Enjoying a mix of small batch coffee, craft beer, and local history at a couple’s new business
It’s so logical, you instantly wonder why more people aren’t doing the same thing: a brewery and taproom that also roasts and serves its own coffee. Brilliant. And perfect.
When I ran across an upcoming launch of a new brewery and coffee roaster launching in Marlborough, Massachusetts, it made so much sense from a business standpoint: the facilities are largely the same, so you’re only paying for the coffee-specific equipment and supplies, and some added staffing costs; it’s nicely efficient. Plus, the customers who appreciate you for one side of your business are probably going to check you out for the other side as well, or at least pass along word of mouth.
I’d been keeping my eye out for this place to open, and it seemed to go on forever, until I wondered if it actually would ever launch. In fact, I stumbled across it only by accident, based on other plans falling through and finding myself bored on a Saturday and fishing for something to do. It’s been a while since I’ve been as happy to have misfortune smile down on me.
As I read more about the new business, the backstory became more interesting and a genuinely nice story. The owners, JP and Melynda Gallagher, are trying to carve out lives for themselves. They’re not frat buddies who just want to drink for free, or some international brewing conglomerate bankrolling a a new subsidiary. They’re a couple who grew up in town. He home brewed but has tried to learn to do this at scale by attending the American Brewers Guild. She’s just as passionate about coffee, putting in time at the Coffee Lab International School of Coffee, passionate about her own niche rather than, for example, just doing the books for his business.
Their familiarity with their roots shows up heavily in the business. There are paintings of the town’s factories from her grandfather, Curtis Whitney, a WWII veteran and painter; Whit’s Way, one of the beers, has gotta be named after his grandfather; Downtown John Brown, another beer, is named for John Brown. His famed abolitionist raid on Harper’s Ferry in the run-up to the civil war took place in Virginia. But after an odd series of events, the town’s bell, referred to as “the second most important bell in America”, eventually ended up in downtown Marlborough. And the business itself is an ode to the town’s previously numerous shoe factories.
However, it took tremendous perseverance to ever open. The coffee roaster added more permitting, which was of particular concern to the town because of some prior challenges with a previous roaster that caused bad odors to hang over downtown. While the town was just looking out for its broader citizenry and business base, it still added more hurdles for a small business and new entrepreneurs trying to get something exciting started.
Despite being there on opening day, things were going surprisingly well. Lines weren’t bad, despite the place being largely filled late in the afternoon. With any new launch, there are stresses and unforeseen gaps to address. But we weren’t seeing any breakdown or problems. In fact, not only were the customers all smiling, but the owners were as well, as they flew around tending to everyone. So, too, were the staff, looking happy to be a part of an exciting moment.
The vibe of the place was casual and friendly, with some interesting accents. There were also parents there with kids, and adults from their 20’s to their 60’s, and some games available for patrons. The beers, too, were solid. The lineup will almost triple from the initial six offerings, but starts off with something for everyone, from a kolsch to an IPA to a brown ale to a coffee stout, and a couple more. Coffee options also start out limited, but include a refreshing cold brew and espresso, in addition to a couple of hot coffee options, and will grow in the future. My favorite was the New Pair of Brews stout with their coffee, which made it pleasantly difficult to tell whether I was having a beer or a cold brew. They don’t sell food, but you’re free to bring your own; a couple of snacks will be coming soon.
All in all, this place is great. It’s a feel-good story about a younger couple trying to make a go of things and chasing their dreams while supporting each other’s. It’s a fresh, one-of-a-kind option for morning or mid-day coffee, and a tasty after-work or weekend beer. So, if you find yourself in Massachusetts’ MetroWest region, walk in, check it out, and get off your feet for a couple of hours of casual fun.
Enjoying the local revolution in craft brewing (see what I did there???)
Just based on the key ingredients, you almost don’t even need to keep reading to know Battle Road Brewpub is worth visiting: refurbished in an old mill, with a feeder pond abutting it; outdoor seating to enjoy the view, or indoors amongst old wood and exposed brick; comfort food and quality barbecue, and of course a quality beer lineup. But it’s worth reading on for the details.
Battle Road Brewing started off as a brewery in 2012 before expanding to add the brewpub along with a 15-barrel brewery in Maynard, a small mill city in central Massachusetts. The vibe is casual and fun, with different seating zones and some games such as darts and shuffleboard. It can be fun for an after-work drink, weekend fun, and can be enjoyable for both grown-ups and families.
