When the original John Harvard’s Ale House closed after a 27 year run in Harvard Square earlier in May, it was neither with a bang nor a whimper but a sigh of inevitability. Despite being an early brewpub innovator, John Harvard’s mantle had been picked up, duplicated - and some would argue improved - by hundreds of hop-drenched upstarts—from the ridiculous to the sublime—for nearly 30 years. As a moderately successful East Coast regional franchise as popular with ski resort-goers in upstate New York as it is with the er… bustling tourist hub that is Framingham, it made business sense to leave the surging rent prices in Cambridge and make room for yet another sorely needed Pret a Manger.
Except the John Harvard's space won't be occupied by a Pret a Manger, nor even an Urban Outfitters. Instead, it will be operated by a local brewery with a history almost as lengthy as John Harvard’s.
Earlier this week, Wachusett Brewing Company announced plans to open a scheduled for the fall at the former brewpub site on Dunster St. The site will be the second satellite location for the Central MA brewery in addition to their anticipated taproom in Worcester announced previously in May. Wachusett president Christian McMahan says the 25-year old brand’s sales are 12 percent higher since the brewery expanded to an onsite taproom at its Westminster location three years ago, in addition to the inauguration of their pop-up beer gardens at City Hall Plaza in 2017.
“This is about supporting our distributed beer business,” McMahan told Brewbound. “We’ve had a ton of success over the last two years with our City Hall pop-up, and we’ve had our eyes on a longer-term opportunity.”
“We are just now getting out of the weeds and trying to keep up with orders,” he said. “We have a lot going on, and we are trying to manage as much production and manufacturing as possible.”
The Cambridge location will include a 15 barrel brewhouse with an emphasis on sour brew, 16 rotating beers on tap, live entertainment, and a menu focusing on flatbread pizzas.
But remember what I said earlier about craft brewers and absurdity? Wachusett didn’t just pioneer it, they crystallized it. Wachusett is the gold standard when it comes to beer which tastes nothing like what beer is supposed to taste like. They transformed it from playful experimentation into… well, if not an art form, then I don’t know what. Blueberry Ale? You can thank Wachusett for that. Pumpkin ale? Yeah, that’s Wachusett too. Rosé wine flavored wheat beer? Who else but Wachusett?
But they must be doing something right. The Brewers Association, (an industry association representing craft breweries), ranked Wachusett as the 43rd largest craft beer producer in the nation for 2018. By dint of comparison, the only two other Massachusetts-based breweries to make the list were (unsurprisingly) Boston Beer Company and Harpoon.
“We are thrilled to be moving into Cambridge,” McMahan concluded in a press release. “As the Wachusett brand continues to grow, we have been looking for new and interesting ways to reach the next generation of craft beer drinkers and believe this location is ideal for us as we continue to evolve the brand into the future.”
For more information, please visit /www.wachusettbrewingcompany.com/