook” and “many delicate springs of as good water as may be drunk.”  Today, Mayflower Brewing Company uses that same water to brew their family of Mayflower ales.

Dirty Water Distillery is a craft distiller of rum and other fine spirits, located downtown near the waterfront.  Starting as a discussion over a couple drinks at a family gathering, Pepi Avizonis and Steve Neidhardt (married to sisters) have put together the South Shore's first micro distillery just a stones throw from Plymouth Rock. These guys are dedicated to creating the finest spirits possible using only the best ingredients available, and having fun while doing it.

In 2013, Dirty Water started crafting and selling their flagship white rum, and sharing their joy in the whole engaging process. Visitors can view the handsome custom-built small-batch pot stills (dubbed Dr. Evil and Mini-Me – the latter VERY smallbatch – under ten gallons), chat with the distillers, and taste and purchase their products right in the former auto garage turned distillery, that backs up to Town Brook. They also have an amber rum in the works (Better Knot) as well as a black rum (Frayed Knot).

What is it with the knots? Distillers Steve and Pepe have great respect for their friends at Mayflower Brewing; rather than confuse the market with a Mayflower-themed product, they opted to honor the less known Plymouth Cordage Company, which kept this little town on the map for over a century after the Pilgrims were relegated to the history books.   

Dirty Water has another very interesting product: a wonderful spiced honey liqueur called Velnius, the Lithuanian word for a devil. Lithuanian? Where did that come from?  Well, Steve is married to a Lithuanian woman, and Pepe is married to her sister, and Pepe is himself Lithuanian! So they could not start making their rums without a nod to the delicious potions of their homeland, of which the Velnius is typical. Those Baltic winter nights are long and cold, and on a cold night everyone likes a kiss of spicy honey!

"Experience Delicious" at Plymouth Bay Winery. For most people, locals and tourists alike, Plymouth is not quite known for its sprawling vineyards or world-renowned grapes. (That’s because we have none.) And yet, for the past two decades, visitors from around the world have made a point of stopping by the waterfront to try a new wine or pick up a bottle of an old-favorite, all thanks to the great folks at Plymouth Bay Winery.

Michael Carr and his wife Pam have been running the winery for the past three years after taking over from its founder and their friend Tim Cherry. The winery itself has been around for 21 years, including 14 in its current location overlooking Plymouth’s busy harbor. Not a bad view while doing a wine tasting!

Plymouth Bay Winery values its ties with the community, seeking out local farmers and producers in order to make the wines. Plymouth Bay Winery specializes in “indigenous flavors” – ingredients and varieties that come from this area. As a result, the wines are unlike those from Italy, or New Zealand, or even the Finger Lakes of New York. These are fruit wines, grown from berries and grapes native to the region, and after tasting these wines, I think you’ll agree that Plymouth Bay Winery has done quite well in highlighting our area’s local flavors with varieties like Cranberry Bay and Colonial Red.

Michael always knew that he wanted to own a local business close to his hometown. After touring multiple vineyards and wineries, he and Pam found Plymouth Bay Winery, and are now bringing their love for food and friends together with this local gem of a business.

 Want to try some for yourself? Each of these facilities offer tours and tasting rooms for visitors. No reservations are necessary and families are welcome, so be sure to stop by all three of these Plymouth treasures and don't forget to bring home a bottle of your favorite sampling!

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07 Feb 2014

By TRAVELHOST Contributing Writer