Daniel Lanigan has made a career out of telling other people that their beer isn’t very good.
Lanigan’s Cambridge bar, Lord Hobo, meticulously curates a draft list of 40 beers, leaving out brews the staff doesn’t deem up to snuff. You’ll rarely find beers from Harpoon and Samuel Adams at Lord Hobo, and smaller brewers whose products are so-so won’t make it on tap. Lord Hobo is considered by many, including this writer, to be the best beer bar in Greater Boston.
“I don’t think beer is subjective,” Lanigan told me a year ago. “I think that ultimately, if you lined up 20 actual experts in a room and we all tasted beers together, we would all agree on about 90 percent of the beers. And a lot of people don’t want to hear that. Nobody wants to be told that their 12 percent imperial stout is not very good.”
Lanigan’s words came at an interesting time. He was about to put his expertise to the test and open a brewery of his own. He leased a massive, 46,000-square-foot industrial space in Woburn and purchased brewing equipment.
Last month, Lord Hobo Brewing Co. opened to the public.
The bar aficionado knew the stakes: make good beer or be judged for it. He said he would emphasize his favorite beer style, India pale ales, and listed some of New England’s best breweries — Vermont’s Lawson’s Finest Liquids and Hill Farmstead, Boston’s Trillium — as company he’d like to keep. Lord Hobo’s scale, however, would be bigger. Lanigan hoped to brew 10,000 barrels in Lord Hobo’s first year.
Less than six weeks into the project, Lanigan says it’s a work in progress. “Right now I feel like the beer has gotten better than the first batch, but it’s still too sweet, malt pronounced,” he says. “There’s not enough aroma coming through. It’s at 65 percent of what I wanted [it] to be.”
Released at first at a slow trickle, Lord Hobo’s beers are now out, packaged in 16-ounce cans with the not-so-subtle name of the flagship product, Boom Sauce, proudly displayed. That beer is, according to the can, “a blend of 3 of our New England style hoppy ales that will wrap you in a gently carbonated juice blanket.”
The beers that make up Boom Sauce range from 6 percent alcohol by volume to 9.5 percent. The final product pours darker orange than a typical New England-style IPA, with a tamped down aroma. The beer is good to very good, balanced and bitter, less juicy than I’d hoped for, but still a fine example of an obsessed-over style. Vermonters aren’t driving down for this, but they’re not wasting a drop, either.
“I figured it would take six months anyway,” says Lanigan. “I’m happy with our progress.”
Lord Hobo Boom Sauce (around $14 for a 4-pack) available at Redstone Liquors, Andover, 978-474-9265; and Cambridge Spirits, 617-494-9000.