SCITUATE, MA | When breweries were told to shutter their doors, aside from takeout and delivery, to slow the spread of COVID-19, the initial measure was expected to last three weeks, not three months. As the phases, steps and new regulations rolled out - outdoor and indoor dining slowly returned - that is, if that establishment could follow the checklist of health and safety protocols.
It didn’t take long for breweries like Untold Brewing in Scituate, Mass., to quickly work the numbers and realize that reopening for onsite consumption was just not possible. The quaint taproom - a renovated historic schoolhouse dating back to 1852 – has a capacity of 49, which also includes a small patio. The space only has one point of egress and the bathroom foot traffic also passes through the same area.
“Pre-COVID, no one would have thought twice about passing strangers in a shared space, or being shoulder to shoulder on a patio in the sunshine. All that has changed,” says Matt Elder, Founder of Untold Brewing. “With social distancing not possible we kept the taproom closed and put all of our product into cans. That really helped us.”
Small craft breweries sell the majority of their beer over the bar in their taprooms. This is also where breweries make the highest profit margin on their products. With restaurants sidelined alongside taprooms, keg sales were also down or nonexistent. With no sign of relief from Coronavirus, local architecture firm, Bechtel Frank Erickson Architects (BFE), located in Lexington, decided that they wanted to help one of their favorite industries during this difficult time.
They launched a pro bono design competition through the Mass Brewers Guild to help brewers spatially conceptualize solutions to the challenges brought on by the pandemic and the restrictions imposed upon their businesses. A roundtable of brewing peers and design and construction professionals discussed the entries, and selected Untold Brewing as the winner.
“The group deliberated and selected Untold Brewing because we felt the solutions, ideas and adaptations to their space could also apply to other breweries.” says Katie Stinchon, executive director of the Mass Brewers Guild. “Sharing the process and interventions with members might help more than one business. Ultimately, we want all of the state’s breweries up and running and I am excited to see the sketches jump off the page and get out there for a pint in real life.”
The team at Bechtel Frank Erickson Architects offered two designs for Untold Brewing to consider. The brewery ultimately chose the less invasive option which involved very little disruption to brewing operations while creating new circulation paths by expanding their outdoor space. The designs open up the patio wall, add new customer walkways, and provides additional lawn seating. The architectural plan offered allowed the team at Untold Brewing Co. to immediately improve their outdoor space to make it a safer environment for our customers.
“The major challenge to tackle for Untold, as with any brewery during Covid-19, is how to get guests to come out, feel safe, and to have a positive experience at a brewery again,” says Taylor Theriault, Architect at BFE. “As a result, we tried to give Untold the flexibility to adapt immediately, but also to incrementally implement a masterplan for their desire to expand in the future. The idea that any modifications should not just be reactionary, but a calculated step toward a future vision was imperative.” Overall, the team looked for areas of underutilized space and improved circulation patterns to better activate their spaces which hopefully will encourage people to come have a beer with a little more breathing room if desired.
“The final plan presented far exceeded my expectations – it was a really fun process, and the drawings were beautiful. Having professionally drawn plans will be a huge asset as we begin to implement different elements of the design,” says Elder. “We can’t wait to have our neighbors, friends and family back in the taproom. It’s been a long year without our beer community in the taproom.”
Untold Brewing is located at 6 Old Country Way in Scituate, Mass. and will re-open to the public on Friday May 7, 2021. Tentative taproom hours of operation will be: Thursday 3-8 p.,. Friday 3-9 p.m., Saturday 12-9 p.m., and Sunday 12-6 p.m.. The brewery remains open for beer-to-go only on Wednesday 12-7 p.m. For more information visit, untoldbrewing.com.