Maybe you’ve heard of Castle Island Brewing. Since the brewery opened in late 2015, its 16-ounce tallboys have permeated most liquor stores in the Boston area, and more Massachusetts-wide expansion is on the way. But if you hit up the source in the past year — a small outpost in Norwood — you wouldn’t have found more than a few kegs-made-chairs and a retail counter.
That changed this June: Castle Island officially opened a sleek, full-fledged taproom to call its own.
The tasting room comes at a pivotal time for founder Adam Romanow, who recently raised his brewery’s production capacity to 13,000 barrels annually. One could argue a taproom is overdue with those kind of numbers, but this timeline has always been his plan.
“We were really focused on growing our wholesale channel, first and foremost,” Romanow says. “We decided when we opened to not open with a taproom. We wanted to make sure the product was staying fresh in the marketplace, that it was available, [and] that we were getting out there and supporting it.”
For the new setup, the Castle Island team placed the tasting room where the retail area used to be — now a 1,300-square-foot chunk of space — and moved their retail hub into a smaller, “gift shop-type” corner. The updated taproom seats around 80 people, Romanow says, with a capacity of around 100.
But now that the 40-year-old facility is a place where people are enjoying a few rounds, much of the building’s pipes and beams are in the spotlight, rather than passing eye candy. The Castle Island team decided to embrace those industrial materials and make them centerpiece to the taproom. It’s an experience akin to touring a brewery, pint in hand, while gazing at the stainless steel vats and copper contraptions that helped forge your drink.
“This is not a five-star restaurant space. This is a manufacturing warehouse where beer is made. We want people to feel like they’re part of that,” Romanow says.
The tasting room houses 16 devoted draft lines, though Romanow says they won’t all be in use to start. Expect the brewery’s cornerstone roster, like the Candlepin session ale and Keeper IPA, along with seasonals like the Jetty dry-hopped sour and Big Ern double IPA. One of the taps is reserved for cold brew coffee on nitro, too. And, with a newly built five-barrel pilot system on its way, expect a few taproom-only beers later in the summer.
“It’s going to allow us to play around a little bit more and come up with some one-off, unique beers for the taproom only,” Romanow says.
A few snacks are also on hand, like Wicked Twisted pretzels and Kalahari Biltong jerky, but don’t expect a full food menu anytime soon. Romanow says he doesn’t want to throw a kitchen into the mix; instead, he plans to host a number of food trucks onsite. He also encourages drinkers to bring in their own food from a local restaurant.
“Norwood has a lot great restaurants that not a lot of people know about, so we’re psyched to drive people [toward] some of those,” Romanow says.
Castle Island’s taproom and retail space are open daily from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
This story is part of Beer & Mortar, a series in which Eater Boston contributor Alex Wilking explores the brewery scene in Boston and beyond. Stay tuned for more installments in summer 2017.