Beer Works – Slesar Bros. Brewing Co.
With the six Beer Works locations in Massachusetts – each brewpub named after the city in which it is located – Slesar Bros. Brewing Co. reaches tourists and residents alike. “We do business in six different markets,” President and CEO Joe Slesar declares. “We cater to a really wide demographic depending in part on location.”
The company’s two Boston Beer Works are located across from Fenway Park – where the Red Sox play baseball – and the TD Garden, which the Celtics basketball team and the Bruins hockey team call home. These locations influence the clientele – which tends to be sports fans and tourists – and the menu, which emphasizes “pub grub” such as sandwiches and hamburgers.
Lowell Beer Works is near universities, so it attracts more students and their parents. “Salem is a huge tourist town, and places like Framingham are residential communities with not as much tourism,” Slesar asserts. Another location is in Hingham, and two taprooms are licensed by Beer Works to operate at Logan Airport.
“Tourists and business travelers coming and going from Boston not only see our brand but can go in and enjoy our local beer,” Slesar points out.Beer Works’ cuisine is aimed at the company’s broad demographic. “We want to cater to people who can come in and get food they recognize, and people who want to be a little more experimental,” Slesar notes. “We cater to young professionals after work, families and the late-night crowd for cocktails, beer and snacks.”
The kitchens prepare most food from scratch using the company’s own recipes. High-volume foods such as french fries are hand-cut, hamburger patties are handmade and fresh fish is delivered six days a week. “If it’s going to taste better, we’re going to do it this way,” Slesar pledges. Besides brewpub staples such as burgers, fries and wings, the experimental entrees include pumpkin ravioli and Belgian mussels in recipes developed by the company’s corporate chefs.
Beer Works has been brewing beer in Boston since 1991. “We were one of the early craft operators in Massachusetts,” Slesar maintains. “We do wide-ranging beer styles, everything from all over the world, and particularly American interpretations of other beers, as well as innovative American styles of beer. We brew 50 to 60 different styles of beer in any given year.”
These include blueberry and pumpkin ales, an IPA brewed with the herb rosemary, a dark beer brewed with vanilla beans, and barrel-aged and imperial-strength beers. “We sell a huge amount of watermelon beer in the summer,” Slesar says. “We use a natural watermelon extract in the brew. One of our seasonal beers is Lovefest, a strawberry stout. It’s a very interesting beer. The brewers are given a pretty wide range to come up with beers they want to do, and because we keep 18 to 20 different beers on tap, half are core craft and half are more experimental.”
Corporate brewers supervise the two brewers generally working at each location. Lowell has up to eight brewers, depending on the season, producing up to 5,000 barrels annually for retail consumption outside the brewpub, either in kegs or six-packs of 12-ounce cans. The company has sold the line it previously used for 12-ounce bottles in favor of cans because of their lower cost, lighter weight when shipping, ease of recycling, cold conductance and ability to keep the beer from being spoiled by light.
“We’re trying to really figure out the right model,” Slesar says of retail production. “We have some penetration of our core brands of beers that are traditional craft beers, and now we’re starting to try to figure how we can cost-effectively put out on the market more limited experimental beers, and then if they take off, how do you fulfill that?”
The typical Beer Works measures from 7,000 to 9,000 square feet and includes up to 250 seats, Slesar estimates. The Boston location across from TD Garden has up to 15,000 square feet total because of its second-floor billiards hall and bar. The Lowell location has an additional 8,000 square feet for the brewhouse and canning line. Some locations are new and some are renovations, but all have design elements such as furniture, fabrics and materials that are unique to Beer Works.
Since 2007, Slesar Bros. Brewing Co. has developed its own internal web-based management system called Portal Works. “It was started for us to track and manage things to completion,” Slesar explains. “We just spun it off into its own separate entity, Portal Works LLC, and are going to start testing it with some other restaurant groups.” For the future, a seventh Beer Works is being planned, and Slesar is open to additional partnerships in airports or elsewhere.