As the Massachusetts beer scene continues its fast-paced growth, we’re tracking beer-related news bites right here: brewery openings and closures, links to interesting features from other publications, and more. (We’re throwing in some cider, wine, and liquor news for good measure, too, as well as some New England booze news beyond Massachusetts.) This piece is updated most weeks, and the most recent additions are at the top.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any local booze news that should be on our radar.
Check out the archive of early 2020 beer news here.
September 8, 2020: Lord Hobo Opens the First Phase of Its Massive Seaport District Brewery, FAB Seeks Investments for Somerville Space, and More
In July 2019, Woburn-based Lord Hobo Brewing Company announced plans for a massive taproom and restaurant in Boston’s Seaport District, with founder Daniel Lanigan describing the project as “the Taj Mahal of breweries,” including a large brewery and restaurant space along with a 10,000-square-foot patio and a “coffee concept.” (Lanigan had initially announced that he was close to signing a Seaport lease way back in early 2017.)
As of September 4, the first phase of Lord Hobo’s Seaport venue is open. Located at the Two Drydock office building (near Harpoon’s brewery and beer hall), the 18,000-square-foot facility is currently offering outdoor seating for up to 241 distanced patrons, who can choose among a variety of Lord Hobo beers on tap and in cans (as well as wines and canned cocktails) and food from local food trucks, such as Bon Me. Beer is also available for to-go purchases.
If it weren’t for COVID, the expansive patio would have space to accommodate 550 customers. It’s currently operating from 3 p.m. to midnight on weekdays and noon to midnight on weekends, and Lanigan plans to keep it open as long as weather permits.
Lord Hobo has been brewing since 2015; its Woburn taproom and brewery recently expanded. Its roster of beers is IPA-focused, with the Boom Sauce double IPA as its best-known product. The Lord Hobo brand dates back farther, though, with older sibling beer bar Lord Hobo open since late 2009 in Cambridge. The beer bar is currently temporarily closed.
New England could be getting its only sake brewery and taproom, Farthest Star Sake, if an investment campaign on Mainvest goes well. The name of founder Todd Bellomy will be familiar to local sake enthusiasts; he was the brewer and cofounder of the now-defunct Dovetail Sake, which was based in Waltham and closed around mid-2018.
At launch, Bellomy plans to produce traditional filtered and cloudy sake styles, which will be available in the taproom and distributed to restaurants and stores, per the Mainvest campaign page. The taproom will also play host to fun and educational events and will give customers the opportunity to try experimental batches and lesser-known styles of sake.
Longterm goals include the introduction of a permanent food truck stationed at the brewery, expanded distribution, and a shochu distillery. In the shorter term, Bellomy sees a variety of revenue streams for Farthest Star, per the campaign page, including selling sake kasu (lees) to chefs and confectioners; brewing sake-influenced beer offsite and fermenting in-house for draft sales; creating carbonated, rice-based, non-alcoholic beverages; and more.
Bellomy is seeking $100,000 in investments. With a little under two months left in the Mainvest campaign, he’s up to $8000 so far.
Two updates from FAB Beer, which introduced itself earlier this year as a collaborative beer project with elements of art and activism: A Somerville brewery is in the works — currently seeking investments via crowd-investing platform Mainvest — and a Somerville restaurant is now open in the former Bergamot space, a collaboration between the Bergamot team and the FAB team.
FAB comes from Aeronaut Brewing Company cofounder Ben Holmes (who is no longer involved with Aeronaut’s operations), and the planned brewery — dubbed the Balloon Factory by FAB Beer — is set to open at 1060 Broadway in Somerville with about 2,500 square feet of indoor space and 6,000 square feet outdoors. In addition to operating as a bar, the venue will be rentable for events such as weddings and parties, and it will also host smaller events like cocktail-making classes. The Balloon Factory team is seeking $100,000 in investments via Mainvest (with an $100 minimum investment and a 200% return); there are 52 days left in the campaign, which is nearly a quarter of the way to the goal as of press time.
As for the restaurant, Bergamot (118 Beacon St.) closed earlier this summer after a decade serving what it described as “progressive American cuisine,” promising to reopen soon as more of a casual gastropub and art gallery in collaboration with FAB. The new venue — simply called FAB, short for “Food Art Beer” — is now open, serving “the creations of [Bergamot] chef/owner Keith Pooler and second in culinary command, Cam Catarius” alongside FAB beers (contract-brewed at Dorchester Brewing Company). To start, FAB is open Thursday through Saturday, 5:30 to 9 p.m.; here’s a look at the menu, with takeout and delivery available soon.
