Pretty Things’ Taproom: Don’t build it, they’ll still come (for great beer)
Breweries – not the brands, but the actual spaces where brewing happens – are some of my favorite places on earth. Yes, a lot of if has to do with the fact that phenomenal beers are “tap room exclusives.” But it’s beyond that. You often get a good sense of the ethos behind a company and the people who live and breathe the beer.
Essentially, those spaces are where the people making the beer and the people drinking it can connect and interact. So it’s strange that the local brewery I feel the strongest allegiance to, the most connected to, doesn’t own a brewing space: the wonderful gypsy brewers of Pretty Things. And out of their brilliant catalog of beers – which I am sure I’ll cover in greater depth someday – the one that has the most special place in my heart is “Our Turn, Your Turn,” a collaboration with the New Zealanders from Yeastie Boys.
In the absence of a traditional brewing space, owners Dann and Martha have had to improvise ways to connect with their many fans. If you wander over to their Facebook page in any month of the year, you are bound to find info for an upcoming beer release party, or at the very least a pint night.
One of my first Pretty Things events was a couple months ago, not long after my “career” at PorchDrinking.com started. It was St. Botoloph’s Day, and Pretty Things organized a pub crawl around downtown Boston to celebrate it. I went because I think their St. Botoloph’s Brown Ale is a perfect representation of one of my favorite beer styles, the often overlooked, never celebrated Brown Ale, and being downtown drinking it from a couple different places seemed like a unique angle for a post. Well, don’t go searching through the archives to find that piece, because I never wrote it. The story that started developing that night, turned out to be much more interesting, but also much more difficult to articulate.
It’s difficult because that night didn’t feel like a brewery-orchestrated event, but simply like a pub crawl with friends. A lot of it didn’t go as planned. It rained. Only one bar had St. Botolph’s on tap. One bar simply didn’t have any Pretty Things beer at all. Dann was nursing an injury and had to get through the crawl with the assistance of a cane. But no one seemed to mind, because throughout, our hosts were in such a great, warm, welcoming mood that we were all just happy to be around them. I know I was. However, I can only imagine how annoying I actually came off: I was so starstruck and Dann just kept humoring me by telling stories from his long career, I didn’t give the guy a break all night. So when the event was coming to a close, over fries and poutine at local restaurant Saus, the only question I still had was “when is the next event?”
This is where the Yeastie Boys come in. The next Pretty Things even was a launch party for American Darling, their take on “lawnmower beer”, on the day the collaboration beer was brewed. As such, Sam from Yeastie Boys was the party’s VIP. Somehow, after a night of drinking American Darling and the Yeastie Boys’ Gunnamatta IPA, while eating free hot dogs, I found the courage (is that the word?) to pretty much invite myself to the after party at Deep Ellum, one of the city’s best beer bars. Let me make this very clear: this was not an open invitation Pretty Things event. They just talked about it, I overheard it and jumped at the opportunity. Classy, I know, right? Sitting across from Dann, Martha, and Sam, in such a cool place, sipping on a beautiful mug of Pretty Things’ Magnifico! and hearing stories I wouldn’t dare to reprint here, is a memory I will hold on to for a long, long time. They introduced me to the owners, paid for my beer and treated me as if they had invited me there.
And now to my point. This generous, gregarious couple will go to great lengths to connect people with their brand. They dress up in hilarious costumes. They tweet out when they are going to a bar, asking people to join them. They give out beautiful Pretty Things glassware as if it were red solo cups. They’re willing to engage the annoying fanboy and pay for several rounds of beer. They treat the entire city of Boston as if it were their tap-room. I wish I could answer why they care so much to do these things, but I can’t. All I can say is that it’s incredibly effective.
When I drink OTYT, it’s impossible to divorce those wonderful memories from the beer’s taste. Sure, it expectedly reminds me both of Pretty Things’ Meadowlark IPA and the Yeastie Boys’ Gunnamatta since OTYT is a collaboration IPA “dry-leafed” with tea. It also comes as no surprise that Sam and Dann, two brewers that are so unbelievably convivial, found a way to impart each of their signature tastes onto a collaboration beer, which is no easy task. As is rarely the case in collaborative projects, OTYT achieves the desired combination of each brewer’s palate, with distinct flavors and traits working together. OTYT has a delightfully light body, the funky aroma you would expect from kiwi hops with a tinge of refreshing citrus and the Linden Flower tea comes in strong in the taste. I rarely drink tea, but if this is what tea tasted like, maybe I would find more room for it in between several pots of coffee. It’s a great brew, and I guarantee you’ll enjoy drinking it, even if you have no reference of why/ how/ by whom it was brewed. But what’s more interesting to me, is not how it objectively tastes, or what most people will experience when they drink it. Because when I drink it, I don’t really focus on those things too much. I focus on the taste of that late spring rainfall in downtown Boston, double rainbows, great stories, and the most precious people. I immediately feel the connection with Pretty Things after my first sip, which transforms my living room into an extension of Pretty Things’ imaginary taproom.