Come mid-2016, Weymouth will be swimming in barrel-aged brews and community vibes. Barrel House Z, a collaborative and innovative brewery concept, will be the newest addition to the Greater Boston beer scene.
At the helm of this operation is Russ Heissner, who was the first-ever brewer at Harpoon.
"When you start something like that, those connections run pretty deep," Heissner said of his former employer, who will be a minority partner — along with Bully Boy Distillers — for this new project. On his Twitter page, Heissner even writes: "1986: Young brewer helps founders of Harpoon start brewery. 2015: Harpoon, Bully Boy Distillers help old brewer start Barrel House Z."
The main focus of Barrel House Z will be collaboration, Heissner said. He wants it to be a community-first brewery specializing in small-scale production.
Heissner signed a lease for a 16,000-square-foot space in Weymouth on Woodrock Road off Washington Street. He has plans to use about 9,700 square feet of the space, which will have plenty of room for production, collaboration, and guests.
"With the lease now signed, we're now able to actually file for our federal brewing permit, which is a somewhat lengthy process," Heissner said. Equipment for the brewery has been ordered and should start arriving at the space in the next couple weeks, and Heissner and his team will finalize estimates for installing everything and work on assembly in the first quarter of 2016.
"All goes well, we'll be ready to operate when we get our full permitting from the feds," he said.
The brewery won't have a flagship beer but instead will allot at least half its production capacity to a standing series with Bully Boy and Harpoon. The other half of capacity is up to the brewery's discretion. All beers will be small-scale, barrel-aged collaborations.
By the middle of 2016, Heissner said he hopes to get started on the four beers BHZ has planned for its inaugural year. First on the menu is the beer Heissner came up with back in 2008 (the same beer referenced in his Twitter handle): Old Rusty's Red Rye Ale, Session #23 — or RR#23 — which will be aged in Bully Boy whiskey barrels. This beer features another Harpoon alumnus, Scott Hutchinson, who helped Heissner with the most recent version of the beer.
"Scott did all the brewing and adapted the recipe for the materials that were available at the time," Heissner said.
BHZ will follow that up with a summer barrel-aged beer called Ginned Pils, which will be inspired by the gin flavoring Bully Boy will be using for their new gin. The beer will be aged first in Bully Boy rum barrels and finished in cider barrels.
In the fall, Heissner has a collaboration planned with Al Marzi, the chief brewing officer at Harpoon with whom Heissner worked when he started.
"We did a beer last fall, which we were trying to have a little fun with being anti-IPA at the time," he said. Their "extra special brown sugar ale" called Rage Against the Hop Machine (or RATH) will be aged in rum barrels.
The fourth beer of 2016 will be a collaboration with the winner of a homebrew contest Heissner has planned with the Homebrew Emporium in Weymouth and Craft Beer Cellar in Braintree. Heissner will provide a style framework, they'll pick a winner, and the recipe will go through a small production run and be released with the brewer's story on the label.
Beyond those planned beers, Heissner said he will reach out to local brewers, distillers, and other craft operations to throw some interesting collaborations into the market. BHZ will probably produce a maximum of eight beers per year.
Heissner, who has lived in the area for the last 30 years, said he was looking forward to doing something he really had a passion for, in the field where he got his start.
The collaborative nature of BHZ would play to his appreciation for the local community. Heissner said he'd like to team up with other brewers to produce some co-branded beers, where they'd come together and agree on a malt and hop recipe, then see where each brewer takes the concept.
"Every brewery's got its own character," Heissner said, which is something they could emphasize with these collaborations. "I'm hoping that we'll have some real pleasant surprises on how physical two different brewers might interpret the same recipe," he said.
There will be varied packaging for each production, Heissner said, with one-month aged products in four-pack bottles, three-monthers in 22-ounce bottles, and six-month products in 750-milliliter bottles, corked and caged. BHZ beers will also be on draft at the brewer and at certain local locations.
"I look at the market today and I feel pretty strongly that with all the stuff that's going on in the marketplace, they're all either growing like crazy or cashing out, and I kind of feel like if you're gonna be in this market you need to be very local or very large," Heissner said. "My desire has always been to be very local."