August 25, 2020: Harpoon Brewery and Dunkin’ Donuts Are Collaborating Again
BOSTON AND BEYOND
The first collaboration between Harpoon Brewery and Dunkin’ Donuts — a coffee porter, appropriately enough — was a success. Bostonians liked it because it combined two of the city’s favorite institutions, and beer nerds liked it because it was an exceptionally good beer. The Harpoon Dunkin’ coffee porter was so well received that it’s since earned a spot on the brewery’s recurring list of seasonal brews; this fall will mark its third release.
Unconcerned about messing with a good thing, Harpoon and Dunkin’ have teamed up again to add three new beers to the collaborative roster, two of which will be “brewed with real Dunkin’ donuts,” whatever that means. According to a press release on the Dunkin’ website, this marks “the first time beers have been brewed with actual donuts from Dunkin’,” as if that part were not already clear.
In addition to the coffee porter, the collaboration includes a pumpkin spiced latte ale (because of course it does), a Boston cream stout (this actually sounds incredible), and a hazy jelly doughnut IPA made with raspberry puree (hazy IPAs are unavoidable in these parts.)
The press release is short on brewing details, so it’s natural for the mind to wander to images of whole Dunkin’ doughnuts being fed through a grain mill and into a mash tun, their sweet doughnut wort separated from their soggy doughnut bodies before being boiled, hopped, cooled, fermented, and matured into the delicious doughnut-flavored beer they were always meant to become.
The beer will be sold on draft, in six-packs, and in a mixed 12-pack that includes three cans of each beer. If you know of a more Boston collaboration than this one, please email us immediately.
August 24, 2020: A New Brewery and Taproom in Somerville, Beer Grain Sourdough Bread in Brighton, and More
Brighton’s Brato Brewhouse + Kitchen recently expanded its operation to include a “microbakery,” which offers house-baked beer grain sourdough breads — think baguettes — as well as a variety of other house-baked treats, such as croissants and beignets. In addition to baked goods, the Brato microbakery includes a pantry section, stocked with pickles, cheeses, house-made sauces, dips, brewer’s crackers, and pierogi from Jaju.
Brato’s microbakery and pantry is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., while its dining room and patio are open Monday through Thursday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Somerville’s Aeronaut Brewing Company is expanding to Everett, taking over the former Down the Road Beer Co. space. (Down the Road closed last summer after its founder and brewer, Donovan Bailey, passed away.) The new space — dubbed the Aeronaut Cannery — will allow Aeronaut to substantially increase its production and thus its wholesale accounts and distribution. The plan is to move production of Aeronaut’s core brews to the new space, leaving the smaller Somerville brewery for more small-batch experimentation and recipe development. The Everett facility will also likely have an outdoor patio (in the near future, if licensing and weather permit) and maybe, eventually, a taproom.
Boynton Yards might be getting a new brewery and taproom: Portico Brewing Company recently launched a fundraiser on Mainvest in order to raise funds to build a space of its own. The Cambridge-based brewery has been operating a contract-brewing business since 2012, first out of Witch City Brewing in Waltham and more recently out of Ipswich Ale Brewery in Ipswich.
According to its Mainvest page, Portico signed a lease on its Somerville space in February, received its zoning permit, and even received its first round of funding before the coronavirus pandemic hit and forced its partners to reevaluate the business plan. After months of deliberation, Portico decided that crowdfunding was the best way forward, stating on its Mainvest page that, “As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, traditional lending has become extremely difficult or impossible to access for food and beverage businesses — so we are looking to the people to fill the financing void that persists across our industry.”
If successful, Portico will use its Boynton Yards brewery and taproom as a sort of research and development space, while it continues its contract brewing relationship with Ipswich Ale Brewery for larger scale brewing.
A new brewery and taproom will be a welcome addition to Boynton Yards, which just lost another such space: Somerville Brewing — the brewery known for its Slumbrew beers, and which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in October 2019 in an attempt to restructure its business and assets in order to pay off debts — recently closed.
July 2, 2020: A Seaport Beer Garden, a Night Shift Gaming Venue in Natick, and More
The Cisco Brewers Seaport Beer Garden has returned to Boston’s Seaport District (65 Northern Ave.) for its third season, open now through October 12. The pet-friendly space now includes table service for drinks, and there’s contactless ordering available from an Oath Pizza food truck, which is serving salads and desserts alongside various pizzas and a kids’ menu. Cisco and Oath both have Nantucket roots. To drink, Cisco’s beers are available, as well as Nantucket Vineyard wines, frosé, and wine coolers.
