From the get-go, Paul Gentile wanted to keep his brewery small. In a time when many aspiring brewers are kickstarting their facilities with hefty brewhouses and tanks, Gentile Brewing Company in Beverly currently makes beer on a two-barrel system. For perspective, Night Shift Brewing in Everett uses a 20-barrel system, per its website, while juggernauts like Harpoon brew well into the hundreds.
Gentile is hardly concerned about his brewery’s output, though. If anything, the Beverly resident enjoys keeping his brewery on a manageable scale. He’s focused on the essentials, which has given him the freedom to keep his taproom and beer straight to the point.
“I like to joke that it borders on glorified homebrew,” Gentile says. “Some homebrewers are making 15-gallon batches, and my facility makes four times that. Which, at the end of the day, really isn’t a lot.”
Gentile opened the 3,000-square-foot space in early 2016, with the goal of giving North Shore residents a cozy taproom in which to enjoy a few drinks. After learning the “bones of brewing” as a former brewer and cellarman at Ipswich Ale Brewery, Gentile began brainstorming what he wanted out of his own business. He soon opened his brewery in a 132-year-old building that had previously housed a number of manufacturers, including a shoe factory.
“I have an appreciation for history, and I don’t necessarily like new buildings,” Gentile says. “Even though they are easier to work within, and potentially designed to your needs, they don’t have the inherent character that age brings.”
To embrace the age of his new home, Gentile built his 600-square-foot taproom around the wood, metal, and brick the building retained over the years. That means there’s no room for a kitchen — drinkers can bring in any outside food they wish — and not a lot of wiggle room in the brewhouse.
The draft list at Gentile hovers around six beers at a time, which includes four year-round brews: a blonde, an IPA, a porter, and a stout. Those beers don’t have flashy names or intoxicating ABVs: They’re all named after their style and keep the alcohol content around 5% ABV, if not lower. None of those flagships is dry-hopped, either.
“You don’t have to make a double dry-hopped imperial IPA to make a great tasting beer,” Gentile says. “You can just make beer.”
A few seasonal beers occasionally join that roster, such as a dunkelweizen and squash porter, but Gentile’s size often keeps it from going beyond that. Until now, that is: Gentile recently added two new tanks to his brewhouse to start flirting with beers outside his core portfolio. The brewery is also upping its tap count from six to eight.
The brewery is still quite small, but these additions give Gentile the chance to drift a bit out of his comfort zone. Upcoming “experiments” include a few lagers, an abbey-style ale, and a rotating series of single malt and single hop beers (referred to as SMaSH beers). To put his own spin on the latter, Gentile is focusing on a single maltster and single hop yard for each batch, rather than just one malt and hop variety. He aims to only work with Massachusetts-based producers too, like Valley Malt in Hadley and Four Star Farms in Northfield. With that increased flexibility and local focus, Gentile hopes to address what he calls a quality gap in the style.
“I have never liked a [SMaSH] beer that I’ve tasted,” he says. “Not once. There’s always something missing.”
New tanks also mean the brewery can flesh out its “Di•ver•gent” series, a rotating batch of American IPAs. While the majority of beers made at Gentile lean on English brewing techniques, this gives the brewing team a chance to delve into a growing and ever-popular style.
It’s not a foray the team had originally planned to make, but it’s one they now have the space to accommodate. Gentile may be growing, but staying small is still the goal. Rather than chase the fame any massive expansion or trendy beer style could create, the Beverly crew wants the space to be a neighborhood staple. Gentile Brewing doesn’t need a thousand different beer styles on tap to accomplish that, nor a block-busting event every week. Just community, conversation, and a handful of approachable beers.
“If you want to bring a bag of chips, or a whole meat and cheese platter, go ahead,” Gentile says. “Whatever you need to do to feel comfortable and stay a bit longer, that’s what I want you to do.”
This story is part of Beer & Mortar, a series in which Eater Boston contributor Alex Wilking explores the beer scene in Boston and beyond. Stay tuned for new installments twice a month, featuring a mix of old classics and brand new additions.