The minds behind Mystic Brewery of Chelsea, Massachusetts draw from historical brewing methods to produce beer with a focus on fermentation and locally sourced yeast. The brewery’s founder, Bryan Greenhagen, has a background in industrial fermentation, product development, and homebrewing. He founded Mystic Brewery in 2011 after his postdoctoral studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The brewery opened to the public in 2013, but it didn’t always have its own brewhouse. Greenhagen and his team aged beer in square wine fermenters and barrels in the back of the building and brewed beer at another location. About a year ago, Mystic purchased brewing equipment from Vermont’s Hill Farmstead Brewery and started brewing their beer in-house. Now, Mystic is able to experiment with more beer varieties, such as double IPAs and sour beer.
A great brewery is built on great beer, but it also needs to have a strong brand presence, a social media following, great marketing, creative label designs, and positive distributor relations.
This is where Louie Berceli comes in.
We had a chance to chat with the Mystic Brewery Sales and Marketing Manager/In-House Designer to get an inside look at the brewery operations that don’t include beer brewing. Here’s what he had to say about his role at the local Massachusetts brewery.
When did you start working with Mystic Brewery?
I started in February of last year. Before that, I was doing the purchasing for a wine shop out in Brookline. For a while, I was technically working with the brewery, just on the other side of the counter.
What’s your favorite thing about Boston?
I like how small Boston is. It’s a microcosm of all the best things in any city, but it’s all within walking distance.
Were you always interested in working with beer?
I studied English in college, and I figured I’d do publishing for a while. But, I was laid off at a publishing company in New Hampshire, and I ended up taking a job at a liquor store. My job there made me realize I was way more passionate about beer than I thought.
Describe your role at the brew house.
At the brewery, I do sales marketing and design. This means I arrange orders with distributors in Massachusetts, New York, and all different importers. It’s my job to make sure our beer gets to the right accounts. I also handle all PR and social media responsibilities, and I do the label designs as well as all the miscellaneous design the brewery needs.
Do you have a favorite design you’ve done for the brewery?
I’ve had a lot of fun with custom-made hats and shirts. But I’d probably say my favorite design is the Saison Renaud label. It was really intimidating at first, because the old label was iconic. I had to approach it carefully and respectfully, but update it to look more modern.
What’s a visit to the tasting room like?
We have regular tours on weekends, and we also have a weekly trivia night, jenga sets, and a dart board. We offer a full menu from Ciao Pizza and Pasta—they’re right next door and they function as our kitchen.
Mystic is cool because we’re trained to run the tasting room like a neighborhood pub. We don’t want it to be a formal tasting environment, just somewhere you want to go regardless of whether you’re touring breweries or not. During the week, it gets pretty busy, but it isn’t as intense as it is on the weekends. Every brewery I go to is filled with guys who look like me, which is pretty disappointing. At Mystic, it’s filled with Chelsea locals.
What social channel do you think is most important for Mystic?
I would probably say Instagram. It’s a quick, easy way to announce new releases and show a day-to-day slice of life. Customers are becoming more visual-based. I use the VSCO app to edit my pictures and then upload them. I have a $700 camera at home, but the iPhone works great, so I just use that.
Twitter is a close second channel because of how concise and immediately effective you can make the message. It’s a place to take things a little less seriously and make more jokes. I’ve also been debating making a company Snapchat, but we’ll see…
Beer isn’t always the answer, but we don’t ask those sort of questions.
— Mystic Brewery (@MysticBrewery) December 8, 2015
What industry publications do you read?
I read Beeradvocate pretty often. I’m also a really big fan of this blog called Good Beer Hunting—it’s one of the first blogs I started reading, even before I was directly involved in the industry.
What’s your favorite Mystic beer?
I’d say my favorite is Flor Ventus. It’s a wild ale fermented with a mixed culture of wild yeast. It fermented for almost five years in chardonnay barrels and finished in the bottle for an additional year. I also like a good table beer—you can’t beat that for day-to-day.
What six beers would be in your perfect variety pack?
Hmm, that’s a good one. I would say Tree House Julius, Trillium Stonington, Cantillon Rose de Gambrinus, 3 Fonteinen Oude Gueuze, Oxbow Blended Oxtoberfest, and BFM Abbaye de St. Bon Chien.
Mystic Brewery specializes in farmhouse-style ale. Can you explain what this style’s like?
It’s a historic Belgian style, originally brewed to keep the farm hands hydrated. They’d keep it with just enough alcohol to kill anything, but not enough to make you pass out. It has a dry peppery finish. If I’m being lazy on food pairings, I default on a saison.
What makes Mystic beer different?
Probably our yeast. Our founder studied fermentation science at MIT before he started here. We have kept our house strain of yeast since 2010, when we opened. It keeps building flavor and finishes the beer drier every time. I also think our Vinland Series is unique. We find wild strains of yeast throughout New England and brew with them.
Where is Mystic beer available?
It’s available in Massachusetts and New York. Shelton Brothers Imports is our main distributor. For the most part, we’re available nationwide but in smaller quantities. We’ve also been working with some one-way kegs so bars don’t have to ship them back. Out of the U.S., we ship to England, occasionally to Denmark, and I think we may have shipped to Japan once.
Are there any cocktail recipes that include Mystic beer?
I don’t know of any just yet, but I’ve been hoping someone will use Entropy. It’s an uncarbonated beer made with sherry yeast, and sherry is a seriously fun ingredient to work with in cocktails.
Do you sell any specialized glassware?
In the tasting room we have tulips and traditional pint glasses. I personally think the best beer glass is a red wine glass. It retains the aroma and the stem helps to maintain the temperature. We don’t use them in the taproom, though. They’re too fragile.
How can bar, restaurant, and liquor store owners schedule a tasting with you?
We’re trying to keep tastings to a minimum right now because demand is up and we’re still really small. You can count the amount of employees we have on one hand. If people are looking, though, they can email me: Louie@mystic-brewery.com.
As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into running a successful brewery (much like running a successful bar). Mystic Brewery can be found in select bars and restaurants across the country. If you’re from the Boston area, be sure to stop by the taproom for a pint! If you’re looking to stock your bar with some of Mystic’s quality brews, email Louie@mystic-brewery.com.
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