“We have a little bit of a fire under our butts, now that we’re paying rent,” laughs Lamplighter Brewing co-founder Cayla Marvil.
Marvil and partner AC Jones have been working to bring Lamplighter to Cambridge for the better part of three years, but the pair have been home brewing for more than a decade—since before the practice was technically legal. (“We could make it, but we couldn’t drink it,” Jones says with a grin.) They started tossing around the idea of opening a brewery of their own after moving to Cambridge from Vermont, itself a craft beer mecca. Marvil and Jones got degrees in brewing, developed a business plan, and promptly hit their first stumbling block: Cambridge’s real estate market.
“We would find a building that we liked, and then a biotech company would come in and pay $5 million for it,” Jones recalls.
After an exhaustive search, the duo announced earlier this year that they’d signed a lease at 284 Broadway—just a block from their own apartment—in a former garage that, until recently, housed Metric Systems Automotive Service. They started working on the 10,000 square-foot building in November and have spent the last month renovating the space. “It’s basically a concrete box that we can put equipment in—which is hard to find!” Marvil says. If all goes according to plan, Lamplighter Brewing could be open by May. And it does seem like things are looking up for the team, as evidenced by their unanimous approval from the zoning board last month. “We had astonishing neighborhood support,” Jones says, also giving a shoutout to the city of Cambridge. “We’ve been so fortunate in that regard. Our neighbors have been wonderful.”
As for the beer: Marvil and Jones want to serve suds that are flavorful, complex, aroma-driven—”all the brewing buzzwords, if you will,” jokes Marvil. They’re attempting to reach all kinds of drinkers, both Budweiser faithfuls who might want a gateway to craft beer and regular craft beer drinkers who need a refreshing twist on something they know and love. Lamplighter will initially offer two or three for distribution with another three or four seasonal beers on tap in the bar. They view the taproom as a place to experiment on small batches of more off-the-wall brews—a place to try out the stuff that they like on a slightly larger scale. If it seems like the brewery’s customers are into it, too, they’ll ramp up distribution.
The taproom itself may not be fancy; Marvil and Jones decided early in their planning stages that they were going to pour all the money they could into getting top of the line equipment and cut elsewhere. But they aren’t worried: “You don’t want a super polished space when you’re going to drink a beer—you’re in a brewery!” Marvil says. “I think we’ll be okay.”
As for long-term goals, Marvil puts it simply: “We want to be Cambridge’s brewery.” She and Jones are, of course, fans of Cambridge Brewing Company and John Harvard‘s—but it can be tough to track down those beers outside of their respective establishments. Boston has Sam Adams and Harpoon, Everett has Night Shift and Somerville has Aeronaut, the eponymous Somerville Brewing Company and the forthcoming Winter Hill Brewing. But Cambridge, a town with more than 100,000 residents, doesn’t have its own distribution-focused brewery.
“What we see as the personality of Cambridge is: a lot of history, which is awesome, but it’s also a town that’s super innovative and at the forefront of education and medicine and science,” says Jones, a scientist who himself has a degree in molecular biology. “We are really looking to be more forward-thinking with our personality and our product.”
“Beer brewing is a science, right? And it’s also an art,” says Marvil of the way that beer can bring together different communities within Cambridge. “It’s nice to be able to focus on that aspect.”
WAHOO! We’ve been approved for our ABCC Farmer-Brewery License! It’s a great way to kick off December 🙂 #statelicense #officiallyabrewery #lamplighterbrewingco #cambridgema A photo posted by Lamplighter Brewing Co. (@lamplighterbrew) on