Who in the World?
Dann Paquette is a brewing industry veteran in the middle of a busy career, with over 20 years experience working in over 10 breweries on two continents. Since his career began in the early 1990’s, Dann’s dogged devotion to better beer, and better-beer-only may have cost him a comfortable existence. But it has allowed him to experience more of the craft brewing world than most working in the industry today. Dann got sick of working for other people in about 1993, but on a brewers salary, starting his own brewery was not an option. Finally, in 2008, he started “Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project”, finding a way to do it for short money by renting space from local breweries. Pretty Things has put a stamp on the Boston brewing scene and has allowed Dann to do the creative things he has been dreaming of for twenty years.
The idea at the root of Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project is to put very “un-pretty” beer concepts inside a package that lets you know you are going out on a limb. With a philosophy of “no novelty ingredients”, dryness and a disposition for a “lasting plant-like bitterness”, Dann’s beers stand out, often seeming a bit askew in an industry with parody at its core. What started as an investment of their entire savings to brew one batch of beer, has eventually turned in to a full time job for Dann and Martha. Today Pretty Things beers are available at over 800 locations across Massachusetts and beyond.
Paquette studied brewing science at both the Siebel Institute in Chicago and the University of California. Some of his more notable achievements over the last 20 years include brewing some of the first sour wood-aged beers in the United States. At this point in time sour beers were so before-their-time that volunteers at the 1998 Great American Beer Festival equipped the front of his booth with a garbage pail so that attendees could spit them out.
Dann has introduced traditional cask real ale production to several breweries and was the first brewer in New England to age and serve beer from oak hogsheads. He went on to work in North Yorkshire, England, brewing and working the cellar at Daleside, a traditional “real ale” brewery for three years. In the past few years Dann has been instrumental in guiding a Trappist Monastery in Massachusetts towards building North America’s first certified Trappist brewery. Dann and Martha educated the monks on brewing and beer, and provided practical training for one of the monks who assisted on Pretty Things brew days.
The goal of Pretty Things is to continue to push the boundaries of beer: not by using novelty ingredients but by extending the trade of beer and brewing. Dann is absorbed by brewing history, and in the Once Upon a Time series, he recreates historical beers accurately with the help of beer historian Ron Pattinson.
The Assistant Brewer
Martha is British and grew up in Yorkshire in the North of England. She has a BA and PhD in Virology from the University of Cambridge in the UK. She moved to Boston to work as a research scientist at Harvard Medical School, and then she met Dann and that was the end of that.
When they met, Martha was getting ready to up-sticks and move back to Yorkshire, and she persuaded Dann to come along for the ride. Slowly but surely, beer began to overtake viruses, as Saturday mornings were spent skimming yeast at Daleside brewery and Saturday afternoons were spent pulling pints (or drinking them) at beer festivals. When they moved back to Boston, Dann found that his job prospects were pretty grim, so it made sense for him to start Pretty Things. Martha got a job at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge and filled the rest of her time with the business, doing the numbers and going to events. That’s when two things happened that would change things: first, Martha’s boss left science to become, of all things, an astronaut. And second, she realized that Pretty Things was becoming successful enough for her to take the leap into the unknown world of small business.
Today, Martha is Dann’s assistant brewer. She attended UCDavis for a short course in brewing science in 2012. In the brewery, she runs parts of each brew and spends the rest of her time managing inventory, packaging, scheduling and logistics. Some people call her the brains and Dann the creative spirit, but in reality they are more equal in most things, with Martha taking the business lead with Dann helping, Dann the brewing lead with Martha helping, and the creative stuff coming together over beers and a roast chicken or smoked something-or-other, depending on the season. Life at Pretty Things is happy, challenging and fulfilling, and it doesn’t get much better than that. Martha wants to keep making better beers, keep responding to inspiring places, people and events, and keep figuring out how to run a great and little business in a great part of the world!
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Here’s Seth Cohen of Somerville, a shiny new Pretty Thing. Seth comes to us from Harpoon where he spent a decade in Sales Operations. He tells us that his experience as a bike messenger, devouring draft Tremont Ale around Boston in the early 1990’s was where his lightbulb moment happened. Seth’s not only a well known and respected member of the local beer industry, he brings with him a fantastically vibrant personality and creativity that will no doubt make its mark on PTB&AP before long.
Here Seth will be doing a little of everything, from figuring out how to streamline the business side, to figuring out how to serve the beer drinkers better, to going out there in the field and meeting you.
So if you see him say hi and welcome!