I wrote a piece asking the question Can Craft Brewers Expand Their Market Share by Brewing Light Lagers? People seemed pretty pumped about the release of Night Shift’s Nite Lite, we’ll see how much the enthusiasm translates into consistent sales. I linked to a number of other articles on this phenomenon at the end of the piece, one I missed was Bryan Roth on the rising popularity of lagers.
One of the best articles I read this month was from the Allagash website, discussing the importance of consistency and quality control. These are the factors that will be the difference between success and failure for the thousands of new breweries that have opened recently or are opening soon. Many of these breweries will brew some great beer, but the breweries who minimize off-flavors and brew consistently great beer batch-to-batch and across styles will rise to the top.
Another standout article from this month was from Peter Bissell of Bissell Brothers, talking about the advantages of the own premise model. I completely agree with what he writes here, and think that selling beer directly to consumers is the best path forward for small breweries. That being said, I am not sure that many breweries can sell that high a percentage of their beer without any distribution. Bissell has crazy buzz around their brand, people line up for can releases and they sell out most beers the day they release them or soon after, but there are only a handful of breweries in the area that can say that. I’ve seen plenty of places hype up a brewery-only release of a great beer on social media, let people know it’s still available days later, and then I see posts from local bottle shops a week later letting people know they have the beer. I bet the number of breweries who can claim 90% revenue from their taproom (like Bissell does) is very small and is mostly nano-breweries that don’t package any of their product. Own premise is great, and needs to be the key part of any upstart brewery, but most will need to distribute at least a portion of their beer too.
Boston proper is about to get some new taprooms. Night Shift announced that they are opening a second location in the North End of the city. Fresh off the success of their expanded Jamaica Plain taproom Sam Adams is opening a second location in downtown Boston. The long awaited Backlash taproom is also set to open in May. Having more taprooms close to the population center, tourism and public transportation is a great thing, and I think each of these breweries will be a big success.
Not every brewery can open their own place in the city, but last year proved that seasonal beer gardens are a great alternative. After the success of the Trillium and Aeronaut gardens last year we will see a number of entries this year. The Aeronaut beer garden will return to Allston this summer. Berkshire Bank is sponsoring The Patios on City Hall Plaza which will include a variety of pop-ups and promotions and will feature a Wachusett beer garden. Castle Island will host it’s own seasonal beer garden at the Ink Block under I-93. Notch is teaming up with the Trustees to host a series of pop-up beer gardens at different properties throughout the season, you can find a list of locations here. Lamplighter is opening a Sunday beer garden at the Central Flea Market in Cambridge this summer. No official word yet on the Trillium beer garden, but I’ve heard plenty of whispers that it is returning also, so there will be plenty of places to grab an outdoor beer and enjoy the nice weather this summer in the city!
The biggest national beer news this month is that Green Flash has been foreclosed on and their assets have been sold. This seems like a perfect storm of overly aggressive expansion and inability to keep up with the trends in the market. I think it will be a brutal few years for many national and large regional breweries, especially ones that have significant debt.
The Mass Brew Brothers have been doing a series of articles on cooking with beer. I might try to make Lipstick and Lager’s pork loin braised with Jack’s Abby Smoke and Dagger soon, that looks delicious. One of my favorite beer-based recipes has to be my Mayflower Porter beef stew.
Thrillist has an informative article on the history of the New England style IPA.
The beer director to Row 34 profiles her favorite taprooms in the Boston area.
Notch Brewing is celebrating their 8th anniversary with a party on May 5th. I see many beer fans in other areas of the country bemoan the lack of high quality sessionable craft beers, but we are spoiled in the Boston area with breweries like Notch.
The Fervent Few talk about what they look for in a bottle shop, including a shout-out for Craft Beer Cellar from Zach Rothman.
For those traveling to mid-coast Maine this summer, there will be a new brewery to check out. I am from originally from Camden, and I will definitely be headed up there at some point this summer, so it’s nice to see some new options pop up.
Carla Jean Lauter has a story on the burgeoning beer scene in Brunswick, Maine. I went to college in Brunswick and love to visit the area, and the developing beer scene gives me another reason to return!
The brothers behind Boston Winery are adding a brewery in Dorcester this summer. An interesting line towards the end of the piece is that one of the brothers is planning on brewing the beer himself, but they may hire a full time brewer in the future. I have no idea what this person’s qualifications are, but I doubt it includes professionally brewing beer, so it will be interesting to see how the beer turns out.
A second brewery is coming to Hudson this summer, continuing the impressive revitalization of their downtown.
Paste continues their stellar blind tasting series with a look at American Pale Ales. Local breweries were well represented, but I would have loved to see where a few others (Trillium Fort Point and Night Shift Whirlpool in particular) would have ranked in this panel.
Hop Culture lists their beers to drink this spring, including a couple popular local options.
Craft Beer Cellar is launching it’s Beercierge program, an educational set of courses with a focus on retail and hospitality.
If you need something to do on Saturday the Boston chapter of non-profit Soccer Without Boarders is hosting a beer tasting fundraiser in Cambridge.