Somerville — Union Square, in particular — is shaping up to be a hotbed for drinking and dining, whether it be the impending opening of an ax-throwing bar or the almost unbelievable lineup of businesses gracing the forthcoming Bow Market. There’s so much news coming out of the neighborhood, it seems, that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to remember the classics; those time-honored mainstays on which one can always rely for a quality meal or solid pint.
Even at just a few years old, Aeronaut Brewing Company already more than fits that bill; in today’s whirlwind of restaurant and brewery openings, classics are made quickly. With a focus on hops, live music, and meticulous efforts with yeast cultivation via Aeronaut Labs, the brewery has crafted quite the business model. Aeronaut cofounder Ben Holmes isn’t that new to the brewing world (his brewery opened in 2014), nor is he necessarily trying to reinvent the wheel (see: IPAs abound), but with 2018 in full swing, he and his team mean business.
In the coming weeks, that means more hopped-up can releases, build-out plans, and the possibility of a new tenant partner, Holmes teased. But more on that later. For now, drinkers can sate their excitement with the launch of an exclusive, members-only bottle club. Members of said club, fondly called the Lawnchair Professionals, can pick up hand-packaged 750ml bottles of beer each month, ranging from barrel-aged bangers to wild and funky ales.
“Most of them will feature either something that’s coming from a barrel, a collaboration, or something that involves an exotic ingredient, like a strain of yeast that’s been harvested from the wild and cultivated in Aeronaut Labs,” Holmes says.
Annual memberships for the club are currently sold out, but more slots will be released to the public sometime in the spring. And if there are leftover bottles, those will go live for public sale each month.
“These bottles are a new platform where we’re going to be recruiting a team of people who will be our pioneer tasters, who get to try whatever is completely new for us,” Holmes says.
Such clubs are becoming more prevalent in the beer world for similar reasons: a readily available and passionate focus group, the expectation of creative recipes, and the guarantee of small-batch beers. For Aeronaut, it’s also a chance to pivot from the brewery’s IPA-heavy catalog. Even the glass format is a change. Aeronaut isn’t ditching core beers like the Dr. Nandu series or Hop Hop and Away, nor is it leaving hops at the wayside: It’s simply wading into new territory.
“This stuff takes time: Every barrel is different, every environment is different,” Holmes says. “We exclude nothing. However, most of [these] beers [will] improve with age.”
Aeronaut has been formulating ideas for its bottle club for a while now, too, and right under our noses. Many of the recipes are derived from various pilot beers the brewery has tapped for public feedback, as well as the brewery’s feedback flights, a series of test batches that asked the drinker to compare and contrast similar beers.
“A lot of these recipes are different,” Holmes says. “We really want people to be able to taste what’s on offer, then to make a decision — to sign on because they want to taste and be challenged.”
All this consumer feedback has gifted Holmes and company with a library of ideas to draw upon, much of which they’re already implementing in these bottled beers. Upcoming Lawnchair releases include a “New England-inspired” Brett IPA hopped with Citra and Galaxy, as well as a barrel-aged maple syrup stout called Post Punk Breakfast. An upcoming collaboration beer, a fruit-focused collab with Big Alice Brewing Co. of New York, will also debut in late spring.
Holmes hopes drinkers will put some of these bottles down to age, and he even plans to release house tasting notes in conjunction with the brewing team.
The bottle club is big news on its own, but it’s also primed fans for many future updates: Fresh cans of Double Hop Hop arrive very soon, more lab-driven beers using house-cultivated strains of yeast are in development, and Holmes teased that a new resident might set up at the brewery this year (he wouldn’t divulge further details.) Expansion plans to give the taproom a facelift are also in progress.
“Aeronaut is in the midst of major renovations — creating new restrooms and new exits — which is an un-sexy topic, but one that will allow us to dramatically increase our occupancy,” Holmes says. “We’ll be completing construction in the next two months that will hopefully make lines [to get in] a thing of the past.”
In the meantime, and until all of these updates come to light, it’s easy to revel in what Aeronaut is scheming up. In the midst of all the cool ‘ish happening in Somerville, it’s hard to ignore the brewery’s strides forward, a reminder to residents that the classics are such for a reason.
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 each week, featuring profiles of both classic breweries and soon-to-open ones, reports on local beer trends, and more.