Beer Changes in the Commonwealth

by: Todd on 02-01-2002
The beer industry in Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and New England, is currently under some major changes. Some good, some bad and some possibly cop-outs using the 9/11 crutch to limp off the brewing stage. Breweries are closing, consolidating, contracting out and even to some extent reinventing themselves. It's all rather exciting, sometimes enraging and even sometimes just sad. Everyone success or failure has it's own story, but regardless and above all, I'd need to stress that it's paramount that every consumer of beer support their local beer scene. Buy local beer. Visit local brewpubs. Tell the brewers what a fine job they're doing. Call them to the carpet with improvements if they suck. Help them to help you bring you good beer. Be an advocate of good beer, not just a consumer.

If anyone has the skinny on more major changes, please send them to [email protected] for investigation. In the meantime, let's look at some of the more recent changes:

Brew Moon goes Rock Bottom
The Brew Moon / Rock Bottom conversion is moving along nicely ... The Braintree location is now a Rock Bottom. The Cambridge Brew Moon opens as a Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery on Feb. 4th 2002 - Scott Hutchinson will be responsible for all brewing related activities. The Boston location will close in February (TBD) to reopen as a Rock Bottom sometime in mid-March - Gerry O'Connell will be responsible for all brewing related activities. Darrah Bryans, ex-Head Brewer at Brew Moon Cambridge, is taking a hiatus from the brewing industry to be a full-time mom. She, and her outstanding brewing prowess, will be missed. More info to follow ...

Commonwealth Fish & Beer Co.
Brewed their last batch on December 28, 2001. Head Brewer Jeff Charnick said that he'll be employed there until the beer runs out or the sale of the building goes through, whichever comes first. I think Jeff summed up my thoughts on this quite simply with "And just like that, it was gone."

Hey? Does this mean that Boston Hops owner Joe Quatrocchi is out of the beer business for good?! Let's hope so. And if so, cheers to that!

On a personal note, we should wish Jeff all the best, and hope that in the near future we'll all be partaking of his outstandingly crafted beers. Cheers to you Jeff ... without brewers like you, beer would be boring!

North East Brewing Co.
The NEBC brewed their last batch just before Christmas and closed its doors after New Years. Head Brewer Dann Paquette is now over with the brewers at Concord crafting a new line of artisanal beers under the name Rapscallion, an archaic English word for "ne'er-do-well" or "scoundrel".

"What we're trying to do is create a purely artistic line of beers", says Paquette. "We choose to identify our products as 'artisanal' because we're not interested in recreating beers that have already been produced and we're less interested in styles than in flavors."

If that isn't exciting enough ... the new line of Rapscallion beers will be refermented in the bottle by way of a process called bottle conditioning. And, it even gets more exciting ... they are contracting a company to produce unique stemware designed to serve and enhance the eye-candy of the beer in at draft locations. "We didn't pull this idea from the sky, this is something I've been dreaming about and planning for several years now. People have always responded to the beers where I've let it all hang out there and have tried to produce something that's an extension of my personality. That's what Rapscallion is to me."

Initially there will be three Rapscallion beers, beginning the golden Rapscallion "Premier", which will initially be available in specialty four-packs along with the custom glass or in half-barrel kegs for draft accounts. The Concord line of beer will also still be produced. "Not only can we continue to produce our Concord line of Hand-crafted Ales, we can also create inventive brews with a style all their own. It opens our products to a whole new audience." says Michael Labbe, president of Concord Brewers. More info to follow ...

Old Saddleback Brewing Co.
Apparently they are closing and selling off all of their assets, due to a major financier backing out, owing to ... you guessed it ... 9/11 loses. Is there a chance of some new owners? Or perhaps they could not hold as strong in the rural brewing industry as others? Who knows, the brewery was shut down for inventory at the time of print and we were unable to reach anyone. More info to follow ...

Tremont Brewery
As reported in the past ... their Charlestown brewery closed up and they moved their offices into Boston. All beer is currently being contract brewed by FX Matt, and although the beers are no longer brewed using the Tremont "Ringwood" yeast strain, the house yeast strain at FX Matt appears to be a pretty damn good match. Most drinkers will probably not even notice much of a change in taste.

Chris Lohring reports, "It's been slow 'post 9.11.01' for the entire industry, as many consumers have chosen to stay home rather than hit the town. Let's remind folks to get out and support the local restaurants, and while you are there, buy American!"

"Even with a sluggish fall, sales for Tremont have picked up considerably around the holidays. We have new distributors in MA: Burke in Boston, Merrimack Valley in the North Shore, Atlas in Central MA, and JJ Taylor on the South Shore. Results so far have been great, as sales are moving up, as well as availability."

A little tidbit for Tremont fans ... former Tremont Head Brewer Jeff Biegert is now working at New Belgium in CO. Lohring confesses "He's busy making some fine beers, but said he secretly longs for a Tremont Winter Ale."
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