Barewolf Brewing’s website prompts an interesting question: “Do you trust your brewer?”
The actual point of this question: Barewolf’s philosophy is to create something brand-new every time they brew, to the extent that the brewery eschews a “flagship” beer, instead challenging the brewers and customers to share something unique every time. The symbol of the business is the vermilion poppy, a flower that’s the epitome of fragility, lasting only a single day. It’s an unusual approach but one that’s working for the business, with Barewolf taking the honors in 2018 as RateBeer.com’s Best Small New Brewery in MA.
Paul Bareford, founder of Barewolf Brewing in Amesbury, Massachusetts, tells LoveLocalBeer that he and his brewers – cofounder Stevie Bareford, Matt Neff, and Wyeth Bednar – are trying to get outside their comfort zone and that of their customers with what they call “ever-changing originality.”
“I think our way of staying unique to our customers is very similar to our way of staying unique for ourselves: We never brew the same thing twice, and we promise you’ll like whatever crazy new styles we’re playing with.”
“We know we could brew nothing but hazy IPAs and a lot of people would be cool with that, but we chose instead to ask ourselves, ‘What do we want to drink? What’s a compelling style that we might not be able to find elsewhere?’ That’s when we get the most fun projects, usually,” Paul says.
“I think this kind of perpetually transient approach also sets us apart from other breweries in the area. Having no obligations to brew particular brands or styles means that we’re constantly free to brew something we’re excited about and want to drink, which translates to customers as well. Whether they can put their finger on it or not, people can usually tell when something is made with passion."
The Barewolf Brewing operation—while still brewing beer on its original 7-barrel system—has expanded by about 30% since the brewery opened in 2017, adding another 15-barrel fermenter, a 7-barrel oak foeder, and several dozen bourbon, wine, and rum barrels for aging and souring.
Also in that time, the brewery has tried to cultivate a community space in Amesbury, Paul says. “We see a lot of regulars from around town that have been awesome at helping establish ourselves, and that kind of word-of-mouth community engagement feels incredible. We also try to provide a space and voice for local artists at the brewery, with free live music every single Saturday, gallery shows by local artists, and occasional programming by Amesbury’s poet laureate, Stephen R. Wagner.”
Paul also says that Barewolf also tries to offer a localized approach when possible, using locally grown ingredients from barley to sugar beets to hops. Moreover, he says, all of the brewery’s spent grains are sent to local farmers to be used as animal feed.
The brewers themselves chime in when asked about beer memories and personal tastes:
First craft-beer epiphany?
· Wyeth: Lunch from Maine Beer Co. was the beer that made me “get” IPAs. I was in my local packy and asked if they had any Heady Topper (beer nerds will recognize this as an ultimate newbie move..) and they recommended Lunch instead. From then on, I was hooked on all the different ways hops could be used to influence flavor.
· Stevie: Harviestoun’s Old Engine Oil (Scotland). I was (embarrassingly enough) into almost exclusively thick, gross imperial stouts and strong ales off the bat.
· Matt: Monk’s Café (famous craft-beer bar in Philly). I realized that beers, even craft beers, could be so much more than boring flagship IPAs.
What’s your go-to end-of-day beer?
· Wyeth: I typically stick to something light and easy at the end of the day—a pilsner or table beer or something in that category. We spend a lot of time during the day discussing, dissecting, and analyzing beer, and it’s nice to be able to turn off the analytical part of my brain and just enjoy a well-made crusher of a beer.
· Stevie: Increasingly, I’ve been interested in trying anything and everything that’s new, from local breweries to imports. Anything fun, well-conceived, and experimental will check my boxes.
· Matt: Light and refreshing, for sure. Pilsner or lager is perfect.
When asked to talk about the next hot style of craft beer, Paul observes that saisons and farmhouse styles are definitely getting more popular. “A few years ago, a farmhouse-only brewery like Oxbow (in Maine) would never have been able to work in the U.S., but now they’re thriving. We’ve been brewing saisons the whole time we’ve been operating and we’ll definitely take advantage of renewed public interest in the style to try out some new twists on such an interesting family of beer styles.”
Lovers of novelty, variety, and local ties in their beer choices should check out Barewolf Brewing in Amesbury, Massachusetts (www.barewolfbrewing.com).