Off Campus

Something’s Brewing: Hopster’s Brings Do-it-Yourself Beer to Newton

The sweet scent of malt fills the nostrils upon entry. The illuminated “BREW” sign hanging on a wall of exposed brick gives off a trendy, industrial vibe. Jar after jar and dispenser after dispenser of malts, yeasts, hops, and add-ins are overwhelming at first glance. But the brewmaster is quickly at your side, proudly and reassuringly explaining the agenda for the next two hours. There’s no rush to get things rolling. The local beers on tap are cold, the charcuterie is fresh, and the space is rather inviting. This is Hopster’s, a craft brewing experience located a few miles away in Newton, Mass.

Lee Cooper, the brewery’s founder and proprietor, had previously held a career in corporate learning and development. He had learned all there was and more about the security and assuredness of corporate life. “I taught managers how to be effective leaders for companies, [working on] organizational development, moral surveys, that sort of thing,” Cooper told the Observer. But he quickly realized that he was a man of risk. And for men like Cooper, too much security can be suffocating.

So 18 months ago, Cooper loosened his tie and decided to take the craft beer game to the next level. Tired of the same old big-name chain restaurants and franchises, he wanted to create a space where people could experience something fresh and new. Having spent much of his youth bouncing between Liverpool pubs at home in England, Cooper had always harbored a love for good beer. And as an avid home-brewer in his adult life, he realized that his passion could, in fact, become his reality. So after marrying an American and moving to Massachusetts, he opened up Hopster’s Brew and Boards, a micro-brewery where patrons brew customized beers by selecting their own recipes and ingredients.

The space is both brewery and restaurant-bar. Ten beautiful brass kettles sit just in front of the ingredient alcove. The bar and kitchen are just a few steps right. Everything that comes out of the tap, sits on the shelf, and comes through the chef’s doors is proudly local. Cooper partners exclusively with brewers and food producers in area, and Hopster’s boasts a more than worthy selection of fares. Tap offerings are in constant rotation and are impressively diverse, from hopped-up IPLs like Jack’s Abby Hoponious Union to malty, full-bodied stouts like Cadillac Mountain. And in terms of munchies, the options are plentiful from hot and cold charcuteries, to mushroom and squash flatbreads, and artisanal cheeses.

Cooper places extreme importance on the notion of community. He hopes to turn Hopster’s into a place where anyone can come to eat, drink, and have a good time while enjoying a truly unique experience. He calls the brewery an ideal venue for “edutainment,” where people can learn about the nuances of craft beer-making while experimenting and having fun with family and friends.

And he sees even greater opportunity for collaboration with more local businesses in the future. Hopster’s has already confirmed plans for a home brewing competition, where the winner would be able to showcase his or her brew on both the Hopster’s tap line and in other local retailers all over the Greater Boston area.

Cooper’s devotion to building a craft beer community has been present since the naissance of the Hopster’s concept. Before opening, Cooper raised over $40,000 in fewer than 30 days on Kickstarter, offering perks like customized memorabilia and private brewing sessions instead of equity. The objective of the Kickstarter campaign was less about acquiring funds (Cooper reached deep into his own pockets for the space and equipment) and more about generating buzz. From the start, he wanted to establish an interactive connection with intrigued patrons.

And he’s got an ambitious vision for the future of the operation. “I want to see a Hopster’s in every urban center in the United States in the next five years,” he told the Observer. While such hopes are admittedly very high, Cooper boasts an entrepreneurial fire that shows no sign of being snuffed out. He stands by his belief that “motivation is about commitment.” And based on what he’s accomplished so far, it seem like he’s on to something.

Hopster’s Brew and Boards is a bar, restaurant, and brewery located at 292 Centre St. Newton, Massachusetts. They’re open Tuesday-Sunday from 10 am to midnight. Big groups are their specialty, so if you have yet to plan your grad party festivities, give ‘em a buzz at 617.916.0752. You’re gonna be with your family for a few days…might as well infuse some booze to make it bearable.

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