Lord Hobo

Lord Hobo now offering over 15 specialty beers

In just a few short years, Lord Hobo founder Daniel Lanigan and his team of craft beermakers managed to convince skeptical Woburnites that the city's first brewery wouldn't drag a steady horde of ale-crazed hooligans into town.

Indeed, Lord Hobo's Woburn headquarters, which began as a 24-hour brewing facility that sold just one custom ale from a small on-site retail store, is booming beyond measure. And with its craft beer lineup now including 15 speciality brews and more than a dozen limited-release IPAs and lagers, the business' following has exploded since its inception in 2014.

During that growth, local citizens and city officials alike have discovered that when it comes to the somewhat unique microbrewery subculture, those who enjoy flavor-packed beers should not be confused with those who overconsume just any hops-containing beverage.

"I was concerned it would turn into a bar where people just go to get drunk," admitted East Woburn Alderman Darlene Mercer-Bruen, who was amongst those worried about trouble, when Lord Hobo first proposed expanding into the restaurant and alcohol-service sector in 2015.

"I've done quite a bit of research into this, and there are people who travel miles to find these types of [custom beers]. So it's much different than what I thought it would be… People are going out to try this artistic product," added Mercer-Bruen, whose district includes Lord Hobo's 46,000 square foot headquarters on Draper Street by the Winchester line.

Underscoring Lord Hobo's public relations successes, the Woburn City Council and Planning Board just last month okayed the business’ latest expansion, which will entail the construction of a new outdoor beer garden with seating for as many as 107 patrons.

The brewer is also now allowed to host private parties in a new function area, with space for up to 60 patrons, which will be built right off of its indoor taproom. The approval comes less than a year after local officials first granted the brewery permission to open its fully-licensed restaurant.

Earlier this spring, Lord Hobo representative Bryan Palombo, assuring Woburn's Planning Board that the growing business would continue to cater to a sensible crowd of beer enthusiasts, bragged that the new seating area would bring with it a new blend of cuisine choices.

"This is a brewery tasting room. Cumulatively, we have 150 years of bar management experience [among our staff]. There's a lot of people who worked a long time on this," said Palombo, who described the taproom and restaurant as a family-friendly atmosphere.

Since obtaining permission to bring its hops outside, Lord Hobo, which now serves its "617 Title Town" IPA at Fenway Park, has been pitching a number of special events at its Draper Street headquarters, including a reoccurring "Tuesday Cruise Night", where car enthusiasts can check out some classic cars and enter a free raffle to win a 1979 Pontiac Firebird.

Paying homage to "geeks who drink", the brewery also hosts a trivia night on Monday evenings, when teams of up to six persons compete for prizes during eight rounds of quizzing. In yet another unique promotion, Lord Hobo on Sunday, July 14 will be opening up a scary movie screening series with the showing of the original 1984 edition of the film "Ghostbusters".

"Beer has a unique ability to bring all kinds of people together. [from the lords that only enjoy the finer things in life, to the Hobos that work hard to earn their small pleasures, great beer is an accessible luxury," say company officials in a statement posted to Lord Hobo's website.

Building trust

When Lanigan decided about five years ago to act on his dreams of opening up a brewery, the Lord Hobo founder immediately set his sights on various manufacturing spaces in the North Shore area.

According to media reports at the time, the Everett native had at one point envisioned investing as much as $18 million to lease a warehouse with at least 150,000 square feet, but after venturing into Woburn, he decided upon the much smaller space.

Almost immediately upon applying for a special permit for the brewery in 2014, Lanigan, represented by local attorney Mark Salvati, found Woburn's Planning Board quite apprehensive about the plans.

"We've been through a lot with Draper Street. We've put in a lot of [business restrictions] to make it more tolerable, but obviously, it's not working," said Planner Michael Ventresca, voicing frustration with neighborhood friction that already existed in the area around Lord Hobo's future home.

"We've served responsibly for 13 years," Lanigan would later say at the same 2014 hearing, after city officials questioned his plans to let patrons taste beers. "Take a look at our record. This is my first brewery, but not my first time serving beer to people."

Lord Hobo's headquarters at 5 Draper St. is located within an industrial district that's just minutes away from I-93 and Woburn's busy Montvale Avenue corridor. That proximity to a major highway has been touted as part of the reason for Lord Hobo's success, as customers looking to taste the company's growing lineup of craft beers generally have few issues finding the business.

But that ease of access, which fueled Lord Hobo's initial taproom expansion and subsequent foray into the restaurant industry, has also generated great concern over the years.

Specifically, the business, though surrounded by a myriad of other warehouses, auto shops, and parts suppliers, also happens to sit on the fringes of a residential neighborhood that stretches towards the Winchester line.

Given the area's abrasive mix of single-family homes and industrial enterprises, a handful of neighbors were understandably skeptical when Lanigan announced his plans to open Woburn's first brewery.

Yet, for a company that boasts about its ability to bring the boom, a reference to the brewer's original "Boomsauce" or New England-style IPA, Lord Hobo's swift expansion over the past four years has as promised come about quietly for residential abutters.

Ultimately, that respite, much welcomed by residents who have long clashed with their industrial neighbors, has gradually turned Lord Hobo's original detractors into a crowd of supporters.

"Last summer, before you had the taproom built out, you used 30 one-day liquor licenses. You had some outside events, and I was there. I don't recall any real noise. It seemed like a fine operation," said Woburn Alderman Mark Gaffney, when Lord Hobo officials appeared before the City Council this May to amend its parking plan to accommodate the new patio.

"I was skeptical because of its proximity to the neighborhood. But by all accounts, at least from what I've been told, they've been a good neighbor," Mercer-Bruen, in a more recent phone interview, later said of Lord Hobo's presence in the community. "It's a beautiful facility, and people have even been walking there from other neighborhoods."

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