Late in 2015, Dorchester Brewing Company announced it would open its doors on a small strip of Massachusetts Avenue in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood. Most of Boston’s breweries were still rooted outside the city at that point — a good portion still are — so locals were thirsty at the prospect of having a taproom right at their doorstep.
Construction came and went, and the building sprouted to life to become Dorchester’s newest craft brewery in July 2016. It’s a sizable operation, featuring a 2,000-square-foot tasting room, 20 taps, and some rustic warehouse vibes. It was the whole shebang for Boston residents, and they took to the spot with fervor. Before long, outlying boroughs did too.
CEO Matt Malloy and partners Travis Lee, Todd Charbonneau, and Holly Irgens all had that exact vision for their brewery. On top of celebrating their slice of the city, they wanted to bring more people to it. Their approach to do that, however, involved a lot more than a few house drafts and bar stools.
“It’s a thick marketplace out there — there are a lot of beers being made,” Malloy says. “So we said, ‘[Let’s] follow our passion of supporting businesses and help them build their brands, instead of trying to build yet another brand in a crowded marketplace.’”
Dorchester Brewing Company is more than a local brewery: It’s also Boston’s first-ever contract brewing facility. That means that not one, not two, but 11 breweries make beer out of the space.
When drinkers arrive, they can taste that variety firsthand. Around eight of the bar’s 20 taps are reserved for Dorchester Brewing-branded beers, like the V1 double IPA and Runecast imperial stout. With those beers, head brewer Charbonneau wants to straddle the line between classic styles and lesser-known offerings, like ESBs (extra special bitter ales) and German roggenbiers (German-leaning rye ales). As a veteran brewer from Harpoon, he oversees brewing operations for most everything made in-house.
That includes a long list of partner brewers. Said partners range from local breweries in need of a place to crash, like Backlash Beer Co. and Down the Road Beer Co., to more established contract brands like Evil Twin Brewing and Sweden’s Omnipollo. Others include Radiant Pig Craft Beers of New York, Stillwater Artisanal Ales of Maryland, and Barrel House Z of Weymouth.
“We do all of the brewing,” Malloy says. “They will send us recipes, and they will come to the brewery and talk with the brewers. We’re basically an incubator.”
Despite the packed house, there’s plenty of collaboration happening on the brew floor. All of Dorchester Brewing’s inhabitants work with the brewing team to craft beers, dial in recipes, and ultimately incubate brands looking to permeate the Boston market. If stopping by isn’t an option, Malloy says the team will share progress via photos, in-person check-ins, and test batches. Traveling brewers, like Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø of Evil Twin, will even have samples mailed to them to test before moving forward.
“One of the misconceptions about partner brewing is that brewers set it and forget it,” Malloy says. “That’s not at all how it works. In fact, Helder [Pimentel] from Backlash is here every day checking on his beer.”
Those brewers also have a medley of tools at their disposal. On top of a 30-barrel brewhouse and five-barrel pilot system, Dorchester Brewing has its own canning and bottling lines. This allows breweries to package up their creations and send them into the world. Malloy says the brewery does its best to tap everything made in-house too.
“We try to stay as regional as possible,” Malloy says. “A lot of the beers we make, even for global brewers like Evil Twin, will stay in New England, since they brew with other places in the area.”
That partner list only serves to grow, too. In the coming weeks, Dorchester Brewing will welcome in Decadent Ales of Mamaroneck, New York, as well as a second partner Malloy didn’t want to share at this time. Decadent Ales plans to debut with two beers, among them a French toast-inspired IPA.
Yes, French toast. It turns out bringing a hive of cutting-edge brewers together often means that recipe construction and creation can get a little bizarre. So far, Evil Twin has debuted a lemonade and pink lemonade IPA at Dorchester Brewing, and Omnipollo has made an IPA brewed with vanilla, mango, and Somerville’s own Marshmallow Fluff, affectionately called Shploing!!
“I call vendors and I’m like, ‘I’d like 800 pounds of mini marshmallows please.’ And they’re like, ‘What the hell are you doing with those?’” When you’re making artisanal craft beer, there are some fun ingredients, whether it be 20 pounds of ground vanilla or 600 gallons of fresh lemon concentrate,” Malloy says.
Each new partner brings another adventure to this small strip of Boston, whether it be some ridiculous ingredients that belong on a dessert menu or a more streamlined take on a classic style. But prized more than the beer gracing the brewery is the draw to Dorchester it creates: that chance to walk a few blocks up the street, pull up a chair, and imbibe the ideas and handiwork of brewers from around the world.
“We really want to celebrate Dorchester and bring more people to it,” Malloy says. “It’s a wonderful place to live and exist.”
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.