Brian Powers—the brewer/owner of Strange Brewery in Marlborough, Massachusetts—came at his fate a bit differently than most other brewery/taproom owners: He’s been the owner and proprietor of the Strange Brew homebrew-supply store since 1997.
After two-plus decades of selling equipment and ingredients and imparting his DIY knowledge to homebrew enthusiasts, he decided it was time to share his beers with the wider public. Strange Brewery taproom poured its inaugural beer in August 2018, in a site adjacent to Brian’s supply store.
Brian says that his take on local beer may be unique: “As a purveyor of homebrewing supplies, I have a different definition of ‘local.’ Homebrewing is hyperlocal, as it occurs in the home. We have customers on all seven continents—yes, Antarctica too—and they are all making their own ‘local” brews.
“But as a brewer and a beer consumer,” he adds, “I’m particularly fond of all Massachusetts breweries and consider them all to be ‘local’ beer.”
Strong local ties
Strange Brewery and its owner have been a longtime part of the community fabric, as Brian hosts a monthly craft-beer radio show on a local talk-radio station, featuring area breweries, beers, and craft brewers. The business also participates in a variety of brewfests to showcase both the homebrew-supply business and the microbrewery, and directs craft-brew and homebrew showcases at local companies as team-building events.
Giving back to the community has also been a theme for Brian over the years: “We’ve donated hundreds of products and prizes to local charities over the years. A common donation is a beer class for two and a gift certificate to teach people how to brew their own beer at home.”
Because Strange Brewery’s taproom has been operational for just a short time, Brian says that his team is still developing and refining their traditions. “We’re always adding equipment and upgrading our process. The only constant thus far has been change.
“We start our brew day with a recipe and a plan. We do a lot of split batches and usually end up tweaking a recipe right up through the pitching of the yeast, and can continue through into the fermenter, in the keg, or even while the beer is on tap as we infuse new flavors through the Randall.” [Editor's note: A Randall is a filter—with the design credited to craft-brew juggernaut Dogfish Head—originally aimed at reducing foam while pouring, but many brewers now use the equipment to infuse added flavors into beer right at tapside.]
So what’s with the name? “We aren’t called ‘Strange Brew’ because we brew plain beers, although our pale ale is one of my favorites,” Brian states. “We’ve brewed with fruit, honey, cider, a brick, pumpkins, snow, raw maple sap, and countless other ‘strange’ ingredients. We’re currently [pouring] a batch called ‘Alien Fetus’ that features a hefty dose of horseradish!”
Visit Strange Brewery at www.strangebrew.net/strange-brewery .