Farmer Willie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer
What do you get when you combine two Brown University students and a goat farmer from Truro? A high-brow billy? A Mensalevel mutton cousin? Nope, it’s the first American-produced alcoholic ginger beer to enter the market. Farmer Willie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer is poised to hit Cape Cod this summer as this improbable story enters its next chapter.
Farmer Willie Fenichel began his brewing career much like many brewers do: in his home. After watching his parents ferment their own wine, Willie tried his hand at brewing alcoholic ginger beer back in 2008. A year later, the family moved from Watertown, Massachusetts to a rustic vacation home in Truro to raise goats. There, high above Mill Pond with a spectacular view of Cape Cod Bay and Provincetown beyond, Willie got down to business perfecting his formula. Over the years, Willie not only settled on his original recipe, but also created a line of flavors that feature ingredients such as sour cherry, lavender, rose petals, and hot pepper and lime. The ginger and citrus flavors blend beautifully with just the right amount of spice that lets you know it’s there. The flavors ride the effervescence, which lightens the load and makes it perfect for the beach after a hard-fought battle on the volleyball court.
In fact, it was there, on Longnook Beach in Truro, where Nico Enriquez met Willie and his family and sampled Willie’s brew for the first time. The group became fast friends and Nico became an even faster fan of Willie’s ginger beer. Nico excitedly returned to Brown and told his best friend, Max Easton, all about Willie’s brew. A born entrepreneur from London, Max saw the possibilities in an alcoholic ginger beer product. It’s an established beverage in the United Kingdom, but over here? It hasn’t been popular since before prohibition.
Armed with $6500 in grants earned through various programs at Brown, the three officially, albeit quietly, launched Farmer Willie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer last year. The infectious enthusiasm of Enriquez and Easton, coupled with the refreshing taste of the ginger beer and the “only on Cape Cod” backstory make for a powerful combination, one that could spell big success. Pouring their potion at the 25th Annual Robert F. Kennedy Charity golf tournament in Hyannisport last October, the guys received their first celebrity endorsement. Bill Murray reportedly loved it and said it was the best alcoholic ginger beer ever. While they are still trying to get the actor to sign off on an exact quote for future marketing possibilities, it’s the response they’ve been receiving wherever they go.
“We’re blown away by all the support we’ve been getting,” Nico says while sitting at Willie’s dining table with Max and Willie, where the excitement is palpable. Willie is reserved and humble but his cherubic smile cuts through the nest of whiskers of his trademark beard. The support is from some big names in the food and beverage community along the outer Cape. Guy Yingling of Blackfish, Local 86 and Bubala’s fame has been invaluable. Vita Richter, owner of The Nor’East Beer Garden in Provincetown and the bar’s manager Nate Dress have been a huge help. The folks at Truro Vineyards have imparted their nuggets of wisdom as well.
The rollout will be scaled and manageable. Farmer Willie has entered into an agreement with Downeast Cider House to brew and can the gluten-free product for this summer’s initial 30,000- can run. Really, is there a more fitting location to produce this distinctive beverage with its one-of-a-kind story than under the Tobin Bridge in Charlestown? The unique cans, which were created by a student at the Rhode Island School of Design, are adorned with the image of Willie’s beard hanging like garland off the rim. You’ll be able to find them at bars and restaurants from Hyannis to Provincetown starting in May.
Farmer Willie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer thefarmerwillies.com