The beers features a lineup of regulars, from the rich and malty 1775 Tavern Ale to the Stow’s Farms Session Ale, a light but flavorful and less alcoholic beer. Despite the proliferation of hops-intensive beers, the lineup is also nicely diverse. For example, the Sustenance Breakfast Stout features coffee from the local Hogan Brothers; the colonial era Midnight Porter includes molasses, maize, and hints of chocolate. But if it’s an IPA you’re after, the Lexington IPA features a mix of five hops, and the General Haze Double IPA is heavily hopped with Azacca, Calypso, Amarillo, and Columbus hops. With flights and growlers, any beer fan can certainly find something that will work for you.
The accompanying menu complements the beers. There’s classic pub fare such as chili, nachos, wings, burgers, and sandwiches. But Battle Road added unique offerings such as chicken fried pickles, street corn, and veggie burgers, as well as fantastic barbecued brisket, pulled pork, and dry ribs.
But along with the traditional beer and pub food, Battle Road is conscious of all potential customers. So those in your group who might prefer wine or cocktails have their own choices, and that extends to the menu with its salads, veggie burgers, flatbreads, and some vegetarian appetizers.
Given the success of Battle Road, it’s not a surprise that Battle Road is expanding. It's theme fits well with a second location (tasting room only) at Patriot Place. Once again, it will fill a niche, despite Patriot Place’s already robust offerings. With the quality beers, food, and service, it’s well worth putting on your itinerary for either location and in any season.
Not racing to finish this flight.
Start Line Brewery in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, is one of a number of fairly new craft breweries, with a group of friends hoping to turn their passion for quality beers into a sustainable and fun way to make a living. Judging from our visit, they’ll probably do just fine.
Start Line, named for the Boston Marathon’s route which begins in town, will celebrate its one-year anniversary at the beginning of November. It appears they’ve solidly established themselves with six year-round beers and other seasonal or short run beers as well. Their tasting room is small but was adequate for our time there. The layout is good as well, with views of the production facilities, outside, and the Water Fresh farm connected to it.
The beers represented a good mix, from pretty hoppy choices such as Hop Load Citra, to the deep red, caramel-flavored Craic Irish Red Ale, to the Hazelnut Cold Brewed Stout that’s a great alternative to your weekend afternoon coffee run. A flight includes four five-ounce samples for $10.
Start Line is located at Water Fresh Farm, which is a great spot in its own right. It has food ranging from vegetables grown in their hydroponic greenhouse; great snacks and candy; and fresh, hot meals. Start Line uses them as well for a limited menu. The farm also has a good wine selection with a chilling machine in case you get a bottle of white on a way to a friend’s and need it quickly cooled. The ice cream shop also means that parents can bring their kids and everyone can find something on the premises to enjoy.
We really enjoyed both the quality and the variety of the beers. Start Line’s friendly staff, picturesque setting, and mutually beneficial store and tasting room make it absolutely worth a visit. While they're not that old, they seem well-settled and smoothly run. Not a bad outcome from some friends who started out dreaming big over some pints!
Wishing I grew beer instead of cherry tomatoes in my own garden.
Perks started out as a great little coffee shop in Harwich, one of the quieter towns on Cape Cod. But three summers back, it experimented with using its outdoor space for a beer garden in the afternoon and evening. It's evolved from not much more than a plywood bar to now having a great ambiance.
Now serving craft beers, both locally and nationally sourced, along with wine and cocktails, it covers all its bases, along with food such as appetizers, salads, and burgers.
The seating, bar with outdoor TV, fire pit, and lights strung over everything provide a relaxed, pleasant feel. The shades in one area shaped like sails provide relief from the sun as well. And the live music is fun but not too loud as to drown out conversations with your friends.
Perks has grown the beer garden into a great atmosphere that fills a nice niche for Harwich, and is worth visiting from surrounding towns as well. We stumbled across it by accident, but will definitely seek it out again!
New England Breweries
It's not just the craft brews. It's also the tasting rooms, the festive vibes, the small business owners playing mad scientists, the food trucks, and even a family-friendly atmosphere. These are the fun places we've discovered. Cheers!