Friends and co-founders of Aeronaut Brewing Company, Ronn Friedlander, Ben Holmes, and Dan Rassi, are at odds with how to describe the concept for Somerville’s newest brewery.
“We wanted to start a brewery, and we always had the idea to some how involve the community,” said Friedlander. When they found the space at 14 Tyler Street, the idea for a farmer’s market took shape.
“We wanted to have a common area where people could come in, hang out, and sip some beers,” explained Friedlander. “Then we thought about having food available, and we started thinking about how we could get food producers in the space. When we found the location, the space helped to develop the concept…and that was sort of the beginning of it.”
The concept, affectionately called an “agricultural beer engine”, is a brewery, agricultural start-up company incubator, and indoor farmer’s market.
At the brewery’s sold-out launch party, several hundred came to celebrate the opening of Somerville’s newest brewery since the 19th century. Aeronaut’s logo – balloons tied to a lawn chair – literally took flight. Helium balloons lifted a plastic lawn chair tied to a kite string high above the brewery; captured on camera by a remote controlled drone.
The 12,000 square-foot building, divided into two spaces, houses a 4,000 square-foot brewery and taproom and an 8,000 square-foot market. The market space is rented out by agricultural start-up companies, is open to the public, and is accessible through double doors in the brewery.
“The market area is a collaboration between ourselves and our tenants,” said Holmes. “Incubators are co-working spaces where people build start-ups. For example, in a software incubator the tenants tend to share break rooms and computer systems. Here, they share a market.”
Three agricultural start-ups companies currently occupy the market space: Barismo Coffee, Something Gud, and Somerville Chocolate.
For Eric Parkes, artisanal chocolatier and owner of Somerville Chocolate, the market at Aeronaut will be his company’s first retail location.
“The idea of working within a brewery really interests me,” said Parkes via e-mail. “In my opinion, people who enjoy and appreciate what a craft brewery does will have a lot in common with the folks who seek craft chocolate.”
Although the businesses in Aeronaut’s market aren’t the sole providers of ingredients for the brewery, ideas for including cacao nibs supplied by Somerville Chocolate have already been discussed. Holmes said that Barismo and Something Gud have already contributed to recipes – a stout recipe includes coffee beans, and butternut squash is used in a rauchbier.
“Having these businesses here is a great resource. We want to emphasize that we’re sourcing from local farms, but our tenants don’t exist just for the brewery,” said Friedlander.
“Lagerfeuer” is the name for the butternut squash rauchbier, and is an Oktoberfest-style Marzen. The butternut, supplied by Something Gud, is smoked over applewood and gives the beer an intense smoky, campfire flavor.
“As far as we’re aware, butternut squash beer has never been commercially brewed before,” said Holmes.
Other beer recipes include a sessionable IPA called “A Session With Dr. Nandoo”, and “Armadillo”, a citrusy, single-hopped table beer.
Several beers in Aeronaut’s lineup are fermented with yeast strains cultivated in the brewery’s in-house lab; strain ABC002 was used in “Armadillo.” The co-owners, all coming from bio-engineering backgrounds, use yeast strains that best fit a beer’s style as opposed to using a single strain for everything they brew.
“A lot of small breweries will have one yeast strain and will use that for all their beers because that’s the easiest way to do it,” said Friedlander. “And we do want to have some house strains, but it’s important for us to have a big variety of yeast strains to work with.”
Beers will be brewed on an experimental 1-barrel per batch basis, tried out in the taproom, and then adjusted and scaled up as needed. For now, Aeronaut’s beer will only be available at the taproom on draught.
“The one thing that sets us apart is the destination,” said Friedlander. “It’s going to be a really cool space to hang out and immerse yourself in not only the beer producers, but the food producers as well.”