From wine to beer to mushrooms, brewery shop is expanding downtown to meet growing demand
photo by: Chad Lawhorn
My brewing skills figuratively need to get to a new level. (I know a stout is a heavy beer, but I’m concerned mine sets off metal detectors.) A Lawrence brewing supply store, however, is literally moving to a new level. After quietly opening on a second-floor space earlier this year, the Lawrence Brew Supply Shop is expanding by moving to a ground-level Massachusetts Street storefront.
Lawrence Brew Supply Shop plans to open at 737 Massachusetts St. — the space that formerly housed the boutique Made and more recently was the sales office for Proxi apartments — in the next few days.
Owner Steve Hughes has been brewing beer and wine for about 25 years. But he ended up being a brewery shop owner by accident. When downtown’s Ernst & Son Hardware went out of business in 2018, Hughes bought the remaining home brewing inventory that the hardware store had on hand.
“I thought I would just use them at home,” Hughes said. “But the longer I had all this stuff, I started to say ‘Let’s see what happens.’ The idea of having a brewery supply shop seemed kind of interesting.”
It soon, though, went from interesting to crowded. Hughes set up the shop in the back room of his engineering office at 920 Massachusetts St., which is on the second floor above the Jimmy John’s sandwich shop.
Hughes set up that space more than a year ago, but he said he really only started spreading the word about the shop in February.
“The interest has been good, though,” he said.
It also was eye-opening to see all the different types of brewers in the Lawrence area. While beer and wine are what Hughes is familiar with, he had people coming in wanting supplies for mead and kombucha. He even has had some mushroom growers come in asking for certain types of malt extract, which can be used in the growing process.
“I had people requesting stuff, and I just didn’t have room to have everything they were wanting,” Hughes said. “I had to keep telling them ‘Look at my room. I don’t have enough space.'”
When Proxi closed its downtown sales office, Hughes said he decided to expand the business. He said the shop will start carrying several products that go beyond the beer and wine market. But he does expect — especially as the pandemic has people looking for new home-based activities — many people will want to try their hand at beer or wine brewing.
That is why brewing kits are a big part of the store’s inventory. Hughes estimated a person could spend $30 to $40 to produce their first gallon of wine or about $40 to $60 for a gallon of beer, with the costs going down after the initial equipment is purchased.
“To me, wine is a little easier to make,” Hughes said. “There are not as many ingredients, and you are not having to boil them. To make a good wine is fairly simple. You just have to make sure you have good ingredients.
“Beer does take a little more skill, and there are a few more steps.”
But Hughes said he thinks the hobby of brewing has a good future in Lawrence. There already is an active community of brewers, and he thinks lots of people will have the same experience he did a quarter of a century ago.
“Tasting something you have made or having somebody enjoy something you made is great,” Hughes said.
Hughes currently is moving inventory into the new space and hopes to be making sales at the location by the weekend, he said.