A cold rain blanketed Somerville when I met with Ben Holmes and Randy Winchester at my usual corner at the Bloc 11 Cafe in Union Square. Holmes, who looks to be in his twenties, is the founder of the Aeronaut Brewing Company on Tyler Street just outside Union Square.
Holmes lives in the Spring Hill section of Somerville, and he told me his family has a long lineage in our town. A close relative lived for over sixty years on School Street (my stomping grounds), and his family owned a tinware factory in Somerville as well.
Winchester, who runs the Duck Village Theater component of the venue, has a less illustrious background in Somerville, but he has lived in our burg on and off for a total of 10 years. He recently had to move to Arlington, Mass. because of the skyrocketing rents the city is experiencing. For over 30 years Winchester worked at MIT, where he ran video network systems along with other varied duties. Now he books musicians and other artists at the Brewery, as well as conducts research on yeast for the development of new and enticing craft beers.
The Aeronaut is a place to get a draft to be sure. But it also hosts indie-style music, as well as classical, jazz, fusion, etc. It houses a science lab that makes for interesting local brews, and even boasts a studio that live streams (on the Internet) many of the performances that take place here.
Aeronaut opened June 21, 2014, and it is located near another innovative spot, the Artisan’s Asylum. Holmes said of the Asylum, “We do a bunch of things together. The Asylum works with metal, wood, high tech, and computers. So we have projects like manufacturing tap handles, and other related stuff.”
Winchester told me a bit more about some of the artists and musicians they have hosted. It is an eclectic list. They have provided the venue for Shakespeare productions, rap groups, massive light and sound projects, Brooklyn-based jazz ensembles, and Reggae groups. Ubiquitous Somerville artist Paul Gonzalez III has displayed his work here and local composer and singer Marlene Tholl has performed in the space, and the list goes on.
The lab where brew masters experiment with different forms of yeast, has produced some exotic concoctions. There is Expat, a roasted and aromatic brew; Orangutan Skies, made with tropical and citrus hops; Cocoa Sutra, infused with cacao nibs from Somerville Chocolate, and others.
I asked Winchester where he got the name Duck Village Stage. He told me that Duck Village is a section of Somerville based around Dane, Washington, and Beacon Streets. It is has been said that Duck Village was popular among illegal makers of moonshine during Prohibition because in this densely populated environ it was easy to escape the cops. The said brewery is firmly in Duck Village territory.
Holmes told me he has a 10-year lease for the enterprise. He said he hopes that Somerville will make his neighborhood into a Fabrication District, where innovative places such as his can be protected from the skyrocketing rents gentrification will bring.
It is evident that these two men are representative of a new breed of entrepreneur/innovators, here, in the Paris of New England.
For more information go to http://www.aeronautbrewing.com