A quick update on one of the most complicated brewing stories in New England. As I wrote in The Good Beer Guide To New England:
In its short existence, the Concord Brewery has had four different names, three different owners, and three different homes. The name, which was originally the Concord Junction Brewing Company, refers to the brewery’s first home in Massachusetts, where brewers developed the idea for the unusual Concord Grape Ale. After brewer Mike Labbe purchased the brewery from its owners, he changed the the name to Concord Brewers. After leaving its Concord home for Shirley, the brewery then became known as the Concorde Brewery. Soon after taking over the reins, Labbe found that he preferred being a brewer and there the brewery nearly closed. In the most recent twist, the brewery’s accountant, David Asadoorian, purchased the brewery, renamed it the Concord Brewery, and relocated it to the old Brewery Exchange complex in Lowell. To add a little more to the convoluted history, the brewery produces beers under three different brand names.
Well that confusing history just became a little murkier. Phil Jewett, owner and founder of Pennichuck Brewing in Milford, New Hampshire, has announced the newest chapter in the complicated story that is the Concord Brewery. New owners Peter and Cedric Daniel have changed both the brewery’s name (to Rapscallion Brewing) and its location (to Milford, NH).
As of this past weekend, the remaining equipment from Lowell has been moved to our 10,094 square foot Pennichuck Brewing in Milford, NH. Their first beer, Rapscallion Honey Ale (formerly known as Concord Extra Pale Honey Ale) was brewed about a month ago and went on the market today in Mass. in draft form only. As soon as their federal and state paperwork has been completed, several establishments in New Hampshire have given commitments to put RHA on tap.
Pennichuck Head Brewer Damase Olsson and I have established a very well balanced working relationship with everyone involved at Rapscallion and we look forward to working closely with them over the coming years creating this new chapter in New England microbrewing history. We are very excited to be a part of bringing consistency and quality to a line of artisanal brands that at one time was an industry leader in this region. Stay tuned for more information on product releases in the coming months.
Developed as a personal artisanal project by former brewer Dann Paquette, the Rapscallion line has perhaps been the brewery’s most visible project and was an early pioneer in pushing the definitional boundaries of ‘beer.’ Born in the spirit of beers that are intentionally different from batch to batch, the Rapscallion line of beers defied the notion that consistency in flavor profile is the brewer’s only goal. The three early Rapscallion brands, named Blessing, Creation, and Premier, varied in consistency and flavor from batch-to-batch, but were widely lauded by beer enthusiasts.
Under Asadoorian’s control, the Concord and Rapscallion brands never grew beyond their local environs in Lowell. The quality of the beer also suffered. I visited the Lowell pub a handful of times since the publication of my book and each time I was further put off by both the Concord and Rapscallion offerings. When the beer is undrinkable at the source, you know there’s a problem. It’s difficult to say whether the interest of yet another set of new owners will change the brewery’s prospects.
On the rebranded brewery’s website, the new owners joke about the company’s troubled history. “Maybe you never understood why a beer brewed in Lowell, MA went by the name of Concord. Well, we didn’t either.”
The brewery’s first release will be the Rapscallion Honey. The owners claim that other brands from both the Rapscallion and Concord lines will be reintroduced in the future. With all the uncertainty surrounding this brand, I won’t be holding my breath.