Michael Gerrity and Ryan Fagan wanted to do more than just start a brewery. They wanted to be a liquid cog in a revitalized downtown Manchester. Gerrity and Fagan did their part in getting the wheels moving when they opened Urban Lodge Brewing Co. — the friends married sisters, last name Lodge — in the Manchester Mall building on Main Street in August 2019. The space they took over had been vacant for 16 years.
Gerrity says the city is doing a great job of building up the area. Since the statewide May reopening, Manchester has closed Purnell Place, a one-way street that runs alongside Urban Lodge, Thursday through Sunday to allow extra tables and chairs to be set up outside. “When you’re at 50 percent,” Gerrity says, “any square feet helps.”
Gerrity still holds onto his regular full-time job, but Fagan, the head brewer, is all-in at Urban Lodge. His prior careers were in HR technology and department transportation compliance. “So go figure why I would make this leap,” Fagan deadpans. He describes their brand as “very crushable, drinkable beers." The first example I taste of this is Stowe Away, a New England hazy IPA made with citra hops, and ULBC’s top seller. It’s the favorite of the table, admittedly a NEIPA-biased bunch.
The next round features Giant Sequoia, a bold New England double IPA that packs a wallop while still not branching out too far from “crushable.” I cap things off with a flight — Morning Mist (golden ale), Relax. Repeat. (New England pale ale), Fireside (vanilla porter), and Stop ’n Go (session sour ale with raspberry).
The Stop ’n Go brings me back to an old favorite from my college days at Vermont Pub & Brewery, and notes of nostalgia make everything taste better. Fagan says he’s been a big sour fan for years and wanted to create a brew that stayed true to their brand. “I didn’t want anything that was going to punch you in the face.” The success of the Stop ’n Go has pushed the seasonal into staple status.
As I would find out after my visit, I fail to order the one beer Fagan most recommends. “I want everyone to try Pop’s Stout, even if they’re not a stout fan,” Fagan says. “I think that is one of the most well-done beers we have.”
While the beer selection is roundly impressive, the outdoor setting is also a draw. In fact, the back of the Manchester Mall building is a work of art. “We saw that big wall and we were like, how cool would that be to have a great artist like ARCY tag it,” Gerrity says. The two are big fans of Connecticut native ARCY and his graffiti-style splatter murals, and this piece is another triumph. ARCY’s art can be seen all over the world and right here in his home state, including inside Dan Patrick’s gigantic Milford studio and at Bear’s Smokehouse at The Stack in New Haven.
He’s also done a lot of work for Disney, and his signature is inserting Mickey Mouse ears into his murals. In less than 10 seconds I find the mouse at Urban Lodge, where the theme of the painting is derived from the company logo of a mountain range with a cityscape reflection. I’m told later that among the hops and wheat is a rare second Mickey that I did not see.
Beneath that wall of wonder sits a pristine patio courtesy of Lisa Davenport, Creative Exteriors and Great Country Timbers. With firepits, stone walls, and plenty of flowers and greenery, it resembles a super-size version of your wealthiest friend’s backyard.
The most instrumental part of being that cog in the downtown Manchester machine is partnering up with restaurants. Urban Lodge wanted collaboration, not competition, which meant not making their own food and not bringing in food trucks like so many breweries do. Instead, ULBC teamed up with nearby 21 Oak, Bistro on Main, Filomena's and Sukhothai. While sipping on a Pop’s Stout, you can order food on your smartphone from any of these eateries and it will be brought directly to your table. And, by state mandate, those food orders enable Urban Lodge to remain open. “A lot of the restaurants don’t have an extensive seating area, so we become the dining room,” Gerrity says. “And for us, it gives us the food that we have to have in order to be open.” It’s an arrangement that may become permanent.
Urban Lodge Brewing Co.
47 Purnell Place, Manchester
Hours: Tue.-Thu. 4-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. noon-10 p.m., Sun. noon-6 p.m.