Lamplighter Brewing Company added a touch of funk to the city’s beer scene last year. In their taproom at 284 Broadway, guests are invited to grab a pint and enjoy a peek at the brewing process or sit down to board games while sampling brews that are fresh, flavorful—and often just a little off the wall. The lines are flowing with traditional ales, fruity sours and all kinds of inventive suds in between, and you’ll see their beautifully designed cans at an ever-growing number of shops around the region.
Here, co-founder Cayla Marvil tells us how the last 10 months have been for the fledgling brewery.
If you saw the line, you knew something big was brewing on Broadway last November. Dozens deep, practically stretching around the block, the group of thirsty patrons shuffled from foot to foot, hoping to step inside and sip Lamplighter Brewing Company’s long-awaited suds.
Ten months later, the activity has slowed—though not by all that much.
During the day, when it’s home to Longfellows Cafe, the space is a bustling coffee shop; people are on their laptops sipping cappuccinos, headphones in, heads down. Lamplighter by night, the building welcomes everyone from young professionals to grad students to people who’ve lived in the neighborhood for decades. Whether it’s an a.m. running club meet-up or a p.m. sandwich pop-up with Puritan and Co. chef-owner Will Gilson, something is happening here. And then, there’s what might be our favorite part of the day: the funny afternoon transition when the folks who make up the remote-work set pick up their heads, survey the menu and decide to trade in their caffeinated coldbrew for, well… a cold brew.
The space has such a personality, such a sense of self. It feels crazy that it’s only been open a little less than a year.
“And also crazy that it’s been almost a year,” Cayla Marvil laughs.
Along with co-founder AC Jones, Marvil practically built the brewery with her bare hands, converting the former auto body garage (the sign from which remains out from, a nod to the building’s history) into a state-of-the-art space. Seeing the line out the door and down the block on that first day—and, let’s be honest, on an awful lot of days since—has made the whole experience feel like there’s an exhilarating whirlwind whipping about the LBC team. Marvil jokes that she almost didn’t have time to look around and realize they were open until four months in.
That Cambridge has opened its arms to this new biz is likely due to the way it feels like your own personal hangout; the cafe-slash-taproom combo invites that. But we don’t want to undersell you on the beers. The seriously delicious rotating roster from genius head brewer Tyler Fitzpatrick, a Wormtown, Cape Cod and Mystic alum, includes wonderfully weird, one-off sours and brews like Lit, a spiced double wit we’d drink any day of the week.
While you can find Fitzpatrick’s creations all around town these days, encased in colorful cans crafted by Bluerock Design, it’s the taproom that’s been—much to the surprise of the trio—the biggest draw. When we first spoke with Marvil and Jones about getting ready to open back in 2015, they told us they viewed having the brick-and-mortar building as a way to experiment on small batches of some of the more off-the-wall brews—a place to try out the stuff that they liked on a just slightly larger scale, ramping up distribution of that brew if it seemed like patrons were into it too.
“We’re doing weird beers, we’re doing some traditional beers, and the taproom is such a great way for us to talk to people about all the different techniques and show off our place, which we put all this time into building,” Marvil says today.
But while they wanted their Broadway base to be a fun hub, they nonetheless expected most of their volume would be in distribution. Not so much, as it turns out. “The numbers have just flip-flopped,” Marvil explains. “The taproom has been absolutely unbelievable.” In fact, if there’s one negative bit of feedback that Marvil and co. hear, it’s that the room is a little too loud and crowded.
Don’t worry: this young biz is growing up, and fast. Construction is underway in the back of the building to add more space. When it opens—hopefully by the holidays, if everything goes according to plan—the current taproom will have doubled in size.
And as they’re building, they won’t stop brewing. So far, they’ve brewed about 25 different recipes. The team can be playful thanks to a pilot three-barrel system—if something isn’t quite working, then that’s fine, it can go in the drain. If it’s great, it’s easy to scale up.
Now, Marvil laughs that her goal is to try to not be working 24 hours a day, making systems a little smoother or more efficient. Easier said than done, of course, given the concurrent buildout.
Not that she minds those long, busy days: “We’re just glad people are actually showing up and hanging out with us.”
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