Aeronaut Brewing Company – Somerville’s “Agricultural Beer Engine” Destination
Friends and co-founders of Aeronaut Brewing Company, Ronn Friedlander, Ben Holmes, and Dan Rassi, are at odds with how to describe the concept for Somerville’s newest brewery.
“We wanted to start a brewery, and we always had the idea to some how involve the community,” said Friedlander. When they found the space at 14 Tyler Street, the idea for a farmer’s market took shape.
"We wanted to have a common area where people could come in, hang out, and sip some beers,” explained Friedlander. “Then we thought about having food available, and we started thinking about how we could get food producers in the space. When we found the location, the space helped to develop the concept…and that was sort of the beginning of it.”
The concept, affectionately called an “agricultural beer engine”, is a brewery, agricultural start-up company incubator, and indoor farmer’s market.
The 12,000 square-foot building is divided into two spaces; an 8,000 square-foot market, and a 4,000 square-foot brewery and taproom. The market space is accessible through double doors in the brewery, and will be open to the public year-round.
“The market area is a collaboration between ourselves and our tenants,” said Holmes. “Incubators are co-working spaces where people build start-ups. For example, in a software incubator the tenants tend to share break rooms and computer systems. Here, they share a market.”
Construction crews are partitioning off work spaces for three agricultural start-ups: Barismo Coffee, Something Gud, and Somerville Chocolate.
For Eric Parkes, artisanal chocolatier and owner of Somerville Chocolate, the market at Aeronaut will be his company’s first retail location.
“The idea of working within a brewery really interests me,” said Parkes via e-mail. “In my opinion, people who enjoy and appreciate what a craft brewery does will have a lot in common with the folks who seek craft chocolate.”
Although the businesses in Aeronaut’s market aren’t the sole providers of ingredients for the brewery, ideas for including cacao nibs supplied by Somerville Chocolate have already been discussed. Holmes said that Barismo and Something Gud have already contributed to recipes – a stout recipe includes coffee beans, and butternut squash is used in a rauchbier.
“Having these businesses here is a great resource. We want to emphasize that we’re sourcing from local farms, but our tenants don’t exist just for the brewery,” said Friedlander.
“Lagerfeuer” is the name for the butternut squash rauchbier, and is an Oktoberfest-style Marzen. The butternut, supplied by Something Gud, is smoked over applewood and gives the beer an intense smoky, campfire flavor.
“As far as we’re aware, butternut squash beer has never been commercially brewed before,” said Holmes.
Other beer recipes include a sessionable IPA called “A Session With Dr. Nandoo”, “Armadillo”, a citrusy, single-hopped table beer, and two other currently nameless brews – an imperial stout, and hoppy British-style brown ale.
Several beers in Aeronaut’s lineup are fermented with yeast strains cultivated in the brewery’s in-house lab; strain ABC002 was used in “Armadillo.” The co-owners, all coming from bio-engineering backgrounds, use yeast strains that best fit a beer’s style as opposed to using a single strain for everything they brew.
“A lot of small breweries will have one yeast strain and will use that for all their beers because that’s the easiest way to do it,” said Friedlander. “And we do want to have some house strains, but it’s important for us to have a big variety of yeast strains to work with.”
Beers will be brewed on an experimental 1-barrel per batch basis, tried out in the taproom, and then adjusted and scaled up as needed. Aeronaut’s beer will only be available at the taproom on draught (they were approved by the city of Somerville for a farmer series pouring permit) or for purchase in cans. The brewery and taproom is under construction, with plans to open in May.
“The one thing that sets us apart is the destination,” said Friedlander. “It’s going to be a really cool space to hang out and immerse yourself in not only the beer producers, but the food producers as well.”
I decided to make a slightly less bloggy, more “professional” looking website to use as a portfolio and archive space for my published and non-published work. Check it out at www.nebrews.com.
Jack’s Abby’s Battle of the Barrels Returns
Last year, when Jack’s Abby Brewing of Framingham, Mass. had a few unused aging barrels, owners and brothers Jack, Sam, and Eric Hendler decided to experiment.
