Company hopes to brew success in Plymouth

Steve Adams

Looking for pointers on the beer-brewing process, Drew Brosseau sought help from one of his bigger and more successful rivals, Harpoon Brewing Co.

Brosseau, founder of Plymouth’s Mayflower Brewing Co., spent five weeks at Harpoon’s South Boston brewery last year learning every stage of the brewing process. The apprenticeship was typical of the collaborative spirit that ties together the craft brewing industry.

“While we’re technically competing with one another, we’re primarily competing against a much bigger enemy, which is Bud, Miller and Coors,” Brosseau said. “There’s a lot more market opportunity to get from taking share from the big guys than worrying about each other.”

Mayflower Brewing is the newest of about 35 craft breweries now operating in Massachusetts. It began brewing four varieties of beer in February at its plant in the Plymouth Industrial Park, and is launching its first seasonal brew, Thanksgiving Ale, on Nov. 1.

After a delay in the delivery of its packaging equipment, it started shipping bottled beer in June. Its products are now available in about 170 bars and package stores in Greater Boston.

Brosseau, 47, worked as a technology researcher for investment bank Cowen & Co. before leaving the company in 2005 with the idea of starting his own business. He considered teaching or another job in finance before deciding to invest in his background as a home brewer.

“As I started thinking about businesses I might want to do, I figured it ought to be something that would be fun,” he said.

The Wellesley resident looked for industrial space in the Boston area before settling on the Mayflower brand name and looking for locations in Plymouth. Rather than outsource as many aspects of the business as possible, such as contract brewing at another beer company, Brosseau opted for a hands-on approach to brewing, packaging and distribution. He and the other three employees pitch in with the brewing process, bottling and deliveries.

“It is the exact opposite of what a business school student would tell you to do,” Brosseau said. “It was more for the experience of doing the whole thing.”

Brosseau financed the $2 million startup costs himself and hired Matthew Steinberg, who was previously with Offshore Ale Co. in Oak Bluffs, as brewmaster. Together they came up with the formulas for four initial varieties: a pale ale, golden ale, India pale ale and porter.

Mayflower is on pace to sell more than 1,000 barrels, with a goal of 2,500 barrels for 2009.

The initial reception has been positive. The popular BeerAdvocate Web site, which ranks beers based upon reviews from its more than 150,000 members, gives the four Mayflower varieties grades from B to A-minus.

“I’ve had all of their beers, and the reaction in the market seems to favor them quite well,” BeerAdvocate founder Todd Alstrom said. For Mayflower to stand out in the crowded Boston craft beer scene, it will need lots of face time and education with beer buyers, Alstrom said.

The Patriot Ledger