When Kevin Moriarty and a friend decided to take their home-brewing hobby public, they wanted to keep the new business on the down-low, but also needed to get the word out.
“Knowing our bosses followed our personal accounts on social media, we hoped to remain anonymous,” recalls Moriarty, who co-founded Anonymous Brewing a few years back. “From there, the name stuck.”
Tucked into a former auto repair shop set a bit back from Route 1A, it still feels like the brewery is hiding in plain sight, although Moriarty admits his boss has learned about the side hustle. As have a lot of locals, who are happy to have a new casual place to hang out and grab a beer since Anonymous opened in December. The airy taproom is outfitted with a piano, board games, Jenga, and a giant Connect Four, as well as six taps.
“There has been a ton of local support,” Moriarty says. “People in town seem generally excited to have Anonymous as an option.” As do beer fans from further afield, he adds.
Anonymous is Rowley’s first brewery, so working through the zoning for the new category took time—but the result is a “hypernano” operation that Moriarty likens to a test kitchen. “We are consistently crafting new and experimental recipes,” he says, noting that his small-batch brewhouse can make just one barrel at a time—compared to a microbrewery that could produce between 30 to 60 barrels at a time—so you never know what you might find. Maybe Bach, a potent German-style lager, or Squish, a fruity, refreshing pale ale cooked up by head brewer Ken Mulstay. Squish has become a regular offering alongside WeyLey, a hoppy amber ale that was the brewery’s first-ever release.
“We don’t have a specific style that we specialize in. We are more process-driven,” Moriarty says. “Each recipe calls for very specific characteristics, from mouth feel to hop and malt profiles. To produce these characteristics, we start with water additives and high-quality ingredients, [then] control whirlpool and fermentation temperatures to ensure the correct flavors are extracted. The small scale of our setup allows us total control of both the hot and cold side of the science.”
The process for WeyLey—named for Weymouth and Rowley, the towns where the founders live—unfolded over the course of a year, starting with a very basic recipe. “We brewed it a number of times,” Moriarty recalls. “We would bottle each batch and deliver to bloggers, craft beer fans, and a few friends in the industry. Each time, we would take their feedback and make adjustments to the recipe.”
These days, with the brewhouse in a corner of the taproom, Moriarty can explore a variety of flavor profiles and test them on customers much more quickly, experimenting with hops from Four Star Farms in western Massachusetts, malt from Stone Path down toward the Cape, and even an IPA made with hops grown at a friend’s house in Rowley.
That tiny set up suits Moriarty just fine—he started as a home brewer 15 years ago and is perhaps more of a beer artist than a conventional beer maker. “I consider myself a freestyle brewer, which often makes it hard to reproduce certain recipes,” he says. So he relies on Mulstay to ensure consistency for their core products. “I consider him our chief brewing officer and his knowledge of how to manipulate the process for specific results is unmatched,” he explains.
Since Anonymous can only brew one barrel at a time, if a beer becomes popular, like Squish or WeyLey, they rely on contracts with bigger breweries like Riverwalk in Newburyport and Ipswich Ale to make larger batches. That’s also how the beers make it to the taps of places like Tony’s Pub in Lynn and Public Kitchen in Wakefield. Squish and WeyLey are also available in cans, and Moriarty hopes to expand that offering beyond the taproom to spots throughout the North Shore.
Meantime, Moriarty is looking forward to the spring, when he hopes to open a beer garden and expand his food truck offerings. As for that most beery of holidays, St. Patrick’s Day, Moriarty wasn’t certain at press time what they’d be doing. “We will certainly celebrate, though we currently do not have any specific releases planned,” he says. We’re sure he’ll brew up something tasty though.
60 Main St. Rowley, 617-717-8781, anonbrew.com