Paul Gentile is brewing beer with you in mind. He wants to be your community brewer, running your neighborhood taproom. Lucky for him the Rantoul Street area of Beverly, with its burgeoning social scene, is right outside his door. In just the last few months, the street, which runs parallel to the hustle and bustle of Cabot Street, has seen a new bakery and a new barber shop, as well as the ongoing development of condos, apartments, and artist spaces. “It’s going to be amazing,” says Gentile, “a full rehab of Rantoul. It’s active. Things are happening.”
Gentile, 35, felt a ticking clock as he sought an affordable space, preferably not a Cabot Street storefront, in which to brew beer and serve it. The taproom of Gentile (pronounced Gintilly) Brewing Company opened in early March on tiny Park Street in a charming historic building, once home to the Creesy Shoe Factory. The taproom, with its low-key industrial-chic vibe, is currently open on Friday and Saturday afternoons.
Not lost on Gentile is the importance of keeping patrons wanting more. You’ve got two days a week to stop by. For now, that’s it. Once there, you’ll see him holding court behind the bar, with a wide grin and an air of authority. From your barstool, ask him questions, and you’ll get real answers about his passion and the reason you’re there: the beer. It’s made using traditional English-style brewing methods and ingredients. In addition to the four year-round beers, there are small-batch releases that give Gentile a chance to try out new ideas. With a low alcohol content, you can enjoy more than one, touts their website, “without feeling like you were hit by a truck the next day.”
Despite the line around the corner when it opened, some who live and work in the area are just now discovering the gregarious Gentile and his beer. I visited the place on two consecutive Friday afternoons, noting the smell of fresh paint and a revolving door of returning customers with their dogs, toddlers, and sippy cups in tow. The couple opening Notch Brewery in Salem this summer, an editor for the Beverly Citizen, and all sorts of other folks were there looking for Gentile’s pints of blonde, IPA, porter, and stout. (A saison was in the works when I was there.)
Gentile owns and runs the place with his wife, Christen, 34, who has a marketing and PR background. When the couple met 10 years ago, Gentile had just brewed his first home batch and was teaching math, recalls Christen. “He loves food, entertaining, and being surrounded by people.”
A while back, during an outing in Salem to a craft beer and mead festival, Gentile met the guys from Ipswich Ale Brewery and soon after went to work for them. It was there that he worked his way up from cleaning and filling kegs to the business side of things; he also brewed for other small beer companies and was exposed to dozens of, business, beer, and branding ideas. One of those ideas—marketing to liquor stores and bars—never appealed to Gentile. “I said, ‘Let’s simplify this,’ he explains. ‘Let’s cut out all of this.’ I don’t want to be chasing what’s new, what’s next.”
Instead of a business model based on distribution, Gentile wants his customers to know him as the guy who makes the beer. He wants them to visit his brewing “living room” and chat with him, and he wants the beer to be extremely fresh. This is one reason the company has been given his family name. That and: “We’re Italian and we name things after ourselves,” says Gentile. His beer can be found in just two places for now: A Mano Italian Kitchen in Salem and the bustling A & B Burger in Beverly.
The people meeting and talking on Rantoul Street, exploring their neighborhood, are further proof that the focused efforts to revitalize downtown Beverly are working. At the bar with me was the father-in-law of the owner of the new Barber’s Edge—he decided to stop in and try the beer after meeting Gentile at Crave, Beverly’s new bakery.
Dan Healey, who worked at Ipswich Brewery for a time and was stopping by on his way home from work, said of the taproom, “I appreciate their approach.”
“It’s kind of like going to a friend’s house,” agreed Iver Jacobsen of Danvers.
A young guy I recognized from the Friday before came through the heavy industrial door and nodded a hello in my direction. “Are you still working on that saison?” he asked Gentile.
As several of us chatted away on our bar stools, I watched Gentile take a break from slinging beers to scan the bar with a look of pride. He tucked a white towel into his belt loop, walked over to a couple who were settling into one of the few tables and said, “First time here? I’m Paul Gentile. I own the joint.”
59 Park Street, #1, Beverly