The owners of three craft breweries in South Dennis, Orleans, and soon, Mashpee, aim to turn our peninsula into a destination for beer lovers—everywhere.By Lisa Cavanaugh • Photography by Julia Cumes
A pint of Moonsnail. A growler of Skatemouth. A bottle of Lighthouse Blonde. Creativity in the craft beer world is flourishing here on Cape Cod. From Orleans to Mashpee and across Nantucket Sound, brewing entrepreneurs are building a dynamic cluster of small businesses they hope will make Cape Cod a true destination for craft beer lovers.
Devil’s Purse Brewing Company, South Dennis
When Matt Belson and Mike Segerson decided it was time to elevate their home brewing hobby from the basement into a real facility, they knew they had much to consider. “A lot of elements had to come into play,” says Belson, which included a business plan, funding, the right zoning and available commercial property.” They settled on a building on Great Western Road in South Dennis, a town which proved very agreeable to work with.
The pair spent a lot of time traveling to breweries in New England, across the country and even Germany. They spoke with brewers, met with suppliers and went to trade shows trying to fill in knowledge gaps. The pair realized that “making the beer is just a small part of running a brewing business,” says Belson, who describes their beer as European-inspired.
The Brooklyn native was working as a newspaper reporter and editor when he was introduced to Segerson, a fellow Harwich resident, by their wives. Although Segerson grew up in Connecticut, it was a childhood Cape Cod memory that inspired their new endeavor’s intriguing name. He recalled finding skate egg sacs on the beach and his mother telling him they were called “devil’s purses.” The two decided to continue that sea theme for their brand. The logo is encased in a shield issued to U.S. Coast Guardsmen. Their beer styles also have mariner-inspired names: Handline Kolsch, Cuddy Queen American Pale Ale and a tester line called Sea Trials.
Since they opened their doors over Memorial Day weekend of 2015, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. In addition to operating the on-site tasting room, they also have their beers on tap in local restaurants and bars. Customers can purchase containers known as growlers, howlers and crowlers at Devil’s Purse headquarters, and Skywave, a limited-edition bottled provisional saison brew, can also be found in stores.
Belson says they are humbled by the community support and encouraged by the incredible demand for their beer. He credits both their high-quality ingredients, including good local water (“You can’t make beer without water and Cape Cod has some great water for making beer.”) and the accessibility of the styles they create. “I like to say we offer something for everyone and all of our beers are approachable.”
Belson stresses that their business is part of an important movement to build small manufacturing on Cape Cod, and the atmosphere at Devil’s Purse is lively. They’ve hosted brew runs, festivals and parties, and welcomed locals and visitors to taste year-round. Belson says that it’s a great crew of people. They are all really good friends of the brewery, he adds.
Hog Island Beer Company, Orleans
In June 2016, the new owners of Jailhouse Tavern in Orleans unveiled their own brew pub, Hog Island Beer Company. “We’ve created a place where everyone can celebrate together,” says Mike McNamara, one of Hog Island’s partners. “We have a large lawn out back with picnic tables and games, so you’ll see kids running around having a good time, while their parents enjoy great food and brew. It makes for a really nice afternoon or evening.”
McNamara and co-owner Mark Powers had both summered on Cape Cod and their head brewer John Kanaga grew up here. So even after an extensive career marketing wine, beer and spirits for national companies, McNamara knew that the brewery he and Powers had been envisioning for years should be located on the Cape.
After buying the Jailhouse House Tavern three years ago (and dropping the word “Old” from its name) the partners first wanted to elevate the food and reinvigorate the team morale. They intended to eventually open a brewery elsewhere, but once they had spent two years rebuilding, pulling up carpets and installing a gas fireplace at the tavern, they realized its underutilized banquet room would fit the bill. They designed the space in “Cape Cod chic” with reclaimed wood, beadboard and onion lamps and brought in a 15-barrel brew system.
Hog Island is a small uninhabited island in Little Pleasant Bay, owned by a family trust which allows people to explore and camp there as long as you treat it respectfully. McNamara and Powers thought the name could tie their beer to their locality and they’ve had fun with the nautical branding. They put an anchor in the logo and created a tag line of “The Outermost Brewery on Cape Cod,” an homage to the notable Henry Beston’s Cape Cod memoir.
