Night Shift Brewing was started by 3 homebrewing friends (Rob Burns, Mike O’Mara and Mike Oxton) who decided to transition their nightly skills into a day job after spending less time brewing during regular hours, and most of their time brewing during the “night shift” – which is where the name originated. I recently met with Tarah Maresh, who has been on board the Night Shift train since they built the current facility at 87 Santilli Highway in Everett, Massachusetts.
She kindly gave me the scoop behind the brewery and some tidbits about the past, present and future.
The Starting Point – From 3.5 to 20
In just over two years, what started as a 3.5 barrel brewery in 2012 had already begun pushing their brewing beyond capacity, which resulted in expansion of great proportions. The demand for their sought-after beer grew them out of their space into a new, much larger 20 barrel brewhouse. With this expansion, they’ve been able to tackle many hurdles such as canning, barrel aging, and creating a huge space for on-premise enjoyment.
As was explained to me, Night Shift Brewing is ramping up their barrel program and planning to release a lot more beer styles with that in mind. They’ve been known for their sours and IPA’s over the past few years (Santilli, the flagship IPA, won bronze at the 2016 World Beer Cup in the American IPA category, which is a super tough challenge considering all the great beer in that category). The loyal beer drinking community seems to want more of what put them on the map, sours and barrels – and that’s what Tarah explained will be part of their approach for the future.
Won’t somebody think of the Barrels
As barreling is the name of the game, Night Shift is apparently acquiring new barrels frequently, and in Tarah’s words “They just show up every day!” which is a pleasingly awesome thought. New barrels for experimentation just vaporizing into existence, though they actually have someone negotiating barrel purchases, I believe, so they’re not actually magic barrels, at least not until they’re bottled and served.
Adding to the fun of more barrels, they recently purchased two foudres from a winery as “toys” to aid in the experimentation of wild beer, and as they learn to work with them, they’ll be releasing experimental batches. We weren’t able to determine what was going on inside at the time, but maybe these photos will provide you with some insider knowledge.
On top of barrels and foudres, in March 2016 they purchased this fancy Wild Goose canning line and are fully operational to can in-house, which is a daunting process for many breweries, and why businesses such as Iron Heart Canning (who they previously used) are great to have on hand, but at some point they just run out of available time. With the frequency and amount of liquid Night Shift needed canned – it made sense to bring it all in-house.
Driving through the night
Because of the philosophy and approach they take, Night Shift is still self-distributing – something which is simply amazing – and exceptionally challenging as a brewery gets bigger. Also, as everybody in beer knows, dealing with distributors can be a constant battle, which may or may not be worth fighting. So cheers to that! They deserve a hat tip for having a team of delivery people in their own trucks keeping all the local accounts happy.
While talking about keeping accounts happy, they are driven to expand at a natural pace, which means they’re going to stay in Massachusetts for the time being, but will continue considering growth options – though they do have cans and a draft line available in Portland, Maine which is the one exception. In terms of internal growth, the tap-room is currently undergoing upgrades and expanding, and they are constructing a second area and taproom for private events which will have 24 tap lines directly built-in. Sounds like a great place for a private party, this should be opening around August 2016, so set your calendars to stun. Wait, can you do that yet?
On to the Beer
Night Shift currently has 9 main beers, a bunch of rotational seasonal releases and some series-specific batches with recipes that change per canning run or release, one such example of that is Morph, which as the name implies, is ever-changing. The latest batch that I was able to try was the 6/17/2016 release, and it’s described as:
Fresh peach aromas, flavors of lychee and sweet tangerine, and a soft, hoppy finish
Pulled the quote directly from the batch release notes page… yes, they actually have a page for each recipe – it’s seriously awesome. In fact, some of the reviews on BeerAdvocate are stating that this release is one of the best they’ve brewed. I’m glad to have tried it!
Moving right along to more of their lineup, they’ve released a few collabs that were successful, and due to that they have some more collaboration brews that are currently in progress (such as what’s sitting in these barrels below) with Trophy Brewing out of Raleigh, NC. They’ve also released a juicy IPA in collaboration with Beer’d Brewing back in 2014.
Some of the regular / rotational canned lineup includes:
- Whirlpool – An American pale ale
- Santilli – Their flagship IPA
- Awake – An American Porter brewed with Counter Culture coffee
- Furth – Hefeweizen
- The 87 – A resinous DIPA
- Pfaffenheck – A bright german pilsener
- Trifecta – A Belgian-inspired pale ale aged on vanilla beans
- and One Hop This Time which is their rotating single-hop series
Other fun beer facts, if you’re interested, Night Shift has a what they call the Barrel Society which is a direct way to get unique beers just for members. Essentially it’s a CSA where you can join the program for a yearly allotment of special batch barrel-aged beers only available to club members, they also have a dedicated tap line with an exclusive beer when visiting the taproom. It’s a great deal and helps support the growth of the brewery, and nets you a bunch of feels. I mean, you’re helping support a brewery that does what you like, and in essence it’s just for you.
While walking around and reading barrel markings, I saw some exceptionally interesting beers doing their thing – they ranged from a Flanders Red, Imperial Milk Stout (El Lechedor) through some Berliner Weisse, to name a few. Exciting times are coming and hopefully we’ll all get to enjoy them.
I, for one, look forward to my next visit to Night Shift – and if you’re local to the area and have hesitated to visit thus far, you’re missing out… so go now. If you’re not a native and have a trip planned to visit the Boston area, make sure you stop by for some of the current offerings, and then get some cans to go, you won’t regret it.