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Liz Kiraly, Co-Founder/Brewer of Bone Up Brewing

Liz Kiraly, Co-Founder/Brewer of Bone Up Brewing

Published by Leonardo Calcagno

Who are you and what is your background?

I’m Liz Kiraly, and I run Bone Up Brewing in Everett, MA with my husband Jared. I like to make things with my hands – beer, art, high fives, etc. I started out as a UX/graphic designer focusing on brand identity for Cambridge startups, but now I make beer and art for a living. It’s awesome. I’ve been into craft beer since my college days and began homebrewing in my early 20s when Jared and I started dating. Eventually, we decided we wanted to work for ourselves and to make the brewery dream a reality. Worked at it nights and weekends while we had day jobs, and opened the doors of Bone Up Brewing on August 2016, and have continued to build and evolve the company since.

Your job and current title?

I do a little bit of everything around the brewery, from social media to payroll to scrubbing the boil kettle! My business cards say “Co-Founder/Brewer.”

In what city?

Everett, MA

A word to define what type of worker you are:

Efficient. Jared’s a tinkerer.

Where does your interest in microbrewery come from?

I was an art major in college, and once I turned 21 I started collecting different beer labels from my adventures to the package store. I’ve always loved the art/science hybrid that is craft beer. Eventually, I started learning about different beer styles and beer cultures, and it turned into an obsession. I got a side job at a beer bar, and that’s where I met Jared. He looped me in on his homebrew operation, the brewing bug took over, and here we are!

What makes your beer unique? Why?

We describe our brewing style as modern American farmhouse brewing: we brew our own interpretations of classic styles to our taste without conforming to rigid style guidelines, based on the availability of local and seasonal ingredients. We have our own proprietary yeast blend, which adds an added layer of complexity to our beer – it contributes lots of fruity “estery” aromas and a dry finish that makes ’em easy to drink in quantity. We’re also heavy on brewing beers with stories behind them: be it a recipe designed to pair with the music of a local band, a pair of beers brewed for a wedding to represent the happy couple, or a brew made to honor the memory of a beloved past pet, our draft list is a representation of our lives and the people in our community.

What is the size of the brewery (number of barrels per year, etc.)?

We brew on a 3.5bbl system – it’s considered a pilot system by most brewers, but it gives us a lot of flexibility to brew many different styles. We produce about 500 barrels per year.

What tools are essential to your life (app, software)?

Our brewing software (we use BeerSmith), Google Drive, and Instagram are all essential to the brewery.

What does your office space look like?

It started out with a folding table behind a curtain in the taproom, and that sucked. Now that we’ve expanded a bit, Jared and I share an office in the back with our dog Lilly. It’s also the staff break room and holiday decoration storage, but hey, we’ve each got a table now!

Do you have a way to organize your days to optimize your work?

Not… really? The nature of the brewery environment is one of constant maintenance, our taproom is open seven days a week, and deliveries are constant – we find a way to fit the high level stuff in around that. Jared and I manage everything ourselves, so every day is different, but we’ve got a good division of labor and things get done.

Any “tips” to improve productivity?

Coffee. Take a walk with the dog. More coffee.

Can you give us a tour of your local craft beer brewery scene?

Other than a few that have been open since the 80s, most of the breweries in metro Boston have opened within the last ten years, so the scene is a bit younger. Everyone’s got a taproom (and many have pop up beer gardens too) with a decent draft list, but the focus is mostly on IPAs. Most of the breweries are pretty well backed and started out with larger systems built for distribution, but a couple is on the smaller side and were built to reflect their neighborhoods. That’s where we come in – we’re located with a handful of smaller breweries just north of the city and we’ve each got a different vibe (and most of us are dog-friendly). Want to drink IPAs and check out a local art exhibit? Aeronaut! Want a solid burger and a fresh tasty pale ale? Winter Hill! In the mood for German beer? Idle Hands! Need a draft list with something for everyone and some board games to play? Come to Bone Up! I dunno, it’s hard to find a bad pint around here, and everyone’s friendly, so we’re happy to be part of our local brewing community.

