It’s been a long time since Jamaica Plain had a second brewery.
At the start of the 20th century, 24 of Boston’s 31 breweries were in JP or Roxbury, pulling in pure, clear water from the Stony Brook. By 1964 they were all gone. Samuel Adams has been the neighborhood’s only active brewer since its founding in the mid 1980s.
Turtle Swamp Brewery founders John Lincecum and Nicholas Walther are aware of the area’s brewing history but aren’t opening their new outpost out of nostalgia.
“Nostalgia isn’t quite the right word,” says Walther. “We both love Jamaica Plain, and the fact we own a brewery right in our neighborhood means we can add to the history. But we chose to work and live here because of what JP is now — a diverse, exciting, livable community.”
Turtle Swamp opened Memorial Day weekend in an old auto repair shop right on Washington Street. Lincecum is a PhD biochemist who spent 15 years in Cambridge biotech working toward therapies for neurological diseases like ALS. Walther was recently a brewer at Harpoon. During a recent phone interview, kegs clanged in the background as Walther, who was cleaning them, answered questions.
“We are a working brewery,” says Lincecum, “and there are two of us.”
In the way that almost all small brewers are these days when first starting out, Turtle Swamp is also something of a work in progress. There’s a large patio out back, but the tap room — and bathrooms — are under construction. There’s no glassware.
“It’s red Solo cup,” says Lincecum. “Except we went with the clear ones.”
While the current decor is sparse (“We bought all these German beer tables on Amazon for $100 a pop”), the beer list is solid. There’s Nik’s Bitter (But Never Angry), a hearty everyday beer spiced with piney cascade hops. Toll Gate, a New England IPA with notes of passionfruit, is maltier than many similar brews in the style. JP Porter has strong hints of chocolate and coffee. All Ears golden ale is made entirely with Massachusetts ingredients.
“I like the idea somebody comes to a craft brewery with 20 bucks and a friend, get some $5 pints, and you should be able to start your evening,” says Lincecum.
The founders have enjoyed meeting more of their neighbors, and stress that the patio is dog and kid friendly.
“I did not realize there were so few places for mothers to go with their kids,” says Lincecum.
Turtle Swamp (3377 Washington St., turtleswampbrewing.com) is open Fridays from 4 to 8 p.m., Saturdays noon to 7 p.m., and Sundays 1 to 5 p.m.
Gary Dzen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.