With more than 4,000 breweries across the country today, it’s already a tall order to stand out among the noise. When it comes to contract brewing, it can be more difficult without having a physical location to act as a beacon for consumers.
Somerville-based Small Change Brewing has been contract brewing at Great North Aleworks in Manchester, NH since May 2018. Now, Mike Patterson and Emily Vides, his wife and business partner, are eyeing a brick and mortar location in the “best place in America to start a craft brewery.”
The plan is to continue contract brewing the core lineup at Great North while operating a 7-10 bbl taproom within the city, where they’ll serve pints and crowlers. There may also be the occasional canned release via a mobile canning line.
Before creating Small Change, Mike spent several years homebrewing and volunteering at Night Shift Brewing, Idle Hands Craft Ales followed by stints at Blue Hills and Mystic Brewery.
While it was never the original plan, Mike said contract brewing has been beneficial in building up to the day Small Change can open its doors.
“We never really wanted to do contract brewing because now I’m just a salesperson and delivery driver,” he said. “But this was the best way of getting our name out there and building some sort of brand recognition without just building a brewery and hoping people show up. It’s also been beneficial for learning more about the business side of things before going at it alone.”
Obviously, not having a physical location for potential customers to drop by can pose a problem. To combat this, Mike’s constantly out in the market hosting tastings at liquor stores and pouring at beer festivals.
Another key to standing out is the unique labels featured on Small Change’s cans. Emily is the mastermind behind the can label designs and layouts.
“Without having a taproom and just having the beer in a cooler, it’s hard to just get people to stop and look,” Mike said. “So we try to make [our cans] stand out so that if people stop and look for just an extra second they’ll see it and it becomes something they recognize.”
What makes Small Change’s lineup peculiar is its lack of hazy acronyms — DDH, DIPA, TIPA, QIPA. Mike referred to his core lineup of beers as “1990 brewpub beers.” He’s currently got a pale ale, mild, porter, blonde, and now, an IPA.
“We went a year without an IPA and then did a west coast, east coast mix,” Mike said. “We didn’t want to do a hazy beer because we aren’t very much fans of that style, but it was time.”
Small Change Brewing is currently distributing as far north as Amesbury, as far west as Westborough, and as far south as Braintree, though you’ll occasionally find their beers on the SouthCoast and Cape Cod.