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The New England Beer Rumor Mill Swirls…New beer bars in Boston, Lowell Beer Works, and A Shelton Goes AWOL

What follows is a host of smaller news items that I haven’t been able to fit into any particular place so I’ve decided to place this here until I can offer further follow-up and detail.

One Shelton Gets High and Mighty

Word is that one of the founders of Shelton Brothers has left his day job at the beer importing business. After years of helping his brother Dan scour the Earth in search of beer gems to bring back to the United States, younger (and handsomer to hear him tell it) brother Will Shelton started part-timing his own beer operations. Will started the High and Mighty Brewing Company, a contract brewery through which he brews under agreement at the Paper City Brewery in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Paper City, which is contained in the same building as the Sheltons’ importing business, allows Will to brew his company’s beers on its system and then separately market and distribute them. Will’s first four beers include Beer of the Gods, Two-headed Beast, Saint Hubbins, and XPA. After splitting his time between the two operations, Will reportedly has decided to focus his efforts full time on the High and Mighty brewing business.

The Lowell Brew Works Adds To The Empire

After languishing for years under a number of identities, including some time as the home of the Concord(e) (Junction) Brewery (Brewing Company), the Brewery Exchange building of Lowell is now in the process of transitioning into the newest outlet of the Boston Beer Works chain of brewpubs. The Slesar Bros. Brewing Company (now minus brother Steve) is presently interviewing staff for the new location. Owner Joe Slesar informed me via email that the Lowell location was expected to take ownership of a new 40 barrel DME brewhouse. The former brewery’s equipment was removed and shipped to another brewery out-of-state. According to a request made to a local licensing board, Lowell Beer Works plans to take over approximately 2700 square feet of dining space on the second floor of the structure, which used to house various entertainment venues such as a dance and comedy club.

Although the brewery would not confirm it, a 40 barrel system is substantially larger than its other operations and is likely too large to simply cover the Lowell location. With a system that size, it’s likely that the Lowell Beer Works may brew beer for its other operations, including its new tap room at Logan Airport. This may also give the brewpub chain the opportunity to reclaim production of its IPA, which has been contracted out to Mercury Brewing on the North Shore for a few months.

Boston Area Beer Bar Buzz

The worst kept secrets in the Boston beer gossip world are that the owners of two of the state’s most popular beer bars have long been looking to expand their operations.

Daniel Lanigan, proprietor of the Moan & Dove of Amherst and the Dirty Truth of Northampton has long wanted to return to the Boston market and open his own place. A former worker at the under-appreciated Other Side Café in Boston’s Copley/Mass Ave district, Lanigan loved the location. For a few months, he was in negotiations to either purchase or takeover the Other Side Café and transform it into his third beer bar. The deal fell through early this Spring and Lanigan wasted no time in looking for a new spot. The rumors report now, entirely unconfirmed by this presently lazy reporter, is that Daniel is in negotiations to open his third bar across the river in Cambridge. While I won’t report the name of the rumored takeover target (because I can’t confirm it and because people would likely riot if they knew, how’s that for a tease?), the spot, if it works out, is centrally located (no pun or hint intended).

UPDATE: The location is confirmed and a deal is underway. At the request of Lanigan, I’m still deciding whether to post the name of the place. News of the deal is now the worst kept secret in the gossipy world of the Boston foodie scene as it has gotten back to me through four different sources at this point. In any event, you’ll learn the name soon enough.

In Brookline, David Ciccolo, owner of the Publick House beer bar has been in a tough battle with local regulators over his attempt to secure a license to sell alcohol in his recently opened store, Publick House Provisions. Reports from the front suggest that the state’s alcohol commission plans to issue the license but no decision on the owner’s appeal has yet been made public.

Ciccolo also recently opened up to Beverage Magazine (for which I write; this wasn’t my piece) about his plans to open a barbeque restaurant near the Publick House.

“We’ve taken over this entire building – 7OOO square feet – to open up a restaurant and gourmet beer store. Roadhouse Craft Beer and BBQ is a Texas barbecue restaurant featuring authentic pit-smoked barbecue and grilled fish. Here’s our two and a half ton cast-iron smoker; our chef found some good people to build it on a research trip to Texas. There’s where the butcher shop will be. Out the back will be Road House Catering, and all to-go foods will pass through this take-out window. High top tables will be over here. American craft beers with 4O draft lines (minimal bottles) will be the focus, unlike The Publick House’s 25O bottles.?

In an entertaining interview, Ciccolo also takes a moment to explain why the Publick House doesn’t sell any Harpoon products.

“Harpoon IPA was being made by Todd Mott as a summer seasonal. We’d wait every year with baited breath for that fantastic hop monster! Since then it’s been dumbed down, much to the disappointment of us hopheads.?

Over the years, they’ve honed their list to the best of the best. “Now we’re getting really picky,? says Ciccolo with a straight face. “We’ll work only with serious brewers, not companies moving boxes. We don’t carry Lindemans any more, and that’s saying something. I just couldn’t do it. You open one up and you smell that syrup and extract. We don’t carry Harpoon beer anymore, but their cider is one of the best. It breaks my heart that my backyard brewery won’t quite take the plunge into assertive, full-flavored beers. I only want them to make something good and flavorful and we’d love to carry it.?

Ouch…maybe Dave will like the new Leviathan line

There is much more to report on the New England beer scene, including the reported opening of a couple new brewing operations and an explosion of beer bars in Portland, Maine, a city that is arguably the best for beer in the region. But that’ll have to wait for the next edition of the rumor mill…

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7 thoughts on “The New England Beer Rumor Mill Swirls…New beer bars in Boston, Lowell Beer Works, and A Shelton Goes AWOL

  1. Wow, Harpoon doesn’t produce “full-favored” beer anymore. To think of all the pleasurable experiences I could have saved myself if I only knew. Sounds to me like someone’s palate is a little hop-saturated. The Harpoon IPA is a great example of the style, by that I mean well balanced.I’ve had plenty of the 100 barrell series beers that are stuffed full of flavor. It’s disappointing to see so many beer “geeks” get so jaded and always need more hops, more alcohol, more whatever. Yes, exactly, whatever.

  2. if Ciccolo were a little more diplomatic and business savy, perhaps Harpoon would ocassionally brew up something special for him and the Publik House.

  3. Just because he doesn’t play politics in order to secure an occasional specialty keg doesn’t deny his interest, as a local Boston area bar owner, in complaining that the predominant regional brewer makes boring, middle-of-the-road beer.

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