Craft beer brewing is alive and well on Cape Cod and the Islands
As of August 2015, seven brewers claim Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, or Nantucket as their home, with Cape Cod Beer, Devil’s Purse Brewing, Cisco Brewers, Offshore Ale and Bad Martha Beer physically brewing on the Cape and Islands.
Given the tumultuous times we’re living in, it should come as no surprise that America’s love of beer is on the rise. According to the Brewers Association, a trade organization with a mission of promoting and protecting American craft brewers, the amount of operating breweries in the United States ballooned by 15 percent in 2015. That brings the number of beer makers in the country—at latest count—to 4,269, an all-time record that surpasses the previous high-water mark of 4,131, set in 1873.
This sudden “cerveza surge” is due largely to the growing popularity of brewing craft beer, a renaissance that is sweeping across Cape Cod and the Islands like a summer thunderstorm.
“The reason we got into brewing is because it’s a very collegial industry, especially on the back end with the brewers,” says Beth Marcus, co-owner of Cape Cod Beer, a 12-year-old Hyannis-based brewer. “Don’t get me wrong, we compete. But from a small business point of view, we [small brewers] can all succeed here. There are plenty of thirsty beer drinkers out there.”
As of August 2015, seven brewers claim Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, or Nantucket as their home, with Cape Cod Beer, Devil’s Purse Brewing, Cisco Brewers, Offshore Ale and Bad Martha Beer physically brewing on the Cape and Islands. Although Farmer Willie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer and Naukabout Beer employ off-Cape contract brewers, the companies both have Cape Cod roots and are exploring the establishment of on-Cape breweries.
In the following pages we highlight five of these local brewers, with interviews of company owners and staff who share stories about their love for their work and how their breweries came to be. Then, writer Joe O’Shea—who sampled a variety of selections from each company while researching this article—offers a sudsy suggestion for readers to try at each of the breweries.
It’s been a dozen happy, hoppy years
Cape Cod Beer
The seeds of Cape Cod Beer, the Cape’s original craft brewer, were planted in the mid-1990s when engineer Todd Marcus had what he describes as an “a-ha!” moment while visiting a funky barbecue joint in Somerville’s Davis Square.
One night, on a whim, Todd accompanied a co-worker to a brewers’ dinner at Redbones, and when the festivities concluded he made a call to Beth, his wife-to-be and future business partner. “Todd said [in a slurred voice], ‘I know what I want to do with my life!’” Beth Marcus recalls with a laugh. “You’ve been drinking, haven’t you?” she asked, and he responded in the affirmative. “Todd likes to joke that he felt like the bee in the Blind Lemon video [when she found her fellow bees]. He found his people at the brewers’ dinner.”
The next day, Todd still wanted to be a brewer. So the couple made brewing pit stops in Vermont, Maine, and Philadelphia while he learned the craft. The pair came home to the Bay State when Todd landed a job at the Hyannisport Brewing Company in the early 2000s.
When the “Hyport” Brewing Company went belly up, Todd and Beth launched Cape Cod Beer from the old facility in 2004. Todd was the only employee, and he and Beth would load up the family mini-van with beer—often with their two sons strapped in the back seat—and make deliveries across the peninsula.
Cape Cod Beer still distributes its own product, from Plymouth to Provincetown, but with a sleek fleet of delivery trucks. Brewers Todd Marcus, Doug Bogle, Jamison Cabral and Joe Rinaldo, and other staff now work their magic from a larger, modern facility that employs about 20 people year round.
“We’re really, really quality-driven,” says Rinaldo, a native of Concord. “And the best way to ensure quality is to distribute our own beer. We have our own guys in the field who make decisions about the quality of the beer. If a batch needs to be pulled off the shelf, it needs to be pulled off the shelf—though thankfully we’ve never had to do that!”
Joe O’Shea says: Try Cape Cod Red!
Cape Cod Beer is at 1336 Phinneys Lane in Hyannis. For more information, visit capecodbeer.com.
Meet the dudes behind these brews
Devil’s Purse Brewing
When Devil’s Purse Brewing Company co-owners, Matt Belson and Mike Segerson, are asked the secret to their success, they don’t hesitate to credit their better halves. “Mike and I were introduced by our wives,” says Belson. “Anything that’s happened since then is because of them. We started the brewery squarely on their shoulders—They’re to blame.”
For Belson and Segerson, a modest and understated tandem, it’s all about the beer—and always has been. When they first met in 2010, the men quickly bonded over their shared passion for craft beer and brewing. Soon, the families were spending weekends together as Segerson and Belson talked, brewed, and drank beer.
“We had an old home-brew kit that was collecting dust in the basement,” Belson recalls. “Mike had been making wine, so we decided to make beer together. We started in the kitchen, moved to the basement, and then expanded outside the house. We needed more space, and it quickly became an obsession.”
The effort quickly grew into a business as well. Like any small-business owners, Belson and Segerson wear many hats, whether it’s delivering beer to restaurants, bars, and package stores, or washing and stacking kegs. While both men make decisions together about what to brew, they’ve discovered that they have complementary skill sets, so Segerson acts as the brew master while Belson manages business operations.
“Ask me to balance a check book or deal with numbers, nuh-uh, that’s not my thing,” says Segerson. “The brew house is definitely my territory; it’s where my brain functions best.”
Joe raves: Try Skywave Provisional Saison!
Devil’s Purse Brewing Co. is at 120 Great Western Road in South Dennis. For more information, visit devilspurse.com.
