A search among new England's craft breweries yields a beer program that’s new even to the most hops-savvy Bostonians. Plus: a Wynn exclusive.
At just before 5 pm on a Thursday, the Lord Hobo taproom in Woburn, Mass.—a techy suburb about 10 miles north of Boston—is nearly standing-room-only, a 3,500-square-foot- filled mix of professionals sporting business casual attire and
a particularly good-looking group of tattooed singles posing for selfies with their beer flights. Since the space opened in late 2018, CEO Daniel Lanigan and his team have built a diverse fanbase of hops-loving visitors—and their little kids, too—with a welcoming-yet-cool atmosphere bolstered by communal seating, an artist-in-residence program, table games, really good pizza, and, of course, plenty of Lord Hobo’s craft beers, all brewed on-site, on tap. “This place is never not packed,” says Lanigan, straddling a picnic table with a pint of Consolation Prize, a New England double pale ale.
Lanigan, a Boston-area restaurant vet, launched Lord Hobo five years ago with $5 million in funding, and says the brand is “the fastest-growing craft brewery in the history of the world,” now available in more than 20 states and a handful of countries. He credits its quick success to his willingness
to go big in terms of production and distribution, launching with 3,000 barrels, compared to a typical startup of a few hundred. Within a year, he was producing more than 15,000. Unlike many breweries, Lord Hobo doesn’t offer tours; it doesn’t need to, says Lanigan. The working part of the brewery—the brew kettles and fermenters—is visible throughout the taproom through glass garage doors. “And that’s enough for people,” says Lanigan, pointing out that his guests usually prefer to use their time at the taproom to drink and eat and hang out with family and friends. As they should: The Woburn brewery now has 40 tap lines serving core favorites like Boomsauce, a super-hoppy double IPA, and Freebird, a golden ale, along with an ever-changing list of limited releases, like Pineapple Glorious IPA and 617, a beer created to celebrate the very essence of Boston. There’s also a full menu of pub snacks including several varieties of wings and a sandwich named after Tom Brady.
Lord Hobo is one of over 160 craft breweries in Massachusetts, and one of more than 600 across New England, a regional affinity that inspired Warren Richards, the Executive Director of Food and Beverage at Encore Boston Harbor, to create within the resort a space dedicated exclusively to local and New England craft beer and spirits. You can’t get a Bud Light, even if you ask nicely. Instead, guests will find about 50 seasonally rotating local and craft beers and ciders, 32 of which are on draft. Some are fairly well known, including beers by Massachusetts’s Sam Adams and Vermont’s Magic Hat, and others less so, including those from Nantucket’s Cisco Brewers; Lawson’s Finest, a small-batch artisanal brewery in northern Vermont; and Night Shift, whose dog-friendly patio at its busy Everett brewery, located less than a mile away, is a favorite after-work hangout for creative types and their four-legged pals. Everett brewer Idle Hands moved only two miles away, to Malden, and you'll find its unfiltered Emelyn, brewed in the style of a Vienna lager, as well as its Check Raise—a complex, chocolatey stout with flavors of pine, coffee, and citrus. Most of what’s on tap is not nationally distributed, which means there are plenty of newcomers for even the beer-savviest Bostonians.
It also means that just about everything was new to Richards, too, including the concept—Waterfront doesn’t exist at Wynn properties in either Las Vegas or Macau. “People are very territorial here in Boston,” he says. “We wanted to make a beverage program that was hyperlocal and entirely New England driven, to honor that.” To curate the menu, Richards and his team, which included Director of Beverage, Bars & Lounges (and New Hampshire native) Ashley Wells, spent six months “eating and listening” at dozens of breweries across New England, tasting hundreds of beers. “West of the Rockies, no one’s ever heard of most of these beers,” he says. “After moving from Las Vegas, I found myself thinking, what is all this beer and how did I not know about it? We literally went on a tasting spree.” The aim, says Richards, was to assemble a list of partners that were creative, had consistently good product, and already had a following. He also wanted to represent a range of styles, from pale ale to brown ale to Belgian golden to saisons, in addition to the more expected classic New England-style IPAs. “We tasted, we tasted, we tasted,” he says.
And then they took the process one step further. From the beginning, Richards envisioned creating an Encore Boston Harbor-only beer. Richards tasked a short list of candidates to brew a beer with New England character that wasn’t over the top in alcohol content or hoppiness—one that would appeal to a wide range of drinkers. In the end, the honor went to Lord Hobo. “Daniel and his team just got it from the beginning,” says Richards. The resulting collaboration, Lord Hobo’s Project Baccarat, is a hazy American-style IPA, easy to drink at 5.5 percent alcohol by volume, moderately hoppy, and entirely distinct. The name comes from the tabletop card game, while the can design draws inspiration from the floral carpets that run throughout the resort. It’s offered at Waterfront as well as throughout the casino.
It’s also for sale at Lord Hobo’s Woburn taproom, where Lanigan—for whom, as both an Everett native and professional poker player, the collaboration was extra meaningful—says it’s been extremely well received. Richards, meanwhile, says Project Baccarat is among Waterfront’s top four sellers, on many days even outselling Samuel Adams’s Sam 76, otherwise the menu’s most recognizable beer. “Which makes me very happy,” he says. “Every time I see someone walking around drinking a can of Project Baccarat, I’m beaming with pride.”