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St. Patrick’s Day Feature: The Process Behind Your Beer

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day (as well as “Evacuation Day” in the City of Boston). And along with the traditions of leprechauns, four-leaf clovers, and corned beef and cabbage, many people also enjoy a pint of beer.

But the journey of how that beer came to be, and its path through the commercial real estate supply chain, isn’t considered as often. So we talked with Ben Holmes, the founder of Aeronaut Brewing in Somerville, to trace how beer goes from “hop to glass”.

It all starts with an idea

Before any of the ingredients ever make it into a brew kettle, each beer starts out as an idea in the mind of brewer.

The Aeronaut team frequently comes together to discuss the types of beers they’re drinking now, and which ones they’d like to make. And while taste is a factor, the team also needs to consider how that beer can be different than other offerings on the market, and how it fits within the Aeronaut portfolio.

Finding new and unique beer styles is only becoming more challenging in recent years, as the numbers of craft brewers have grown exponentially.

In the last five years, the number of breweries in Massachusetts has increased from 49 to 108. Their sizes vary widely. The average commercial real estate SF of a microbrewery (less that 15,000 barrels of beer per year with at least 75 percent of its beer sold off-site) is 7,019 SF, while a brewpub (which sells 25 percent or more of its beer on site) is 9,300 SF, and a regional brewery (annual beer production of between 15,000 and 6,000,000 barrels) is 52,054 SF.

Complex Ingredients Require Complex Supply Chains

Once the recipes have been developed, the brewers then need to assemble all the ingredients – which can really be a challenge.

craft ales are popular

Getting hops – both in terms of quantity and the right varieties – has always been a challenge for small breweries,” says Holmes. “But as time has gone on, our biggest challenge has been the more exotic ingredients. We know how to get hops, but how do you order 100 pounds of purified starfruit, or locally-smoked butternut squash?”

Every brewery works differently. But every recipe that comes out of the brainstorming sessions at Aeronaut gets made – and served – in the taproom, whether it’s a special event, or a small-scale release of a few dozen pints

“We know our team is great at what they do, so no matter what we comes up with, we know it’s going to be good,” says Holmes. “But even then, we only put a small fraction of those beers into full-scale production.”

Special Events Are Always Special

When brewing beers for specific events, Holmes says the initial effort may be more of a last-minute endeavor. But then their goal becomes to take that up a notch next time, and then even better the year after.

For example, on St. Patrick’s Day in 2017, the team added some green coloring to a pale ale to give their beer that special holiday tint. But this year, they’re brewing a new beer using unique traditional ingredients which have created a green beer without added coloring (We’re keeping the actual beer a secret – you’ll need to visit Aeronaut to find out!).

No matter what beer is coming off of the line, the logistics and industrial real estate involved with all of the packaging materials, distribution, and shelf space is always a challenge. But in the end, it’s just about making it happen.

“When you have a team of people who love what they do,” Holmes says, “everything tends to work itself out. And the result is great beer and happy customers.”

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