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Local craft beer brewed in 'Rat City'

Posted by Meena Ramakrishnan  December 9, 2011 02:48 PM

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The small two-bedroom apartment on Walbridge Street that Spencer Sherman shares with his girlfriend looks similar to countless others in Allston. However, on the inside, one of the bedrooms has been transformed into the base of operations for Rat City Beer, Spencer’s home brewery. The name pays homage to the neighborhood’s rat population as well as the love-hate relationship many of the younger residents have with Allston.

“It’s as hyperlocal as you can get,” explained Sherman, a Boston native who has lived in Allston for three years. Sherman said he was always a fan of craft beers, and two years ago he decided to start brewing his own with his childhood friend Rich Stewart.

Sherman said he learned about the brewing process from the Modern Homebrew Emporium in Cambridge. Matt Carroll, an employee of the Emporium, said he has seen the homebrew community in Boston mushroom in the past several years. He credits the recent economic downturn with attracting people to home brewing as a more affordable way to get beer. He said people stay with the hobby because of its non-monetary rewards.

“You own something a little more when you make it yourself,” Carroll said.

Sherman and Stewart both share the do-it-yourself attitude that abounds in Allston. Stewart points to their upbringing in the punk rock and skateboarding scenes, which have very strong DIY roots. Stewart, who works at Oat Creative Design in Somerville, created the old fashioned logo for Rat City. He said he was inspired by the Prohibition era, when people had to brew on their own out of necessity.

“It’s a fun creative outlet,” he said.

Sherman has experimented with different types of beer, but one of his favorites is his Steam Ale. It is traditionally made in California and called a California common beer. Sherman has put a local twist on his by calling his Commonwealth Ale. He also keeps the operation as local as possible by using barley from Valley Malt, which is grown in Hadley, Mass. as well as hops from his stepbrother’s vineyard. Another interesting feature in Sherman’s beers is the lack of sugars, which he said eliminates heavy hangovers.

All of Sherman’s beers go into kegs because he said it is easier to control the fermentation process. This also makes it easier to share with his friends at parties or camping trips.

“The feedback has been really positive,” said Sherman.

But, since Rat City is only a home brew, they can’t legally distribute their beer, although Sherman does think about the future possibility of gypsy brewing. Gypsy brewing occurs when a start-up rents out space at an established brewery and uses their equipment. This would allow Sherman to sell his beer at the countless liquor stores in and around Allston.

Mostly, Sherman and Stewart say they have embraced home brewing because they are having fun.

“I get a kick out of the whole local thing,” Stewart said.

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