Night Shift Brewing will soon unveil a sprawling brewery and taproom in Boston proper. On March 20, when the city meets Night Shift Lovejoy Wharf — with its 12,000 square feet of brewing, kitchen, taproom, and cafe space — it will also meet a new arm of the business: Night Shift Roasting. The Night Shift team now includes expert coffee roasters and baristas who will help vault the company into a new arena, building on the brewery’s success in the beverage industry to bring its own lineup of roasted coffee to Boston.
The genesis of Night Shift Roasting actually dates to the brewery’s early days. As Co-founders Michael Oxton, Mike O’Mara, and Rob Burns got the brewery off the ground, Night Shift’s early employees made a ritual of brewing coffee each day as they simultaneously worked to brew beer.
“We were brewing super early in the morning, going all day, and I feel like there was sort of a collection of our staff that would begin to grow around where we made coffee in the morning,” Oxton said.
In time, the team began to see coffee as a craft beverage, much in the same way they viewed beer. While the passion for coffee remained, beer took precedent, and Night Shift moved from one area of Everett to its current home on Santilli Highway. Since that move, the company has added brewing volume and taproom space, launched a beverage distribution operation, and locked down its sprawling space at Lovejoy Wharf. With the expansion to Boston, coffee became a realistic contender for a new division of the business.
“As soon as we started talking about serving coffee, we just were like, ‘let’s roast coffee, how exciting would that be?’” Oxton said. “We’ve always wanted to roast coffee, but we never really had a great opportunity to do so. This location allows us to really do that, where we’re serving our own beans and our own coffee out of here, immediately getting feedback, and roasting it ourselves as well, and it’s just this startup company within a company.”
Rory Burns — Night Shift Roasting’s general manager and an avid coffee drinker — bore witness to the early days of the coffee brewing fascination.
“I have seen this evolve into a passion inside the workplace,” said Burns. “That’s when I was just like, I need to be a part of this and start thinking of how we can make it real and start roasting in our space.”
Leading the team at Night Shift Roasting are Rob Rodriguez and Rose Woodard, who both previously worked for George Howell Coffee. Where Rodriguez will oversee the actual roasting, Woodard, who won the esteemed 2018 United States Brewers Cup Championship, will run the cafe side of things, supervising the brewing and preparation of Night Shift coffee for customers.
“We’re keeping our coffee menu fairly simple,” Woodard said. “We want it to be very approachable. We want anybody to be able to walk into the cafe and understand the menu and order a coffee that’s gonna be comfortable for them, but we’re also making sure that our staff is highly educated so that if you want to know more, we will nerd out with you all day.”
To that end, the team created the coffee menus to provide a reader’s digest version, of sorts, for the flavors people might encounter in a cup of Night Shift coffee. For Woodard, it can be either a jumping off point into a larger conversation, or just enough for people to understand what they’re getting in their cup.
“I am very passionate about approachability and making sure that when somebody walks into my space that they feel welcome,” Woodard said. “Coming in here, that value is deep rooted in this company, which is awesome.”
The menu will consist of a house drip coffee, a range of espresso-based drinks, and single-cup or double-cup pour overs, plus draft cold brew or nitro coffees. There will be food as well, including breakfast sandwiches, pastries, and muffins prepared by Night Shift’s baker, Lira Mondal (an alum of Sofra and Bistro du Midi, among others), plus some grab-and-go items and non-coffee beverages like tea and kombucha.
“We’re trying to make the menus super colorful and easy to understand, with some visual cues as to what’s in your cup, making the flavor journey really fun for customers,” Oxton said.
In the same way that Night Shift Brewing prioritizes fresh ingredients, Night Shift Roasting will focus on seasonality for its beans.
“We want to make sure that what’s being roasted is also what’s being brewed in the cafe at the same time,” Woodard said.
“There’s a lot of crossover values from the beer world, where it’s like, freshness is paramount,” Oxton said. “We’ve learned a lot about how being approachable to many types of palates and consumers is so key. Delicious beer doesn’t have to be pretentious, and delicious coffee doesn’t have to be pretentious either. I think sometimes it can be, and we’re trying to make sure that it isn’t.”
