After some building renovation, trademark battles, a name change, licensing delays, crowdfunding, waiting, perfecting a menu, and more waiting, Winter Hill Brewing Company will finally open as a full-fledged brewery at 4 p.m. this Friday, April 1. (Its morning cafe debuted earlier this week.)
The brewery is an undertaking head brewer/co-owner Jeff Rowe has been working toward for months. Most Somerville residents are well aware of his vision by now — a neighborhood coffee shop by day, a brewpub by night. Now Rowe, formerly of Harpoon and Cape Cod Beer, is ready to debut his beer to the eager faces pressed against his windows every day.
"As much as I want people to come visit this place, we're definitely a Winter Hill-first business," Rowe said. "This strip doesn't have a thriving centerpiece to it yet, so we're hoping to be that anchor business. If people see that you can build something in Winter Hill for Winter Hill, and be successful, then other people will build around it."
"A Winter Hill-first business"
The brewery will open as a cafe each morning from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., where trained baristas will brew up coffee drinks courtesy of Counter Culture Coffee. After a short "siesta," the brewery will re-open from 4 p.m. to midnight as a taproom and full-service kitchen.
But launching the brewery came with its share of challenges. Last year, Rowe and co-owner Bert Holdredge had to completely revamp the space — which used to house a cell phone store — to actually accommodate a brewery. When renovations neared completion, the duo was faced with a slew of other delays, including a legal battle over the brewery's original name, Indignant Brewing. Now, the completed 60-seat taproom is decked out with a kitchen, eclectic decor, and a patio space for the warmer months.
"An old-school, European ethos"
"Everything about this place was meant to keep it small and thoughtful," Rowe said. "When you come in here, you see shingles that came from an old Dutch barn, you see all this woodwork that [Holdredge] did. When you come in and think, ‘whoever built this place cares about it,' that's what I want people to feel."
Winter Hill Brewing Company will debut with five distinct beers: a house cream ale, IPA, imperial Russian stout, black IPA, and a North American strong ale brewed with molasses and brown sugar. Rowe said his beers will generally be in the lower-ABV range and focus more on simplicity and accessibility.
"Our goal is to have five beers on at all times," Rowe said. "We're never going to be the place where you sit down and there are, like, 20 taps. We have an old-school, European ethos to our beer — keep it simple."
The cream ale and IPA are permanent fixtures, but Rowe said the other three taps will rotate depending on seasonality and overall reception. He said drinkers can expect a more "German-leaning" lineup over the next few months, along with a double IPA and Kolsch-style beer. But if you want to try any of these beers, you'll have to stop by the taproom.
"We're not going to distribute beer," Rowe said. "We're brewed in-house for the house, so you're not going to find us in the store. Which means we have less to contend with when it comes to what I would call the shit-show distribution."
"Brewed in-house for the house"
For food, diners can expect a range of sandwiches, small plates, and appetizers crafted by chef Samantha Kerivan. Winter Hill's menu will feature dishes like a banh mi with marinated pork and cilantro aioli, as well as appetizers like Asian-inspired Brussels sprouts glazed with gochujang chili paste. Kerivan said the majority of these ingredients will come from local businesses like Somerville Bread Company.
"I'm trying to do something that's unique to the area," Kerivan said. "And I'm trying to do as much in-house as I can, like use house-cured corned beef and mojo-marinated pork loin."
Rowe and company want to keep things simple for the first few months of business, but they promise that new additions and community events may begin to take shape as the months roll on. For now, Rowe wants to focus on providing quality food, coffee, and beer to his fellow neighbors.
"We want to be Winter Hill's brewery," Rowe said. "If people from Winter Hill love this brewery and like the work that we put into it, that's all we can ask for."
[Beer & Mortar illustration by Emily Phares]