“I would give all of my fame for a pot of ale and safety.” — Henry V, Act III, Scene 2
To beer or not to beer? That was an easy question for Mike and Jessie Sartor, the couple behind Shakesbeer Beverages, who have combined their passion for brewing and love of the Bard to craft this punny brand out of Hingham, Mass.
The curtain rose on Shakesbeer just last August with the release of their flagship IPA, but the tale of these star-crossed lovers started back in college, where Jessie was an English major specializing in Shakespeare and Mike was brewing beer in his spare time while studying for a law degree.
“It was a really compelling hobby,” Mike says. He thought of the catchy name “Shakesbeer” years ago while honing his home-brewing skills, and after making “a lot of bad beer at first,” what had been a cool weekend hobby became the family business. “I’m a lawyer by trade, so I trademarked the name, and once I got to the point where the beer was good enough, I just went for it.”
And Shakesbeer has been breaking legs and filling kegs ever since. Their first beer, appropriately titled Act 1, gives the brewery’s lead role to a hazy, approachable, 5.5% New England-Style IPA which Mike produced with the help of Shebeen Brewing Co. in Wolcott, Connecticut. Shebeen is a relatively small brewery, but it’s a lot bigger than the Sartor’s kitchen, and they helped the pair bring their operation to a commercial scale.
Once they hit max capacity there, production moved to Mercury Brewing in Ipswich, which is even bigger (and a shorter commute from Hingham). In under a year, Shakesbeer has gone from a distribution of exactly zero to over 250 package stores and restaurants around the state, and they’ve added two more beers to the lineup. The Tempest is a double IPA described as a “storm of hops,” and A Midsummer Night’s Dream is—you guessed it—their summer seasonal, a crisp pale ale with a hint of lemon, the perfect brew for sipping outdoors.
So far the beers have been a hit with both beer aficionados and English majors alike. Most importantly, according to Mike, folks aren’t forgetting the name. “I walk out of bars all the time and immediately forget the name of whatever IPA I just drank, but people seem to remember these beers.” Obviously a beer by any other name would taste as sweet, but when starting a brewery from the ground up it does help to have repeat customers.
Asked about the naming process, Mike laughed. “Like any good dad I’ve got plenty of puns to work with; Jessie mostly serves as a reality check for my riffing on Shakespeare. Interestingly enough, she has Celiac, so she’s never had a drop of anything I’ve brewed (other than a very bad gluten free beer I made once).”
So what does the future hold? Mike and Jessie have started the ball rolling on their very own facility in Hingham, where they’ve been longtime residents and the beer has developed a cult following. They hope to be up and running sometime in 2019. In the meantime, Mike gave a sneak peek of Shakesbeer’s next productions, still drawing nerdy inspiration from Shakespeare’s titles and lines. Star Crossed, featuring Galaxy hops, will be released later this summer, and True Apothecary will be a bigger, deeper IPA, release date TBD.
You can expect more delicious beers—and more Bardy beer puns—from this crew in the future. In the meantime, check out Shakesbeer’s website to find their full distribution list so you can get your hands on a cold one and take a break from the slings and arrows of, y’know, the work-week.