A Pawtucket goat farmer and a pair of Brown University undergrads walk into a bar(n)…
That’s the (incredibly abridged) story of Farmer Willie’s Ginger Beer. The slightly longer story is that Willie Fenichel, the Cape Cod goat farmer whose glorious ginger-haired silhouette makes up the Farmer Willie’s logo, started home-brewing the beverage in his Cape Cod kitchen about a decade ago. Made with just a few simple, fresh ingredients—cane sugar, molasses, nutmeg, lemon juice and ginger, obviously—the drink was really, really good. “He just kind of stumbled upon it—this light, fresh ginger beer that you can actually drink straight rather than it being used as a mixer,” says Max Easton, one of three Farmer Willie’s co-founders.
Easton met Willie through Nico Enriquez, a good friend at Brown, who knew the Fenichels from spending his summers on the Cape, and eventually had the opportunity to try the famous homemade concoction, which Willie was then brewing in just five-gallon batches, roughly 15 bottles at a time.
Easton and Enriquez thought that more people would want to sip this stuff, so they entered the brew in a startup competition through their school. “It was just a fun little project, we spent two hours a week researching, discussing, that sort of thing,” Easton says. But people loved it; after launching along the Cape during the summer of their junior year, they ended up with more than a dozen accounts, and three farmer’s markets. It was proof of concept enough that they kept working on it, and by the time the graduated last May, they were ready to do this thing full time.
Farmer Willie’s has more than just its quirky backstory going for it; it’s a seriously refreshing beverage, one of the tastiest things we sipped at Taste of Somerville earlier this month.
“It seems everyone is jumping on the boozy-soda bandwagon,” Boston Magazine noted last year, “but this Cape product—crafted from cane sugar, cold-pressed ginger, molasses, and nutmeg—has one distinction: It actually tastes good.”
Just a few years after making its Cape debut, the ginger beer is already available at 400 bars, restaurants and liquor stores throughout Eastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, including Somerville, where Easton and Enriquez moved after graduating last year.
Locally, you can find Willie’s at shops including Downtown Wine & Spirits, Dave’s Fresh Pasta, Jerry’s Liquors and Wine Cask. The company just started selling in kegs last month, which means the beverage will be on draft at more restaurants soon, but you can try it right now at Orleans and Boston Burger Company. Next month, they’ll also be on the menu at Oath Craft Pizza and Meju in Davis Square, and the hope is to expand to more and more Somerville spots soon.
Thirsty for more? Check out a cheeky video from the Farmer Willie’s team below.