Bob Johnson of Tewksbury, co-owner of Navigation Brewing Company on Western Avenue in Lowell, stands in front of the brewery s five new fermentation tanks,
Bob Johnson of Tewksbury, co-owner of Navigation Brewing Company on Western Avenue in Lowell, stands in front of the brewery s five new fermentation tanks, which have individual temperature controls so different types of beer can ferment at different temperatures. SUN/JULIA MALAKIE

There was a time when it mattered not where your beer came from. Yes, it seems like ages ago, but in reality, the craft-beer revolution has really only erupted in the past 15 years. Before that, small breweries could take root in communities, but sustainable businesses were hard to come by.

Now, that's all a distant memory.

Not only are there myriad options for places brewing high-quality beers, but many of these breweries are more than willing to pull back the curtain and give a look at the process behind it. Try the beer, talk to the brewer, become immersed in the culture.

It's the new business model -- and one that's working for plenty of brewers in the region.

Here are a few worth checking out and getting to know.

Navigation Brewing Company

122 Western Ave., Lowell

P.J. Mercier and his small crew have been a brewery on the rise for the past three years. And the folks at Navigation are 100 percent focused on brewing quality products. As Mercier says, "If we make something and it goes badly for whatever reason, we throw it out."

Navigation's quality products -- ranging from pale ales and IPAs to darker offerings -- are available at the brewery's taproom. There, visitors can get 16-ounce pours of Navigation's brews, as well as growler fills. In addition, the brewery usually will have a food truck parked outside, serving up local eats for visitors.


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Enjoying a beer and a laugh in Navigation s taproom are, from left, Shannon Davis of Quincy, a grad student at UMass Boston, her adviser, Bob Chen of
Enjoying a beer and a laugh in Navigation s taproom are, from left, Shannon Davis of Quincy, a grad student at UMass Boston, her adviser, Bob Chen of Milton, and Jill Lohmeier of Westford. SUN /JULIA MALAKIE

Navigation Brewing is open to the public Thursdays, 4-9 p.m., Fridays 5-9 p.m., and Saturdays 2-8 p.m. Mercier says expansion to Sunday hours is being considered for what he calls his "neighborhood brewery."

New equipment recently arrived and will allow Navigation to increase production in the near future.

Merrimack Ales

92 Bolt St., Lowell

Merrimack Ales is another Lowell brewery producing a variety of quality beverages. From pale ales and IPAs to white ales to stouts, there's a bit of everything in Merrimack's rotating list of brews. The brewery's Hypothesis Series gives takes on existing beers, including a recent "spiked version" of its Mucho Gusto stout, fortified with cocoa nibs, vanilla beans, cinnamon, and ancho and chipotle peppers for the recently observed Cinco de Mayo.

Brittany Patient pours a sample in the tap room at Wachusett Brewery in Westminster. SUN/ASHLEY GREEN
Brittany Patient pours a sample in the tap room at Wachusett Brewery in Westminster. SUN/ASHLEY GREEN

Guests can sample beers and fill growlers in the taproom, with the staff willing to share its vast knowledge on its brews at any time.

Though closed on Sundays, Merrimack Ales opens at noon every other day of the week.

Wachusett Brewing Company

175 State Road, Westminster

A bit outside of the Merrimack Valley lies one of the oldest craft breweries in the state. Producing quality beverages since 1993, the Westminster facility continues to crank out upwards of two dozen beers, including its flagship Country Pale Ale and ever-popular Blueberry Ale.

Wachusett features a small taproom where two-ounce samples are available and a retail store offering the company's tried-and-true beers and other merchandise.

Open every day except Sunday, the brewery schedules at least four tours a day provided by its knowledgeable staff, giving a behind-the-scenes look at not only the brewing of the beer, but the packaging of it as well.

The brewery also plans to open a beer garden this summer, allowing customers to sip its offerings out in the sunshine.

Smuttynose Brewing Company

105 Towle Farm Road, Hampton, N.H.

Another longtime provider of craft beer to the region, Smuttynose started in Portsmouth in 1994 and opened operations at its current home in Hampton in 2014. In addition to providing solid brews, Smuttynose's facility also includes the Hayseed Farmstyle Restaurant, opened in early 2015.

Jill Mercier of Tyngsboro, whose husband and father co-own of Navigation Brewing, pours a beer in the Lowell brewery s taproom. SUN /JULIA MALAKIE
Jill Mercier of Tyngsboro, whose husband and father co-own of Navigation Brewing, pours a beer in the Lowell brewery s taproom. SUN /JULIA MALAKIE

Smuttynose's staple brews -- including Old Brown Dog, Finestkind IPA and Shoals Pale Ale -- are available year-round, while seasonals and other special beers come and go. Among those are several fruit-infused weisse beers, an Oktoberfest, a pumpkin ale and the Rocky Road -- a dessert stout made with cacao nibs aged on amaretto-soaked oak chips.

Only a few miles from the coastline, Smuttynose delivers quality beer and food for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Hampton Beach.

Cambridge Brewing Company

1 Kendall Square, Cambridge

This is a one-stop shop for all that a brewpub should be. Cambridge Brewing offers upscale bar food as well as great and often innovative beers. From the dining area, it's easy to see into the heart of the brewing operation and not uncommon to see work being done by brewmaster Will Meyers and his crew to create new and delicious beverages in the brewing area.

Growlers are available in addition to in-house drinking, with IPAs and other common varieties sitting alongside exotic brews like the Sgt. Pepper -- which adds rye and peppercorns to a farmhouse ale -- and occasional cask offerings of other Cambridge Brewing beers.

True West Brewing Company

525 Massachusetts Ave., Acton

Billed as a "village-supported farm-to-table restaurant and craft beer brewery," True West that has been turning heads since late 2015. A solar-powered brewery and restaurant, True West aims to keep everything it produces as local and fresh as humanly possible.

The selection of beers made at True West are all over the map, with the brewery seemingly intent on making something for everyone. There's the light Walden Pond Wit, a porter, a pale ale and an IPA, even a porter and a golden ale. The real gem of the production is the HopShine series, which showcases various hops in a rotating schedule.

The Acton taproom is open daily, with food available Wednesday through Sunday.