This story actually started 3 years ago when I saw this sign propped up on a shelf at a small shop at the base of Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine. It struck a chord in me and I posted it on Instagram along with the hashtag #goals
I started thinking about family and the people I love. I started thinking about places that have special meaning to me and where I have created some of the most indelible and endearing memories of my life with the people I love. People and places that bring me true happiness. Sugarloaf Mountain is certainly one of these places. It's where my wife, Michelle, grew up skiing with her family.
It's where we got married. It's where all four of our kids learned to ski and snowboard. It's where I learned to snowboard 5 years ago at age 45!
It's where we have shared so many amazing and lasting family memories with parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins. It's also where I first began to form an interest in and an appreciation for local craft beer thanks to many memorable apres ski brews at the Widowmaker Lounge.
Maine has no shortage of amazing craft breweries. Enjoying countless pints crafted locally by breweries such as Baxter Brewing Company, Maine Beer company, Rising Tide Brewing Co., Shipyard Brewing Company, Bissell Brothers, and Foundation Brewing Company, inspired Michelle and me to dream about one day opening up our own craft brewery that would bring joy and happiness to its customers and the community it supports.
Another place that has special meaning to me and has had a positive and profound impact on my entire family's life is Black Rock Island in Hull, MA.
I plan to go deeper into the history of the island and share some of the stories that have been documented in historic log books in future blog posts. The short version is that the "Rock" has been part of my family for over 100 years.
Here's a picture of my grandmother, Barbara Leader, out on Black Rock at the age of one back in 1922. She is with her mother (my great grandmother) Beatrice Hopkins and the original owner of the Island, (and my great grandfather's business partner) Horace Cook. Horace and my great grandfather (George Hopkins, his nick name was Hop!) were grain brokers in Boston. I don't know for sure, but I have to imagine they were probably selling some of their grain to the local breweries and distilleries that existed around Boston in the early part of the 20th century. My mother, Christine, spent the first summer of her life out on the Island back in 1945 with her parents, Barbara and Ralph Leader.
I also spent time out at the "Rock" during the summers when I was growing up in the 1970's and 80's. It wasn't until I got older that I gained an appreciation for not only the uniqueness of this summer retreat, but also how much effort and teamwork it takes to ensure a successful visit to the Island. There is no dock, so you have to land and launch on slippery and jagged rocks, navigating wind, waves and currents. There is no electricity or running water, so all food and drinks and ice need to be hauled to the island by boat.
To say it's rustic living would be an understatement. Five generations of my family have enjoyed, and endured, the "Rock". We have all learned valuable life skills and lessons through our experiences such as the importance of proper planning, the value of division of labor and coordination, attention to detail, trust, ingenuity, creativity, grittiness and probably most importantly that there is no substitute, and nothing is appreciated more, than good old hard work.
So after the boat has been hauled, the rocks have been moved, the shutters have been painted, the roof has been shingled, the flagpole has been stabilized, the walkways have been cemented, the beds have been made, the dust has been swept, the deck has been scraped and the fish have been filleted, there is nothing quite as special as relaxing on the back deck with a hard earned craft beer enjoying yet another beautiful sunset over Nantasket beach. It never gets old.
It was just after seeing that inspirational sign up at Sugarloaf in the fall of 2017 that Michelle and I started to dream about creating a local craft brewery in Hull that would honor, in name and in spirit, Black Rock Island. We started dreaming of a place that would support the community and be welcoming to all. A place that residents and visitors alike could be proud of. A place that would bring people comfort and joy. A place that would pay homage to one of Hull's most unique landmarks. A place that would honor the grit, grace, peace, and simplicity that has defined this tiny rock island, and it's care takers, for generations.
This all sounded great to us and we could see the vision so clearly. The only problem was that I had a full time job and no extra time and we had never brewed beer before. So, for a while Black Rock Brewing Co. was stuck in the "brewery in concept" stage. Well, thanks to hours upon hours of YouTube videos, we learned about the brewing process and in January 2018 we successfully brewed up our first 2.5 gallon batch of beer. Here's a video I posted on Instagram of me pouring the first pint of "Toes in the Water" which was our first all grain IPA back in Jan 2018 which was a small, but symbolic step forward toward our dream.
After two years and dozens of brew days later, I can honestly say that brewing beer has become one of my passions. I love how it combines so many disciplines and skills like science, math, culinary arts, creativity, organization and physical labor. And at the end of the process you have actually created something that brings joy and can be shared with family and friends.
Earlier this year, I retired from my previous job and Michelle and I decided to pursue our brewery dream together full time. We can now officially say we are a "brewery in planning". Over the last few months we officially incorporated Black Rock Brewing Company LLC. We opened up a business bank account and successfully added a Merch/online store section to our website.
Michelle and I want to sincerely thank those of you who have already visited the BRBC merch store and purchased your first Black Rock T-shirt or sweatshirt and have become part of the growing "Island" community. Your belief in our brand is helping us inch closer and closer to our dream and we are grateful for your support.
We continue to brew beer and test out new recipes. The latest two are an Amber Ale that we are calling Red Shutters and an Irish Stout called Seal Rock. We also just got a new shipment of aluminum cans so our intention is to be able to share a few cans of Red Shutters and Seal Rock with some of our early adopters and supporters in the next couple of weeks.
Our next big milestones are procuring a pilot brewing system which will allow us to scale up our production and obtaining a farmers brewery license so we can actually begin to sell our beer. The lynch pin to obtaining the license is that you need to have a physical location that can be inspected and signed off on, etc., etc.. So, we are keeping our eyes open for opportunities and will be ready to move quickly if the right real estate situation in Hull presents itself.
Well, that's all for now. Our intention is to post weekly to this blog to keep everyone informed and updated on our progress and the inevitable challenges and adversity we will surely encounter along the way. Thanks again for your interest and support and for deciding to join us on this amazing and exciting journey.
Be Kind. Drink local and do more of what makes you happy!
Michelle and Greg Hoffmeister
If you want to support BRBC please check out our online Merch store. Use the discount code BlackRockFriday this week only to get 30% off all online purchases.