Bonn Place Brewery
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.