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Inside the Boston Beer Boom With Lord of the Brews

Lord Hobo Brewing Company founder Daniel Lanigan on Boston’s craft beer scene

One recent morning, Daniel Lanigan, who sports a bushy red beard, a T-shirt and a ball cap, sat at the bar in the Lord Hobo Brewing Company’s tap room, where craft beer lovers can sample the latest suds and buy cans and growler fills to take home daily.

“I’ve been hand-selling things to consumers over the bar for 15 years,” he says. As Lord Hobo’s founder and CEO, Lanigan has been riding the wave of interest in food and drink that’s been sweeping America, particularly over the last decade. “I know what people want. I know what flavors they want. I know what styles they want. I know what motivates them to purchase things.”

Lord Hobo lineup
Lord Hobo lineup (©Joseph Wyman Brown)

Lanigan has been in the beer business his entire adult life. The Everett native has opened seven beer bars up and down the East Coast and in Brussels, Belgium. These include the award winning Moan & Dove in Amherst, Dirty Truth in Northampton and Lord Hobo Beer Bar in Cambridge.

“The cat’s out of the bag, and it’s never going back in,” he says. “You don’t transition from Bud Light to Heineken to Sam Adams to Lord Hobo and then start going backwards. People want better things. People are willing to spend money on better quality ingredients, better quality food, organic stuff, locally sourced stuff, farm to table stuff, so people are choosing better beer.”

Lord Hobo hardware
Lord Hobo hardware (©Joseph Wyman Brown)

The Lord Hobo Brewing Company in Woburn is at the epicenter of the American craft beer explosion. The 47,000-square foot building is located only minutes from Route 93, down a quiet street off busy Montvale Avenue. The actual brewery is a huge, high ceilinged, industrial-sized room filled with dozens of towering metal tanks and thousands of pallets of cans. You must wear protective plastic glasses to enter.

Lanigan bought the property—a former post office—in July 2014 and opened the brewery one year later. Since then, Lord Hobo Brewing Company (“from the hills of Woburn” as it proudly proclaims on every can) has grown to 7,000 accounts, in 10 states and overseas. In 2015, Lord Hobo sold 3,000 barrels; in 2016, it sold 15,400 barrels, an increase of a whopping 413 percent. It is the fastest growing brewery in the country.

Wall of Hobo
Wall of Hobo (©Joseph Wyman Brown)

Lord Hobo has made its reputation with hoppy India Pale Ales with clever names like Ball & Biscuit, Boomsauce, and Steal This Can. Lanigan says don’t look for that to change.

“We (currently) make five IPAs and will add a sixth one. And two more next year,” he says. “We’re going to branch out a little bit, we’re going to do a wheat beer, a Pilsner. Maybe do a stout at some point. But we’re never going to have 40 beers or 100 beers, we’re just going to stick to the core brew.”

Why mess with success?