the north face gotham Ipswich’s newest brewery and tap room
IPSWICH True North Ales aims to be another landmark for craft beer on the North Shore.
But owner Gary Rogers said they don’t want to just be a place for beer geeks and barflies. They’d like to see families come and enjoy the brewery, too as long as it’s not 16 year olds trying to sneak a drink, he added, smiling.
On Tuesday, the facility was an active construction zone. Overhead piping and connections still have to be installed over the tanks on the production floor while various rooms are empty shells.
Rogers, the principal owner in the new brewery with his son Jake, said the project saw several delays in construction they had hoped to be open already but most of the major work is complete.
The facility’s two brewhouses a 30 barrel setup for major production and a smaller five barrel one for the tap room should be operational in the next two or three weeks, he said. They will then do some sample runs and tests on the equipment.
Everything including the large tap room which can hold up to 140 people should be ready by mid September. There’s also a patio for outdoor seating.
The tap room itself is designed with lots of windows that offer a clear view of the brewing operation on the other side of the glass.
New life for vacant building
The True North Ale Company, at 116 Turnpike Road (Route 133/1A), is just behind the old O’Keefe Chevrolet dealership. Aubuchon Hardware now occupies the old dealership building, which had been vacant since 2008.
The property, which had been an eyesore in that end of town, was purchased in 2014 by local businessman Gary Kaneb.
The brewery was slated to go in the front building, said Gary Rogers, but Kaneb offered to build them a new 15,000 square foot building in the rear of the property.
That worked out for the best, Gary Rogers said, gesturing to the ceilings high above that, he indicated, could easily accommodate larger tanks and more brewing equipment should they decide to expand in the future.
The third building on the 3.4 acre lot is a medical office building, which is also under construction.
“We’re delighted. It sat there for a number of years and we were really concerned that it was vacant for so long,” said town planning director Glenn Gibbs of the property. “I really think the developer hit a home run with this project.”
Gibbs said that not only do these new businesses provide local services, goods and jobs, the brewery adds to a “growing niche” in town and complements a “fairly healthy restaurant sector.”
From basement to brewery
In 1984, you couldn’t find much in the way of good beer, said Gary Rogers, a Beverly native. It was only in 1978 that home brewing became legal again, and amateur brewers were just starting to experiment.
He and his wife Jill bought their home in Byfield that year and now he had a whole basement to work in. He learned by reading books and gleaning tips from other home brewers. Today, he notes, there are a ton of resources online.
Over the years, he and his two sons perfected their recipes, bringing them from the Rogers family basement to winning brews at the annual Ales for ALS homebrew competition in Essex.
He won one year for his double IPA. The prize was to make a 10 barrel batch of the beer at Cape Ann Brewing in Gloucester. That was his first experience in a commercial brewery. Jake Rogers won the homebrew competition as well one year with a Flanders Red, a Belgian style, sour ale.
The elder Rogers had retired in 2006 from a career in sales and marketing in the tech industry and was enjoying retirement, but still he would regularly encourage his son Jake who was working at Ipswich Brewing that he was talented enough to start his own brewery.
Time passed and over four years, Jake Rogers (who was living in Ipswich) had worked in nearly every aspect of the Ipswich Ale operation. About a year and a half ago while on vacation, Gary Rogers got a call from his son.
“OK, I’m ready,” Jake Rogers told his father. “I’m ready, but on one condition: you have to do it with me.”Today, True North Ales will soon be a reality, and they have brought along friends Rory Laughna as the chief financial officer and Seth Barnum as the head brewer. Laughna and Barnum are also co owners in the business. Jill Rogers is also helping with marketing.
As for the financing, they’re doing it themselves. “We’ve got a lot of skin in the game,” Gary Rogers said.
At the tap room, there will be a total of 20 beers on tap behind the 32 foot long bar.
“Every time you come to the tap room, we should have something new,” Gary Rogers said. He noted one of the reasons they installed the five gallon brewhouse was to give Barnum “a chance to explore” different things, particularly with sour beers, which are “growing like crazy” in popularity.