“We had a few empty barrels, too few to do a big batch with, so we decided that it might be fun to do something small,” said Eric Hendler. Competitors were given a barrel, beer, and money to buy ingredients to add to the barrel in hopes of creating the best one-off brew.
Now in its second year, four teams of Jack’s Abby employees are competing for “Battle of the Barrels” glory.
The teams consist of employees from all departments, and each is headed by a brewer and a member of the Hendler family: Eric, Sam, Jack, or Jack’s wife, Abby. The teams were given two empty bourbon barrels, $100 for ingredients, and the choice of any beer in production to steep the ingredients in for a little over a month.
“$100 gives plenty of flexibility to go crazy with ingredients, but isn’t too much in case the beer ends up being bad and has to be dumped,” explained Eric Hendler. “Last year we had one or two that were not as good as the others, but they were still sellable.”
Last year’s winning battle of the barrels brew was Numb Swagger, which was made by infusing Jack’s Abby’s Smoke and Dagger with Szechuan peppers.
This year’s winning beer will go into regular rotation and be on tap at the brewery, with the possibility of distribution. The three losing brews will be available at the taproom until they run out. Any beers deemed not drinkable will go down the drain.
Members on Abby Hendler’s team wanted to create a caramel sea salt flavored beer.
“We used the Smoked Marzen as the base, to get a smoked caramel salty flavor,” said Collin Dunbar, brewery taproom bartender and Abby’s team member. The team used Fleur De Sel sea salt, caramel extract, and fenugreek seed – a spice often used in Indian cooking.
“The fenugreek has a smoky, sweet flavor, but it overpowered the other flavors,” said Dunbar.
The beer doesn’t have a name yet. According to Dunbar, its name is dependent on whether the team will build off of the fenugreek seed flavor, or try to draw out more of the caramel and sea salt flavors.
Jack Hendler’s team opted to use the Sunny Ridge Pilsener as its base and infused it with green tea, lemon grass, goose berries, and pureed cucumbers. The team rinsed out their barrels before adding the Pilsener in an effort to minimize the bourbon flavor.
“We were going for a softer, more delicate flavor profile,” said Jack’s team member and brewer Tim Wilson. “And apparently the cucumber flavor is all the rage with beer geeks.”
“Sunny Ridge and Tonic” is the working name for the beer Sam Hendler’s team is creating, which is made from ingredients found in gin.
“I did research about what goes into gin, and there were a lot of different ingredients to draw from,” said Herb Lindtveit, Sam’s team member and brewer. “We didn’t want to use things that were either hot and spicy or sweet and chocolatey. We wanted to avoid things that have already been done.”
Along with juniper, lemon grass, elder flower, hibiscus, and orange peel, Lindtveit said the team plans to add quinine, a bittering agent that’s derived from the bark of the cinchona tree. This ingredient will be added last and “to taste.”
Jabby Brau was the beer of choice for Eric Hendler’s team. The bourbon barrels were rinsed out to create a clean slate for tequila, galangal root, agave nectar, Thai chili peppers, lemon grass, and oak spirals. “Thai Brau” is the working name for the brew.
“We’re going for a sweet and spicy Thai flavor. We thought it would go well with the tequila and light Jabby Brau flavor,” said Eric Hendler.
“We were nervous when we started, because we rinsed out the barrels and just added tequila,” Eric added. “But I’m fairly confident that we’ll win.”
While the teams were secretive about their recipes, word-of-mouth travels quickly around a brewery with twenty employees.
“I’m not sure exactly what everyone else is doing, but what I’ve found is that nobody is doing run-of-the-mill stuff,” said Lindtveit. “There’s not a cocoa nib in sight.”
On April 2 at 6 p.m., the beers will be evaluated by a panel of guest judges at the brewery, and a winner will be chosen. The judging is open to the public, and a food truck will be on-site.
All battle of the barrels beers (assuming none are drain pours) will be available while supplies last at the taproom starting that Wednesday.
B.A.B.E.S. in The Boston Globe
I got the cover story in today’s G Section of The Boston Globe!
B.A.B.E.S. Group Breaks Down Beer-Drinking Barriers
Another one in the Globe before the end of grad school.