LoveLocalBeer has SEVEN QUICK QUESTIONS for Justin Negrotti of Channel Marker Brewing in Beverly, MA
Channel Marker Brewing – part of The Great Beverly Beer Boom that has seen five craft breweries open in Beverly, a small city of about 40,000 north of Boston – opened in January 2019. The two-barrel, 50-seat craft-beer taproom is located in the historic red-brick Porter Mill in the city’s downtown, also home to artists’ studios and galleries.
LoveLocalBeer spoke with Justin Negrotti, cofounder and head brewer of Channel Marker, about his brewery’s take on “local” and what he and his business partners are experiencing right now in the craft-beer market and what he thinks may be coming in the future.
LLB: Can you explain what “local” means to you as a brewer, a business owner, a community member?
Justin: Well, local to us at Channel Marker means keeping true to your roots—we were born and raised and now live in Beverly. I really think it’s meaningful to people that there are locals in the brewhouse and behind the bar.
We also work with different local causes, donating time and beer and merch for some worthy organizations. We have to be selective—we pick ones that hit home for us.
We’re also hosting local meetings, civic gatherings, town associations, all with local ties.
LLB: Talk about the evolution of you and your fellow brewery owners (Tim Corcoran and Jake Crandell) from craft-beer enthusiasts to home brewers to pro.
Justin: We got into it about five or six years ago, homebrewing in my garage. We started out brewing from extracts, but then we made the jump to all-grain brewing. That really stepped it up.
As time goes on, you give your homebrew to your family and friends, and so many of them said, “Wow, this is really good. You should sell it.” That makes you think. And it evolved from there…
LLB: You’re right in the scrum of the new “Beverly Beer District”! What’s Channel Marker’s take on staying distinctive and getting patrons back into your taproom when there are so many choices available nearby?
Justin: First off, we’re sticking to our style roots: we like the hazy, hoppy juice. We’ve made it our mission to remain really good at delivering that style. Yeah, we use a lot of hops—hops are expensive—but we’re willing to pay the money to get the flavors that we love.
We’re also flexible with other ideas about craft beer: One of our sours has been one of our top sellers! We have a brewing system that supports making sours, so we’re pursuing those, too. We’re having a good time with Siren, a 6% ABV sour ale with pineapple and coconut. It’s wild—tastes like a pina colada.
LLB: Is there a certain vibe that you’re going for with the beer and also in the taproom?
Justin: Our vibe is kind of a cross between red brick/homey and industrial, since we’re located in an old mill building. At 50 seats, we’re small and cozy. It’s also a mixed-use area, so there are shops, lofts, studios, and us of course.
LLB: What was your first craft-beer epiphany? And name names! The first time you tasted a microbrew and thought: Wow, this is not the usual/my dad’s beer/etc.
Justin: I’d have to say it would’ve been around 2014 or 2015—tasting a Tree House Haze double IPA for the first time. Also when you’re homebrewing, you can focus in on what you want to taste!
LLB: What are you drinking nowadays? Any favorite food and craft-beer pairings?
Justin: After mowing the lawn I definitely like a (Tree House flagship IPA) Julius. And my wife likes a peanut butter-and-chocolate porter—dessert-ish.
LLB: Last question: Can you look into your crystal ball and consider what’s going to be the next big style in the craft-beer world?
Justin: Ah, that’s almost impossible! OK, we’re hearing from customers and industry folks that Czech-style pilsener is really rising in popularity. Demand for that style in general: Gentle, easy-drinking, lower-ABV styles are coming up.
LLB: Thanks, Justin!
Lovers of local beer, find Channel Marker Brewing in Beverly, Massachusetts, and at www.channelmarkerbrewing.com.