On a particularly pretty and balmy spring afternoon, Nibble scribe Raleigh Strott took a field trip to Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project to find out more about their artful approach to brewing.
Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project, a member of the Fringe creative incubator in Union Square, was founded by and is staffed by Dann and Martha Paquette, who have been independently crafting delicious brews for public consumption since 2008. Martha’s background is in science, something that proves to be incredibly valuable to the brewing process. Dann, a filmmaker-turned-brew-master, has been a professional brewer for many years working with local companies such as Ipswich Brewing Company, The Haverhill Brewery, and John Harvard’s Brew House, among others.
In fact, it was during his time at the Haverhill Brewery that Dann and Martha first met. Since then, the two have been producing imaginative brews of all styles and sharing equally the responsibilities of the maturing company. While Dann heads up the brewing end and Martha helms logistics and business, the duties of each often over lap: Martha can often be found hauling and lifting the great bags of grains and Dann hand draws much of the art for the labels; Martha also draws a few labels. (See more Pretty Things labels here.)
“I’ve always been a student of beer labels,” says Dann, who reports he has no real art background (but obviously a lot of talent). “I tend to like ones that reflect a certain period and old ideals. I like the whimsical De Dolle labels, for example. They’re a Belgian Brewery. Their art is kind of stuck in the 70s, which I like.”
Inside and out, Pretty Things expresses a creative panache that you can see, taste and read. The brews are always flavorful and balanced, labels are created in-house and the title of each beer is sharply witty. Take the “Jack D’Or” label (above); it features a quirky characterization of a barleycorn, a staple ingredient of beer known for its golden color. Then there’s “Baby Tree,” a brew inspired by Belgian abbey-style quadruples, which is the namesake of a real tree: at Martha’s childhood home in England there is a tree that bears not only pears, but discarded baby dolls.
As the Project progresses in 2012, Dann and Martha plan to release new styles alongside old favorites. Currently the pair is devising an IPA, in addition to a historical beer series. The couple has been working with a historian to find recipes forgotten by time, which they then brew in a historically accurate fashion.
The husband and wife team love Union Square as much as they love brewing: “Union Square is a good fit for us, a good fit for our brand and it is where our ideal customers live,” says Martha. At Fringe, the business happens, but the brewing magic happens off-site at a brewery in Westport, MA about 60 miles south. Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project is titled as such, a project, because of the “tenant brewing” nature of the business. However, Dann and Martha both agree that, business permitting, they would love to open a permanent home for concocting their tantalizing beverages in Somerville; the venture would be the first of its kind for our neighborhood; historically, breweries have never been present in Somerville.
Dann and Martha have demonstrated their commitment to the community; Pretty Things makes monthly donations to various organizations and frequently collaborate with outfits like GroundWorks Somerville, E Scott Originals, and of course, all things Fringe.
Pretty Things beer is available in Union Square at the Independent, Precinct, Bull McCabe’s and Casa B. To learn more about their beer and where it is served beyond Union Square, visit their web site.