There are many new craft brewers in the Greater Boston area, all working hard to find their defining characteristic, something that sets them apart from the pack - perhaps perfecting a certain type of brew, a certain style or method or technique that makes them and their products unique. It seems impossible that of all our local brewers, there can be enough defining features to give each brewer the upper hand, yet they're all still trying, and it seems to be working.
Mystic Brewery certainly sets the bar high in terms of differentiation and a unique style. It's a long, windy and awfully bumpy road out into Chelsea to find their brewery, one of the most cavernous warehouse spaces I have ever seen. When you enter the space, you're entering the "sanctum," a space founder Bryan Greenhagen has plans to develop into a function area for the public. But without any barriers now, the space has no definition, so your mind is free to interpret it as you see fit.
Just beyond the sanctum to the left lies the "inner sanctum," a glorified lounge area adorned with both local and imported beer bottles, signifying the union of a local craft brewer with Belgian roots and technique. The space looks cozy and lived in, like you could set up with a book and a bottle of beer, and feel completely divine. Next to the inner sanctum you'll find the area where the action happens - as Bryan calls it, the "fermentorium". Barrels sit full of patient brews, waiting months on end until their flavors have matured. Wine tanks reside there too, holding all of the beer which is brewed off-site at a local brew house. There's a bottling station, and even beyond that a large black stand-alone SUV garage, housing full kegs that are re-fermenting at the optimal temperature. Scattered about you'll find the "lab" - a mini fridge with local yeast flora, and what looks like a mad scientist experiment along one of the walls, with more yeast harvested locally, mingling with local berries waiting to be incorporated into a future brew.
The space is nothing glamorous, but you'd never know it with the beer that comes out of it. Mystic Brewery is about a month away from celebrating their first anniversary, but their beer shows an air of sophistication that can only be achieved from years and years of home brewing trial and error (about 15, to be exact), immense passion, and an incredible amount of knowledge. Bryan started his career in a vastly different field, fermenting things to make fragrances and flavors, eventually going on to receive his PhD in plant biochemistry before turning to brewing and opening Mystic Brewery. Bryan's vision is to brew beers in the traditional Belgian method - the "pre-industrial style", with natural conditioning through leaving yeast at the bottom of each bottle. Mystic Brewerys produce mostly Saison's and Farmhouse Ales, using local yeast (even some MA yeast!) and local ingredients.
What struck my most about Bryan was his attitude towards brewing - he seemed incredibly laid back. I have met many brewers and distillers and wine makers who have every facet of their production process regimented, to ensure consistency and reliability in the end product, but Bryan seems to have a much more relaxed approach. It seems it's working, because their end product is fantastic.
While visiting, I was lucky enough to try a new Belgian Quad that will be released in several months' time. It still has about 3-4 months to go, and out of the barrel you can definitely tell! The beer tastes like hard alcohol, smooth and warm down the back of your throat, with subtle cherry and nutty flavors. It's always such a unique experience to try beer - and really any other libations - at that stage, because what you taste is just a shell of what it's future self will be. Already though, it's evident that the Belgian quad - Mystic Entropy - will be something special.
I left our visit at Mystic Brewery on a high, and not from my half-sip of beer. There is something so contagious about experiencing an individual's passion for what they do first-hand, and with Bryan it is so evident. We were grateful for the chance to have an inside look at the operations and how the Mystic magic happens, but also thoroughly enjoyed speaking to someone who's doing big things in our local community. We wish Mystic Brewery the very best of luck in the future, and will look forward to seeing what new beers they bring to the table.
Also - good to note - for their first anniversary, they have a special brew with only 365 bottles. We'd recommend you try to get your hands on a taste!