When Max Heinegg and Nick Bolitho, co-founders of the Medford Brewing Company, started kicking around the idea of launching a brewing company, their foremost concern was simple and to the point: brew a beer that everyone can enjoy. Fast forward to their inaugural release last week, an aptly named American Pale Ale (6% ABV), and their first mission appears to be accomplished.
This light, very drinkable, unassuming offering is a very non-offensive, surprisingly crisp beer. If that sounds boring and pedestrian, that’s sort of the point, but don’t sell this beer short for its tankard-like probity. As a friend once said to me, it’s very easy to make a complex beer shitty, while extremely challenging to make a basic beer really good.
I was tipped off to this venture quite some time ago—in fact, we broke the news of its impending arrival almost a year ago—but until I actually had a can of it in my hand, I wasn’t quite sold on the concept. This wasn’t a new brewery—they contract their brewing for now; nor was it billed as an earth-shattering entry into the local market, it’s always been described as a straightforward brewing company. So when I met with Bolitho at a local haunt in the South End of Boston, I was eager to get an update, catch up on old times [Full disclosure: Nick worked for me at DigBoston for several years as a sales manager], but most importantly, drink some of his beer.
I cracked the 16-oz. can in front of me and poured a sample size into a small glass. A quick sniff didn’t reveal anything profound (it rarely does; it’s more a force of habit at this point), and I took a swig. I finished the few-ounce pour and filled it up again, skipping the smell test this time, and finished it in one gulp. I then pushed the glass aside and starting drinking from the can. I was sold. Considering the establishment we were in—which shall remain nameless—and the company the bartender/owner keeps with the many samples and pitches, my expectations were low at best when I handed him a sample to try, and yet he too had the same reaction. This is a very good drinkable beer that you’ll appreciate immediately. In a world of spiced-up seasonal styles and hopped-up imperial bombs or questionably unnessary sours, this is a welcome beer to an otherwise abused palate.
Bolitho and I chatted about the background of the beer and history between Heinegg and himself (Heinegg is a musician and was part of the seminal Boston band Bang Camaro; they met each other because of their children) before he opened up about their long-term plans and short-term vision. “Our next beer will be an IPA; after that we’re going to release a lager … Our goal is to break ground on our own brewery in Medford in the next year … We want to appeal to the hophead as much as the average beer drinker,” he explained.
I’m never biased towards my friends and ex-employees when they pitch me on their new/improved ventures, insofar as my gut reaction is almost always negative, which never bodes well for anyone involved. This was no different, but like he did years ago when he called me boss, Bolitho did not let me down. With Heinegg as his co-pilot—and it should be noted he’s an accomplished homebrewer with hands-on learning via idle Hands, Lord Hobo, and Mystic, along with many, many homebrew awards under his belt—Medford Brewing Company is not a fly-by-night contract wannabe. These guys, and their beers, are worthy and they are here to stay.