Over the past few weeks we’ve been getting lots of questions about why Pretty Things has decided to close up shop. Perhaps when Dann and Martha join us for one last tasting (for now) this Thursday night, they’ll shed some light. For the moment, we’ll give in to wild speculation.
We’re told a lot of stores are having a harder time selling large format (22 oz, 750ml) beers. Dann and Martha are brewing traditionalists; and the typical craft beer enthusiast is mostly interested in either over-the-top hop bombs, barrel aged concoctions, wacky fruit-infused beers, or some strange combination of those three. They don’t own a physical brewery, which as it turns out, according to Commonwealth law, puts Pretty Things and other local “gypsy brewers” into a legal gray area. Regardless of their legal standing, more and more of the new craft brewers not only have a small brewery, but also a tasting room, a retail shop, even a brewpub. For the new craft brewery, these added features can become a bigger revenue maker, and thus a bigger priority than selling beer to bars or stores. Maybe with all the new breweries on the scene and new beers hitting the market, people started to take Pretty Things for granted? Maybe they just couldn’t handle hanging out with John Funke every Monday anymore? Or doing all those in-store tastings, tap takeovers, festivals, and other events? Maybe that whole #DirtyLines thing factored in…
Whatever the reason, Dann and Martha decided to call it a day, at least for now, after seven long years of being at the forefront of the local craft beer scene. I think I actually first met Dann and Martha not at a beer event per se, but at a show my not particularly popular band played that, for some reason, Pretty Things “sponsored.” I think in this instance, sponsorship equalled them buying us beer at the bar and at the end of the night dumping a couple of cases of Baby Tree into our van. Which is to say they lost money. They would subsequently go on to lose more money making us t-shirts and buying us more beer at a second show they would sponsor. And then they later went on to subsequently lose even more money buying us more beer and paying us way too much money to play one of their anniversary parties. The point of all this is that my band is possibly to blame for Pretty Things’ demise. But also I guess the point is that Pretty Things never really seemed to be about the money or making it big, it was about “good time artisanal beers,” and having a good time. They were always around town having pint nights at the Independent, at State Park, the annual taco night at Vee Vee, always dropping by whatever bar Casey Keenan was slinging drinks while The Action’s “Rolled Gold” played on the stereo. More than twice I ended up in one of their photo booths, and once I somehow even ended up pouring their beers at some industry event at the Fringe for maybe two people before I realized I could never make it as a bartender.
It’s clear though, that I’m not the only one who felt a close personal connection to Pretty Things. Even within my band there are other members closer to Dann and Martha, though I am probably the one with the most of their branded glassware. So I’m not surprised at how many customers have voiced disbelief, even dismay, that Pretty Things is over. Dann and Martha were always the ones throwing the most fun beer release parties, always the ones willing to dress up in strange period costumes, always the ones with the most delightful, whimsical (yet somehow not corny) label art. They were the brewers you were always happy to run into at the bar, whether by accident or on purpose. Brewers, they’re just like us! Which is why I think a lot of us, myself included, felt that Dann and Martha were “ours” and I guess we’re taking it a little hard learning that they actually belong to themselves. I suppose it’s their right to end this thing. I guess. I won’t be so ungrateful as to not wish them well, but first I am going to put away a case or two of their beers somewhere safe where no customers can buy them. Cheers to you, Dann and Martha. And cheers to Jack, too.