While craft breweries offering memberships in exchange for exclusive beers is not a new concept, it's new for beer geeks in the Commonwealth. That's why we raised an eyebrow when Everett nanobrewery Night Shift Brewing announced their 2013 Barrel Society in mid-November.
Barrel Society? The idea is simple. You give Night Shift $250, which will help them raise funds for their future growth, and in return you get 14 bottles of barrel-aged beer, two glasses, one T-shirt, two tickets to their end-of-year party, a 2013 Night Shift Barrel Society Membership Card, and first rights to renew your membership for 2014 (for now there's a 400-member limit).
Michael Oxton, cofounder of Night Shift, explains: "More and more people in the Boston area are willing to spend a little bit extra on high-quality, locally produced food. So why not offer a similar option for beer in Boston?" The Bruery's extremely successful Reserve Society in California was also an inspiration, as were crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter, Oxton says.
Sounds like a cool idea, but it's not without challenges. "The biggest obstacle we face is meeting high expectations, both our own and those of our Barrel Society members," Oxton acknowledges. "We understand that $250 is no small amount of money, and when a large group of people invest it in our efforts, we recognize the pressure on us to ensure that the beers are fantastic. But we thrive on that type of pressure, and are strongly committed to making this work."
Launched in March 2012, Night Shift is still a new brewery and one that also lacks experience when it comes to aging beer in wooden barrels, as pointed out by a user on a beeradvocate.com forum post: "They don't have a track record in barrel aging, and they are asking folks to pre-pay for a series of beers. I would definitely wait and see how things turn out prior to investing in this."To those concerned with quality, Oxton recommends "stopping by the brewery, sampling our beers, and deciding for yourself if it's worth the investment." If price is a concern, he encourages friends to split the cost. And as far as the barrels go, "Some of the beers planned for the society are already in oak barrels and tasting so, so good. We are confident that members will be very happy."
Speaking of making people happy, ideas are still brewing too. Night Shift plans on making one of their 2013 releases 100 percent crowd-sourced by its Barrel Society members. Members will be able to select the yeast, malts, hops, and even the type of barrel. "We want to build a strong, lasting relationship with our supporters. This is the perfect opportunity for that," says Oxton, who also clued us in on how this community could evolve in 2014. "We like the idea of keeping the group fairly small, as it allows us to get to know our greatest supporters by name. But if membership demand is higher in 2014, we will consider the idea of expanding the society's size. Also, offering different membership tiers might be an interesting way to approach the Night Shift Barrel Society next year. We're just excited to see where it all goes."
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WANT A TASTE? Night Shift's taproom is open for free tours and tastings every weeknight from 5 to 9 pm and every Saturday from noon to 5 pm.
NIGHT SHIFT BREWING 3 CHARLTON ST, EVERETT :: 617.294.4233 OR NIGHTSHIFTBREWING.COM