In 2009, Adam Romanow was brewing small batches of beer on top of his kitchen stove in South Boston. Now, he has 20,000 square feet where he can brew thousands of gallons of beer a day.
Castle Island Brewing Company, born in South Boston, opened in Norwood this winter under Romanow, the founder and president, and a staff that is half South Boston residents or former residents.
“It’s been a whirlwind, honestly,” he said Thursday afternoon, holding a sample of Jetty, a dry hop sour ale that had just been released that day.
The brewery began brewing beer around Thanksgiving, opened Dec. 11, and started shipping beer the first week in January. The brewing company has large quantities of two beers – Candlepin and Keeper – on the market, as well as a number of other beers that are available only at the brewery.
“It’s been kind of a tailspin, honestly – in a good sense,” he said.
Castle Island Brewing Company is located about 20 miles from its namesake, Castle Island in South Boston, but that was not without effort from Romanow to keep it in the city.
“I looked for space for about two years, and I turned over every single rock in Southie, and nothing had anything remotely like this,” he said.
Last March, Romanow signed the lease for the former janitorial supply warehouse and began construction on the brew house area in September. Romanow and his business partner, Matt DeLuca, had a detailed checklist of requirements for a brewery space. Nothing in South Boston had all that this expansive building with 5,000 square feet of outdoor space had.
“The thing is for anyone who’s lived in Southie for more than two or three years, they know that change Southie is undergoing and they’re not shocked when they hear that we can’t build a brewery in Southie. That’s not a surprise. So people are realistic about the fact that we want to maintain that branding but not brew it there,” Romanow said. “(Consumers) love the beer, they love that we can still maintain a bit of a South Boston identity while brewing down in Norwood.”
Aside from the detailed list of necessities a building needs to support a brew house, this Norwood facility had a unique detail hanging high over a door in the warehouse that persuaded Romanow and DeLuca to sign a 10-year lease here.
A simple sign with black lettering reads: “If you’re not proud of it … don’t ship it!”
“That sign isn’t clever marketing. … That was here,” Romanow said. “When I was walking around with Matt (DeLuca), our head brewer, kind of looking at the space, just running down that checklist like ‘yes, yes, yes,’ and we saw that sign and it just kind of felt like divine providence. We’re like, ‘all right, this is gonna be home.’ And that’s really kind of infused its way into everything we do. It’s become our internal philosophy.”
Castle Island Brewing Company has taken its new philosophy seriously and will not let any imperfect beer leave the brewery. Thousands of gallons of beer that the staff was not proud of have been dumped, Romanow said.
“There’s nothing worse,” he said. “But the way the industry is these days, you get one shot. And if people try your beer, and they don’t like it, good luck, because they’re not coming back. We feel fortunate the response has been as strong as it has, but it’s only because we’ve held ourselves to what we believe to be an exceptionally high standard.”
Romanow and others know that consumers have an abundance of local beer options. There are more than 70 breweries open to the public, according to a state spokesperson, and the Massachusetts Brewers Guild reports there are more than 115 brewing licenses – up from 34 licenses in 2007.
Though it’s been only a few months of business for Castle Island Brewing Company, the company’s philosophy and high standard seem to be working thus far.
“There’s always something going on,” Romanow said Thursday, hours before he headed to Hingham for the South Shore Beer Festival.
Unlike finding a space for the company, the name came very easily to Romanow.
“It’s my favorite space in the city, hands down,” he said. “I felt like, ‘yeah, this has to be the name.’ I was stunned to find out it was available. … I was really surprised there wasn’t a Sam Adams Castle Island Ale or something like that.”
Many of the beers have New England related names as well, such as Causeway, Castle Island’s double IPA.
“People are going bananas for it. People love double IPAs, there’s no secret there,” he said. “And for us to brew local, New England style double IPA with a popular hop and name it after Causeway, and the colors are very much a Bruins reference, they’re black and gold, people just kind of go nuts for this stuff.”
And it’s as simple as that: Castle Island Brewing Company just wants people to enjoy their beers.
“We’re just trying to make a good, honest product that’s super high quality but regularly available and reasonably priced. You don’t have to wait in line for 10 hours in the freezing cold to get a bottle,” Romanow said. “We’re all about having a good time.”