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A boost for brewery: State awards Essex project a $5M tax-exempt bond

February 2, 2019 : Gloucester Daily Times, by Michael Cronin

ESSEX — The Great Marsh Brewing Company, rising up on the Causeway, has received a $5 million boost.

MassDevelopment has issued a $5 million tax-exempt bond, purchased by East Boston Savings Bank, to Blue Ivy LLC, the real estate entity created by brewery founder John Collins for the project.

“MassDevelopment is pleased to help entrepreneur John Collins realize the dream of expanding his home brewing operation into a state-of-the-art facility, with ample space to brew, package, and sell his product,” said MassDevelopment President and CEO Lauren Liss in a prepared statement. “Great Marsh Brewing Company is one of many craft breweries and cider houses using our low-cost financing to increase production and create jobs in the Commonwealth.”

So far, Collins has spent around $4 million on the approximately $10 million project. The facility will feature manufacturing, canning, and warehouse space, a taproom, and a beer garden. Approximately 5,000 square feet of restaurant space will be leased to an outside company that has yet to be named.

"We're working out the lease right now," Collins said. "It's a noteworthy partnership."

He is looking to have the brewery open by late fall, either at the end of September or sometime in October. In addition to offering locals a place for food and drinks, he hopes the space will be used in the future for philanthropic events to better the community.

Construction is underway at 99 Main St., the site of the old Fortune Palace II restaurant, which was demolished and cleared out last summer. Last Monday, the brewery's foundation was finished. Steel framing was going up at the end of last week.

Building Great Marsh Brewing Company has had its challenges. The site is located along the tidal Essex River in a flood zone. Since September, Collins estimates it has flooded a dozen times. To combat the high tides, the brewery will be elevated 5 feet above ground.

"It's like building a brewery on a boardwalk," said Collins.

Three years ago, Collins began home-brewing as a hobby in the basement of his Hamilton home. At the time, he was a stay-at-home dad. The software company he founded in 2000, Nolij Corporation, was bought by Lexmark in 2012.

While brewing, "a small part of me was thinking of a bigger picture," he said. "If this was something I could manage and control, I thought I could take it to the next level."

Over the years, Collins has brewed a variety of stouts, light porters, lagers, and ales. Now, he's looking for the public to get a taste.

"We have a New England double-hops I.P.A. we just came out with," he said. "We think (it's) a home run."