The opening of Mystic Brewery's wonderful tasting room yesterday gave me a beer epiphany of sorts. So many of us Boston beer geeks drive hours to places like Warren, VT or Portland, ME in search of beer nirvana. But between Night Shift, Idle Hands and now Mystic, do we now have the makings of a bonafide beercation destination right under our noses?
Okay, I admit that I might be drunk with some homerism. These guys are only 20 minutes from my house. But there's definitely something interesting happening here in this stretch of industrial warehouses and pothole-filled side streets between Everett and Chelsea. This trifecta of breweries is quietly producing some of the most imaginative, interesting and off-center beers in New England. Each has their own unique twist on how they are raging against the machine. And each succeeds in their own right.
Why they are all clustered here, I don't know. Coicidence? Good rent perhaps? No matter, it's good for me. And yesterday I gladly added another stop on my Saturday afternoon growler-fill route when the Mystic tasting room opened its doors to the public for the first time. Here's what I saw:
After getting a fillup at Night Shift, I rumbled five minutes across town to Chelsea to the Mystic world headquarters. [An aside: I think the Mass. Brewers Guild - located right down the street from Mystic - needs to put their top marketing guys to work and come up with a catchy name for this emerging little brew region. The Night Shift guys suggest "The Beermuda Triangle." Like that one.] Visitors enter at the side of the warehouse, where these giant medieval-looking double doors welcome you into the tasting room.
I was quite surprised when I stepped into spacious tasting room. Much more than I expected from the upstart Mystic, which I admit I haven't paid a whole lot of attention to since they started brewing a few years ago right in my own backyard. It's a grandeous space with a nod toward history and old world charm.
A lot of care and attention was put into the details and ensuring all the elements have a local flavor. The oak planks that make up the sprawling 40-foot bartop were rescued from an old nearby whistle factory. The bar rests on top of a hand-built wall of native New England field stone. The space also features some interesting local brewing artifacts spread about, including some old wooden boxes from long-lost New England breweries like Pickwick Ale and a historic beer cask.
The whole vibe serves as an extension of their carefully crafted backstory and brewing philosophy. It made me want to learn more about them.
Mystic's tap list offered up a hefty lineup of Belgian-inspired beers, including the flagship Descendant dark ale, a series of wonderful saisons, as well as some nice wild ales. Mystic offers 2 oz tasting samples for all their beers on draft. And on the weekends, you can also add a behind-the-scene brewery tour and a nice Mystic-branded glass for $6. They offer 32 oz and 64 oz growler fill ups (you have to purchase the actual growler for $5 first) as well as their lineup of bottled beers and other branded swag. I took home a small growler of their lovely Flor Ventus wild ale.
Owner Bryan Greenhagen gave a compelling talk about Mystic's approach as the group of about 30 or so toured the expansive facilities beyond the new tasting room. Despite all this space at their disposal, they don't actually brew the wort onsite. They rent brew equipment way out in Western Mass., about 1 1/2 hours away, for the boiling of the ingredients. Then, in an odd twist, they transport the raw wort back to Mystic facilities for fermenting - which is why he calls his space more of a "fermentorium" as opposed to a brewery. This risky and unique system, which he thinks no one else has tried before, helped him save money on equipment in the startup stages of his operations. Greenhagen, a former MIT biochemist, is also experimenting with cultivating his own native yeast strains, setting Mystic apart from most brewers who import yeast strains from Europe and beyond. Interesting stuff.
In other corners of the brewery, he has a few brewing test kitchens to make small experimental batches. He's surrounded himself with a small but merry band of brewers who boast a long list of homebrewing awards and credentials with a flare for brewing experimentation. Bryan revealed that a batch of imperial IPA will soon be offered as a brewery-only treat. "We're not really about IPAs here, but that doesn't mean we don't like to drink them," he offered.
I for one will definitely back for that IPA and other goodies they brew up. Next time you're planning a beercation, think about saving some time and gas and spend a Saturday afternoon visiting the Beermuda Triangle. And even if you're still planning to head up north in search of craft beer greatness, think about stopping in Chelsea/Everett first and mule some of these local goodies up to those guys. I think they'd appreciate tasting some of the interesting things that are going on down here.