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The Do Can Brewery doesn’t have the flash of Sam Adams or Harpoon.
Located in a 2,500 square-foot warehouse space on Stedman Street in Lowell, Do Can features the same processes of a larger brewery on a much smaller (and, some might say, more effective) scale. There are no giant, stainless-steal pipes gleaning off the ceiling, or excitable tour groups drinking their way through the facility. All the equipment has been bought piecemeal, sort of like a golf bag filled with clubs of different brands and conditions.
But the up-and-coming company has the most important thing going for it: The product — its craft beer.
“We’ve got our own Breaking Bad thing going on here,” said Pat Slattery, a UMass Lowell chemical engineering graduate who founded Do Can two years ago.
Craft beer is a hot business that’s only getting hotter. According to The Brewers Association, a non-profit organization promoting the country’s many small and independent brewers, craft brewers sold more than 13 million barrels of beer in 2012 (a barrel equals 31 U.S. gallons).
Slattery started home-brewing in 1990 when he was a freshman at UML — it was his way of procuring beer when he was still underage.
“I still have the recipe I clipped out from Popular Science magazine,” said Slattery.
After getting an MBA and starting his own business (Innovative Fabrication, which is in the same building on Stedman Street as Do Can), the Chelmsford native decided to open his own professional brewery in 2011. Two years later, Do Can is putting out 60 gallons of beer a week and is now on tap at Fuse Bistro and on the shelves at a few Lowell-area liquor stores (Market St. Market, Drum Hill Liquors, Stadium Plaza Liquors and Lowell Liquors), as well as in Kappy’s Fine Wine and Spirits in Medford.
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“If someone gives you shelf space, it’s hard to say no,” said Slattery. “You just have to make sure you’ll be able to fill the order a few months from now.”
Slattery and his brewing partner Pat Auclair do everything the old-fashioned way. They mill the grain by hand and track the various water temperatures and times on a chalkboard on the wall. Their status of a small-scale brewery also allows them to take more chances in their recipes that bigger breweries more beholden by profit margins can’t take.
“For something like our Imperial Destroyer (whose label shamelessly references Star Wars), we can throw a ton of hops in it because we’re making such small batches,” said Slattery. “If we made the same recipe in bigger batches, we’d be losing our shirts.”
This hands-on mentality also can lead to lucky discoveries, such as with the company’s Ode to Autumn beer.
“The Ode to Autumn was like an ‘Abby Normal’ moment,” said Slattery, referencing the scene in Young Frankenstein when Frankenstein’s hump-backed assistant Igor puts an “Abnormal” brain into the head of the monster. “It was an American IPA that we accidentally put the wrong malt in, which made it wicked dark but it ultimately tasted really good.”
Slattery hopes he’ll have a 30-barrel system installed three years from now, but he’s comfortable with Do Can’s current position in the crowded craft beer marketplace.
“It’s good beer, we make it to the best of our ability, and we do it by following our motto,” said Slatter. “Those who do, can.”
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