🍻 With the recent stunning news of Wachusett Brewing being sold to Finestkind Brewing LLC, owners of Smuttynose, we are really living in some crazy times in the craft beer world. Although we probably shouldn’t be surprised by anything given the state of the economy, supply chain issues, remnants of the pandemic, staffing shortages, crowded market, competion from other forms of alcohol, the rise in NA options, etc., etc.
We’ve seen this uncertainty coming for awhile here in the Bay State and Bart Watson, chief economist of the Brewers Association, confirmed our suspicions on a national scale in a keynote speech at the MBG Mass Brewers Conference at Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers back in November. Simply put, it’s a mature market for craft beer. The staggering double digit growth in the industry 5-10 years ago is gone. Breweries are under extreme pressure to continue to pivot and develop unique business strategies not to just position theselves for the future, but to survive.
This blog about brewery closures is always difficult to write because we’ve personally come to know the hard-working people running these breweries and it’s their lives and livelihood. To each and every brewery on this list, we sincerely appreciate your dedication to the craft, drive to create a business, friendship as well as tasty brews over the years. We wish you all the best, cheers! 🍻
🍻 Bull Spit Brewing originally set up shop in Lancaster, but seized the opportunity to take over the former Battle Road Brewery operations in the Maynard Mills complex as an additional location in 2022. What was essentially a brewpub, with beer brewed and served on site to compliment their full food and liquor menu, Bull Spit thrust headlong into this endeavor. But after only one year, various factors brought about their closure, perhaps location needs to be considered as now two breweries have not been able to sustain in this space. They announced some time ago intentions to open a brewery/taproom in Winchendon, but it seems to be slow going. However, they have hosted a beer garden in the town the last two years.
An offshoot of Jack’s Abby Craft Lagers, Springdale Beer Co. focused on ales and barrel-aged beers. From the early question-themed IPAs Good N’ You? and Amirite? to Brigadeiro coffee stout to wild ales Kriek Mythology and Cuvée D’or Rouge, Springdale gave Jack’s the opportunity to experiment with brewing techniques outside of their lagers. The lively taproom, which we frequented and may have won a few cornhole games in, closed during the pandemic and never reopened. A search was conducted for a new taproom believed to be in the Boston area, but that never materialized and Jack’s sadly shut down the brand in early 2023.
🍻 After five years in Hanover, Burke’s Alewerks moved to Newton to begin 2023 and occupied former pub The Local. Owner Brian Burke, who was noted for brewing traditional styles such as his Life of Reilly Dry Irish Stout, ESB and Vanilla Bean Porter, was optimistic about the new location which had more space and provided the ability to serve food from the in-house kitchen. Alas, the patronage was not what he’d hoped and Burke’s closed down a short five months later.
Originally opening in 2017 as a contract brand by owner Geoff Pedder, Zēlus Beer actively promoted “lifestyle” brews that associated with running and biking clubs. They produced Race Pace IPA (3.7%) and Long Run Pale Ale (4.7%) that were lower in alcohol and also one of a few local gluten free beer options called Ankleknocker. Early in 2023 they closed their small taproom/brewery in Medfield, but by the end of the year had ceased all operations.
🍻 Also opening in 2017 by founders John Lincecum and Nicholas “Nik” Walther, Turtle Swamp Brewing was nestled in the Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain. Their tap list featured favorites JP Porter, Orange Line IPA, Nik’s Bitter and Skwäshbuckle Imperial Porter, which was a winner in one of our blind tastings. The pandemic, changes in the craft beer market and rising costs all conspired to bring about the end of Turtle Swamp. Plus the neighborhood that had rallied around them from the beginning seemed to turn when there was a dispute with a construction project adjacent to the brewery.
🍻 Milk Room Brewing announced in the fall that this would be the last season of their beer pasture, however ultimately decided in December to put their property and brewing equipment up for sale with owner Kevin Jarvi citing personal reasons. Founded in 2020 in the geographical center of Massachusetts, Rutland, this small brewery welcomed people to its home on Alta Vista farm. In existence since the 1700s as a dairy farm, it was transformed into a working bison farm in the 60s by the Mann Family. Patrons congregated down on the farm to enjoy music festivals such as Juicefest, drink beer in the open air and view the many animals roaming the property from Marvin the camel to the herd of bison.
🍻 Scott and Jackie Cullen brought River Styx Brewing to the City of Fitchburg in 2017. The theme of their brewery and beers were heavily influenced by the underworld and mythology, naming many of the brews after Greek and Roman gods. They brewed all sorts of styles, but we’re known for their big beers such as Triple IPAs and Russian imperial stouts. Plus, they always experimented with flavors, adding ingredients like double stuffed Oreos to create Eros Double Stuf stout, or utilizing every candy from Swedish Fish to Runts in their sours. As the business climate shifted and costs of running a craft beer brewery skyrocketed, they made the difficult decision to close in October.
🍻 First opened in 2017 by friends Kevin Mulvehill and Brian Distefano, Purgatory Beer Co. set up their brewery/taproom in the historic Whitinsville Linwood Mill complex to welcome thirsty locals with beers such as Photon Torpedo IPA, Sonny Kölsch and Fiero Coconut Rum Porter. However, after almost seven years in business, they have sold all their brewing assets to Ben Roesch, founder of Wormtown and creator of Be Hoppy. Roesch left Wormtown a few months ago and is teaming up with his wife Adrienne with plans to open Murder Hill Brewery in the next month or so to begin their own legacy.
🍻 Many of you probably know of the story behind the closing of Bone Up Beer on the last day of 2023, but essentially, disputes with their landlord that went unresolved led to Bone Up vacating their brewing residence on Norman Street in Everett since 2016. Owners Jared and Liz Kiraly wanted to make it clear that they did not make the decision to close, “because that would suggest that this is a choice of ours rather than something we’re being forced into.” Outside factors were what precipitated them shutting down. For more insight on the closing click here. With the current craft beer outlook, relocating and rebuilding is not an option, however the spirit of Horatio lives on in Bone Up’s and their loyal patrons hearts.
🍻 Bramling Cross, a nano production brewery specializing in English styles that sold small batch beers to local stores in Central Massachusetts has been dormant on social media for quite some time and we’ve not been able to track down any of their beers recently. Efforts to reach them have been unsuccesful and if anyone can help connect us with them to confirm their status, we’d appreciate it.
On the brighter side, there are still over 200 breweries to choose from in Massachusetts and you can find them all on our website massbrewbros.com And please continue to follow us on our social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) for updated info on Massachusetts craft breweries, beers and events.
And as always, Cheers to Mass. Beers!