Meet Enlightenment Ales, Boston's Latest Nanobrewery

CBC bartender Ben Howe has a bubbly bière de champagne in the works.

A sneak peek of the Enlightenment label. Image courtesy of Enlightenment Ales.

By June, there will be an exciting new beer debuting in local bars and restaurants. It comes from Ben Howe, the man behind one of Boston’s newest up-and-coming nanobreweries, Enlightenment Ales. I chatted with the the Wilbraham-native and Somerville resident about his new brew.

Howe started brewing in Lowell last April and works at Cambridge Brewing Company, where he started as an assistant brewer five years ago (but sticks to bartending and waiting tables now). His main focus with the Somerville-based Enlightenment Ales is a brew called bière de champagne — a style that requires a relatively long fermentation (three months minimum, but some can take up to a year), and, like champagne, tends to be bright, bubbly, dry, delicate, and sometimes spiced, with a high ABV — generally around 11 percent.

“I had my first champagne beer four years ago,” says Howe. “I thought it was so intriguing and nobody was doing it.” After chatting with a brewer at the Craft Brewer’s Conference who had recently married and had wished for a less expensive bière de champagne at his wedding, Howe decided to seize the market opportunity. He developed a recipe two years ago, and since then has brewed 15 test batches (and dealt with a few explosions in his kitchen thanks to liquid nitrogen). The first official batch was brewed last Monday, and will take about three months to complete. “It’s an extended primary fermentation with different yeasts,” he explains. “A beer like this takes a long time to get really dry.”

And it’s worth the wait. Howe has already pre-sold his first batch to local restaurants — so come early June, keep an eye on the menus at Deep Ellum, Eastern Standard, L’Espalier, Atwoods, and Russell House Tavern. If you miss the first run, though, Howe will also be at this year’s American Craft Beer Festival on June 1 and 2.

So is brewing beer all it’s cracked up to be for Howe? “It’s 90 percent cleaning things, putting clamps on things, mashing out grain, having a sore back, and it’s wonderful, I love it,” says Howe. “I’m really glad I have the opportunity to do this professionally, but it’s a hell of a lot of work.”

Howe’s Seven Favorite Beers at the Moment:
Founder’s Brewing Breakfast Stout
Bell’s Beer Two Hearted Ale
Westmalle Abbey Tripel
Pretty Things’ Our Finest Regards
Short’s Brewing Company’s Huma-Lupa-Licious
Ithaca Beer’s Flower Power IPA
Boulevard Brewing’s Tank 7

Keep up with Howe’s blog and happenings at Enlightenmentales.com.

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