Sand Dollars

Beer Tunes: Local Breweries + Local Musicians = A Business Story

breweries and music
Written by Brian Tarcy

CAPE COD – “We serve hand-crafted beer that is original,” said Peter Murner, owner/operator of Naukabout Beer Company of Mashpee. “We want musicians to come in and play hand-crafted music as well.”

Naukabout is the newest local brewery offering live music on the Cape and Islands.  As the craft brew phenomenon expands in the region, breweries growing beyond a tasting room are attracting customers with more than just beer. For several, music is a main ingredient.

Musician Schuyler Grant said “Of all the shows I’ve played so far this summer, my favorite have been at breweries.” Grant, who has recently played at Cisco Brewers on Nantucket and at Naukabout said, the breweries are “kind of beer and music focused, which is great. Hey, those are two of my top two favorite things.”

As Mike Gabrielli, market manager at Hog Island Beer Company in Orleans, said of the decision to have music, “It’s more about creating a place where we would want to hang out in the hope that like-minded people would come hang out with us.”

“Music is a big part of that,” said Gabrielli. “It brings more people to the brewery. People are looking for that entertainment aspect.”

“Of all the shows I’ve played so far this summer, my favorite have been at breweries.” – Musician Schuyler Grant.

Like their many beers, the atmosphere in each brewery is unique.

“When we started” said Beth Marcus, co-owner of Cape Cod Beer of Hyannis, “there were 1,000 breweries in the United States and each one did things differently. Now there are 7,000 breweries in the United States, and each one does things differently.” 

While kid-friendly games such as cornhole have made some breweries into something like family destinations, and many host all sort of events for various groups, it is the love of music, and, well, beer, that seems a common bond among brewers.

“My husband, before he was a professional brewer, was really into music,” said Beth Marcus, co-owner along with her husband Todd Marcus, of Cape Cod Beer in Hyannis. He had worked for a studio-grade sound equipment company, she said.

Music became a natural fit for the brewery but it was not by design, she said. After the popular Hyannis blues club, Harry’s, closed, Marcus said she began hearing musicians complaining that “places where live music was being played were dwindling.”

Beer Tunes

Graham Hempstead at Cape Cod Beer. – CAPE COD WAVE PHOTO

Cape Cod Beer, which first started in 2004, began having music in recent years as their facility has become a gathering place for many events.

On the first Friday of the month, in the off-season there is live music from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.., and this summer there is a Friday Farmer’s market that will feature solo performers. 

“We kind of fell into it.” said Marcus of the farmer’s market. “The bottom line is, I guess, we’re opportunists.”

 The music at Cape Cod Beer was and remains occasional. The idea, said Marcus, is to “provide a venue for musicians and allow them to do their thing, and do enough of it that it helps. But we don’t want to be a music venue every night of the week… We don’t need to be busy every night of the week,” said Marcus. “We try to staff our brewery appropriately.”

Marcus, who sells beer to restaurants and bars that host music, said, “I don’t want to compete with my customers.”

Instead, like at many of the breweries, music is an early evening supplement to the local music scene, which often starts later at restaurants and bars. As drummer Liam Hogg of Sarah Swain & the Oh Boys!, Earth Junior, The Rip-It-Ups and several other bands, said of playing at a brewery, “If there’s a chance to play a later gig, you still can.”

“Music naturally fits into the equation. You are drinking craft beer in a beautiful setting. Add in some local live music and you’re just going to improve that experience.” – Josh Flanders, general manager of Bad Martha’s Brewery of Martha’s Vineyard.

Having music, according to Tracy Long, a manager at Cisco Brewers on Nantucket, “wasn’t a financial decision, it was a a lifestyle decision.”

“For one of the owners, it was a huge priority to have live music,” said Wilde. “It wasn’t necessarily, Oh, it’s going to make us more money… It just seemed to be something people really enjoy.”

Josh Flanders, general manager of Bad Martha’s Farmer’s Brewery in Edgarton on Martha’s Vineyard, said music “adds to the atmosphere” at the brewery. Bad Martha’s plans to open a second location in Falmouth next year, said Flanders, but there has not been discussions yet on whether there will be music.

“The more we’re able to do, the better, he said. “We’d love to have the option to bring in bands.”

Flanders said that, at a brewery “music naturally fits into the equation. You are drinking craft beer in a beautiful setting. Add in some local live music and you’re just going to improve that experience.”


