Where war began, new uprising brews

CONCORD — Farmers, muskets, and beer.

Maybe not the safest combination, yet this potent mix helped fuel the birth of the nation — and launch a local ale onto the craft beer scene earlier this month.

Battle Road Brewing Co. tapped its 1775 Tavern Ale at Concord’s Colonial Inn, and judging by the investors and reenactors in the room, the pale ale is a revolutionary success.

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“We are super-excited about the name,” said Paul Musow, a Lincoln Minuteman clad in a tricorner hat, britches, and wool coat while hoisting a frothy pint. “It connects people back to that time, and makes us feel a little less dorky.”

Revolutionary War reenactors may not be trending, but the Commonwealth’s microbrew market is.

Last year, approximately 10 breweries opened in the state, and this year that number is expected to double, according to Kristen Sykes, executive director of the Massachusetts Brewers Guild, a nonprofit that supports the industry.

“It’s similar to the local food movement and getting to know your farmer,’’ she said. “This is the opportunity to get to know your brewer.”

Battle Road’s founders, Scott Houghton and Jeremy Cross, started the company to meld their love of hops and history. “Beer did play a major role in the history of the world,” said Cross, who was head brewer at Boston Beer Works, a brew pub near Fenway Park, and has been in the industry since 1996.

Houghton, who worked at the Salem Beer Works, long wanted his own craft brew.

Leaving the Beer Works company around the same time between 2007 and 2008, they spent the last four years raising funds and researching the trade. Like the Minutemen, they faced unexpected challenges. “Trying to start a business in the worst economy of our lifetime, there were a slew of obstacles in our way,” said Cross, 40, of Stoughton.  

Linking their beer to the 1775 skirmishes along the 5-mile stretch in Lexington, Lincoln, and Concord that launched the American Revolution wasn’t one of them.

“We couldn’t believe how many people come to this state for this history,” said Houghton, who grew up in North Andover with a deep appreciation for Colonial America.

With a tricorner hat for a logo, and varieties in the works such as Barrett’s Farmhouse Ale, Lexington Green IPA, and Midnight Rider Tavern Porter, the company identifies with the valor of the Minutemen.

“We are going to do our best to do right by the story,” said Houghton.

Making a toast with a crisp ale in the 1716 inn, less than a mile from the site of “the shot heard ’round the world,” was not lost on the spirited crowd. “British red coats walked right by this door,’’ Houghton noted. “If they could have had a beer, the outcome would have been better.”

Tipping their hats, the Minutemen shouted “Huz-zah!” “Huz-zah!” and “To Battle Road!” And emptied their glasses.

Because smart branding can only take you so far, “you have to have a great beer in the bottle,” said Steve Slesar, a former co-owner of Boston Beer Works who attended the opening.

In the Battle Road Beer Co.’s short history, it appears its creators have both.

Its inaugural ale can be found in 100 stores from Agawam to Allston. According to its distributor, such volume in one week is robust.

“Craft beer is the hottest category in the liquor industry right now,” said Baystate Wine and Spirits president Ed Gillooly. “They’ve had an outstanding debut.”

At Craft Beer Cellar in Belmont, where Battle Road is among 856 varieties available, the microbrew explosion has been welcome.

“We are seeing more beers locally than we ever have,” said co-owner Suzanne Schalow. “Boston is a smoldering hotbed of activity right now. It’s catching fire.”