For South Shore residents, the path to great beer is often a congested trip up Route 3 and the Expressway to Boston and its surroundings, where many of the state’s best craft beer bars are located. Having recently moved down the coast, I confess I miss the ability to walk down the street and into a bar with 30 or 40 brews on tap.
There are exceptions, of course. The New World Tavern in Plymouth and Pembroke’s British Beer Company are among several South Shore bars offering a large selection and an oft-rotating draft list. One of the early adopters was Stars in Hingham, a cozy restaurant a stone’s throw from the harbor.
Jim Hodgdon is the managing partner of Stars and sister restaurants Tosca and Caffe Tosca, also in Hingham. Along with beverage director Brian Barry, Hodgdon has been an advocate for good beer in the area for more than 20 years. Before it was trendy, Stars had a beer club, offering patrons 100 bottle selections. In recent years, the bar has been the place to go for rare offerings like Firestone Walker’s Parabola and The Bruery’s 6-Geese-A-Laying.
“For years, we’ve been trying to set the bar that people around here are entitled to great beer,” said Hodgdon.
Hodgdon has been brewing beer of his own since 2010, experimenting with IPAs, wheat beers, and stouts. The IPA stood out among Hodgdon’s friends and got the thumbs-up from Barry, who was there to test each of his batches.
“It just kind of hit the spot for us,” Hodgdon said. “Brian and I are IPA drinkers to begin with. It’s something that we really enjoyed.”
The duo is following through on their belief that customers are entitled to good beer. Last year, Hodgdon brewed his first commercial batch of Entitled IPA and sold it at Stars. This week, Entitled Brewing launches with that same beer, to be available statewide.
When the beer was first made available at the restaurant, Barry says he was selling it at a rate of 2-to-1 to his other best-selling lines.
“It was beyond popular,” Barry said. “We wanted to keep it going.”
The partners decided to contract brew their IPA at Mercury Brewing in Ipswich, at a rate of about 15 to 20 barrels a month. They’ll go batch to batch for now, with the next brew date scheduled for Aug. 8.
I sampled Entitled IPA this week at a launch party at the Union Brewhouse in Weymouth, one of several places it’s expected to be regularly on tap. The beer is a tropical fruit bomb, a 70-IBU blast of apricot, grapefruit, and papaya that finishes smooth. It’s well balanced in spite of the bitterness level.
“One of the benefits of this beer is we use a couple of specialty malts in the middle that make it crisp,” said Barry, referring to the 2 Row American, Wheat Malt, and Honey Malt used in the brew. Cascade, Columbus, and Falconer’s Flight make up the hop bill.
Hodgdon will be the first to tell you he’s not a professional brewer, and that he drinks what he likes. Putting back a couple of pints with Hodgdon and Barry feels like hanging out with your buddies down the street.
“We’re beer lovers,” said Barry. “We’re not investment bankers. We’re blue collar guys that made a great beer to sell to anybody. I would probably really enjoy it if it were coming from somebody else, too.”
Distributed by Baystate Wine & Spirits, Entitled IPA will be available at Stars, Tosca, and Caffe Tosca, as well as several other bars around the state. Hodgdon hopes to get the beer into bottles sometime next year.
Stone Brewing Co., the 10th-largest craft brewery in the United States, announced plans this week to open a brewery and restaurant in Berlin, Germany, in 2015 or 2016.
Stone is making an initial investment of more than $25 million to renovate a historic gasworks complex in Marienpark Berlin. Stone hopes to become the first American craft brewer to independently own and operate a brewery in Europe.
“This is a historic moment for Stone,” said CEO and co-founder Greg Koch. “I’ve wanted to say these next words for many years now: We’re coming to Europe.”
The project will encompass more than two acres of indoor and outdoor space.
globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GaryDzen.