IMAGES BY SCOTT MURRY
Judging by the speed at which Caitlin Jewell, co-founder of Somerville’s Slumbrew Brewing along with Jeff Leiter, is moving around the common space at the American Fresh Taproom at Assembly Row in preparations for the friends-and-family test night before opening to the public tomorrow, you get a sense that this is someone who’s been full throttle for many moons.
“We’ve basically been doing 18-hour days for seven days a week for the last month, and six days a week since August,” she says with a laugh. “We’re hands on like that.”
The frenzied energy is one clearly infused by excitement, the kind you’d expect to be present when a team that has spent the last 15 years traveling the world the get their heads around what they call the “renaissance in brewing that is now described as craft beer”, with ten of those spent as serious home brewers, in order to bring their vision of a hyper-local brewery looking to change how people interact with their suds, and the brand overall.
“This space will be a little more for demonstration, and we really want to do a lot of pro-am brewing here, where people work with pro brewers and then they can have their beer on tap here,” says Jewell. “And, serve to public as one of our guest taps while helping with tasting notes, [label] art , and it’s just great way to involve the public in home brewing, which is where all of us come from.”
The modular space holds over 120 people with 65 seats at the ready, and is broken up by the different colored shipping containers the concept has worked in as their way to create a vibrant, accessible, and fully-operational beer worshiping funhouse. Not to mention an actual brewery, too, as they’ll be adding a new shipping container in the spring outfitted to be a stand-alone brew center for their own suds, and those they’re working on with novices just getting into the game. And yet, it’s still just a sampling of what’s to come before that this December, when their full-fledged brewery and taproom opens on Ward Street at Somerville’s Boynton yards neighboring Union Square.
“Boynton yards is the last undeveloped area of Somerville,” says Jewell. “It’s kind of the final frontier over there.”
The feat of opening two brand new entities in Somerville at the same time basically has been one to marvel at, and Jewell credits a lot of that to the city itself, as well as Mayor Curtatone who she says has been totally hands on. “And he’s not even a beer drinker,” she says. “But three years ago we sat him down and explained what we wanted to build in Somerville. He’s been enthusiastic and vocal [throughout] the whole project.”
There were plenty of hurdles to overcome, but most of them stemmed from the unique concept and design of the taproom itself, being all-season (the tent provides heat in the winter and security in the warmer months), and from the fact that nothing existing in the city came close to what it was.
“We (and the city) had to be proactive in being creative,” she says, “because nothing here matches any other restaurants in Somerville. Not special considerations, but that there was no code to describe what this was. So they had to create them.”
But the biggest support, Jewell said, really came from the young people involved with the city Somerville itself, who were supportive and vocal about bringing the idea to life.
“There are a lot of young people in the city who really wanted to make this happen,” she says.
They’ll be opening with 11 brews on hand, including some hard to find stuff like their rum-barrel-aged Yankee Swap line, and you can look forward to the Ward Street opening for an expanded menu in the charcuterie department thanks to the bigger kitchen, all with a focus on food that goes great with beers (fresh hot pretzels, killer sandwiches). That, and well, things like their “deconstructed Fluffernutter sandwich” which gets presented on a nice cutting board with a knife, and a lump of Fluff, almond or peanut butter, and bread so you can create at will.
As for tonight, Jewell expects a cheery crowd based on the 150 or so people invited. “But I’m Irish, so that could be like a billion,” she jokes.
Dan is a freelance journalist and has written for publications including Vice, Esquire, the Daily Beast, Fast Company, Pacific Standard, MEL, Leafly, Thrillist, and DigBoston.