Daniel Lanigan thinks New England needs more good IPA.
Lanigan, owner of the Inman Square beer bar Lord Hobo in Cambridge, as well as two Alewife locations in New York and Baltimore, is putting his money where his mouth is. He’s converting a 46,000-square foot space in Woburn into Lord Hobo Brewing Company, where he hopes his passion for serving good beer in a bar setting will translate to a production brewery. His goals aren’t modest. Lanigan breathlessly recites the fact no American brewery has ever produced 10,000 barrels in its first year. He says he’d like to be the first.
“I want the brewery to be brewing the beers that I want to drink,” says Lanigan. “We really feel like there’s a unique opportunity in the northeast region, New York City included, for another significant IPA player.
“We feel like there are great IPAs brewed in New England. [But] they’re the beers that everybody wants but no one can get.”
Lanigan is referring to highly-rated but hard-to-get IPAs from Vermont’s The Alchemist, Hill Farmstead, and Lawson’s Finest Liquids, as well Fort Point’s Trillium Brewing and others.
“Those beers that are coming out of those breweries are always going to have capacity issues,” says Lanigan. “They’re never going to meet their demand, because either they don’t want to be that big, they don’t have the space for it, or they don’t want to sell outside their home state. They all have personal reasons that I totally respect. But I think there’s an opportunity in the New England region to have a series of IPAs that are actually available.”
To that end, Lanigan will hire three brewers to produce IPA the way he envisions it. He’s trademarked a flagship brew, Boom Sauce, to lead a series of half a dozen or so India Pale Ales. Also on tap is a sour beer program, housed in its own wing of the brewery and featuring a stainless steel coolship (a vessel used to inculcate wild yeast into a beer) that folds into the wall like a Murphy Bed. Lord Hobo Brewing will also brew saisons, eschewing stouts, porters, and other popular styles to focus on a select few. The brewery will feature an 80-seat tap room — same as Lord Hobo — as well as a retail space.
Lanigan, who has presided over an ever-changing list of 40 exceptionally-chosen taps at Lord Hobo, is a likely figure to enact change in the Boston beer scene. He’s also a controversial one. In an interview at Lord Hobo, the bright red “B” on Lanigan’s Red Sox cap stood in contrast to the hooded sweatshirt from California’s The Lost Abbey brewery. The Everett native says he wouldn’t choose to build his brewery anywhere but Boston, but he’s unafraid to speak out against some popular approaches to craft beer, in particular his willingness to pass over local beer for what he considers better beer from elsewhere.
“I know there are local jobs and local economies involved, but the whole idea of drink fresh, drink local doesn’t make any sense,” says Lanigan. “A lot of local brewers that say, ‘Why aren’t you buying local beer?’ I’ll say this. I’ve had fresher beer from California than I’ve had from breweries five miles down the street.”
To that end, Lanigan plans to print realistic freshness dates on his brews, which will be distributed in four-packs of 16-ounce cans. He’s counting on his beer holding up not just to local standards, but to standards people elsewhere will talk about.
“I’ve made my reputation on telling people their beers aren’t very good,” says Lanigan. “There’s gonna be a lot of pressure on us to produce good liquid. If we can’t put out good liquid, we’re not going to put it out. I want us to put out the best beers in the country. I don’t want us to be a mediocre brewery.
“I have a pretty good idea of what those best beers are, and I want us to play in the same field.”
You might remember that last year, Lanigan announced plans to build a large contract brewery on the North Shore. The plan was to offer a world-class space to other brewers to showcase their stuff. After talking with banks about financing the $18 million needed to launch the contract brewery, Lanigan felt uncomfortable letting someone else finance the majority of the project and potentially dictate what would be brewed.
“The contract brewery was too expensive,” says Lanigan. “I’m way more passionate about making my own beer than making beer for someone else.”
Lanigan expects his brewing equipment to arrive in November, and hopes to be releasing beer in January. The Lord Hobo Brewing Company will be located at 5 Draper St. in Woburn.