Point-of-View: Beantown Boom

This email originally appeared in the April 18th edition of The Scribble, KYC's weekly marketing newsletter. You can subscribe to The Scribble at the top of this page.

Spring has officially sprung in Boston — insomuch as it ever springs with any consistency in this fair city of mine. The Sox are on (while the Bruins and Celtics are in the playoffs), the Marathon has come and gone, and one thing more: The Beer Gardens are coming. Although that particular upward fad in the Boston beer-drinking scene has recently come under some fire, I fully expect to see crowds of people gathering on the Greenway this summer to order some of their favorite hazy IPAs.

In addition to the recent spike in al fresco drinking activity comes the ability for craft beer lovers to visit several breweries in Beantown Proper itself: a relatively new trend that finds breweries tapping into the hotbed of enthusiastic beer-swiggers that walk the crowded streets every day. This is a city with a median age of 31, and of its nearly 700,000 residents, over 75% of them are 21 or older. Smells like an opportunity, no?  

Night Shift’s brand new location on Lovejoy Wharf makes it one of five breweries to open a new taproom or expand its footprint in the city of Boston in the last four years — joining Dorchester Brewing, Democracy Brewing, Sam Adams Brewery, and Trillium Brewing.  

The spike of breweries and taprooms in Boston, after a dearth that lasted decades, feels by no means accidental. While we witness rapid growth in the Massachusetts craft beer scene (nearly 2X in two years), breweries —  some established, some new — are looking at their long-term survival plans.

In some instances, that looks like a brewery setting up an ancillary location to its flagship. Night Shift’s Lovejoy Wharf location and the Jack’s Abby taproom planned for North Station are good examples of breweries with an established presence in a different part of the state making a clear economic decision to expand into the city.  

In other cases, it means a brewery is ponying up the rent for a prime location and going all-in on being a Boston-based establishment (Democracy Brewing). Understandably, this is a big financial decision. One of the blockers for a brewery that wants to set up shop in the city is the rent. Another factor is space. Many young craft beer enthusiasts gravitate to the spacious, revised-warehouse style of taproom. These have been largely popularized in industrial areas that are seeing an economic boost due to craft beer (Night Shift’s flagship location in Everett is a great example of this).

It’s hard to find a good space at a reasonable rate in any city, particularly one as expensive as Boston. But for several breweries, the strategy seems clear: whether it’s your 2nd location or a pop-up beer garden, the opportunity to capture the masses is too tempting to avoid, especially when you look at long-term survival in a quickly-expanding market.