By Ginger DeShaney

With his Castle Island Brewing Co. set to open a new location this summer in South Boston’s Cole-Hersee building, Adam Romanow has come full circle. 

“I’ve always wanted to be in Southie,” said Romanow, founder and president of the brewing company. “I’ve been living in Southie for 13 years now. I’ve got some history with the neighborhood.”

Adam’s grandfather, Allan Romanow, started Romanow Container in Southie, and his great-grandfather, Leo Mayer, started Cole-Hersee.

“I always had the dream of bringing some manufacturing back to South Boston,” Adam said. “With a name like Castle Island, it seemed like it would be a great fit.”

Adam named his company after his favorite place in the city: “I love it there. That’s my happy place.” 

Adam started looking for manufacturing space in Southie back in 2011, but he couldn’t find anything that met his needs. He eventually found space in Norwood that checked all the boxes. The 20,000-square-foot Norwood location opened in 2015 and has garnered many awards and “best of” titles. Castle Island beer is sold in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. 

“[Norwood] kind of reminds me of South Boston,” he said. “It’s a small, tight-knit community with a lot of people who have lived there their whole lives. It felt a lot like the Southie I came to know and love.”

But he always kept his eyes open for a South Boston location.

In 2019, he got a call from real estate developer National Development, with whom he worked on a popup beer garden in the past. National Development bought the Cole-Hersee building and asked Adam if he’d be interested in opening a brewery there. “I didn’t have to think twice,” Adam said. “It all kind of fit perfectly.” 

Adam was looking to open the facility in late summer 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to that. In December 2020, construction started again, and Adam is on track to open the brewery at the beginning of July. 

The South Boston location is 9,000 square feet, with an additional 2,000 square feet outside, where the old parking lot is being turned into a plaza with patio space and outdoor dining. Two large garage doors open up onto the patio area. Castle Island Brewing Co. is permitted for year-round outdoor dining. 

The brewery has partnered with Lombardo’s of Randolph to provide food, a partnership that started during the pandemic at the Norwood location when the state allowed breweries to reopen if they served food prepared on site. 

The menu will focus on pizza, more specifically South Shore Style Bar Pizza, which boasts a crackery crust. “There’s an unwritten rule that South Shore Bar Pizza doesn’t make it above the gas tank,” Adam said. 

“It’s delicious but it’s not pretentious and that perfectly describes what the Castle Island brand is all about,” he said, noting his goal for his breweries is to be inclusive and approachable.

Head chef Eric Caron even developed a recipe that uses one of the Castle Island beers in the crust. “It doesn’t taste like beer but you can smell some of the hops as you’re biting into it,” Adam said. “It’s totally unique. We’re very excited about that.”

Pizza is the main food focus, but there will be rotating smaller plates as well as salads. “We don’t see ourselves as a restaurant where you come for a meal, but we want people to be able to get a couple of snacks,” Adam said.

Castle Island Brewing Co. will be a great space for the neighborhood, Adam said, noting he’s heard only enthusiasm and support from the community. “We’re not a bar,” he added. “Southie’s got plenty of bars. It’s more of a gathering place.”

The Norwood brewery gets lots of young families and Adam expects the same in Southie: “You wouldn’t bring your kids to a bar; that’s kind of socially unacceptable. Bringing them to a brewery is totally commonplace.

“It’s not a place where people are coming for a bunch of drinks … We want it to be for all ages.”

In addition to food and a large lineup of beers, the South Boston location will eventually offer some programming, from bread baking classes to yoga classes. The plaza will have a bocce court. 

Adam is applying for permits so the facility can offer TVs and live entertainment. The space will have a small stage for musical groups. There will also be a retail shop where people can buy beer to go, baseball caps, and T-shirts. 

Customers will be able to see, up close and personal, the brewing in process, without glass or wall barriers. “We want people seeing all the sights, hearing the sounds, and smelling what we’re brewing,” Adam said. “That really creates a much more complete experience. It connects customers with our products.”

Once all restrictions are lifted and the staff get their feet underneath them, they will offer an event space that holds up to 120 people. 

The South Boston location is creating 40 jobs, ranging from hospitality, manufacturing, and more, said Adam, who has two partners: head brewer Matt DeLuca and Bill O’Connor, vice president, operations. There will be full-time and part-time openings.

National Development is keeping the exterior shell of the building intact in order to preserve the manufacturing history of South Boston, “which I think is where some of that Southie grit comes from,” Adam said. “By keeping that alive, I think it’s a nice way to marry the past with the future.”

Inside the Castle Island Brewing Co. space, the original steam lines and electrical conduits have been left untouched, “so you can see what this place was. We tried to preserve as many of those elements as we could” while keeping it new and modern, Adam said.

In between the event space and the front room, or Tap Room, is a small hallway called the Switch Room. Cole-Hersee manufactured electrical switches and this room pays homage to its history. There will be old photographs showing the manufacturing, switches will be displayed in glass cases, and more. 

“It will almost be like a miniature museum,” Adam said. “It’s a really nice tip of the cap to the history of the building.”


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