Rarely, if ever, has not getting into college been so fortuitous. After finding out she was waitlisted for nursing school, homebrewer Lee Lord walked into Waltham’s Watch City Brewing and asked if she could help out.
“They threw me a mop and told me to get to work. The rest is history,” she explains. “I learned the art of brewing by working my way up from the bottom.”
She did eventually wind up at college, completing UC Davis’ Brewing Sciences program. After stints at New Hampshire’s Smuttynose and Cambridge Brewing Company in her native Massachusetts, Lord now takes the reins of one of craft brewing’s most storied brands, Narragansett.
Last year was big for ‘Gansett. It broke into the top 50 US craft breweries by sales volume (#30) – a feat that recalls its heyday more than a century ago, when Narragansett was the top-selling beer in New England. With Lord in charge, ‘Gansett joins another elite group of craft brewers: the roughly four percent with female brewmasters.
As ‘Gansett prepares to finally open its new brewery in Fox Point this year, a return to brewing in Rhode Island that has encountered more than its fair share of setbacks, including a fire that destroyed its intended home, Lord hopes it will help establish Providence as a beer destination on par with its New England neighbors. (We’ve got our eye on you, Portland, Maine.)
“We have such an enthusiastic and talented brewing community here, and folks are starting to wake up to that,” she says. “I’m so excited to make the new brewery a special place for the community.”
Lord's vision for ‘Gansett’s future draws heavily on its past. “I’m really looking forward to bringing back some old favorites, like Narragansett Porter and the Old Ale,” she says. But the additional capabilities of the Fox Point facility will enable her to experiment with some different tastes, like traditional old world lagers and hoppy IPAs. “I’m excited to bring something new to the Narragansett brand.”
Her Reason for Optimism: “I’m really bolstered by the perseverance of the human spirit. Last year was (pardon my French) a s-show. But through all of the uncertainty, division, and fear, people are overwhelmingly good. The lengths I’ve seen folks go to help each other and put smiles on each other’s faces has been so inspirational. This world is full of good guys and that gives me so much hope.”