“Mark and I went on an extensive road trip to figure out what we wanted for styles and flavors,” says McNamara. “We found that there were pretty darn good beers coming out of Massachusetts. We went all over the world, but some of the best ones are brewed right here.”
They have a “core four” of styles: Great White Wheat, two pale ales and the coffee-chocolate tinged Far Out Stout. Other offerings include the popular Money Head Irish Red that uses real Irish moss. They try to source local ingredients as much as possible, and the Hog Island credo is “built by locals, brewed by locals, drank by locals.”
They are happy to bounce ideas off other local brewers and feel the influx of new craft beers to Cape Cod is a good thing for everyone. “If the Cape could be known as a craft destination, that would be awesome,” McNamara says. They are getting great reviews for their beer and the reception to their brewery has been fantastic. They say the best part of the business is watching people enjoy their product. “It is just such a cool thing for everyone to come together,” says McNamara. “People are pumped for what’s new.”
Naukabout Beer Company, Mashpee
Bourne native Pete Murner shares the story of his friend and business partner Jeff Conley, whose dad used to come home from work and tell his sons it was time to change out of “work-a-bouts” and into “knock-a-bouts” and go outside their Barnstable home for some fun. This lighthearted way of reminding one to do what you love—barbecues in the backyard, seeing a concert, going fishing, relaxing at the beach—is what inspired the name of Naukabout Beer Company, a brewery that sprung from a music festival.
Murner, Conley and Mark Germani created the Naukabout Music Festival in 2008 as a way to share the “naukabout” vibe and showcase local, regional and national talent at the Barnstable County Fairgrounds. Murner worked in digital marketing in Austin, Texas, and would travel back to the Cape each summer to help run the festival, until eventually the team decided to move entirely into craft brewing. We started out with a buddy who was a home brewer, says Murner, and they used the festival to share the beer.
Over the next few years, Murner and his partners grew Naukabout Beer into a fully formed beer company, constantly working toward launching a Cape-based brewery. They have been contract brewing with other companies to make their Naukabout beer recipes—American Pale Ale, White Cap IPA, Lighthouse Blonde and Nauktoberfest—on the other breweries’ equipment and having them package their product for them.
But this past September, they finally purchased their own property, the former Flume restaurant in Mashpee, right on beautiful Lake Mashpee-Wakeby. The partners are busy getting the space ready. They are pulling together brewery equipment from a variety of sources and a lot of it will be custom built for the space, which will feature a tasting room.
“Our goal is to get open and stay open as often as possible,” says Murner. They are planning for a late spring/early summer launch, which will include food trucks, games, pub runs and acoustic music to build a “cool atmosphere for a great time with friends and family,” he says. The owners all live on the Cape and have young families, and they are excited about the possibilities here. “What we are seeing here on the Cape are young, smart entrepreneurs following their passions,” Murner adds. “The Cape has a wonderful micro-economy of artisans—like oyster farms and local arts and crafts. All these stories and offerings are evolving and really fun to see.”
Like the purveyors of Devil’s Purse and Hog Island, the Naukabout team see craft beer as one more reason for visitors to come over the bridge. They might even suggest you change into your “knock-a-bouts” first.
THE CAPE COD CRAFT BREW CRAWL
The Cape is now home to a number of microbreweries that offer a tasty beer route for day trippers or part-time and full-time residents. You can start on the Upper or Lower Cape and eventually make your way over to the islands. Check websites for information on tastings, special events and tours.
Cape Cod Beer
1336 Phinneys Lane
Barnstable Brewing (Coming soon)
485 West Main St.
Naukabout Beer Co.
Under construction at the former Flume restaurant on Lake Avenue in Mashpee
Expected opening date: Late spring/early summer
Hog Island Beer Company
28 West Road
Devil’s Purse Brewing Company
120 Great Western Road
Offshore Ale Company
30 Kennebec Avenue
5 Bartlett Farm Road