CAMBRIDGE — When Daniel Lanigan was growing up, the beer in the fridge was usually Keystone Light. When he was old enough to drink, Lanigan realized he didn’t have a taste for cheap American lagers, so he became “a Guinness guy.”
That changed during a visit he made years ago to a brewpub in Brattleboro . The pub didn’t serve the Irish staple, and offered Lanigan its own craft-brewed stout instead.
“The rest is history,” says Lanigan, proprietor of the Lord Hobo beer bistro outside Inman Square in Cambridge, where he presides over an ever-changing draft beer menu from Trillium, Jack’s Abby, and other local standouts.
In recent years, the 37-year-old publican — who was born in Everett and went to high school in Ipswich — has helped open similar craft-beer bars in New York and Baltimore. Now he is ready for a new challenge. Lanigan is preparing to build what he says will be the country’s first brewery entirely devoted to contract brewing: the making and packaging of beer to meet the exacting specifications of commercial clients.
Craft brewing, once a drop in the industry’s bucket, accounted for 10.2 percent of total US beer sales in dollars last year, according to the Brewers Association, a trade group. While many craft brewers have their own production facilities, others need to strike deals with large breweries to get speciality beers made. Lanigan wants to give them an alternative.
‘I’m offering a state-of-the-art playground for brewers.’
“I’m offering a state-of-the-art playground for brewers,” he said, sitting in a booth at Lord Hobo an hour before the usual after-work rush. “There’s been a lot of inconsistency in contract brewing out there, and that’s not good for anybody. There’s an obvious need.”
He expects to draw his customers from several groups, including West Coast microbrewers who want to eliminate cross-country distribution costs, European brands whose products can languish in shipping containers up to three months, and local entrepreneurs who have great brewing and marketing ideas but no brick-and-mortar brewhouse.
“We have a ton of customers who can’t wait for us to open our doors,” Lanigan said, although he would not name them.
He expects those doors to open within about a year, at a cost of about $18 million. With investors lined up to put in an undisclosed amount of money, he is prepared to sign a lease for a 150,000-square-foot warehouse on the North Shore with 34-foot ceilings and outdoor acreage that could accommodate beer-tasting festivals. Lanigan is not ready to disclose its location.
He is calling the brewery Paragraph XI — a name that comes from a German beer club where the 11th Commandment is “Keep on drinking” — and expects to create about 50 jobs.
“I want to be part of a community,” he said. “The North Shore has a strong workforce, with skilled labor — plumbers, electricians, welders.”
Eventually, Lanigan may decide to launch his own brand. But for now Paragraph XI will focus solely on his customers, to “gain their trust,” he said.
Tom Acitelli, author of “The Audacity of Hops: The History of America’s Craft Beer Revolution,” said he believes Lanigan’s concept is “unique in the US. I’m kind of blown away.”
Noting that the concept of contract brewing has its origins in Boston in the early 1980s, Acitelli, who lives in Cambridge, said it was initially controversial among brewers who resented their competitors conceiving brands without accepting the financial burden of building their own breweries.
“But it also put craft beer in more people’s hands and expanded the market for it,” he said.
Though Massachusetts has become home to many new microbrews in recent years, Lanigan says the East Coast still lags behind the “gold standard” of California and the Pacific Northwest when it comes to craft beer culture.
“People on the West Coast go to breweries after work to stand in tasting rooms — 200 people drinking fresh beer, with food trucks outside,” he said, sitting with a small mountain of paperwork and two dog-training DVDs for the German shepherd he is adopting. “I want people here to go to a commercial facility to try fresh beer.”
The move to the North Shore will mark a significant change for Lanigan, who said he is ready to build a house and start a family. “I’ve led a hectic lifestyle these last 10 years.”
Before opening Lord Hobo on the site of the old B-Side Lounge in 2009, Lanigan was a fixture at the now-defunct Other Side Café in Boston. After studying briefly at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, he made his first foray into the bar business when he opened Amherst’s Moan and Dove, a well-tended dive with floors covered in peanut shells.
“Everyone thought I was crazy for selling $5 exotic beers in a college town,” he recalled. But the business was successful and led to a second one, the Dirty Truth in Northampton.
Moan and Dove, he said, refers to an Allen Ginsberg phrase appropriated by Bob Dylan. A student of poetry, he once saw Ginsberg speak at the Boston Public Library, “and it changed my life. He had such drive, and he was so compassionate to everyone. He drew so many brilliant people to him.”
When Lanigan opens his brewery-playground, he hopes it also will act like a magnet.
“You see what’s happened in Vermont — people drive for hours,” he said of that state’s reputation for breweries and brewpubs. “I would like them to consider my place a similar destination.”