Dann Paquette started brewing professionally in the Boston area beginning in 1992. While living in Yorkshire, England, he and wife Martha found the inspiration to open their own brewery. They moved back across the Atlantic Ocean to Boston, where Martha is now an MIT scientist while Dann leads the couple’s brewhouse – Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project – where he is “helped along by the other “Pretty Things’ like the mischievous hops and the transformative miniscules we know as yeast” to produce 19th century English-style beers. We recently corresponded with Dann Paquette via e-mail, and he better explained his background and approach.
What was your first beer related job, and how did it come about?
My first beer-related job was as General Manager of Yankee Brew News in 1991 maybe? Basically I was trying to transition from my previous career and my degree in journalism came in handy. I was able to just call breweries on the phone and just ask them how things were going. Sometimes I would be on the phone with a brewer for hours. I loved it…talking about beer like that. Before long I was getting invited to brew. I think my first paid brewing job was about 6 months later.
What’s your first beer memory, good or bad?
Bad beer memory? I don’t see how that’s possible. Beer is mostly brilliant and perfect. People are a nightmare! My first memories with beer is similar to most. Basically lots of relatives sat around in summer on folding chairs, drinking from cans. When I was really little, back when people still drank while they drove, I used to collect the cans and bottle caps that they would throw out their windows onto the side of the road. I was fascinated with all of the different brands I guess.
What was the first beer you ever brewed, and how did it turn out?
I brewed a stout made from syrup out of a can back in the 1980’s I think. I can’t imagine it was any good at all.
What prompted you and Martha to move from England to Massachusetts?
Well I had lived and worked as a brewer in the Boston area since 1992 and went to college here at Emerson. Martha and I met here before moving to Yorkshire in 2006. So basically it was coming home.
What’s the most recent beer that you brewed, and what was your approach with it?
We have a series of historical recreation beers called “Once Upon A Time”. Basically we recreate these beers from the original brewsheets, not recipes. We work with a brewing historian named Ron Pattinson and he translates these records for us. We painstakingly make it all work on our brew day, just as it may have done in the cloudy past. The latest was a Porter originally brewed on December 6th, 1855 in London. The idea is that we change nothing and we really mean nothing. For instance most of the beers we’ve recreated so far have been 19th century English beers. These things were LOADED with hops, but are fermented at high temperatures. So the effect of the hops is at odds with our modern notions. Lots of people tell me “it’s not very hoppy”. I tell them that in fact this may be one of the hoppiest beers they’ve ever drank, it’s just not made with precious regard for aroma. It’s about something else all together.
Who are some other brewers that you really respect in the industry that you have not worked with?
That would be a very long list. Right now you’d be hard pressed to find an American brewery that isn’t killing it in terms of passion and dedication…even if the product falls short. I think most honest brewers out there would admit that they think their beers could get at least 10% better. That’s what we’re all in it for…making world class beers before we cark it.
How do you feel about collaborating with other breweries, and do you have anything in the works?
I never liked collaborating in school and it’s one of few lines we’ve drawn with Pretty Things. No collaborations and no competitions.
Where and what do you like to drink when you’re not working?
Well, seeing that Martha is English we spend a lot of time putting the kettle on for tea. I’m a big dairy guy so I drink a lot of milk. Wait, do you mean beer? My most regular beers are XX Bitter from De Ranke, Saison DuPont, Smuttynose IPA, Mayflower Porter.
What are your favorite outdoor activities?
You mean not having to do with my career? Oh lord, maybe running the barbecue, playing basketball, walking in the moors, flea markets. Honestly that’s all wishful thinking though. Our time is 99% business for the past few years.