No reservations; check hours, safety information, and more details here.
Trillium Brewing Company’s Canton facility (110 Shawmut Rd.) is now featuring the Trillium Summer Kitchen from noon to 7 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, until October, with full lunch and dinner menus available from Cambridge’s Naco Taco (tacos and tortas on Thursdays and Fridays) and Cranston, Rhode Island’s Keane’s Wood-Fired Catering (barbecue on Saturdays and Sundays).
Kids are welcome, but dogs are not allowed at this time. Reservations are required (via Resy) and are available up to two weeks in advance. Customers place food and drink orders from their phones at the table (and can order packaged beer to go as well).
25-year-old Allagash Brewing, now Maine’s largest brewery, had been growing steadily for years — until COVID hit. “Our first downturn,” founder Rob Tod told News Center Maine — and then Tod himself got COVID. News Center Maine looks at the company’s, and Tod’s, recovery.
The Boston Globe takes a look at how breweries are faring now that the state is beginning to reopen. Three months of closure was “a kick in the gut,” Harpoon cofounder and CEO Dan Kenary told the Globe, while Cambridge Brewing Co. owner Phil Bannatyne said that the pandemic “has wreaked havoc ... it’s been heart-wrenching and hard.”
“We’re standing,” Bannatyne added.
In a separate piece, the Globe recently spoke with several Black Massachusetts brewery owners about their experiences in a mostly white industry. (Only five of the state’s 200 or so breweries are Black-owned, a statistic mirrored elsewhere around the country.)
“What we’re going through now is much more amplified,” White Lion Brewing Co. owner Ray Berry told the Globe. “You have much more attention paid to injustice, some of the prejudices that we face as people. From what I see in my lens, there has been a tremendous amount of openness. A tremendous amount of associates, friends, and business partners wanting to know more. That’s how you move the needle.”
Berry and brewer Michael Yates have been contract brewing since 2014 and could open their own taproom in downtown Springfield later this summer.
Meanwhile, the Boston Business Journal is looking at how some of the state’s breweries are adapting their business models to survive pandemic regulations, including focusing on outdoor drinking and dining spaces and working with wholesalers for the first time.
Some local breweries are crediting the federal Paycheck Protection Program with keeping them afloat these last few months, reports the BBJ in a separate recent piece.
Everett’s Night Shift Brewing, which expanded to Boston’s West End a little over a year ago, had long been planning an expansion to Philadelphia, which fell through in May, with co-founders Rob Burns, Mike O’Mara, and Michael Oxton citing the pandemic as the driving factor. “We’re lucky that we’re still in operation and able to see ourselves coming out of this crisis intact,” the trio posted on the brewery’s website, adding that they hoped to revisit expansion to Philadelphia, their hometown, in the future.
Meanwhile, though, they’re reportedly eyeing expansion closer to home, to the Boston suburb of Natick, in collaboration with a proposed gaming venue called Level99, located at the Natick Mall. The mall recently pitched the idea to Natick’s planning board, describing a venue with over 40 gaming rooms and a taproom, as well a dining area; it could open early next year. The gaming rooms would feature physical and mental challenges alike that groups of two to six people would tackle.
Planning board member Julian Munnich reportedly summed up the pitch as “Willy Wonka meets Dungeons & Dragons.”
Gilded Skull Brewing and Blending Co. is one of the newest Massachusetts brewing companies to land on the scene — although its roots date back to 2012, when Neil Kade began to get into home-brewing. In 2017, Kade and his wife Amy were beginning to plan Gilded Skull, only to be interrupted by a cancer diagnosis for Neil. Despite a successful operation, he is dealing with continuing health issues, but the Kades are now in a position to move forward with the brewing company.
Drawing inspiration from metal music, as well as the feeling that “life is to be lived now,” Gilded Skull released its first beer last month: Gilded Empire, a New England IPA brewed at Castle Island in Norwood. It’s distributed statewide via Craft Collective, and the Kades hope to release a new beer every two or three months. A brick-and-mortar brewery of their own could be in the cards, too.
After years in Vermont, South Burlington brewery Magic Hat is shifting all production to a Rochester, New York, facility owned by its parent company, FIFCO USA, where some of Magic Hat’s beer has already been produced for nearly a decade. Burlington brewery Zero Gravity will take over the South Burlington space, and Magic Hat’s 43 employees will be considered for open positions at Zero Gravity.