Bonn Place Brew­ery

Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine - - Contents - By John Holl

Af­ter spend­ing just a lit­tle time with

Sam Ma­sotto and talk­ing beer, it’s hard not to think of the Dr. Jeck­yll and Mr. Hyde com­par­i­son. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s a cor­re­la­tion he draws him­self. The Beth­le­hem, Penn­syl­va­nia-based brewer, fresh off of two Great Amer­i­can Beer Fes­ti­val wins, talks about his ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the clas­sics, but not be­ing de­fined by styles.

WHEN HE WAS TWENTY-ONE, Sam Ma­sotto was in a se­ri­ous mo­tor­cy­cle ac­ci­dent. When he recovered, nat­u­rally he found him­self shaken by the ex­pe­ri­ence and wanted to make sure that his days would be spent ap­pre­ci­at­ing life and all it has to of­fer, so he headed west with a friend on a road trip and along the way was in­tro­duced to a va­ri­ety of beer fla­vors and styles.

In to­day’s com­ing-of-age drink­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, beers such as New Belgium’s Fat Tire, Alaskan Brew­ing’s Am­ber, and Sa­muel Smith’s Oat­meal Stout might not sound like rev­e­la­tory beers, but back then they were, and they ex­panded Ma­sotto’s mind and de­sire to learn more.

His burgeoning beer jour­ney took him to Europe, and in England (like so many other trav­el­ers be­fore him), he came to re­al­ize that real ale—cask ale—was not the warm and flat con­coc­tion that is of­ten mis­char­ac­ter­ized and ma­ligned, but del­i­cate and vi­brant, a true marvel in a glass. Milds be­came his ob­ses­sion.

A re­turn to the States brought him to the famed Pony Bar in New York City, where he worked behind the bar, chat­ting with fel­low en­thu­si­asts and the brew­ers who would pass through. Other days were spent as a trav­el­ing ac­tor, in­clud­ing a stint with Tony n’ Tina’s Wed­ding, where he would work with his fu­ture wife, Gina. They lived across the Hud­son River, in Wee­hawken, New Jersey, on Bonn Place with a room­mate who, when he moved out, left behind a Mr. Beer kit. You can see where this is go­ing—it led to a few stints at brew­eries— like New Jersey Beer Co., and Chelsea Brew­ing Co, then New­burgh Brew­ing, where he was as­sis­tant brewer—and even­tu­ally to open­ing his own brew­ery. Like so many be­fore him, a plas­tic kit from Bed Bath & Be­yond in­spired a ca­reer. Rem­nants of that Mr. Beer kit hang to­day in his brew­ery.

In those early days of home­brew­ing, he would swing wildly from one end of the spec­trum to the other. A pale ale might be fol­lowed with a curry-in­fused ale—all at a time long be­fore larger pro­fes­sional brew­eries were re­leas­ing such things to the wider mar­ket. But time and time again, he would come back to solid am­ber ales—homages to the orig­i­nal craft beers that started him on his jour­ney.

“I’m in­spired by sours and milds. I like hoppy Amer­i­can IPAS, but it’s a style that needs more re­spect,” he says. “Ul­ti­mately I want to keep it di­verse.”

That’s why when you walk into his brew­ery tap­room—a 1,400-square-foot space where his 7-bar­rel wood-clad Englishin­spired-but-amer­i­can-made brew­house is on dis­play—you’ll find a lineup that in­cludes, of course, a New England IPA, fruited sours, some am­bers, and a few milds.

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