Nominated by USA TODAY in early 2020 in the top 10 new breweries category, Vitamin Sea Brewing Company has a story that’s pretty similar to many others’, but whose success rate so far has been off the rails.
The Blue Cooler Story
When you visit their brewpub that has been converted cleverly from a garage into a cozy German-pub inspired hotspot, you will understand just how popular Vitamin Sea has managed to become in a short period.
The place, until recently, was operational only on Saturdays. They offered a selection of their brews on tap, along with a limited number of cans when they were open. Beer enthusiasts who are also skilled in penning down thoughts and opinions have blogged about the impressive rate at which the cans were flying off the shelf well before closing time since day one.
Located on Moore Road in Weymouth, Massachusetts, you’re better off gleaning more knowledge about Vitamin Sea from their social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter than their one-page website. They have a healthy number of followers on all three social media accounts, as well as glowing reviews from the top craft beer sites, such as Untappd and BeerAdvocate.
VSB opened its doors formally in February of 2019, with warm-hued wooden benches straight from Germany and soft, glowing, white fairy lights. The four co-owning friends estimated a crowd of hundreds on their opening day. The actual number was closer to 1,100. So how does it manage to amass such a huge fanbase? It’s all because of their famous blue cooler.
VSB’s chief brewer and one of the co-founders, Dino Funari, along with his three friends, Peter Kiley, Rich DiBona, and Josh Sherman, jointly opened the place after several years of “legendary” home brewing experience.
After they started getting the hang of the process and created drinks that they found enjoyable themselves, they upped the game by brewing batches of five gallons on a simple kitchen tool – the stovetop.
Their skill and confidence continued to grow, and they graduated to a mobile canner. They started selling cans of their brews locally and also participated in popular events to spread the word.
What made VSB so popular and unique was its blue cooler. Initially used by them to store and keep their brews cool in the basement, they started keeping it in the front yard of Funari’s house and encouraged people to drop off four cans of regular beers, store-bought. In exchange, they could pick up four of VSB’s brewed beers in cans. The trend continued, and the friends thought it was the right time to go commercial.
The beer and quirky blue cooler alone didn’t create the magical vibes associated with VSB. Funari, who has been a keen lover of beer and the art that goes into making various types, spent several years learning tools of the trade, marketing the business, and collaborating with local places. When the team was ready, they approached the town’s mayor and have quoted that they received excellent support from local administration to start their business.
Currently, VSB has 12 taps, and 10 of them are usually reserved for their special brews, such as Seven Bell’s and Five Deadly Venoms. Known primarily for their New England style dry-hopped IPAs, they also have creative stouts available, with the key ingredients being Mount Kerenci coffee that they get from a local partner business.
Although a young company, VSB’s brews and their unique ingredients have managed to help them win several prestigious events and competitions. The most notable one, at least to Funari, is their Boston Magazine-organized competition win, in which they defeated 64 other New England IPA specializing breweries.
Mind you, the win wasn’t a measly one; they managed to better bigwigs like Trillium, Backlash, Tree House, and Narragansett. Funari believed they wouldn’t even get past the first round, which was against Narragansett, whose claim to fame is their lager used in the epic movie “Jaws.”
VSB has expanded its menu by including premium cream ales and a variety of American IPAs, but their strongest sellers even today are their New England IPAs. VSB is known to push the boundaries in the use of ingredients in artisan beer and produce unique flavors that would be extremely difficult to get anywhere else.
VSB’s drinks have been top-rated by experts and the general public alike on various online forums. But Funari and team are their own worst critics.
They still think they have a long way to go to make the perfect drink that will make them want to pack a barrel of it and enjoy it on their success vacation. This urge to make something fantastic and so different from what’s available elsewhere has been their most prominent driving force.
Most people enjoy the drinks, as well as the charming interiors of the brewpub, which has recently started being operational even on Thursdays and Fridays for six hours in addition to their usual Saturday timings.
But if you enjoy sipping your drink in an open area rather than the trendily decorated interiors, you won’t be disappointed because that’s one of VSB’s strong selling points raved about in online customer opinions.
Despite being busy always, customers don’t have to wait for too long and are served in roughly ten minutes. VSB has partnered with rotating food trucks that supply delicious food that go well with their brews.
Although the place is spread over 12,000 square feet, people still feel that they connect very well with each other, owing to the casual, open-plan seating arrangement. Their logo, which features as a gigantic piece of art all around the brewery, has been designed by experts who’ve collaborated with Tree House before.
Eagle-eyed customers have been keen to note the attention to detail given even to the taproom’s interiors, just like they have to their stunning beer cans, which are more than Instagram-worthy. So it looks like the owners don’t want to leave any stone unturned in impressing their customers.
VSB currently doesn’t sell its products online, nor do they regularly sell kegs to local stores. But the ambitious owners are already looking towards the future and hope to expand, both in terms of equipment and drink options. As they’ve mentioned in interviews before, they didn’t set up their impressive place to remain open for just a few hours each week.
If you’re looking for a place where you can catch up with old friends while sipping on great hoppy beers with your dog snoozing under your table, then this is the place to go these days. As several happy fans have vouched, they’ve been treated to great customer service, often from Funari himself.
The head brewer is regularly seen talking to and advising his patrons on the kind of beer he would recommend for them. All four owners have put everything they have on the line for it, and they’re definitely here to stay in the game for a long time to come, strong and innovative.