By Seth Daniel
Last Friday, no sooner had the doors opened on the new Down the Road Beer Co. taproom than new customers flooded in and maxed out the capacity in an hour’s time.
The large, spacious new taproom off of Bow and Beacham Streets in the Lower Broadway neighborhood has become an instant hit and, Founder Donovan Bailey said, grounds the company and allows them to be able to put a face to the product – a very critical aspect to the craft brew industry.
“I was pleasantly surprised by the opening,” said Bailey this week. “I was hoping for a busy Friday and Saturday and we surely got a busy Friday and Saturday. If we are able to keep that up, even just two-thirds of what we had, we’re in pretty good shape.
“It’s huge for us to have the taproom and it allows us to put our best foot forward,” he continued. “It allows us to show our customers who we are and grow that hospitality piece of the business. It’s good to be grounded in one place and to have people in to visit us.”
Mayor Carlo DeMaria – an early supporter of the brewery and distillery boom in Everett – said the opening was another way to draw visitors and residents together in what has been an underutilized area.
“Everett is now a true destination, drawing thousands of visitors from around our region,” he said. “The growth of our local craft breweries has helped to ensure this by attracting consumers and creating vibrant neighborhoods. I want to thank Down the Road Brewing Company for choosing to invest in our community and locating in an older, underutilized building. Your investment will not only lead to additional commercial and residential development, but also will add to our hospitality economy.”
The taproom features a floor to ceiling graffiti mural by renowned street artists Godsflesh – who spent a week painting the mural last month. Under the murals are an assemblage of vintage pinball machines, which were an undisputed hit among the crowds last weekend.
The taproom features 36 taps, with 10 of them pouring fresh, Everett-made beer. Bailey said the goal is to get more of them up and running and to have experimental brews only available in the taproom. That, he said, would serve as an exclusive way for those who visit to test up and coming products, and perhaps be in on the first tastings of a successful new product.
All of the joy of the opening, however, didn’t come without a fair amount of trial – as the brewery spent several months going back and forth with the Planning Board last summer trying to get the taproom open and up to snuff regarding safety and parking lot rehabilitations.
“It’s great to have done it right,” said Bailey. “One of the things we have that others don’t is a parking lot. That’s something we worked out and a benefit for us. It was probably more ready to open on Friday than before, so it wasn’t a harmful thing and there were things we had to work out.”
Right now, he said they have the entire facility – the brewhouse, warehouse, taproom and outside areas – about 80 percent complete. There are some finishing touches to do, but one of the most important aspects along with the taproom is they are new brewing on site.
Since 2015, Down the Road has been distributing and headquartered in the same Everett building down the Line, but they never brewed there. They had their beer brewed elsewhere and then distributed from Everett.
Now, with a huge investment in equipment, they are producing on site for the first time.
“We’re pretty much on our own now,” said Bailey. “We’re waiting on our canning line to come next week, and then we’re really off to the races.”
As it stands now, they are able to brew about 4,500 to 5,000 barrels per year, but a further investment in new equipment in the near future will bring them to their goal of 15,000 barrels per year.
With that production expansion, they now look to expand their distribution footprint and their draught beer taps at restaurants and bars.
“We’re really trying to expand our distribution footprint a bit,” he said. “We are kind of east to west in the state, so maybe we’ll expand to another state within the year…We also want to penetrate more with our draught lines, which we’re anemic on now. Right now, we’re about 80 percent package stores and 20 percent draft lines. We’d like to see those percentages go to 70-30 or 60-40.”
He said he couldn’t overlook how helpful the City of Everett has been in helping his company get up and running. He said all the inspectors, police and fire officials have shown that Everett is ready to do business. That’s one of the reasons they decided to stake their claim in Everett to begin with.
“We picked Everett because we thought it was an untapped city,” he said. “We couldn’t find a place closer to Boston we could afford and had as much potential as this. South Boston and Dorchester had already done their thing. Everett, Chelsea, Malden and Medford were on the cusp. In the next two years, we’ll be in a completely different situation.”
But for now, the former basement home brewer who learned his trade as a kid – making what he describes as some “pretty horrible stuff” – is excited to welcome the community of Everett and beyond to the new establishment.
“A think a lot of people didn’t believe we were going to do it,” he said. “A lot of home brewers dream of this and it doesn’t happen.”
Down the Road is located at 199 Ashland St. (off of Beacham Street) and the taproom is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. On Sundays, it’s open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The taproom is closed Monday.