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The Fusion of Hops and Heads

Craft Beer Industry and Craft Brewery News

Hopster’s Brew & Boards: Boston’s Hip New Craft Scene

HopstersLogoAll in favor of a homebrewing facility for the people, by the people, just an express bus away from Copley Square, filled with quality ingredients, locally sourced charcuterie, free samples, and appearances from the likes of Jim Koch? Your answer better be HELL YES.

Few things have excited me more than the prospect of Hopster’s Brew & Boards, a community brewery dreamed up by beer-loving couple Lee and Karen Cooper. I adore the idea of hanging around watching people experiment and tasting crazy things. I’m also thrilled that craft aficionados will have a place to swap stories and recipes. As soon as I learned of the project’s existence, I contacted Lee for an interview.

Lee CooperHow did you get the idea for Hopster’s?

I'm originally from the UK, where you're fortunate enough to have a pub on every corner. Beer's always been part of the community and I really enjoyed it. I started homebrewing about 5 years ago, just so I could make my own cask ale, and about that time I started doing a lot of research and reading. I realized that in the US, they were making some amazing, innovative, fabulous-tasting, cutting-edge, extreme beers so I started making specialty Saisons and really hoppy IPAs. I'm self-taught, for the most part, and that's why we really enjoy the idea of Hopster’s – I realized…people don't really know what's in beer, and we can help them do that and mentor them.

Who’s your target participant?

Our focus is self-directed learning. If you want to come play with the hops and make one beer with Cascade and another with Citra so you know the difference, there's a space for you there. You know how people make coffee out of a French press? We'll have a bunch of those around with hot water and hops so that people can get an idea of the taste and tell the difference between a stout and lager, in terms of coloring and mouthfeel. But if you want to get together with 20 friends and barrel age beer, we'll cater that too. We want to be the craft beer place for everybody.

How does a craft fan get started at Hopster’s?

When someone walks in, the question is, "What do you love? What kind of beer do you want to make today?" Someone says, "I've had Racer 5, I love it," we'll tell them the recipe – we have 30 recipes from special to extreme – and we have an ingredient room for malt and hops. If they have experience, they'll run with it. If they don't, we'll hold their hand; we have infographics and posters that will help people understand the process. It'll be very experiential, but also kind of like Ikea. I have a background in training and development, so I have many years of experience teaching adults in a corporate environment. When people come in, it's clear, it's simple; they can get a lot out of their time.

hopsterinsideWill you be holding any special events in the space?

We've got a whole range of fun things. I spoke with Jim Koch, and he's going to come and brew when we open; he's about a mile away. It's kind of cool – if it weren't for people like him, we would still be drinking Miller Lite. We've talked to Chris Tkach [of Idle Hands Craft Ales], and we're going to have them come in and brew a beer. So for example, he'll show up and make Triplication with 30 of his closest customers and we'll have a beer dinner with that.

One of the things that we have is a craft beer workshop, specifically designed for on- and off-premise retail – so if you walk into a local liquor store and some of the staff have been to Hopster’s and made their own beer, they can go on and educate the consumer. It's an experience.

We're also running what we call the 99 Club, which is the Hopster’s homebrew club where you and 20 people get together once a quarter to make and taste beer. We're also going to have them come down to Beverly and pick fresh hops.

We're going to do a yearly trip to craft cultures around the world. Our first trip next year is going to be to visit the majority of craft breweries in England.

And during the week, we'll be doing corporate events.

Amazing. Anything else you’d like to add?

I not only want to create a bunch of gypsy brewers, but I also want the craft beer community to be a part of this. At beer events, usually you'll go to a bar and they'll have a keg of beer on tap, but with Hopster’s, a brewery like Jack's Abby can actually come in and brew beer with the people that love it. What a great opportunity. You know the Portico Brewing Company, they're gypsy brewing out of Watch City – if they wanted to make some small batches and try a bunch or develop a recipe, it's really hard to do that with a 10-barrel system. Our system's a quarter barrel, so they can come in and make a bunch of beers and let the public try them out.

Want to help support the biggest project to hit Boston since the Big Dig? Be a part of the Hopster’s Kickstarter campaign.

JULIANA CASALE - BOSTON CORRESPONDENT
July 30, 2013
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