'Anonymous Brewing' Turns Secretive Start into Potential New Career
By Brandon Lawrence
We’re all fans of the craft beer scene here, right?
Maybe you’ve visited a few breweries or taprooms to enjoy some drinks with friends. Maybe you have a favorite brewery you like to frequent because you like the brews, the food or the ambiance. Maybe you’re like us and you like to explore the whole scene because each brewery’s uniqueness is something you find appealing, and you enjoy being a self-proclaimed “student” of the beer industry.
Maybe that’s led to your own homebrewing experiments. You’ve gone out and purchased a beginner’s homebrew kit and fired up a batch of your very own IPA or lager. Maybe it turned out pretty nice, and you were pleasantly surprised with how quickly something so niche could become a hobby.
To say that’s how many operational breweries got their start in the beer world is likely a vast understatement. Go on, search around online. Find a few “About” pages on brewery websites, and chances are you’ll stumble on the words “started as a home-brewing experiment” at least once.
That’s how it went for Mike and Kevin of Anonymous Brewing – a start-up contract brewer looking to carve some space in the Massachusetts craft beer scene.
But their story is a little different than the anecdotal homebrew to mass brew leap. It took a long road of refining their recipes with trial and error and incorporating feedback to get to the point they’re at today.
Mike and Kevin have been friends since they were kids. Kevin began homebrewing beer about 15 years ago for fun, while Mike says he was a little hesitant to jump into brewing as a self-labeled beer snob. But that changed slowly as the two shared some of Kevin’s brews that grabbed Mike’s attention.
“I never wanted to make shitty beer,” Mike said. “But then Kevin started cranking out some good ones and I grew interested in learning more.”
So the duo decided to expand on a few recipes and pass them out to friends and family (some of whom Mike says are in the industry) to gauge the response.
It went pretty well. But in order to really ensure they were sitting on something legitimate, the two decided they would reach out to some local craft beer bloggers and social media influencers for some unbiased feedback.
“(We) asked them if they were interested in trying our samples. If they agreed, we asked them to leave a cooler out on their porch and then we anonymously dropped off samples. We incorporated their feedback and kept iterating the recipe until we were happy,” Mike said.
It was an interesting concept, and one that needed further explanation.
They said the idea behind the project’s secrecy was because they both had full-time jobs – Mike’s background is in environmental and marine science and Kevin’s in design and visual arts. Naturally, they weren’t ready for their employers to find out what they were up to just yet. Hence the term Anonymous Brewing.
The feedback they received from these beer influencers came in the form of direct social media messages and blog posts. Now that they had some directionality from those who had been involved in the craft beer world for years, they could implement any changes they liked and move forward.
Everything they gathered over the years has led to some new and interesting takes on brews, like their signature WeyLey New England-style hazy red ale, Tiffany New England IPA with Mosaic and Citra hops, and their Kings Hill porter with a sweet, savory and slightly hoppy profile.
Mike and Kevin are both still balancing full-time jobs along with young families today, but are pushing the boundaries on what they can do in the brewing world.
At the moment, Anonymous Brewing is working on additional smaller batches and continuing that same method of curating feedback to hone in on final recipes, while commercially brewing and distributing their primary lineup. They currently contract brew (meaning they contract other breweries and their equipment to make commercial sized batches of their recipes) but are responsible for their own labeling and distribution. Their range for the time being is spread to Massachusetts’ North and South Shores, along with some Boston, metro-West and Central Massachusetts areas. But the plan for the future is hopefully to scale up.
“We are also working on pilot batches that we can now distribute under our Farmer Brewery permit,” Mike said. “The smaller batches are a great opportunity to continue to get direct feedback (as well as) when we pour them at festivals and smaller fundraising events.”
Things have taken a bit of a hit with the pandemic currently crippling breweries and small businesses all over the nation, but at the moment the lack of a taproom for Anonymous may have actually been financially beneficial. Still, the affects have been felt from a distribution standpoint.
“We had plans to expand our distribution and release new recipes, but this pandemic has definitely slowed down sales,” Mike said. “We pivoted and focused sales on our primary accounts and are working on new recipes until things start to get back to normal.”
But back to normal for Anonymous Brewing may become an ever-changing new normal the more they continue to grow.
Somewhere down the line the guys would like to open up a taproom, but there are no definitive plans that they’re willing to disclose just yet. Eventually Anonymous Brewing may well end up being a place anyone from the casual craft beer drinker to the snobbiest enthusiast could visit.
They may have been quiet to start, but Anonymous Brewing shapes up to be anything but in the long run.