Cheers! Wachusett Brewery turns 20

We all know and love the delicious beer that comes from Wachusett Brewery in Westminster. In December, the brewery is celebrating its 20th anniversary of producing some of the greatest beer around.

Wachusett Brewery was opened in 1994 by founders and Worcester Polytechnic Institute classmates, Peter Quinn, Ned LaFortune and Kevin Buckler. Ever since, the brewery has produced beer with local flavor.

Wachusett BreweryTo celebrate its 20th anniversary, the brewery came up with the 20 Beers for 20 Years event. “We picked 20 of our longstanding customers and accounts throughout the years and have done a tap takeover, thanking them for support,” said TJ Morse, Wachusett Brewery director of sales and marketing.

Brew City, The Boynton, Horseshoe Pub, Cheers in Boston and The Blueprint are just a few of the establishments where Wachusett has taken over the taps. “During the takeovers, we also had prizes, giveaways and raffle items,” Morse said.

Morse, an Ashland native, has been with the brewery for eight years, but his passion for brewing wasn’t always something he thought to make into a career.

“I am trained in food service and hotel and restaurant management. That brought me to New York City. I lived in Manhattan for seven years, owned my own catering company and did a bunch of other things. I got burnt out and just needed a change of pace,” Morse said.

At the time, Morse and his roommate shared an interest in craft beer and began to get into home brewing. “New York City got to me. [One day] sitting at a bar with my friend, I said ‘I’m done with the city and going to move home and work for a brewery,’” he said.

Wachusett BreweryWhile Morse had passion, he actually knew nothing about the industry. “I started interviewing with breweries and found Wachusett. They didn’t even have a position for me, but they worked something out,” he said. “Ironically, it was a sales representative position selling beer … in New York City.”

After a successful year selling in New York City, moving back to Massachusetts and selling in the Cape and Islands, Morse relocated to Central Massachusetts and has been here ever since. Morse now wears a lot of hats.

“I help manage and market package design; social media; sell to a wholesalers; supervise wholesaler relationships; represent the brewery at events, tastings, fundraisers and beer festivals; oversee the brewery’s inventory and production; work with brewers to make sure we have enough ingredients … it’s a full-circle job,” Morse said.

As for the future, Morse is excited about the willingness of the craft beer community to explore new and unique products. “The craft beer-drinking community is adventurous and out to try new things. We have the capabilities of being more adventurous, which is something we plan on doing with limited-release beers,” Morse said.

The brewery has also come out with a canning line. “We purchased our canning line about a year ago. It’s actually better for the beer and the environment. We will be releasing a series of seasonal 12 mixed-pack cans. These packs offer better sampling opportunities so people can experience different varieties,” Morse said.

While the core of the brewery remains the ever-popular beers like Wachusett Blueberry Ale and IPA, Morse and his team have developed exciting new beers. “Some of our newer beers have been received really well ~ the Larry Imperial IPA, Strawberry White and the sleeper in the bunch, the Light IPA. Ours is the world’s first-ever light IPA, and people love it,” Morse said.

DININGWachusettDWhile it’s important to the brewery to evolve as craft beer lovers’ taste buds do, it is just as important to Morse and his team to provide the same great beer that’s been a staple for the past 20 years.

“You always know what you’re going to get when you get a Wachusett. Keeping it consistent is the most difficult. Living organisms, raw material ~ it’s tough. But if it doesn’t make sense for us in a financial or quality sense, we’ll shelf it,” Morse said.

Morse explained that the approach to producing beer in 1994 has remained the same in 2014.

“We didn’t grow too fast or quickly. We built an extremely strong foundation,” Morse said. “When the founders started, they just wanted to make great, local, fresh beer for local customers and didn’t anticipate where it is now. New England is where we are focused and will be for the next five, even 10, years. We still have a tremendous amount of opportunity to grow.”

Visit wachusettbrew.com or the company’s Facebook page for more information and to stay up-to-date on brewery events.

By Rachel Shuster