Rodriguez, the master of coffee roasting and sourcing, will aid in that goal, bringing ethically sourced coffee and sustainable practices to the Night Shift Roasting operation.
“Education in general should be approachable.” Rodriguez said. “If it’s not, you can’t really learn anything. Maintaining that, not only on the cafe side but on the production side as well. I envision the rest of space as being a place that anyone can just come into and not feel like there’s a struggle to understand what’s happening. That to me is so important. I get really excited.”
Rodriguez also happened to be a big fan of Night Shift beer before signing on to run the company’s roasting division. With that in mind, he’s been able to relate flavor profiles and ideas about coffee to beer.
“I think that’s really going to be probably the framework of the relationship going forward, finding those pieces to bridge together and why they work so well together,” Rodriguez said.
“I feel like his passion for the product and the technical aspects of what goes into brewing or into roasting, it just reminded me of how our brewers talk about making beer,” Oxton said of Rodriguez. “It was just this moment of ‘wow, the way he thinks about this is the way we think about beer.’ He gets the brand, the business, there’s a level of passion there that extends beyond coffee, and it’s for what we’re doing as a company, which I think is valuable.”
Night Shift has acquired a Probat 12, a small but mighty roasting machine that will allow the team to focus on small batches and innovation with room to eventually scale up. This approach mirrors the brewery’s origins on a 3.5-barrel nanobrewing system. To start, Rodriguez and Woodard will contract roast out of Bolt Coffee in Providence, Rhode Island. Bolt also uses the same roasting machine.
“It gives me a chance to really play around with ultimately what will be our set up and kind of dive into everything that’s gonna look like for us,” Rodriguez said. “So in doing this project with them, it really gives us a leg up on establishing ourselves in a more grounded way once we get our roasting operation going.”
The Night Shift Roasting equipment will be ready by the end of the month, and further down the road, the team plans to dive into wholesale.
“A lot of people drink coffee in their homes primarily. So being able to share that Night Shift Roasting with customers in their own homes is really exciting,” said Burns.
It’s a natural complement to what Night Shift has done for the last seven years on the beer side of things.
“We brew a beverage for people at night, let’s brew a beverage for people in the morning,” Oxton said. “It just seems like, ‘how could we not think of this?’ and then eventually it was going to happen. Overall, we see ourselves as an innovation company, so we’re always trying to think about ways to push ourselves to evolve. This is just the next step in our company and business’s evolution.”
Night Shift Lovejoy Wharf is a long expanse of space, stretching from the offset cafe and retail area, where visitors will order coffee and find refrigerators full of beer to-go, through the taproom, past the kitchen, to an area with booth seating and tables. There are also hightop areas near the cafe, where visitors can sit starting at the cafe’s 6 a.m. opening time.
“We have three different sensory experiences here between food, beer, and coffee, and so there’s crossover potential between all of those, which is really exciting,” Oxton said. The restaurant’s menu is simple, with under 20 items, all of which have beer incorporated in some way. Look out for some eventual crossovers between Night Shift’s coffee and beer operations as well.”
One wall at the end of the brewery, right next to the cafe, features a mural painted by James Weinberg that tells the story of Night Shift’s journey from a home brewing operation to the three-tiered operation it is today, running beer brewing, beverage distribution, and coffee production. One small detail — a wrist watch showing the time 4:36 — is a nod to the team’s first brew day in 2012, which lasted 14 hours, ending in the early morning.
“We took a picture of the clock,” Oxton said. “It was like a true night shift, and we still have that photo.”
When Night Shift Lovejoy Wharf opens on March 20, its operating hours will start at 6 a.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. on weekends, running until 11 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and until 1 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. Night Shift’s coffee bar will be open each day until 10 p.m., with breakfast available until 11 a.m. In the taproom and restaurant, customers will be able to get draft beer starting at 11 a.m., with the main kitchen menu offered until 11 p.m. and a late-night menu until 1 a.m.
Update, March 18: With the official opening still planned for this Wednesday, March 20, Night Shift opened its doors for a preview over the weekend. Today, March 18, it’s open for coffee and retail only; tomorrow the whole place is open for another preview from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m.; and the grand opening is Wednesday.