Just this past weekend, Widowmaker Brewing in Braintree finished making its 33rd batch of beer. Considering the brewery has only been open three months, that number might seem somewhat high, but it’s reflective of the big strides the brewery has made in a few short months: Widowmaker has already nabbed over a dozen draft accounts across the South Shore and has even begun selling crowlers of beer at local bottle shops.
Even the name, Widowmaker, stems from the workaholic tendencies that initially kept co-founders Colin Foley, Bud Lazaro, and Ryan Lavery away from their wives and families. It takes a hefty time investment to turn a few homebrewing experiments into a full-fledged brewery, but the trio has done just that.
“Everything we have on tap right now was scaled up from a recipe that we did on our pilot batch system,” Lavery says. “Some of those beers I’ve been brewing for years — Greenbush [pale ale], Old Oaken Farmhouse [saison] — those are beers I’ve been doing for as long as I’ve been brewing.”
Lavery estimates a solid 75 percent of Widowmaker’s current draft list contains recipes he formulated during his homebrewing days. The brewery features around 10 beers at a time, spanning the intense yet drinkable Ecstasy of Gold American IPA to the coffee-cut Donut Shop stout. A wide range of styles are represented on the board, giving drinkers a chance to sip the gamut and find what they like. All of those beers are available as half pours, full pours, and smaller flight servings to try a few at once.
“That’s what I really like about flights: You can taste what you want and go from there. We see that with a lot of customers who come in,” Lavery says. “They get their flight, and then they’re off to getting full pours of a certain style.”
Co-founders Lavery and Foley debuted many of those beers at local block parties a few years back as homebrewers. Recipe construction was meticulous back then, and that mindset has hardly changed with the debut of Widowmaker. With the help of head brewer Ryan Ward, every recipe given the green light at the brewery is put through a pilot brewing system before moving to the seven-barrel brewhouse. Many of those early iterations are also tapped for feedback.
While stopping by the expansive, 70-seat communal taproom is encouraged, drinkers can enjoy those beers in a number of places around the South Shore. As of now, Widowmaker self-distributes kegs to spots around Quincy and Braintree, like Braintree Brewhouse and the Townshend. The brewery also delivers freshly filled crowlers to stores such as Empire Wine & Spirits and Bin Ends.
That distribution doesn’t account for the moves Widowmaker will make in 2018. On the beer end, Lavery and crew soon plan to release a new black lager and all New Zealand-hopped red IPA. The team also have a few collaboration beers slated for early next year, but Lavery can’t share any names at this time.
More expansion is on the horizon too. The brewhouse will gain a few new 15-barrel tanks early next year to up distribution efforts, which could place Widowmaker beers in Boston and beyond as soon as spring. Lavery also says that the brewery might add an in-house canning line sometime next year, but the team isn’t all that concerned about packaging its beer right now. For the Widowmaker crew, the way to the drinker’s heart is pint by pint.
“Everything comes in due time,” Lavery says. “There’s pressure to be in cans, be on shelves, but I don’t want to inundate the market in every sort of way. The best approach is to see it in bars, so when [people] do go to the liquor store, they pick up that four-pack.”
Putting a large focus on draft accounts also speaks to the communal goals of the business. Lavery doesn’t want to put his beers on grossly packed shelves to sit and inevitably degrade; he wants people to drink and discuss. Foster conversation and build relationships. The Widowmaker team might be hustling to get its beer into residents’ bellies, but it’s in the name of relaxed human interaction. After all, that’s the environment the tavern was originally founded on.
Widowmaker’s approach is one of harboring love for the community surrounding it. It’s about not only giving the people the tasty beer they want, but giving them a channel to enjoy it in. And while the brewery will soon expand outside its home, that personable approach is close behind, tracing the lines and guiding each beer.
“We’re all from the South Shore,” Lavery says. “We hope that the [area] follows the path the North Shore and the Cambridge and Somerville areas have. Breweries are starting to pop up, and the South Shore needs that.”
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.