Derry resident Joe Ruotolo opened his home-brewing business, Border Brew Supply, in 2011. In recent months Routolo has expanded his business to offer his own handcrafted microbrews, which are sold at his Salem headquarters. The company was named after Ruotolo's pet border collie, Pepper, whose likeness graces the sign. (APRIL GUILMET PHOTO)
Salem's Border Brew Supply: A hobby on the fast track to success
SALEM — It's been two years since Derry resident Joe Ruotolo put aside his welding career to follow his longtime passion.
"I was on the road constantly, and it was taking its toll on me," Ruotolo said. "Ultimately, I knew it was time to turn my hobby into a business."
Ruotolo and his wife, Regina, opened their retail store, Border Brew Supply, at 10 Lawrence Road, and business and new things have been steeping ever since.
With Ruotolo already whipping up small batches of brown ales, pilsners and lagers in the back room of his shop during his regular brewing classes onsite, the brewery component was a natural progression.
"I'm not much of a drinker, but I just love the brewing process," Ruotolo said. "I'm also a great baker, but beer does tend to sell better than cookies."
In two years the facility, which also offers a full range of home beer-making and wine-making supplies, has doubled in size. There's a room set aside for brewing and another for pouring and tasting.
Word continues to spread.
"Having a brewery onsite was a goal from the very beginning, though honestly I didn't expect it to happen so fast," Ruotolo said. "But then I realized nano-breweries are popping up everywhere. People just love to try good beers, and they love to see where it's made."
Naming each batch is a huge part of the creative process.
For instance, Sticky Paw Brown Ale got its name when the shop's mascot, a Border collie named Pepper, decided to experience the brewing process firsthand.
"We had some spills in the backroom and it was a huge, sticky mess," Ruotolo said with a laugh. "That's when Pepper ran into the room. He left his sticky paw prints all over store."
The name, as it happens, just stuck.
Brewing a 35-gallon barrel of beer is a six-hour process, with the finished project taking another four weeks to ferment.
"It has to age before we put it on tap," Ruotolo said.
Throughout the process, the Ruotolos enjoy family time while earning a living, with the couple's 1-year-old son often playing in the office upstairs and the three family dogs greeting each patron.
Customers, many of them repeat visitors, come in and purchase glass growler containers for $15. Each refill is $10. There are also samples available for $1 each. All beers are consumed onsite in accordance with current liquor regulations. Border Brew currently does not pour pints of beer for customers but plans to at some point in the future.
The company will soon offer private tasting events as well, which Ruotolo said would be an ideal activity for a bachelor or bachelorette party as it could be incorporated into packages to include a brew class as well.
Border Brew Supply, located at 10 Lawrence Road in Salem, is open Wednesday through Friday from noon to 6:30 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m.Only cash is accepted. For more information, visit www.borderbrewsupply.com.