When Barrel House Z received the go-ahead from the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission to start brewing in June, it was a very special day for brewmaster Russell Heissner. Not only because he was one step closer to launching his fledgling brewery, but also because it was exactly 29 years from when Heissner’s former employer, Harpoon Brewery, received ABCC approval.
“It was the first permit issued in Boston at the time in 25 years,” says the Barrel House Z founder, “and we are the first ever brewery in Weymouth. Good Karma, don’t you think?”
Indeed. After a couple decades’ diversion into the biotech industry, Heissner announced his return to brewing last year, with a collaborative, barrel-driven brewery and taproom on the South Shore. The space will be fully ready for visitors next month, but Barrel House Z released its inaugural 32-ounce crowlers this week.
The first beer is Sunny & 79º, a so-called ginned pilsner, rested for a week in tequila barrels. It’s a collaboration between Heissner and Harpoon’s Doug MacNair. The crisp, refreshing summer beer is made with a pilsner malt and a bouquet of botanicals, giving it floral and herbal notes inspired by the new Bully Boy Distillers Estate Gin. The Boston distillery and Heissner’s former employers are both investors in Barrel House Z.
The tequila barrel version was a fortuitous experiment.
“I was very pleasantly surprised that it ends up becoming very citrusy,” Heissner says. The botanical blend includes lemon peel, and Sunny & 79º is hopped with Bavaria Mandarina hops, which are known for a tangerine-like flavor, but the tequila cask brings a lemon-lime flavor profile to the mix.
“It’s got a lot of depth to it, but it’s very refreshing and easy-drinking. People have been very surprised it’s a 7 percent beer,” he says.
Future Barrel House Z releases will feature “in the buff,” or unaged versions, as well as one-, three-, and six-month barreled brews. But for this year’s batch of Sunny & 79º, there is this “barrel-kissed” version, and in August, there will be a batch aged one month in rum barrels. Heissner doesn’t think Sunny & 79º would appeal to drinkers come December, so this year won’t see a three- or six-month release, he says.
Barrel House Z is slated for a licensing hearing next week. Pending approval of a pouring permit, Heissner says the taproom could debut in mid-August, about six months ahead of his original planned opening. The 50-person bar area is decorated with deconstructed Bully Boy barrels, with draft lines coming out of the bung holes behind the bar. Outside, through a large, overhead glass door, there are picnic tables in a modest beer garden along the Plymouth River.
Heissner is brewing and aging six other beers for the opening draft list, including RR#23, a rye red ale aged in Bully Boy whiskey barrels; RATH (Rage Against the Hop), a nitro-poured, brown sugar ale rested in sherry barrels; and Lucky 2, a rum-aged dunkel (dark lager). There will be barrel-kissed and one-month versions of all of those, plus a three-month version of RATH.
Heissner and his collaborators are currently working on a 12-barrel “Pilot Pours” system. When things really get rolling at the Weymouth brewery, they will do larger-scale production runs on a 120-barrel brewhouse, for bottling and commercial release. A bottling line is slated to arrive late in August.
But for now, give the refreshing Sunny & 79º a try. Barrel House Z is open for crowler retail sales on Tuesday-Thursday from 4-7 p.m.
Barrel House Z, 95 Woodrock Rd., Weymouth, barrelhousez.net.
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