The Next Big Thing In Beer Is Being A Small Taproom : The Salt The explosion of these cozy craft breweries has happened as states relax laws to allow them direct-to-consumer retail rights, meaning the majority of their revenue no longer has to come from food.
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The Next Big Thing In Beer Is Being A Small Taproom

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The Next Big Thing In Beer Is Being A Small Taproom

The Next Big Thing In Beer Is Being A Small Taproom

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right. So if you are a beer drinker, you know that the craft beer craze just keeps going. But maybe the biggest new thing in beer is small. Many new breweries are happy to stay local. From WGBH in Boston, Aaron Schachter reports.

AARON SCHACHTER, BYLINE: In the small Massachusetts town of Holliston, there's a boutique shop for beer dorks. It's called Crafted.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: So our New School IPA, brewed at 6 percent ABV, 55 IBUs, using all New School hops.

SCHACHTER: Every Friday, there is a tasting of something or other, and every week, owner Ken Onofrey sends out an email with all the new beers that have come in.

KEN ONOFREY: At any given time, we usually have about 650 different beers.

SCHACHTER: Onofrey says his customers are overwhelmed by the choices and turning more and more to beer made by small, local breweries and served in their own taprooms.

ONOFREY: It's exploded in a huge way, and almost all the towns adjacent to us have some form of alcohol producer. There's, of course, in Framingham Jack's Abby and Exhibit 'A' and Springdale.

UNIDENTIFIED MEN: Cheers.

KEITH SULLIVAN: What we're standing in now is not designed to feed beer to people towns and towns and towns over. You have to come to us.

SCHACHTER: What we're standing in is the Medusa Brewing Company. Keith Sullivan is the 32-year-old co-founder.

SULLIVAN: That's how things used to be. Breweries catered to the town in which they're established, and that's kind of where we see this going.

SCHACHTER: Medusa is clearly trying to recreate how things used to be. The big open space is all dark wood and gleaming brass beer taps. You can't get food here, but you're welcome to call for takeout. Sullivan says people often show up with boxes of pizza or Chinese food from nearby restaurants.

SULLIVAN: We really like having that family, community, sort of connected feel. Where I see us going is continuing to build on what we've created, the taproom, which is our community.

SCHACHTER: Sullivan says the place cost upwards of half a million dollars to get started, but it makes money. And that's the thing about these small breweries. They don't need to pump out a gazillion gallons of beer to survive. Back in the day, most states didn't allow manufacturers to retail their own products, but that's changed. Ted Twinney co-founded Start Line Brewery. It's in Hopkinton, Mass., the start line for the Boston Marathon.

TED TWINNEY: We get to enjoy the margins that a retailer would in addition to the manufacturer margins. So really it's been one of the great developments that's fueling some of the craft beer growth.

SCHACHTER: And it's simple. The guy brewing beer during the day becomes the bartender at night. The next big thing in beer - the Brewers Association says each small brewer will need its own shtik. Start Line grows much of its own hops. Another local spot, Exhibit 'A,' brings in food trucks and yoga instructors on the weekends. Other places are organizing gourmet multi-course dinners that pair beer and food. Can it get any better than this? We'll see. For NPR News, I'm Aaron Schachter in Boston.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHEERS")

RIHANNA: (Singing) And I drink to that, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I drink to that, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Life's too short to be sittin' around miserable.

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