First beer made in Rockport hits market 

Courtesy Photo/Ray PickupRockport Brewing Company's Hatchet, Rockport's first commercially brewed beer in 155 years, is on the shelves at Whistlestop Market in Rockport. 

ROCKPORT — The first beer commercially brewed in Rockport in 155 years is now available.

Hatchet, created by Rockport Brewing Company, is a New England India pale ale sourced from Pacific Northwest and Australian hop varieties. The label was designed by local artist Quinn Ramini, who is the brother-in-law of Rockport Brewing founder Ray Pickup. 

"New England-style IPAs are huge right now," said Pickup. "That's where we made our bones with home brewing. (Hatchet) is a culmination of multiple brews we made during that period. It's light, crisp, and has low ABV (alcohol by volume), so you can crush them at the beach without feeling too intoxicated."

The name, according to Pickup, is based on the infamous Rockport “Hatchet Gang” of the 19th century. Early settler Hannah Jumper led a band of 200 hatchet-wielding women to destroy every last barrel of whiskey in town in 1865. Apparently, the women were upset their husbands were lazing around and drinking all day. After that fateful night, alcohol was banned in town until 2005, when restrictions began to loosen. Last year, Whistlestop Market, one of Rockport Brewing's vendors, became the first shop in town to sell cans of beer and bottles of wine to take home.

In addition to Whistlestop Market, Hatchet is available to purchase at Sea & Cellar in Rockport and Seabreeze Liquors in Gloucester. The Liquor Locker in Gloucester will soon get a shipment, according to Pickup. Restaurant vendors include the 7th Wave Restaurant and Blue Lobster Grill in Rockport and Franklin Cafe in Gloucester. Pickup hopes Cape Ann Liquors and Good Harbor Liquors, both in Gloucester, will also carry his beer. 

"The first batch is almost all sold," said Pickup last week. "We had 140 cases on Friday (June 26) and they're almost, all of it's gone."

Rockport Brewing's next brew, Twin Lights, is in the fermenting process and is expected to be available in the second week of July. A double New England IPA, it shares a similar profile with Hatchet but is made from different hops.

Rockport Brewing Company received a farmer-brewery license from the state in February, 155 years after alcohol was last created in town. For the time being, Rockport Brewing Company products are brewed at RiverWalk Brewing in Newburyport. Sometime next summer, Pickup hopes to open his own 3,000-square foot brewery at Whistlestop Mall.

"We're still trying to raise funds for SBA (Small Business Administration) loans," the cost of which is around $120,000, he said. "There's still a long process but I think we'll be able to get it. We want (the brewery) to be a community space — an extension of Bearskin Neck for local artists and musicians." 

Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or mcronin@salemnews.com.

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