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Business Conversations: Craft Beer Cellars on Thompson Street

Kate Baker
Kate Baker
With 289 craft beers from 115 craft breweries, Craft Beer Cellars on Thompson Street in a great place to get educated about the juice of the hops and barley. Co-owner Kate Baker took a few minutes to talk to Winchester Patch about all things craft beer.  

WP: So as a craft beer store, that means no big companies and no booze, correct?  

KB: No booze. We have some wine, a little bit of mead and a little bit of Sake. But those are a special thing. There’s a lot of locally made mead. We don’t have local wine yet. But it’s a compliment. As for beer, we don’t sell any big guys. Just micro brewed. Nothing against Miller or Bud or any big name beers, but we focus on the little guys.  

WP: Does that include Sam Adams?  

KB: Oh yeah. Around here, Sam Adams is larger than life because it’s made in our backyards. But they count as a local craft brew. There’s a craft brew threshold as determined by the Brewer’s Association and if you’re making 6 million barrels of beer a year, you’re considered a craft brewer.  

WP: Aside from the fact that it’s a wicked cool job to have, how did you initially get into this business?  

KB: Well it is a really cool job. My business partner and I were in the restaurant business and worked at the same place a long time ago. Fifteen years ago? No. Twelve. Anyways, when she took that job, there were 24 beers on tap, some macros. When I got hired, she said, “What do you think about this micro brew idea? Is this going somewhere? Let’s jump on this.” So we increased the beer selection at this place from 24 to 30 taps.  

WP: Where was this?  

KB: Cambridge Common on Mass. Ave.  

WP: Oh, I know exactly where that is. Just outside of Harvard Square.  

KB: Yup, so we were working there and we had a blast serving people these great beers. The restaurant business is a grind and we tried to open up and craft beer pub and restaurant. Once we decided to go another route, we decided we wanted to stay in the industry and we decided on a beer store. We opened our first store in Belmont and we opened up here on July 1st.  

WP: What is the difference between a beer enthusiast and a beer snob?  

BK: That’s a great question. I can spot the difference in demeanor and language used. Beer snobs have a place in this world. They like what they like and you can’t judge them for that. But the problem with snobbery is that it makes people who are fresh on the scene, discovering their own pallet feel kind of dumb. My business partner, Suzanne has a line where she said, “You can’t learn anything from a snob. They’re in their own head.” I’m not a big fan of talking about people poorly, but we are here to educate people, not judging people.  

WP: What is the biggest seller here?  

KB: Oh boy… You know, we have done really well with Jack’s Abbey out of Framingham. They can do no wrong. Our store in Belmont is so big that we get to showcase beers here. We started with a solely New England focus and now we’re heading towards ‘we’re going to give you the best 350 beers from all over the world that we can get our hands on.’  

WP: So if someone were to come in here and say, “Hi, I have no idea what I want,” what would you tell them?  

KB: The first thing I would ask is what the last beer they had was and go from there. I want to try to trigger people’s memories. We take it from there based on what ever taste they like. A lot of people getting into craft beer don’t know the language to talk about what they like, so we try to use all manner of adjectives: Fruity, spicy, hoppy, piney, citrusy, Earthy, and really take it from there. It’s not just about saying, ‘Oh you like cider, here’s my favorite. See you at the counter.’ That’s not hospitality and that’s where we live. What we’re rolling with.    

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