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Somerville's Aeronaut Brewery Gears Up for Opening

A conversation with Somerville resident Ben Holmes, a cofounder of Aeronaut Brewery, which plans to open in Somerville this spring.

Ben Holmes, one of Aeronaut Brewery's cofounders, in the 14 Tyler St. space that will house the brewery. Credit: Chris Orchard
Ben Holmes, one of Aeronaut Brewery's cofounders, in the 14 Tyler St. space that will house the brewery. Credit: Chris Orchard
Somerville is close to having its own commercial brewery: an actual industrial space, in Somerville, with actual fermentation tanks and a canning line.

Aeronaut Brewery, which plans to open this spring, recently received its federal permit and hopes to receive state permits soon, according to Ben Holmes, CEO of the venture.

Other Somerville-based breweries, such as Somerville Brewing Company (a.k.a. Slumbrew) and Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project, conduct their commercial brewing operations outside Somerville, but Aeronaut will brew suds on Tyler Street, next to Brooklyn Boulders Somerville.

Holmes recently gave Somerville Patch a brief tour of the facility, which was under construction, and he said Aeronaut will be making some important announcements in the middle of February. Boston beer fans: keep your eyes open.

Aeronaut was founded by three Somerville residents: Holmes, Dan Rassi and Ronn Friedlander. A fourth member of the team, Steven Reilly, will be joining soon, and brewmaster Mike Labbe is also contributing his expertise, according to Boston.com.

The founders, many of them now finishing up graduate programs, all come from the world of science, Holmes explained. Friedlander studies microbiology at Harvard and MIT. Rassi is in the field of computer science and engineering. Reilly, now at Yale, is a biologist, and Holmes, a graduate student at MIT, has a background in physics but currently works in genomics.

Indeed, in addition to brewing beer, Aeronaut also has plans to provide lab space and serve as an incubator to start-up companies, Boston.com said.

If you're interested in visiting the brewery, even while it's under construction, you can do so from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the first and third Friday of every month. It's at 14 Tyler St. Look for the double red doors at the far end of Brooklyn Boulders.

Holmes spoke briefly with Somerville Patch, and here's the conversation:

Somerville Patch: So, you're going to be brewing here in Somerville.

Ben Holmes: "We're going to be brewing all kinds of crazy beer in Somerville, and we're going to be doing it with a pretty massive consortium of local food and agriculture producers ... we're going to bring craft brewing to Union Square."

Somerville Patch: How'd you get started with brewing?

Ben Holmes: "We've all been home brewers for a long time. Home brewers and microbiologists. We began our careers in science labs, and we wanted to do something where we could bring engineering and science to people in a way that they would really love ... It was a logical step for us to combine our outside passion for home brewing with our day-to-day work in our professional lives of science and engineering."

Somerville Patch: What's happening right now, in January, in the Aeronaut Brewery space?

Ben Holmes: "We actually just got our federal permit [on] New Year's Eve. It happened sooner than expected ... We're sort of doing all kinds of stuff, from installing new power transformers to handle the load of our electric brewhouse, to digging trenches, to procuring our canning line, setting everything up so we're ready to role as soon as our ... state brewers license comes through, hopefully in late January."

Somerville Patch: When should people keep their eyes open for new details about what's happening here?

Ben Holmes: "In mid-February we're going to have some major announcements of the projects on the docket. And those will span from art to beer to food."

Somerville Patch: Will the February announcements include the sorts of beers you're brewing

Ben Holmes: "In February we're going to be introducing some of our featured yeasts, and we've been working really hard to understand these yeasts and prototype beers our of them … that's going to be driving a lot of the development of beer."

Somerville Patch: You all have science backgrounds, does that inform the way you brew beer?

Ben Holmes: "It sort of informs a lot of our fascination with the relationship between how a yeast lives and how a beer tastes. So we don't like to think of ourselves as a science brewery, but we definitely think of having a very strong understanding of microbes and life as a part of the taste of the beer."

Somerville Patch: Is beer a fascinating life form?

Ben Holmes: "One of the first ways people learned about microbes ... was back in the day when they noticed that fermented drinks, fermented barley, that they bubbled, and they came up with the idea that that was a life form. So, before they knew about yeast and before they knew about bacteria, beer was recognized as a form of effervescent, bubbly life."

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