Drinking craft beer is a unique experience for everyone. All of our palates are different, and they continue to grow and change over time. We may choose to have a craft beer at a bar, a restaurant, or in the comfort of our own homes. How we experience drinking craft beer can be based on who we're with and what we're drinking as well as when, where, and why we are doing so. As we experience more, we learn more about the craft beer we enjoy, including how it's made.
Brewing is both an art and a science. There is a good amount of chemistry and engineering involved in making craft beer along with a great deal of creativity and imagination. Many people first try their hands at homebrewing to make beer for themselves as well as their family and friends. Yet, many people don't get to experience brewing due to the time, money, and space it requires. That's where Hopsters comes in.
The front entrance to Hopsters, located at 292 Centre Street in Newton, Massachusetts.
Hopsters opened in September of 2013 as a place for people to come and brew their own craft beer. Using one of Hopsters' 10 kettles, aspiring brewers are able to choose from over 30 recipes, gather a variety of local ingredients, and begin brewing their beer while being guided by Hopsters' brewmasters. Once the brewing process is complete, they can either return to bottle the beer and add their own custom labels or have the folks at Hopsters do it for them and have it delivered. Of course, the most satisfying part is when they are able to drink the craft beer that they hand-crafted themselves.
Since its opening, Hopsters has become much more than simply a place to brew craft beer. It now has a full bar offering a wide and rotating selection of craft beers from the area on tap. It also offers both lunch and dinner options in the form of soups, salads, sandwiches, flatbreads, as well as boards featuring charcuterie meats and artisanal cheeses. Most recently, Hopsters received its commercial brewing license, making it the first commercial brewery to be located in Newton since the 1600s! This has allowed Hopsters to begin offering its own hand-crafted beers on tap and to have a distributor send their beers to select restaurants, bars, and stores.
After hearing this exciting news, I had to get a better idea of what the Hopsters experience was like. So, I traveled out to Newton to meet with the owner of Hopsters, Lee Cooper. After taking a look around, I sat down with him to talk about the past, present, and future of Hopsters.
Lee Cooper, owner of Hopsters, standing near the kettles patrons use when they brew.
I first asked about how Hopsters got started. "We really looked at the beer culture in New England," Cooper says. "From my experience growing up in England, we very much had a beer culture. There was a pub at the corner of every street. You'd go after work, sit around with friends and talk about your day over a pint." Cooper continued, "In the U.S. things are very different, but I still want to be part of a beer culture in this community." I then asked him what he thought of beer. "It's a great social lubricant. I think that beer is good for the soul."
Next we talked about why New England's beer culture is special. "The craft beer community is a disruptor, in a really good way, with popular culture in New England and the Boston area." Cooper went on to talk about the how beer has traditionally gotten a bad rap in this country, especially during the time of Prohibition. We then discussed the difference in drinking habits between the U.S. and countries like France and Italy, where people mostly drink wine. "Beer is a drink of the culture. What I'm really excited about for New England and the craft beer movement is what I call the 'wineification' of beer. We're getting sophisticated We're getting complex. We're getting innovative. We're getting excited."
The ingredient room at Hopsters, complete with many varieties of malts, hops, and spices.
I followed up by asking Cooper about the kind of people that come into Hopsters. "We get many different age groups in here, but it is the young professionals that are really leading the way in terms of crafting the beer." When I asked him what Hopsters was all about, Cooper had a very clear vision. "Hopsters is about creating craft beer awareness. It's about experiencing beer. Whether you make it, you want to enhance your palate, or you're just curious about how beer is made."
After spending a bit of time talking about brewing, Cooper pointed something out to me. "Keep in mind that about 50 percent of our revenue comes from people brewing the beer. We also have a fantastic bar with local craft beer. We have a restaurant, and of course we sell our own beer. We're a brewery. So, it's a multi-dimensional experience. You can't really make beer without having a pint." He made a good point, and it prompted me to ask him about what the experiences have been like with having commercial brewers come in and host special brewing events at Hopsters.
"What's really cool about that is that it gives the brewers an opportunity to get out into the market as we do a tap takeover with them. It also gets the brewers interacting with the people that they brew beer for," Cooper says. "Our guests get to make a custom, one-of-a-kind brew and have the opportunity to meet the brewers that make their beer."
A guide near the bar for those looking to brew their own craft beer.
All of this talk about so many different beers made me curious about the beer Hopsters is brewing. "From a purely on-premise experience, we want people to be able to sample the beer that they're going to make before they make it," Cooper says. I asked him how many of the 20 rotating taps at Hopsters might feature their house beers. "That's really important for us. We'll get to 10 of our beers on tap. They can drink that beer and then may decide that they're going to make it right now." There will also be growlers for sale that can be filled with Hopsters brews and taken to go. Cooper went on to say that Hopsters employees may have the chance to have their own brews on special taps that might otherwise take them years to get out into the market. "It's very important that we showcase the best and the brightest here in Massachusetts."
My next question was where we might be seeing Hopsters brews outside of Hopsters. "We really want people to have our beer in a few key accounts. We want people to be able to try our beer and to showcase the great beer that we make." Cooper told me that they want to start off small, but their beers should be available in six-packs. Though nothing has been confirmed, Cooper said that he really loves what Craft Beer Cellar is doing. We should also be seeing brews from Hopsters at a few bars and restaurants in the area.
A few of Hopsters' house beers on tap.
Cooper seemed to enjoy talking about the some of the beer styles we'll likely see distributed. "Starting off, there will probably be an Imperial IPA and a Hefeweizen," Cooper says. "We've been practicing a lot with barrel aging too. Right now we have a Down Boy Stout, aged for 4 months in a Bully Boy Whiskey cask. That tastes phenomenal."
Following the announcement that Hopsters will be one of the brewers at Drink Craft Beer Summerfest, I wanted to discuss what kind of beers Hopsters is planning to bring to the fest. "It's going to be a lot of fun. We're brewing some really nice summer beers. We have some fruit purees that we are really excited to use. Fresh strawberries, and apricots for our Hefeweizens. We're really excited for this to be our first fest."
Finally, I asked Cooper about the future of Hopsters. "I wouldn't be surprised if there was a Hopsters in every major metropolitan area on the East Coast in the next 5 years," Cooper says. "We get people coming in from all over the country asking where the Hopsters is where they're from." After trying a few of Hopsters' brews paired with some meats and cheeses, I can see why. They not only show you how to make great beer, they do it themselves. Cooper and crew have created a place for people to come together and truly appreciate craft beer while having some fun in a relaxing atmosphere. There's nothing else quite like it.
For more information or to learn more about Hopsters offerings, visit www.hopsters.net. On July 11, 2014 at 7:00pm, Hopsters will be celebrating their new brewery license and, as part of the celebration, will introduce a special cask-conditioned English Pale Ale at $1.00 a pint. Of course, don't forget to check them out as one of the many brewers that will be coming to Drink Craft Beer Summerfest on July 18th and 19th, 2014!