In 2019, Matt Smith came to market with a beer inspired by the death of his daughter, Melody, whose heart stopped beating after 8½ months in the womb.
Smith called his brewery Wandering Soul, and through the beer, Melody Maker, he was able to share his story and connect with others living through the grief of losing a child. As Wandering Soul expanded, he began brewing more beer and making more frequent deliveries, all of which he did himself, until it became too much.
“I reached a point last year where I felt like the healing had kind of occurred and I was actually starting to do some damage, because that story is printed right on the cans,” says Smith. “It’s a daily reminder of what happened. I do think about Melody every day, but having it out in the world, I kind of needed to reel things in a little bit to process things a little bit more personally for a while.”
Last December, Smith shut down Wandering Soul to pursue other goals. Smith and his wife, Abby, have had two children since 2019, and there was a sense from both of them that the beer project was done. In May, however, Wandering Soul came back with a beer called Dark Clouds Must Pass. It’s one of several projects Smith is pursuing now, four years removed from his family’s tragedy.
“It took me by surprise, as well as some others, that it was coming back,” says Smith. “I felt like the work wasn’t done. And I just needed some time away from it to separate myself from it and, and sort of go through a very personal process of grief.”
Smith is now brewing Wandering Soul beers at Castle Island in Norwood, and the beer is going out through a distributor. Two more projects in the works are a line of nonalcoholic beverages called Hidden Path, as well as a mobile taproom.
The first Hidden Path release is a sparkling hop water, a zero-calorie, alcohol-free drink that features the essence of hops but none of the grain used to make beer. Smith spent months tweaking the recipe, making one-gallon batches until he thought it was just right.
“The hops in this product aren’t competing with any other flavors, so it’s really a lesson in restraint,” he says.
The final recipe includes citra, mosaic, and motueka hops, the same used in the beer Melody Maker. With the first batch out now, Smith plans to make other variations of hop water in the coming months.
In addition to beer and the new nonalcoholic product line, Smith has worked with the Reading company Tiny Pubs on the design of a “micro taproom.”
“On the outside, it looks like a shed on wheels on a trailer,” says Smith. “But on the inside, it feels like you’re stepping into a brewery or a taproom environment. So I’m really excited for folks to see it.”
The micro taproom will soon be available for public and private events. For more information on Hidden Path products, follow Hidden Path Brewing on Instagram or Facebook.