AMESBURY - Not very long ago, Steve Sanderson would sit at his desk and, like many people, dream of happier - no, hoppier - pursuits. An avid home brewer, he wanted to turn his passion into his profession and trade the board room for the tasting room.
"I would sit at my desk tweaking recipes," remembered Sanderson, who, at the time, worked as a financial advisor just outside of Boston, Massachusetts.
|Sanderson in front of his homemade two-barrel brewing system|
He quit his job and the two started their own brewery. And after all the scouring of sites and all the cutting through red tape, Riverwalk Brewing (website here) found a home, fittingly, in Sanderson's hometown since 2002, Amesbury, Massachusetts. The move wasn't without it's frustrations.
"It's a long way from there to where we are now," Sanderson noted. "You go through the dream phase. Then there's reality, which is an entirely different proposition. It's not easy. It was a very bumpy road."
In a not-so-chance meeting with Sean Cody, owner of Cody's Brewing Company (Facebook site here), some of these difficulties were discussed. In a characteristic display of community inherent in craft beer, Cody offered to help. Riverwalk's two-barrel system (which Sanderson built himself with the help of a friend) resides in the back corner of Cody's Brewing. The two have teamed up for a collaboration brew that will be unveiled (and hasn't yet been tasted by anyone, not even them) at the 3rd Annual Amesbury Days Brewfest on June 29th.
"The community of craft beer is extremely important," said Sanderson, noting that it's different in the craft beer industry than in other professions. "You get the feeling that we're all in this together and that we can all have success.
"You cannot get to where you are in this profession without help from others. And the people I respect the most in this industry are the people who have been the most open." In addition to Cody, Sanderson says he got invaluable advice from Harpoon Brewery in Boston and Alesmith Brewing in San Diego.
Sanderson got his start in craft beer on a trip about 20 years ago to the Czech Republic. After tasting the pilsners across the ocean, Sanderson felt he "wasn't excited by the beers here. They just didn't measure up." That changed when given access to a great beer bar.
"A friend and I would go to the Sunset Tap & Grill in Allston (MA)," he said. "We'd try different things and educate ourselves on what we liked and what we didn't like.
He was then turned onto home brewing at a local beer festival.
"And I found out you can brew at home and make great beer."
Riverwalk Brewing Company (Facebook) currently has three beers. Sanderson plans to expand with a seasonable lineup of "probably one per season," though he does have a couple different beers (what he calls a "hoppier wheat" and a "funky" beer) in his immediate plans.
|The tasting area at Riverwalk Brewing Co.|
"It's a unique recipe," he said, "and it appeals across the board to beer geeks and non-beer geeks."
The Riverwalk IPA (6.75%) is an American-style IPA that uses five different hops (warrior, amarillo, columbus, centennial, and cascade). This is a "super hoppy, yet drinkable" beer that caters to the fans of the more balanced east coast version of the IPA.
Lastly, in an homage to the homey neighborhood pubs of England, Sanderson created Uncle Bob's Bitter.
"I wanted to recreate that warm feeling of the pubs in England," he said. "And it's a style of beer I just couldn't get here. It's a great, every day 'have-a-few-pints' beer."
Growler hours at 4-8 pm on Fridays at 36 Main Street in downtown Amesbury, MA. You could also try the collaborative Amesbury Days Ale on June 29th. See the website for details.