Boston-area craft beer maker Castle Island Brewing is doubling down on its home market, today announcing a multi-year agreement for a seasonal beer garden located just three miles from the brewery’s namesake landmark at a recently developed site known as Underground at Ink Block.
Situated underneath Highway 93 — in between Boston’s South End and South Boston neighborhoods – the 5,000 sq. ft. beer garden will pour 20 beers on draft and have the capacity for 400 visitors.
“We are trying to activate a historically unutilized space,” Castle Island founder Adam Romanow told Brewbound. “This is an area where MassDOT (Massachusetts Department of Transportation) trucks would pile up big mounds of salt in the winter.”
Called Castle Island at Underground, the space is slated to on May 11 and will remain operational until mid-October. Open Thursdays through Sundays, the beer garden will also feature lawn games, food trucks, pop-up vendors and live entertainment.
As part of the partnership with National Development, the developer of nearby Ink Block and the lease operator of the park, Castle Island has agreed to purchase a draft beer trailer, sound equipment and beer hall-style tables and benches. The brewery will also hire upwards of 30 additional employees to staff the new retail location.
Castle Island has also committed to repurchasing its own beer from Boston’s Burke Distributing, the company’s wholesaler, even though it could have self-distributed.
“We have enjoyed an awesome relationship with Burke and owe a lot of our early success to them,” Romanow said. “The volume of beer we anticipate going through in a given week is large enough where we don’t have the space, infrastructure or personnel to get it to the final point of sale. Working with Burke gives us a system that is scalable, and it strengthens our relationship.”
So, instead of capturing both the wholesale and retail margins, like it does at its own brewery taproom, Castle Island will repurchase its kegs for as much as $200 and sell pints to consumers at standard on-premise retail prices.
Romanow said he believes the company will sell at least 20 barrels per week – 40 kegs – and a portion of profits will be donated to a rotating group of non-profit organizations.
“For us, this is really a brand building tool,” he said. “We have a brand that is named after a South Boston landmark, and a brewery in Norwood. We feel like we have an opportunity to introduce ourselves to a wider audience than we’ve been able to reach out in the suburbs.”
But as brewery-owned-and-operated taprooms and beer gardens have become more popular, retailers have begun voicing concerns.
“They [breweries] just got to convert to an alcohol sales machine that is competing with the guys that kept them in business for all of these years,” Texas-based Flying Saucer Draught Emporium co-owner Shannon Wynne told Brewbound. “We had to, in essence, start competing with all of these brewers.”
According to the Brewers Association, approximately 2.7 million barrels of beer were sold directly to consumers via taprooms and brewery retail locations in 2017.
One Boston retailer that has been critical of seasonal beer gardens, Jamie Walsh, an owner of Vanderbilt Kitchen & Bar and the general manager of Stoddard’s Fine Food & Ale, said he was somewhat conflicted when he heard that Castle Island would be opening a retail space down the street from his bars.
“I get it, there are more than 6,000 breweries now and these guys have to find ways for their beer to flow, and they need to create revenue,” he told Brewbound. “But when these breweries open these beer gardens – which do create foot traffic and it’s great for the city – they take people out of the seats of bars that are in and around these beer gardens.”
Walsh, who still pours Castle Island beer at his bar, said he’d prefer to see a state-run beer garden that offers products from a wider variety of Massachusetts breweries.
For his part, Romanow said he believes the net impact on nearby retailers will be “minimal.”
“How many bars are there in the city of Boston?” he asked. “If a visit doesn’t happen at our beer garden, it might happen at a competitor bar.
“From what I can see, taprooms are only creating additional business for on- and off-premise retailers,” he added.
In addition to pouring Castle Island products at the new beer garden, Romanow said the company would look to offer wine, cider or another non-beer alternative to consumers.
Two other Massachusetts breweries — Trillium Brewing and Wachusett Brewing — also opened temporary outdoor beer gardens in downtown Boston last year. Trillium also operated an indoor winter beer garden that opened in December.
Castle Island, which opened in late 2015, plans to sell 10,000 barrels of beer in 2018, Romanow said. The company currently has the capacity to brew about 15,000 barrels, he added.
A press release with additional information is included below.
Castle Island Opens Summer Beer Garden in Boston’s Underground at Ink Block
BOSTON, MASS. – Castle Island Brewing Company today announced plans to open a Summer Beer Garden in the heart of Boston. Located at Underground at Ink Block, adjacent to both the South End and South Boston, the new beer garden will be only a short distance from the Company’s namesake landmark.
The Norwood-based brewery will operate Thursdays through Sundays at the award-winning new park at 90 Traveler Street beginning Friday, May 11th and running through mid-October. The seasonal installation will be a great addition to Underground at Ink Block, an 8-acre cultural attraction featuring world-class street art, bicycle and walking paths, views of Fort Point Channel, a dog park, and 175-spot public parking lot.
“We are beyond excited to announce Castle Island at Underground,” said Castle Island Founder & President, Adam Romanow. “We’ve always been eager to bring the Castle Island brand a little closer to Southie, and by helping activating this newly opened urban park, we have found an awesome way to contribute to this outdoor community space at a completely unexpected but exciting location.”
This announcement comes on the heels of the brewery’s recent expansion, as Castle Island increased their production capacity with five new 60BBL fermenters at the beginning of this year, reflecting a 50% jump in production capacity. The timely addition of these new tanks will help bring Castle Island’s wide selection of craft beer to Boston residents and visitors of the Underground.
The Summer Beer Garden will feature communal-style seating, outdoor lounge areas, classic lawn games, and – of course – Castle Island beer. The company’s brews will be dispensed from a custom-made, branded draft trailer equipped with 20 taps, serving a wide variety of Castle Island beers and a few non-beer alternatives. As for the beer lineup, visitors can expect Castle Island’s core beers – Keeper, Hi-Def, Candlepin, and American Lager – along with seasonal products, rotating double IPAs, and their Righteous Series of fruited sour ales on the rest of the draft lines.
The brewery will also bring unique event programming to this area of the city, with the goal of creating a dynamic community hub that matches the artistically-driven space at the Underground. Also, in the spirit of giving back to the community, Castle Island plans to donate a portion of proceeds to a local charity.
The Summer Beer Garden is a partnership between Castle Island and National Development, the commercial real estate firm responsible for bringing the Ink Block development to fruition. For National Development, Castle Island at Underground provides a unique new amenity at Underground at Ink Block as well as a wonderful compliment to the existing retail, hotel, and residential components next door at Ink Block.
“National Development is thrilled to welcome Castle Island’s Summer Beer Garden to Underground at Ink Block,” said Ted Tye, Managing Partner of National Development. “We always intended for Underground to have this sort of local, hand-crafted brewery pop up, which fits right in with our unique design and art installations. We look forward to welcoming Castle Island to Underground as well as expanding our art program, hosting many public events, and hosting select private events throughout 2018.”
Castle Island at Underground is conveniently located near the Broadway T station, and will be open Thursday and Friday 3pm-10pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 11am-10pm. Check out the company’s website (castleislandbeer.com/underground) or follow them (@castleislandbeer; @cibrewing) on social media to stay updated on beer garden developments and events.