Night Shift Brewing Likes Macro Nuisance Role
photo: Night Shift Founders Michael O’Mara, Rob Burns and Michael Oxton
By Tony Forder, email@example.com
One of the fastest growing breweries in Boston has announced plans to build a $10
million brewery in the Philadelphia area to supply PA and NJ markets. Never heard
of Night Shift? Well, they’ve been making a name for themselves in Massachusetts as
a “macro nuisance.”
In the early days of the craft beer revolution I remember the great beer writer
Michael Jackson saying, “If you want to try and take on the Big Guys, you may as well
just lie down in front of one of their 18-wheelers.”
Well, times have changed. Enter the “macro nuisance” aka Night Shift Brewing.
Based in Everett just outside of Boston, these guys call themselves Macro Nuisances.
Sure they make the full spectrum of craft beer – from IPAs, regular and New
England, to fruity infused sours, to coffee porters and imperial stouts – but they also
make a light lager, Nite Lite, and recently released Lime Lite.
They didn’t start out with the idea of competing in the Big Beer market.
“It stemmed originally from our brewers drinking Miller Lites and stuff in the
summer after their shifts in the back,” said Co-Founder Rob Burns. “We thought, we
have the ability and equipment to make whatever we want, why don’t we just make
it instead of you guys buying it and you guys can drink it for free ”
That was in 2016. The following year they released 200-300 cases to local stores
just to see. “Once they (retailers) started ripping them up and doing single can sales
of them, we’re like, ‘Wait a minute, this is not one of those double dry hopped crazy
barrel-aged things, this is a light lager.'”
Taking a page out of macro beer, they held a big launch event last year with bands
and free beer for the fans. In 2018 Night Shift brewed 5,000 barrels of Nite Lite and
now it’s their third best selling beer after Whirlpool (New England Pale Ale) and
Santilli (American IPA).
The light beer was Night Shift’s first go at 12-oz 12-pack cans. “We take a little bit
softer margin on it, but it’s still profitable for us to do it,” said Burns. “We priced it
just a touch more than Bud Light so we’re in that ballpark. Half barrels cost $10 or
$20 more than Bud Light.”
Another reason for the light beer approach was that their sales team was tired of
kicking off IPA handles of other local brewers, said Co-Founder Michael O’Mara. “We
like the guys at Jacks Abby and Lord Hobo. We said, why are we fighting for the
same three handles. Let’s hunt the Bud Light handles and the Miller handles. We’ve
actually had some pretty good success.”
The timing is right. It turned out that Night Shift was ahead of the trend to lighter
beers and lagers that is visible industry-wide this year. “I think we’re seeing the
Scratch kitchen places focus on quality and local. Still, some people want a light beer
but it doesn’t really fit with that concept to sell Bud Light. There’s a need for it
among retail restaurants and on the consumer side,” O’Mara said.
Staying in the Big Beer ballpark also means things like radio ads. “We’re going after
the light beer drinker, we sorta need to be in the same arena as they are. At the same
time we’re staying local, community driven.” And, yes calories – 120 – are clearly
marked on the can.
As well as providing a lighter alternative for existing customers who may want to
take a break from hoppier beers, they’re also hoping to turn new customers on to
craft beer in the first place.
“Could we be their guide in their craft beer journey by providing something familiar
to that light beer drinker”? O’Mara asked rhetorically. “Could they step up to the
Whirlpool and then Double IPAs? Can we move them through the spectrum? That
was definitely part of the goal behind that beer.”
Macro beer’s view has always been craft brewers can’t make a light lager and they
can’t make enough volume. Night Shift is proving them wrong and in May this year
they repeated the Lite rollout for Lime Lite, further rubbing the big guys noses in it.
Said Burns, “We had 1,000 people in our parking lot, and we estimate about 100,000
people knew about it on social media. The first few months sales are good– it’s off to
Night Shift is not just about light beer, however. Their output is estimated at “north
of 40,000 barrels” this year featuring a full range of beers. Stretching their payroll to
almost 200 employees, they opened a second brewery location in Boston with a full
restaurant earlier this year, they operate their own distributorship, and they’re
coffee roasters too. Oh yes, they’re dabbling in hard seltzer as well under the Hoot
But let’s back up to 2012. Night Shift came about when the three partners – Burns,
O’Mara, and Michael Oxton would come home from their day shift jobs and brew
beer until 2 or 3 in the morning.
“We had a 3-bbl system – basically glorified homebrew – in a 2,000 sq ft. space. We
brewed 200 barrels that year, ” said Burns.
Their original concept was culinary-inspired non-traditional beers. “We grew
rapidly, developed an awesome fan base and moved to a bigger location,” said
O’Mara. “Our business plan developed as we grew,” he said. “Initially we only
planned a 90 sq ft tasting room. We had to open the production area weekends for
overflow. We re-wrote our business plan to incorporate the taproom model. That’s
what people wanted – it proved to be the right move.”
In 2016, the year they began dabbling in macro nuisance, they also made the move
into disrupting the distribution line. Dissatisfied with the choices (or lack of) for
distribution in MA, they set up their own distributorship with the bold statement,
“Our mission is to offer a world class selection of craft beverage options. We look
to disrupt the MA wholesaler landscape by offering craft beverage producers a like-minded distribution partner. With the support of our customers, we can impact the
direction of today’s monopolistic MA wholesaler landscape and create something
better for beverage distribution!”
Their portfolio includes an array of craft beer, wine, spirit, and non-alcoholic
beverage brands. Night Shift just expanded their distribution footprint from MA,
Maine and NY into Connecticut.
This year they moved further in the culinary direction by opening their second
location with a full restaurant and a 2,000-bbl experimental brewery. Located next
to the Boston Garden, the Lovejoy Wharf location is garnering rave reviews in the
Boston press; it was recently listed on Boston Magazine’s list of the 10 Hottest
Restaurants. The space features seating for 300 plus an outdoor patio; simple, often
beer-infused dishes (all under $15) from their scratch kitchen; 30 taps with guest
brews as well as their own; and is open at 8 am for house-roasted coffee.
There’s action almost every night at Night Shift’s Everett taphouse – for example the
Fluffiest Fest, based on the release of one of their NEIPA’s, Fluffy, but for the fest
they added Fluffier (Double NEIPA) and Fluffiest (Triple NEIPA). The Brite Lites
music fest was a big hit in July and a brand new custom branded food truck just
debuted. But if you’re not near Everett perhaps you can find an Owl’s Nest – two
seasonal popup locations on the Charles River, one on the Esplanade and one in
Led by their giant owl logo, it seems like there’s never a dull moment for these
young entrepreneurs. “It’s been faster and wilder than we ever imagined, it’s been a fun ride,” said Burns. And it doesn’t look like they’re planning to cease being a
macro nuisance anytime soon.
Stay tuned for more on the Philadelphia project – https://nightshiftfamily.com