By Ann Luongo
Stellwagen Beer Co. co-founder Mike Snowdale admits that when he and his partners decided to launch his new Marshfield brewery, he had a ton of help.
“For me, it started like it did for many other brewery owners – home brewing with friends,” he said. “I’ve been home brewing for 12 years, but it was definitely a hobby more than anything. I never wanted to own a brewery; I just wanted to work at someone else’s.” Fate, however, had other plans.
“Around the time my son was born (Oct. 2016), I was fed up waiting for an opportunity to break into the industry, so I decided to make the jump and start my own. The timing was a little crazy, with a newborn and all, but my wife, Lauren, was (and is) extremely supportive.”
Snowdale knew that his home brews wouldn’t cut it in today’s craft beer environment, so he found a partner, Brian Flach, who had been brewing professionally for almost a decade when the two met. Flach was most recently the head brewer at John Harvard’s in Framingham, and now runs brewery operations at Stellwagen, so Snowdale can focus on running the business.
“My brother, Dave Snowdale, is the third partner,” he said. “He has a background in construction, so he was in charge of the brewery build-out. Now that the build-out is complete, he is heading up sales and distribution.”
At only four months old, the brewery is seeing success. “Already, we’ve produced over 30 different beers,” he said. “That’s one of the cool parts about being a small brewery – if we have a cool idea, we just brew it. Our focus is hop-forward pale ales. We want to showcase the flavor and aroma that hops add to beer, not the bitterness. In addition to hoppy pales, we have also brewed stouts, porters and sours.”
During the week of Thanksgiving, Stellwagen Beer launched its first Imperial Stout, called Folded Space, and its first Pilsner, as well. Snowdale said the brewery has also recently begun its barrel program. “We’ve been accumulating some cool oak barrels (wine and spirits) that we’ve filled and pitched some funky wild yeast strains into, so we’re excited to see what happens with those in the future,” he said.
“Some of our mainstays include Invisible Airwaves – a New England-style IPA. It’s a very smooth drinking IPA, with soft mouthfeel and flavors and aromas that compare to a tropical fruit salad. The name of that beer was inspired by a cool historic fact about Marshfield. It was home to the very first voice radio broadcast back in 1906. Another is Cymbals – a pale ale whose name was inspired by a prior tenant of Stellwagen’s building who manufactured cymbals. Another smooth drinking Pale Ale is Whale Watcher – a dry-hopped session ale and one of the brewery’s lightest bodied beers.” Snowdale’s intention here was to brew a beer with lots of flavor but with a lower ABV (Alcohol By Volume).
“Two of our most popular recent beers have been Shockwaves, a Double India Pale ale. We took the recipe for Invisible Airwaves and just added a lot more. The result was a very smooth, full bodied aromatic double IPA. Another is Boys Don’t Cryo – a beer that we brewed with a special type of hop pellet (called cryo hops). The result was an IPA with potent citrus and tropical fruit aroma and flavor, yet very restrained bitterness.”
In the last few years, quite a few microbreweries have launched locally. Snowdale and his partners know this, and strive to set their brewery apart. But, how does one outpace the competition?
“The first should go without saying – make awesome beer,” he said. “There are so many great breweries, that anything less than great beer just won’t cut it. It’s a very cool thing that we have going on right now with all these breweries popping up. It’s raising everyone’s game and the beneficiaries are the local craft beer drinkers. All the breweries around us are doing a great job coming up with creative, delicious new brews.”
Snowdale forsees the company continuing to make awesome beer going forward. “But, more specifically, I see Stellwagen as a regional craft brewery, which the Brewers Association defines as a craft brewery that produces over 15,000 barrels of beer per year. However, to me, the quality of our beer is always going to be more important than the quantity we produce. So, we will always closely manage our beers’ production.”
Stellwagen Beer Co.’s space in Marshfield is located less than a mile from exit 12 on Route 3. It’s a 10,000-square-foot building, of which 2,600 square feet is the taproom, 6,000 square feet is production space, and the remainder is office space.
“We want our guests to feel like they’re in a brewery while they’re visiting,” said Snowdale. “We have 12 tap lines, so we can offer up to 12 different beers at a given time. I think, right now, we have 10. We sell beer onsite in pours, growlers and cans to-go. We have our own canning line, which allows us to package all of our brands into 16-oz. cans.
The taproom itself can hold over 200 people. It’s definitely got an industrial vibe, cement floors, exposed duct work and obviously lots of stainless brewing equipment visible.
“We tried to warm it up with lots of rough-cut pine. Our countertops were custom-milled for us by a local business out of fallen pine trees from those three Nor’easters that we had back in March of 2018. My brother planed, sanded, epoxied and installed them. We also used reclaimed wood from pallets to make our bar stools and outdoor Adirondack chairs. All of the furniture was built by us – our family and our friends chipped in, too. We have a 4,000-square-foot beer garden that provides guests a nice outdoor space when the weather is nice.”
Snowdale added that giving back to the community that has already been extremely supportive of them is so important. They pride themselves on the community involvement that they’ve been able to participate in during the four months that Stellwagen has been open, and look forward to being more active in the future, as well. “As a small, local brewery, it’s important for us to be a part of the community’s fabric,” he said.
“We think our location is a big differentiator for us,” he added. “The community we’re in has been extremely supportive. Marshfield, along with many of the towns on the South Shore, and the Cape and Islands, have an identity that is strongly linked with the ocean – whether it’s leisure, tourism (the beach, whalewatching, etc..) or industry (commercial fishing).
“We chose the name ‘Stellwagen’ after the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, because it’s something that I thought would resonate with the people of the South Shore,” said Snowdale. “Plus, I’ve always wanted to catch a giant tuna at Stellwagen. Still have done that yet. We have an awesome space here. The taproom is spacious, with enough room to relax and enjoy beer that’s as fresh as it can be.”
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