Inman Square resident Ronan McGovern’s story is a classic twist on an old favorite: He moved to Massachusetts from Ireland and eventually started selling beer—but there were a few important stops on the way.
No, he didn’t open a classic Irish pub like The Druid or The Plough and Stars. He did it in the other Cambridge way: In 2014, he received a Ph.D. from MIT in mechanical engineering, and founded a tech company based in Woburn two years later. This past year, he began crafting his own non-alcoholic beer called Point Five.
What makes McGovern’s story remarkable are these distinctions: In a world where everything is going digital, he’s crafting hardware. Rather than trying to make the next Uber or Facebook, he’s creating machines and physical products.
Sandymount Technologies, where McGovern is the CEO, specializes in providing breweries with a trademarked hyperfiltration technology called Revos that removes large amounts of water from beer at a low temperature. This means that the filtration machines reduce the weight of the products, ultimately cutting transportation and shipping costs and making it easier for breweries to export their product to new markets—while retaining the flavor and alcohol content. The name comes from a mistake McGovern made when recalling one of his grandmother’s favorite areas in Dublin, which was actually called Sandycove.
Coincidentally, the Revos machines are also effective in creating a non-alcoholic beer that retains the same flavor, says Dana Hemmert, a resident of Cambridge and Sandymount engineer.
One of the reasons McGovern and a few of his Sandymount colleagues began crafting Point Five was that they wanted to realize the full potential of their machines. In a way, they are also creating a vertically integrated company: One that creates and sells the filtration machines, and then uses them to create a consumer product.
“We wanted to get a product out on the market so that people can taste what our technology can do,” Hemmert says.
What differentiates Point Five from other non-alcoholic beers is that the alcohol is not removed through heat, which is one of the traditional methods of brewing non-alcoholic beer, Hemmert explains. Another common method they avoided is arrested fermentation, which means brewing the product at a low temperature for a short enough window that little to no alcohol is produced.
“What we’re doing is we’re taking a complete beer, we’re keeping it cold, and we’re basically just removing the ethanol from the beer,” Hemmert says. “But everything else stays in tact and at the correct temperature.”
Point Five refers to the amount of alcohol in the product, which is less than 0.5 percent. The team avoided taking the alcohol out completely because it would have negatively impacted the taste, McGovern says.
Although he says he drinks Guinness when he’s in Ireland, the Point Five flavor is modeled after McGovern’s drink of choice: a pilsner. Both Hemmert and McGovern admit that they enjoy a refreshing beer and they wanted to challenge themselves to produce a brew that they would actually want to drink themselves.
McGovern splits his time between Cambridge and Ireland, but he is devoted to working around his found home. He has mostly focused on getting his product in stores and locations he’s familiar with in the city, using connections that he’s made throughout his decade of living in Inman Square. In December, 730 Tavern in Central Square became one of the first to put it on their menu, where it’s featured prominently alongside other popular alcoholic products—despite the fact that non-alcoholic beers like O’douls are usually tucked away on long beer lists.
His favorite bar, The Field, is another supporter of Point Five—and another nod to his Irish roots. McGovern became a regular while attending MIT, as the university’s Irish Association would plan monthly trips to the pub. After he graduated, McGovern took up salsa dancing at the nearby YWCA and the bar later became his weekly lunch spot afterwards.
Six-packs of Point Five can also be found at Supreme Liquors in Central Square, among other locations. Getting his product into stores has helped McGovern become even more invested in his community, he says, and he hopes to continue to build relationships with local businesses around the area.
To learn more about Point Five, visit pointfivebrewing.com.
This story appears in the March/April print issue of Scout Cambridge, which is available for free at more than 220 drop spots throughout Cambridge (and just beyond its borders) or by subscription.
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