Saturday, December 9, 2017

Artist Thinks: "I HAF to Fix That Smokestack"

From Dave Brigham:

It took me 11 months, but I finally got my beer-lovin' behind to the Boston Beer Co. in Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood. "How was the beer?" you're asking. While I drink the company's Sam Adams beer all the time, I wasn't at the brewery to tip my elbow. You know that. I was there to check out their refurbished smokestack.

Boston Beer is one of the most well-known independent brewers in the U.S.. The building complex the company occupies was once home to the Haffenreffer brewery. When I was in high school, Haffenreffer -- known for rebus puzzles on the inside of its bottle caps -- was known as Green Death, due to its high alcohol content. You see, the stuff inside those big avocado-shaded bottles was malt liquor ("works quicker") and had an alcohol content of 5.9%. The swill we usually drank -- Old Milwaukee, Meister Brau, etc. -- rated 4.5 or 4.6%.

I could tell you the story of the time one of my friends drank a few Haffen-wreckers (another great nickname) and yakked all over the inside of my buddy Andy's Toyota Corolla station wagon, resulting in the quickest evacuation you've ever seen. But I won't.

Rather, I'll tell you about how the smokestack from the circa-1870 brewery was restored to something akin to its former glory.

After Haffenreffer left Boston for Rhode Island in the 1960s, the complex sat empty for quite some time. In 1983, the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation bought the buildings. In addition to Boston Beer, tenants include a restaurant, food companies, a design company, a woodworking shop and much more.

In 1986, the development corporation had the top 30 feet of the original smokestack removed due to its state of disrepair, according to the Boston Globe. This resulted in the monolith touting "FENREFFER BREWERS." In more recent years, more letters had to be removed in order for the smokestack -- which no longer functions -- to be repaired and restored, per the Globe.

A neighbor who's an artist, Bob Maloney, finally decided to rectify the situation after many years of looking at the shortened brewery name, according to this Globe article. He manufactured a properly scaled stainless steel structure with the letters "HAF" and had it installed on the top of the stack in December 2016.

(The restyled Haffenreffer smokestack rising over the Boston Beer Company brewing complex.)

For more about Boston's beer brewing past, check out:'s "Mapping 21 of Boston's Lost Breweries and Their Second Acts".

The Jamaica Plain Historical Society's "Boston's Lost Breweries".

Keep your eyes peeled for a follow-up post about some cool things I stumbled across in the neighborhood around the brewery complex.

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