Michael Oxton is not afraid of hard work. He and his Night Shift Brewing co-founders, Rob Burns and Mike O’Mara, fervently pursued their homebrewing hobby at night for five years, while living in a shared apartment and working desk jobs.
In 2012, they debuted Night Shift in Everett, Mass. They have since built a business that is on track to produce around 30,000 barrels of beer this year — roughly 150 times what it made in its first full year of operation.
Night Shift quickly outgrew the humble 3,000 square feet it originally occupied in Everett, and within two years moved to its current, 30,000-square-foot facility to keep up with the demand for hop-forward beers like Whirlpool, Santilli, and Morph. It created a namesake distribution company in 2016, which it uses to move its products plus those from almost 20 other breweries (and counting) throughout the state.
The brewery is rightly renowned for its flavorful IPAs, but one of Night Shift’s top beers by volume is a pale lager, Nite Lite. It is considered one of the brightest options in the craft segment’s growing category of light beers, as more small brewers create full-flavored alternatives in an effort to take some of a market long dominated by macro adjunct lagers.
“Our mission is to stand out against the tide of macro light brands on the shelves,” Oxton says. “So far, it’s been a huge success: Drinkers that want a better-tasting, craft light beer now have Nite Lite. We anticipate a lot of growth for that brand next year.”
To that end, in early 2019, Night Shift plans to open a second brewery and taproom in Boston. The 12,000-square-foot facility will be located at the recently restored Lovejoy Wharf, and will house a 10-barrel brewing system dedicated to producing more experimental beers available only on the premises. The space will also have a full kitchen and coffee bar.
“Lovejoy Wharf will be our innovation factory,” Oxton says. “And that applies to the beer, food, and coffee being served there — we’ll be experimenting on all levels.”
Some people never quit. Here, the hard-working former home brewer tackles our Lucky Sevens to tell us why the best and worst beer in his fridge is in fact the same brew, and about the time he considered burying an imperial stout in his backyard.
1. What’s your desert-island beer?
Allagash White. Consistently delicious, good in the sun, and no matter how much I drink it, I always seem to discover some new or surprising dimension of its flavor.
2. What’s the beer that made you fall in love with beer?
Dogfish Head’s World Wide Stout. It was around 2006. The label suggested that I dig a hole in my yard, bury the bottle, and drink it in a year. I did bury it — in my closet — for a year before drinking it. I found it thick and rich and beautiful, and my appreciation was certainly enhanced by the wait. That totally changed how I thought about the interaction between beer drinkers and beer producers; it could be so much more personal and complex than I had assumed. I absolutely brought that to my approach with Night Shift.
3. FMK three beer types: IPA, pilsner, sour?
F: sour (unpredictable, fun, weird); M: pilsner (reliable, respected, prosperous); K: IPA (we have enough).
4. You’re on death row. What’s your last-supper beer?
Something philosophical, a little transcendent, definitely boozy. St. Bernardus Abt 12.
5. You can only drink one beer for the rest of your life. What is it?
I’ll stay close to home here and say our Whirlpool, a soft, citrusy-peachy pale ale that never gets old — partly because my access to fresh cans is pretty decent.
6. What’s the best and worst beer in your fridge right now?
Right now the best is a 2015 bottle of our Pearl, a barrel-aged wild ale that was a crazy blend of beers: Harborside and Somer Weisse both aged in rare gin barrels, and an unrecorded volume of “TBD sour ale” with zero written history. Impossible to repeat, but isn’t that how it should be? Worst beer might also be Pearl. It was awesome last time I had a bottle, but that was probably 2016. Two years in the cellar and things can get pretty funky.
7. If you could no longer drink beer, what would be your beverage of choice?
Bourbon or Scotch, though they’re much less pair-able with meals.