This article first appeared on The Local Ne.ws.
Brewing beer at home is a simple enough process. You start off by making a few iffy batches, but, with persistence, you can end up with an okay beer.
Who knows? With a deft touch, you might even make a great beer.
Gary and Jake Rogers know. They have taken their brews and have won some competitions and acclaim.
But turning that into a business is an entirely different proposition. The Rogers know that, too. Their application to build a brewery is currently working its way through Ipswich’s planning board.
Once that is approved, they can start building.
Once the building is up, only then can they start applying for state and federal licenses.
Once they have those, they can start brewing commercially.
Asked about their planned opening date, Gary said, “We’re hoping for late this year, but that may be aggressive.”
“We can be optimistic,” Jake replied.
The father-and-son team were talking with The Local Ne.ws to discuss their plans for the town’s newest brewery, the True North Ale Company.
The brewery will be based in the old O’Keefe dealership lot on County Road in Ipswich and will share a building with Turkey Shore Distilleries. Also planned for the lot — in separate buildings — are a medical-office facility and an Aubuchon Hardware store, which has already been approved by the planning board.
“A lot of it has to do with love of beer,” Gary said. He started home-brewing in the 1980s, before Jake was born. “He’s been exposed to it all of his life,” he said of his son.
Ultimately, however, the team’s goal is “to brew a great beer and become a very strong part of the community,” Gary said.
Members of the North Shore Brewers club, both have entered the annual Ales for ALS competition in Essex. One year, Gary won with a double IPA beer. As his prize, he got to work with brewers at the Cape Ann Brewing Company in Gloucester to make a 10-barrel commercial batch of his beer.
The beer was sold in local businesses, and $1 from each pint went to the charity. This was doubly gratifying, since Gary’s brother-in-law also suffers from the condition.
Jake, meanwhile, has found acclaim with his Flanders Red. “It’s a Belgian style you don’t see too often,” he said. It’s a sour beer that’s oak-aged. “It’s pretty unique,” he said.
Although sour beer sounds unusual to many, his brew took the “people’s choice” award at last October’s competition. “I had some converts,” Jake said.
Gary’s plans are for those “two beers we have gotten great feedback on already” to feature among the brews offered by True North Ales.
In addition to the two Rogers men, Jake’s mom, Jill, is also involved. Also helping is Jake’s girlfriend, Liz Higgins, who has entrepreneurial experience with her mom, Nancy, setting up Precision Pilates. That business now runs out of two locations, one in Ipswich and the other in Danvers.
Brewing a commercial batch was a new experience for Gary. Jake, however, has four years under his belt in the industry, during which he worked at the Ipswich Ale Brewery.
Gary’s experience is in sales and marketing in the tech industry. However, many of his positions there have been with start-ups and business development.
Although he retired a few years ago, Gary now plans to return to work full-time with the brewery. “I have friends who are considering retiring, and I’m telling them I’m going back to work,” he laughed.
After working in the industry, Jake said, “I learned a lot. I met some really good people.” Technically in competition, he said brewers also see themselves as comrades. “You know what each other is going through,” he said.
The variety of the work is also a draw, Jake said. He is looking forward to building the business, brewing, and meeting his customers.
True North Ales will be Ipswich’s second brewery (the first, of course, being Ipswich Ale). It will join the 1634 Meadery, Russell Orchards winery and two rum distilleries, Turkey Shore and Privateer. Throw in the Mill River winery in Rowley and there is a lot to draw year-round tourists, Gary said.
“It’s great to have the range, beer, mead, and distilleries. That’s pretty unusual,” Jake said.
Gary recently visited Bend, Ore., where there are 25 breweries in and around the city of 80,000. “A lot of them are neighborhood breweries,” Jake said, but that concentration draws in beer lovers all year.
Ipswich’s growing and diverse drinks industry has the potential to become such a destination. This would also benefit local restaurants, since people would be likely to stay in town a while, Gary said.
With the newest brewery coming, the Rogers see it as a key member of the community. Their business plan calls for a tasting room that is convivial, like an Irish pub, Gary said. There won’t be large-screen TVs, and they see community groups and others using it as a meeting place.
The brewers also hope to make the now-abandoned O’Keefe lot look a lot nicer. “It will add to the appeal of town coming in from the south,” Gary said.
Basement full of beer
As the planning process continues, the Rogers family is still working on recipes in Gary’s home. “It’s fun, but I’ve got a lot of beer in my basement,” he said.
Once the brewery building is up, they can install equipment and perfect their concoctions on site while the state and federal permitting process proceeds.
There are two things regulators care about, Gary said. One is keeping alcohol away from minors, but they are much more concerned about collecting taxes they are owed, he added.
Government procedures will be built in so that the business stays on the right side of the law. “They want their taxes,” Gary said.
In the meantime, there is a lot of work and a lot of waiting.
“We’re running in place right now, and doing the planning board. Then we’ll run in place some more” during construction and permitting, Gary joked.
The logo looks like a compass with hops, but the compass is pointing off to one side.
If you want to know how far off, you need to know that a compass points at magnetic north. But true north, the North Pole, is in a different place.
And how far off is that?
It depends what part of the world you live in. In Ipswich, the difference is 15 degrees. Line up the logo with a compass pointing to magnetic north, and the business card logo will point at true north.
The word “true” implies integrity and honesty, Gary said. It also plays into the notion of their product being a true beer, he added.
Throw in the “north,” as in North Shore, and another layer of meaning is added.
“I’d love to do a beer with ingredients from the North Shore,” Jake said. Although barley might be hard to find, Gary is growing four varieties of hops at his house in Byfield, while Jake has three at his place in Ipswich.
They may get their chance yet. But, in the meantime, a phalanx of regulators, planners, and builders have to be marshaled.
One thing’s for sure, there’ll be a cold beer for everyone at the end of it.