When Lord Hobo Brewing opened a 47,000 sq. ft. facility with initial capacity to produce 20,000 barrels annually, The Boston Herald called the launch “likely the largest craft brewery opening in New England history.” The company, which opened last month, has the production goals to match. Located in Woburn, Mass., Lord Hobo is hoping to introduce 10,000 barrels of beer to drinkers in the Bay State and beyond by the end of its first year in business.
To do so, the company is relying on a hop-heavy vision focused on bringing what founder Daniel Lanigan calls “world class” beer – the kind typically defined by scarcity – to the masses.
But that wasn’t Lanigan’s original idea. In 2013, Lanigan — a prominent fixture in the Northeast craft beer community who runs a popular beer bar under the Lord Hobo moniker in nearby Cambridge, and two Alewife-branded bars in New York and Baltimore — said he planned to open an $18 million contract brewing facility. That plan never materialized, but news of Lanigan’s intent to build a craft brewery spread. Coupled with the notoriety he had built as a renowned craft beer bar owner, awareness for what would become the current Lord Hobo Brewing project began to swell.
“There has been some attention paid to us because of that,” said Lanigan. “We have a good opportunity as long as we make great beer.”
How far a good retail reputation might take a new brewery remains to be seen, however. And to debut with 10,000 barrels is no joke. Lanigan cedes the goal may be “a tad over-optimistic,” but believes the company may be able to follow somewhat in the footsteps of Newburyport Brewing, its neighbor roughly 40 minutes to the north.
Newburyport launched in 2013 with the lofty goal of producing 5,000 barrels in its first year. Bill Fisher, co-founder and COO of Newburyport, said as the craft beer space heats up, he expects such kick-down-the-door arrivals to both pick up and, conversely, become harder to pull off.
“That’s a significant amount of beer,” said Fisher. “In a region that has a lot of competition – there’s a lot of breweries, lot of great breweries in Massachusetts and New England, too – as competition heats up, it’ll be tough to do.”
Fisher said Newburyport is projecting sales of 15,000 barrels this year, up from 7,500 in 2014.
For his part, Lanigan said he knows what direction he’ll go to chase that type of fast growth. In its first year, Lord Hobo plans to launch distribution in Maine and Vermont – “Because those are our neighbors” – and in New York, though no formal contracts have been signed.
That out-of-state growth, though, is contingent on the demand for Lord Hobo beer in the company’s home market. Lanigan wants Lord Hobo to become a “regional powerhouse,” he said, “staying as close to New England as possible.”
Immediately on the menu for the company are four varieties of canned IPAs — a style that is best represented in the region by renowned producers like The Alchemist, Lawson’s and Hill Farmstead. All three of those companies intentionally limit their production runs — building their reputations but also creating what Lanigan believes is his opportunity: provide beer of equal quality but with greater availability.
“I would say that on most people’s list of top ten IPAs available in New England, not one of them is available on the shelf on a regular basis,” said Lanigan. “Every one of them is limited or unavailable or very hard to get or whatever. I feel strongly we will be able to produce a beer or two or three in that category of world class-ness and it will also be available on the shelf.”
Of course, the consumer will ultimately decide whether the product fits the “world-classness” category. But Lanigan is pricing it that way to begin with, at least: Atlantic Importing, the brewery’s wholesaler, has informed retailers in an email obtained by Brewbound that it received its first shipment of 120 kegs of Boom Sauce, a blended IPA made up of the company’s three other products. The price the wholesaler is charging per keg: $260. By comparison, a keg of Lagunitas IPA typically sells for about $160 while kegs of Ballast Point Sculpin, one of the higher-priced IPAs available in New England, go for $217.
Atlantic, whose portfolio includes the likes of Avery Brewing, Ballast Point, Dogfish Head, Stone, and growing local player Jack’s Abby, declined to discuss the Lord Hobo brand, it said, because product had yet to be delivered to Boston-area retailers.
Lanigan said the brewery also plans to experiment with single releases, sours, and barrel aged offerings in the future, as well as different packaging formats. The company has purchased a number of foeders, barrels and coolship to be housed in a separate wing of the brewery, though Lanigan said the program’s launch is still six to nine months away.