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Somerville Brewing Company Looks to Expand

The Somerville beer business would like to open a larger facility in the city. It's also lobbying Beacon Hill on a beer-related matter.

The Somerville Brewing Company, a relative newcomer to the local craft beer scene—it started selling its beers commercially about 15 months ago—is hoping to open a larger facility in Somerville sometime in 2013, according to Caitlin Jewell, who owns the beer company with Jeff Leiter.

Currently, the company's business office and test lab are located near Teele Square, but the actual batches of beer sold to the public are brewed at Mercury Brewing Company in Ipswich.

"We hope to bring more of our brewing operations to Somerville," Jewell said about the company's goals.

Jewell stressed the beer company hasn't received any permits yet, but it's working to sign a lease, and "that's what we're shooting for," she said.

Since going commercial in the fall of 2011, Somerville Brewing Company has begun shipping its beers to five states other than Massachusetts: Maine, Illinois, Louisiana, Virginia and Vermont. Its beer is also served on 100 draught lines across the state, Jewell said.

"Every month our company has seen growth," she said. She also put the amount of beer they brew in perspective. Somerville Brewing Company makes as much beer in a year as Harpoon Brewery does in a day, she said.

Visiting Beacon Hill

The company is also starting to lobby state government as part of the Massachusetts Brewers Guild.

Jewell and other members of the guild were planning to visit the Massachusetts State House Wednesday in an effort to change what they call "antiquated" franchise laws regarding the distribution of beer.

They're supporting a bill (House Bill 999) that would change the relationship between brewers and wholesale distributors.

Rob Martin, president of the guild, explained that under current laws, brewers, once they choose a wholesaler, have 60 days to decide if they want to keep doing business with that wholesaler permanently.

After 60 days, the brewer can't change a wholesaler without the wholesaler's permission, according to Martin. That usually leads to a lengthy and costly legal process, something a small business, like an up-and-coming brewery, can't afford.

"You need to wed them for life, and there isn't any divorce," Jewell said of the relationship with the wholesalers.

The bill would change the current law so brewers can sever businesses ties with their wholesaler through an arbitration process, Jewell said.

Martin said the current franchise laws don't make sense for craft brewers, which are growing in number every year. At the beginning of 2011 there were 29 members of the Massachusetts Brewers Guild, Jewell said, and now there are 44.

A small brewer that's growing can be restricted when it's forced to maintain a business relationship with a wholesaler that might not fit its evolving needs, Jewell said.

Both Martin and Jewell pointed to the growing microbrewery sector as a generator of new jobs.

Jewell said if her company is able to open a larger facility in Somerville, it would definitely create "new jobs that didn't exist before."

ttt January 23, 2013 at 02:05 PM
GREAT! Hopefully our city works with them to make this a reality. Night Shift Brewing and Idle Hands, both located in Everett, tried to find a place to open in Somerville and couldn't find a space to open where the owner wanted to go through the permit process. Both said they didn't get any help from the city of Somerville, but the city of Everett was great about encouraging and helping them out.
Courtney O'Keefe January 23, 2013 at 02:14 PM
Well done to the Somerville Brewing Company...so happy their aim is to operate solely in Somerville! They are proud members of Somerville Local First and offer their product to numerous fundraisers and galas that financially assist great non-profits in the City. Good luck!
AHM January 23, 2013 at 04:15 PM
Somerville has not been in the past helpful to any businesses. I have seen this many times first hand here. We have lost so much here because of this. I would say about 20 years ago seems like the timeline as I can recall it started to go antibusiness. You would think they would welcome it as it means so much revenue for the city. But they don't. It is very difficult when first getting started as it is. Having been though that and friends starting businesses I know. And long established good businesses don't get much better treatment either.

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