Look anytime you can start a business with as few costs as possible you’re better off. But, when it comes to wineries and breweries, there’s something alluring about the physical space — of seeing where the product is made. It’s not unlike witnessing a writer’s desk. The bubble pops when you realize they write at a coffee shop. How boring.
In the case of gypsy brewers, the fact that they don’t have a brewery of their own doesn’t lessen the quality of their beers. But it does make one take pause. And it’s understandable why some brewers would go that route, given the costs it takes to start a business. It’s the same reason why there are communal kitchens and communal work spaces all over the country.
But the real advantage for Pretty Things is the creative flexibility that comes with having few sunk costs. Conventional breweries need to make a regular income to cover loans, pay investors, and meet insurance premiums—which, at least until the upfront costs are covered, means brewing beers that will sell widely. That’s partly why new breweries start with crowd-pleasers like IPAs and brown ales, and only later venture into palate-challengers like sour ales and imperial stouts.
“We’re able to be crazy creative,” Martha said. “We brew for our own entertainment.” Indeed, few breweries are as proudly idiosyncratic as Pretty Things. They draw their own labels and promote their new beers with home videos posted to YouTube. Like other gypsy brewers, they eschew standard styles in favor of deeply personal tastes; Babayaga, which Dann described as a “woodland stout” and is brewed with malts roasted with rosemary, “was meant to taste like an old lady made it in a shack in Eastern Europe.”
Actually, when it comes to brewing, I had no idea this was even a possibility. And if it leads to better beers across the board then we are all better off for it. Shockingly, the beer scene in Boston is much better than it is when I left here for Portland in 2007. So there’s that.