We didn’t plan on stopping in Ipswich, Massachusetts after we left Cape Cod in July of 2012. The plan was to drive straight up the coast of Massachusetts through Boston to meet friends of ours in Kennebunkport for some sun and fun.
It wasn’t until we were five miles from the small New England town (population 13,175) that Maria noticed there was a brewery on the out skirts of the city and we decided to take a detour and check out this beer making company that we have never heard of.
I was beginning to question the legitimacy of this brewery as it was listed twice on our map. Once as Ipswich Ale Brewery and then again as the Mercury Brewing Company. My suspicions seemed to be justified as we entered a faceless industrial area that had the charm of a sandlot junkyard.
(Turns out the double naming was caused by a previous company that also made soda and ending up getting bought and causing the company to legally separate their operations)
When we finally found the brewery among the ambiguous warehouses we realized this wasn’t your typical set-up where you had a production area where beer was made and taproom where you could try their beers. There was no parking to speak of except for a couple of sweet retro delivery vehicles emblazoned with the crisp white and black Ipswich Ale logo against a cherry red paint job.
As we approached the warehouse looking structure a man looking every bit the role of brewer was exiting the building towards his car. We caught his eye and asked if there was a taproom where we could try their beers. Looking like the barer of bad news he informed us that this was a production brewery only and that they didn’t give tours. His only solace was to offer that they were in the process of building a new facility closer to the town that would be open in several months.
As he scanned our faces he could tell this information was not useful to us and as he peeked around us to see our RV parked next to their delivery truck asked “where you from?”.
“Lawrence, Kansas” I replied quickly.
After a slight pause he responded “Well shoot, I can’t turn you away if you came all that way. I’ll grab you some beers and give you a quick tour of the place.”
The “quick tour” turned into several hours as we tried their whole line-up of beers while he showed us around the tight quarters of the brewery. We learned on top of making their own beers they also contract brewed for several brands including Clown Shoes Brewing Co.
As we wrapped up inside a couple of local of locals were hanging out in the aforementioned “parking lot” drinking some Ipswich beers and talking about local happenings. It turns out Anthony, our guide, had ended his shift and was on his way out the door when we showed up but was excited by our story and a chance to talk beer with some new people. All three of us joined the contingent in the lot and soaked up the local culture.
As the afternoon turned to evening we had a decision to make. Stay the course and continue onto Kennebunkport or take the urging of Anthony to stay in town, grab some food, and drink more beers. We didn’t have to think too hard to realize that was an awesome opportunity and headed out with the local crew to partake in the “biggest rib-eye you’ve ever seen”.
Upon our arrival at the restaurant I was sensing a weird vibe from the crowded eatery. We seemed to stand out as glances were being thrown our way on several occasions. We learned later that we ended up at a strictly “locals only” bar and our new brewing friend, Anthony, who had lived in the town for five years wasn’t even served unless he was accompanied by a true local.
The meal consisted of an audacious cut of rib-eye that was literately two inches thick and some sauteed green beans. It was delicious and filling in every way I could imagine. It did an excellent job soaking up the days imbibery and readied me for more.
When we returned to the brewery we learned that the neighboring business was a distillery and was in the act of cleaning up for a charity event. He invited us over anyways to sample his goods and tell us a little more about the town.
The evening concluded after we shared some beers from our travels in the RV. Seven straight hours of drinking had taken it’s toll and we were ready to pass out. Anthony assured us that we could sleep overnight in the parking lot without any concerns.
When we awoke early the next day no one was at the brewery and we left town as quietly as we came in. However we took with us a handful of gifted beers and a much better understanding of the small Massachusetts town.