• October 17, 2017

Turtle Swamp Brewing

Although Boston’s craft beer scene has been burgeoning over the past decade, most of the action has been happening outside of city confines. To keep things local, Nik Walther and John Lincecum decided to launch Turtle Swamp Brewing in Jamaica Plain. Opening its doors in mid-May 2017, it became the neighborhood’s first new brewery in almost three decades.

Yet Jamaica Plain didn’t always have a suds shortage. At one point there were at least 24 breweries in the neighborhood, mainly along the banks of Stony Brook. It was no coincidence; clean running water is needed for beer-making, and historically the water settled in Turtle Swamp, a nearby low-lying wetland that acted as a natural biological H20 filter—hence the name of Walther and Lincecum’s brewery.

The duo’s own friendship first brewed over a couple of beers at a party, as they chatted about their shared love of the craft. At the time, Lincecum was researching treatments for neurodegenerative diseases at a nonprofit that partnered with Harpoon and other craft breweries for an “Ales for ALS” fundraiser. Walther, who happened to be a Harpoon brewer at the time, invited Lincecum to help brew specialty beer for the event. This became a tradition for the next couple of years, and at some point, the duo agreed Jamaica Plain could use another brewery. “We may have been drinking at the time,” Walther admitted.

Turtle Swamp’s Washington Street space includes a two-story taproom with a bar downstairs and communal seating upstairs. The front is an old auto garage, and in the warmer months, the team rolls up its doors to a sizeable brick patio.

Walther describes the beers as craft takes on classic styles. With five year-round varieties on tap, Turtle Swamp plans to start launching seasonal and one-off beers soon. All varieties are available in two-ounce samplers as well as pints, flights, and growlers (for the latter, bring your own bottle).

The light-bodied All Ears Golden Ale stands out for its 100 percent Massachusetts ingredients, including malted corn from Valley Malt in Hadley. “Corn has a bad rap in the craft brewing world because it’s usually associated with watery, mass-produced lagers,” Walther says. “But it has a long-standing place in the history of American beer. Before malted barley was regularly available in colonial Boston, brewers would have used any grain they could get their hands on, and corn was not only available—it was native!”

Nik’s Bitter (But Never Angry) combines British malt with American Cascade hops for a piney twist, and somehow manages to be both full-bodied and easy drinking at the same time with just four percent ABV. As its name suggests, the Serendipitous Paler Ale was concocted as a happy accident: While producing one of the first batches of Nik’s Bitter, Nik misread his own handwriting and added Carapils malt instead of the intended Caramel Pils malt. The result? A paler-than-pale ale with a fuller body and hoppier aroma.

The sweet and spicy JP Porter features strong coffee and chocolate notes (thanks to the locally sourced chocolate rye malt) without burnt flavors that characterize traditional porters. Turtle Swamp’s take on the New England IPA, the Toll Gate IPA, is dry-hopped with Citra for juicy tropical fruit aromas; it clocks in at just under six percent ABV.

Since opening, Turtle Swamp Brewing has frequently hosted food trucks on site, including Munch Mobile Kitchen and SamosaMan. Weather permitting, patrons are welcome to take a seat at one of the picnic tables outside and post up to play handmade giant Jenga, Apples to Apples, and other popular games while nursing a pint.

For now, you’ll have to journey over to J.P. to taste most of Turtle Swamp’s suds, though its JP Porter is also on tap at Doyle’s Cafe in the neighborhood.

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