Friendship, beer, and a “really chill” island setting
As part of an Island compound that includes Nantucket Vineyard and Triple Eight Distillery, Cisco Brewers and its sister companies make beer, wine, and other spirits for all to enjoy in what operations manager Tracy Wilde Long calls “a really chill” setting.
“We offer quality, American-made products in a down-to-earth atmosphere,” says Long. “We run a day bar with live music where customers can go outside and enjoy their beverages. We get younger people, older people, landscapers, and lawyers—and don’t forget the dogs. We want everyone to feel welcome and at home here.”
The family-friendly vibe at the company’s headquarters on Bartlett Farm Road isn’t forced, but a natural extension of how the business evolved. When Nantucket Vineyards founders, Melissa and Dean Long, were looking for help as their winery grew in the early 1990s, they had the good fortune to meet Wendy and Randy Hudson, whom they hired to help make wine. The Hudsons moved into the loft above the winery, and an enduring partnership and lifelong friendship was born.
Avid home brewers, the Hudsons made wine during the day and tinkered with beer recipes in their spare time, founding Cisco in 1995. For a time, the operation was run out of the Longs’ backyard. As the businesses grew, expansion plans were hatched and a new winery and brewery were built in the mid-1990s. By the year 2000, the Triple Eight Distillery was launched.
“We’re all about people on Nantucket coming together and doing something cool,” says Long. “We’re all family and friends.”
Joe hails: Try Cisco’s Whale’s Tail Pale Ale!
Cisco Brewers is at 5 Bartlett Farm Road, Nantucket. For more information, visit ciscobrewers.com, or call 508-325-5929.
It’s a story of family, fun, and savoring a few cold ones
With roots planted in a Barnstable music festival, and on the verge of opening a microbrewery in Mashpee, Naukabout Beer is the “little brew that could” among Cape brewers.
“The beauty of the craft beer world is that people are always looking for something new, different, and off-the-wall to drink,” says Pete Murner, a Bourne native and a Naukabout co-owner. “Craft beer fans are adventurous risk-takers.”
The same could be said for Murner and his business partners, Mark Germani, Russ Gentile, and Jeff Conley, whose father, Tim, can take credit for the “Naukabout” name. When Jeff and his brothers were growing up in Barnstable, Tim would barge in the front door, change out of his “work-abouts” and encourage the boys to get into their “knock-about” clothes to go out with him and have some fun.
Over time, the term “knock-about” morphed into “naukabout” and came to mean doing what one loves to do—after doing what one has to do. Conley, a musician, and Murner, an avid Cape music fan, connected and launched the Naukabout Music Festival at the Barnstable County Fairgrounds in 2008.
Because the fair was all about good music, local food, and beer, Conley, Murner, and their friends decided to try their hand at brewing their own beer for the festival. “People loved it,” says Murner, and the partners decided to start brewing with a contract brewer. “We didn’t have the wherewithal to build our own brewery at first,” he says, “but we’ve always wanted to brew on the Cape.”
The team aims to open the Naukabout Brewery and Tap Room in Mashpee’s former Flume Restaurant, which was owned for decades by master chef Earl Mills, who is also known as Chief Flying Eagle of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe.
“The Flume was an iconic landmark for years,” Murner says. “So we’re excited about moving into a historic space that Chief Mills brought to life.”
Joe knows: Try Naukabout’s American Pale Ale!
For more information about Naukabout Beer, visit naukabout.com.
Students help Truro man launch . . .
Farmer Willie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer
When Brown University graduates Nico Enriquez and Max Easton enrolled at the Ivy League school in 2012, little did the budding entrepreneurs realize that their “hands-on education” would include pounding hundreds of pounds of ginger alongside a humble goat farmer from Truro.
Enriquez, a Bostonian, often spent time in Truro as a youth. When he was 12, he started playing in beach volleyball games organized by Theresa Fenichel, whose bearded brother, Willie, was a reclusive Cape Cod goat farmer. “He tolerated me before he liked me,” Enriquez says of the ginger-bearded Willie. “The first time I met Willie, he was reading Dostoyevsky. He’s a gentle, quiet soul who loves the land and understands it. Willie’s like a modern, quirky Thoreau.”
About eight years ago, to keep busy during the long Cape Cod winters, Willie Fenichel started brewing alcoholic ginger beer, and the zesty concoction quickly gained a loyal local following. He spent about five years perfecting his brew before Enriquez and Easton got involved. “During our sophomore year, I was sitting in Max’s dorm room and I said, ‘People love Willie’s beer, so why don’t we try to make Willie’s ginger beer into a company?’”
Like any good college students, Enriquez and Easton engaged in a tremendous amount of research. They interviewed brewers, brewery owners, restaurateurs, bar owners, and distributors. Leaning on their professors and Brown alumni—including Nantucket Nectars founder, Tom Scott, and Narragansett Brewing president, Mark Hellendrung—the pair learned the ins and outs of a highly regulated, centuries-old industry.
Although the company contracts production out to a Rhode Island brewery at present, the founders have high hopes for an Outer Cape brewery in the future. “We definitely want to bring a brewery to Truro or Wellfleet,” Easton says. “Meanwhile, Willie and his family are working hard to develop new flavors. Willie is doing some amazing stuff with passion fruit and lavender.”
Joe is clear: Try Farmer Willie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer!
For more information about the company, visit farmerwillies.com.