How do you control the growth of your microbrewery?

We started out with the intention of staying small, and while we’ve expanded a couple of times, we’ve done everything deliberately and carefully – definitely not growth for the sake of growth. A lot of people overextend themselves and do too much, too early, too fast. We’ve taken the time to get to know our ingredients, our equipment, our process, and even our own limitations, all in pursuit of making the best beer we can.

What is your strategy for making your beer known? (tastings, festival, etc.) Why this strategy?

We use social media and word of mouth to spread awareness of the brewery, and we do our best to establish personal connections with guests when they visit us. Our best customers bring in new customers with a similar mindset, and it grows from there. We do fests and tastings here and there, but most of the taproom business is driven by our local community.

About design, what does your brand represent/reflect? 

Our brand is more or less a reflection of me and Jared – fun, easygoing, a little snarky. The brand voice started before anything else – we’ve been publishing a weekly blog since 2014/15, and it documents our entire journey (a lot of people have been reading it this whole time, too, which is pretty cool). After that, we developed our logo (our mustachioed skeleton, Horatio) and our slogan (“Made From Ingredients”) and built the brand of that. The psychedelic art that’s on our cans and merch – that’s all hand-drawn by me, which adds a personal touch to our branding. We’re both pretty into stoner metal, and we love all the custom posters and artwork that go along with that genre, and that definitely comes through in our branding and “one-off” merch. We have a lot of characters and creatures across the art, plus a narrow color palette, which immerses you into our world for a minute. I guess the message we’re going for across the whole brewery – everything from social media to the art to the beer itself – is that it’s created by people, not machines and that DIY approach sets us apart from a lot of other breweries locally.

There’s a quote we love that we keep on the wall right by the door to the taproom that sums up our vibe really well: “We got to dodge this crazy stigma that a bar is a bad place to spend your time. This is a ‘public house,’ you know? It’s kind of just a room where life happens, and you can eat tasty food and put back a few pints. It’s like your childhood, but with pints.” (Source: Ray Smuckles, Achewood)

Design: how was it designed? By who?

Just like our beer, our art is made by us, by hand! I used to specialize in brand identity, and we just get to run wild with it here. Keeping design in house strengthens our brand, plus it lets us put a personal touch on everything!

What inspires you and motivates you to go to work every day?


What is the best advice given to you?

Take a step back every once in a while and appreciate the small victories.

What are your end and start routines?

End routine is the nightly cleaning checklist for the brewery, following by a beer or two with staff as the taproom is shutting down. Then we go home, shower and decompress for an hour or so.

The morning routine is usually coffee, play with the dog, check our email, and walk to work.

What were your biggest challenges as an entrepreneur?

Getting started, our biggest challenge was “we don’t know what we don’t know.” Every small business is different, and every microbrewery is basically a custom rig. There’s no place you can go that has universal answers or solutions to your situation. When we first opened, I remember it was really dang hard to keep all the draft lines full of beer for the thirsty souls in our neighborhood (our 2018 expansion fixed a lot of those issues, though).

What advice would you give someone who wants to start a brewery?

Plan for everything to take twice as long and cost four times as much as you expect it to.

Apart from your computer and your phone, what gadget cannot you do without?

Faucet wrench, paint key, hot hose, spray bottles, tri-clamps.

Any new projects coming soon? 

We release a new beer every week or so, so yes! Fall is getting closer, which means a lot of beer that’s been slumbering in barrels all year gets to come out and play – we do a ton of bottle releases around the holidays and I always look forward to seeing how the beers mature and change from barrel aging. We also just launched our funky/mixed-fermentation program!

At the end of the day, what kind of beer do you drink to relax?

Depends what kind of day I’ve had! I usually go for something light and dry, like our cream ale Extra Naked, or one of our rotating saisons. If it’s been a particularly grueling day, my go-to is always going to be a pint of Wasted Life, our flagship IPA. It’s dank and fruity and satisfying. Oftentimes other breweries or our regulars will drop off “beer presents” for us, and we usually like to share them with our staff and talk about them.