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.
Andy, I just can’t figure out where you get off with your comments about Concord Brewery. You indicated that Dan “rolled his eye’s” at the thought of the new changes underway when in fact, I have personally seen an email to the new owners wishing them much luck.
One part of me wishes no more than to bid you good luck in your skewed editorials knowing that you comments are read by the limited few but the other part of me is writing this response because I know there are those who may read your trash talk.
If you were supportive of our industry, you would simply report the facts rather than inject your angst into a given subject matter.
Let the beers speak for themselves, Rapscallion or otherwise. Onward they march!
Hi Phil, welcome to the site. First, as they might say on BeerAdvocate, I’d recommend you have a beer and chill a bit. The Paquette reference was a joke and was more focused on the evolution of the Rapscallion brand over the years.
Second, we’re both entitled to our opinions. Mine is based upon having watched the Concord Brewery’s fits and starts for nearly a decade. And frankly, I’m not actually sure what part of my quick note you believe to be “trash” talking and “skewed editorials.” Do you dispute that under the previous owner’s direction that the brewery failed to grow and that the quality of the products remained constant? A visit to the Lowell pub would have dispelled those notions. And I said that I’m not sure whether new ownership will improve these points. Time will tell and I’ll be happy to report the news if things improve. Then I went on to say that with the brewery’s troubled history (you know it as well as I), that it’s future is far from certain. Consumers expect and deserve consistency and Concord’s disfunctional history has failed to provide it.
Finally, I have to take brief issue with your suggestion that “supportive” beer industry folks should only “report” positive things. I couldn’t disagree more. You can’t sugarcoat everything and if a brewery is making bad beer, the consumer deserves to know. Your job, as a brewery owner (and one, it’s important to note for purposes of full disclosure, who has a financial interest in Rapscallion), is to promote your brands and spin the news. My job is to report and to provide my opinion.
First, I did not say that you should only report “positive” things. I said to support the industry by reporting the facts including the good and bad. However, the title of your article would leave one to believe you’ve either had a conversation with Dan or know Dan intimately enough to express that sort of comment. *stepping down from soap box*
That said, I am the first to agree that Concord has seen its fair share of “issues” in many different forms. No shortage of finger-pointing I’m sure.
To answer your note in favor of full disclosure, there is not a single person having any financial interest in Pennichuck that also has a financial interest in any form or fashion in Concord, Rapscallion or any other brewery. Our only connection with Concord or Rapscallion is that we are contract brewing their beer. Period.
Hello! My ears tingle whenever I’m being mentioned. Can I jump in quickly?
First of all, Phil is right to say that he saw an email from me wishing luck to the fellas over at Rapscallion. I find it hilarious that there’s an internet conversation on what my eyes are doing though. A free case of beer if you know what they’re doing right now.
Anyway Andy, you know me well enough in my opinion to use the rolling-eyes comment and then some(the fact that you use two n’s is noting but proof). If I’m to confess it was more of a “wince” because Rapscallion drags my name with it no matter what I chose to move on and do.
That said I’m happy for the ownership change, the injection of enthusiasm and hope they rise to the challenge.
Lovies from Dann
Rapscallion Premier is back in bars on draft and tasting mighty fine. Looks like the brothers are staying true to their word.
This is a great article. I’m new to blogging but still learning. Thanks for the great resource.