The ingredients are on order. The front signage is hung high and proud. The tanks and fermenters are in their upright positions. Now that a brewhouse is in place, and sundry projects are being crossed off the checklist, True North Ale Company is about ready to begin brewing in Ipswich. (Not to be confused with True West, a brewery in Acton).
A full-scale taproom won’t be far behind. True North founder Gary Rogers says he and his team are hoping to get brewing operations going this month, and they aim to open a 1,700-square-foot taproom in which people can enjoy those libations by early September.
“If we can [brew] earlier in August, we’re open for Labor Day,” he says. “It’s a moving target right now, and I’m trying to lock it in.”
There’s still work to be done, but the first brew day is close: Large packs of Idaho 7 hops have already arrived, and the crew’s 30-barrel production system is more or less ready to roll. Rogers is also setting up a five-barrel pilot system to test recipes and crank out a few taproom-only beers once things open.
Once the taproom is completed, expect a 32-foot bar, plenty of communal seating, and soaring ceilings that stretch up to 45 feet high. There will also be a patio area roped off for the warmer months. One of the more exciting aspects of the taproom will be a big glass window to the brewhouse that greets customers upon entering, making it easy to watch the brewing team work.
“You walk in the front door, you’re looking right into the brewhouse,” Rogers says. “So if our brewers are on the platform working, you’re seeing them work. They’re feet away from you as you’re standing there drinking a pint.”
As a homebrewer for over 30 years, Gary Rogers has had ample time to pool his ideas together with his son and colleague, Jake, for an opening lineup of beers. Some of the suds True North will serve upon opening are recipes that have been lauded at various homebrew competitions over the years, like a quaffable Mexican lager, and others are fresh ideas waiting to make their debut. With the help of head brewer Seth Barnum, formerly of Breakside Brewing in Oregon, the team is excited to show the North Shore what they’re planning.
True North will debut with five beers, ranging from balanced-yet-cloudy “North Shore-style” IPAs to tart Berliner weisses and Flanders red ales. Rogers wants to keep most details about these beers under wraps for now — including names and ingredient specs — but notes his particular excitement about representing True North’s core portfolio with a Belgian-style blonde ale.
“It’s the kind of beer that will bring in people who are not necessarily craft beer drinkers yet, but are trying to figure it out, and are turned off a bit by the big hoppy IPAs,” Rogers says. “This is a transition beer that will bring people into the craft world.”
Rogers says these five offerings will serve as the brewery’s flagship beers, and he plans to pour them as flights, half pours, and standard pints in the taproom. True North also expects to install an in-house canning line in September in order to put 16-ounce four-packs of these beers on store shelves as early as October.
Due to the strict nature of Massachusetts growler laws and the steep asking price of a crowler machine, these canned offerings may also constitute the brewery’s only to-go options, Rogers says. By running small-batch canning runs in place of draft fills, the team could theoretically package up taproom-only beers for sale and avoid other vessels all together. It’s not a shabby model, but Rogers is still mulling things over before making a final decision.
As is the case with many newer breweries, True North is also hoping to offer snacks and a schedule of food trucks in place of a full kitchen menu. Regardless, guests will be able to soak up their liquid lunch with North Grafton-based Wicked Twisted Pretzels and opt for non-alcoholic beverages like nitro cold brew coffee if it’s a tad early to start drinking.
“We’re going to try and do a soft opening and get things sorted out,” Rogers says. “Then, point toward a day when we can make a big splash.”
There’s more to come on all fronts, of course, including new beers and amped up distribution to neighboring stores and bars. And while things are still in motion for Rogers and company, he says it’s all coming together. After the constant recipe tweaking that took place over the past few months, the team finally feels like the recipes are dialed in and ready for the spotlight.
“We think we’ve got ‘em now,” Rogers says.
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 new installments twice a month, featuring a mix of old classics and brand new additions.