Keith Sullivan wants to turn the New England tap room model on its head.
One of the cofounders of Hudson’s Medusa Brewing Co., Sullivan recalls spending afternoons in airy, communal beer rooms on trips to the Midwest and West Coast. Those places were hard to find when he got back home. “The only real tap rooms you’d see in the Northeast were these little three-to-four-seat bars, pouring sample-size beers,” says Sullivan.
In that scenario, a brewery’s tap room functioned as a place to stand and try a couple of beers before choosing one or two to take away. Sullivan wanted to build a brewery that encouraged people to stay.
Along with partners Keith Antul and Tom Sutter, Sullivan built Medusa in 15 months. The trio put together most of the 5,000-square-foot space on Main Street in Hudson, including the bar, by hand. None of the three owners is a contractor, but, says Sullivan, “we’re people who figure things out.” The space is part dungeon and part urban loft, with traditional stonework contrasted with a long, clean bar and a view of gleaming fermentation tanks through a window behind it.
“It almost has a medieval feel to it, which is what we wanted to go for,” says Sullivan. “We feel beer should be consumed in the tradition in which it was created.”
Medusa doesn’t bottle or can its beer, preferring instead for patrons to drink it on the premises or at home, poured fresh into growlers. It’s not a restaurant. It sells soft pretzels, and patrons can bring other food in. The bar has 20 tap lines, which head brewer Antul expects to have no problem filling. Since opening in March, Medusa has brewed close to 40 beers.
Only one of those is a constant on tap. Luminary, a cream ale, is Medusa’s bestseller (not surprising, Sullivan says the IPAs do very well, too). Given the brewery’s central location, near other establishments like Rail Trail Flatbread Co., New City Microcreamery, and Horshoe Pub & Restaurant, Medusa sometimes sees walk-in customers who aren’t totally familiar with the beer list.
“When someone comes in and doesn’t know what to order, we ask, ‘Hey, what do you drink at home?’ ” says Sullivan. “Sometimes the answer is ‘light beer.’ They try our cream ale and end up loving it.” As such, the tap room doesn’t push the boundaries like Colorado’s Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project. “It’s hard for us to be super aggressive,” says Sullivan.
To that end, Sullivan says Medusa is more concerned with providing a good customer experience than brewing the next “it” beer.
“We want people to see there is a life outside the glass of beer they’re drinking,” says Sullivan. “Get off Facebook, get off Untappd. Sit down and have a conversation with the person next to you. You guys could be friends for life.” Medusa Brewing Co.,
111 Main St., Hudson, 978-310-1933, medusabrewing.com