WaveFor The Musicians, Playing Breweries Is Different And The Same

“It’s a little bit different and a little bit the same,” said musician Jim Decatur, who has played at Cape Cod Beer and at Naukabout. “It’s the same in the aspect that they’re all similar to bars in that it’s a place to go and get your beer.”

“The difference is the atmosphere, the crowds. It’s more of a listening crowd at breweries because of the atmosphere. It’s also super family friendly, and that’s where it’s a little different. And it’s people into the beer culture, not the same as those going out for a night of drinking with their friends.”

And Shuyler Grant said, “Crowds at breweries are more receptive to new music, more original music, the kind of stuff I like to play. Crowds at breweries seem to be a little more into going on an adventure with you rather than saying the same Billboard top 100.”

Beer Tunes

Isaiah Marshall-Thomas and Aaron Mentos at Hog Island Beer Company. – CAPE COD WAVE PHOTO

But Ryan Tivey, keyboard player in Funktapuss, said, “it’s during the day. It’s a little harder to get an audience for your original stuff. The band is secondary to what’s going on at the brewery rather than a bar where the music is usually the main attraction.”

“You have to work a little harder to get their attention, which is fine. I can captivate any crowd,” said Tivey, who has played at Cape Cod Beer and breweries off Cape. “But you’ve really got to reach for a different source of energy.”

And Tivey added, “Clubs tend to have more warmth, more wood, and are better for accoustics.”

Marcus said of the off-season inside gigs, “In our brewery, you’re basically playing in a warehouse. But the acoustics aren’t that bad.”

Hogg, who has played at Cape Cod Beer for a music night in the off-season and at Hog Island said each was different. “Cape Cod Beer was more an original kind of thing. They did, like, a concert series And Hog Island is trying to attract the tourists kind of thing. They want a band that will play songs that people know and will keep people there.”

Hogg added, “It’s fantastic playing at breweries because you get free beer, and each one of the breweries has a beer that I like.”

While the breweries on the Cape & Islands that feature music are each unique, Grant said he has noticed that, “The model of breweries is: Hey, come hang out with us and we’ll have an experience.”


WaveA Community Of Brewers

“There is a lot of cooperation among brewers,” said Flanders of Bad Martha. “We have even done a collaboration brew with Offshore Ale (in Oak Bluffs),” he said. In essence, said Flanders, the two brewers came up with a recipe that was then sold at both locations.

“This industry is a little different,” said Flanders. “You have different professionals from all walks of life.”

And so, Flanders said, he does not view more local breweries as more competition. “From what we have seen so far, it is a rising tide lifting all ships. With a lot of breweries popping up in one location, people tend to go to them all.

Last weekend, for instance, Cape Cod Wave visited visited Cape Cod Beer in Hyannis and saw live music. On Saturday, we visited Hog Island Beer Company in Orleans and saw live music. On Sunday, we visited Naukabout Beer Company in Mashpee and saw live music.

Beer Tunes

Jim Decatur at Naukabout Beer Company. – CAPE COD WAVE PHOTO

“The artistry and taking something and crafting your own thing,” Flanders said of live music, “that’s the same thing that we do with beer.”

Murner, of Naukabout, agreed there was a rising-tides aspect to the new breweries. “If you’re going to go see a brewery in an area, you’re going to go see more than one,” he said.

And Gabrielli, of Hog Island, said customers often say they have visited one brewery earlier and are planning to go to another during their time on the Cape. “A lot of these breweries are putting out awesome beers.”

“There are some basic tenets to the craft beer industry,” said Long. “Philanthropy and community involvement is a big part of it… Craft beer is about culture and lifestyle and being welcoming. We want to be friends with other craft brewers.”

“Before there was prohibition, there was a brewery in every neighborhood,” said Murner. “That’s sort of what we’re going back to.”

“One of the things I like about breweries more than anything is that it’s truly community,” said Decatur. “Brewing beer is an art. Playing music is an art. Making soap or whatever for a farmer’s market it an art, and it all fits together.”


When Naukabout had a music festival 

Jim Decatur at Naukabout

Graham Hempstead at Cape Cod Beer

Sarah Swain & The Oh Boys at Cape Cod Beer

Buckle & Shake at Cisco Brewers

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– If you like Cape Cod music, here is a 6,000-word story that Cape Cod Wave did on the Cape Cod original music scene. We interviewed 20 musicians, four club owners, and two radio deejays – Cape Cod Music And The Joy Of Being Originally Alive

And here is a link to our growing collection of local music stories, and more than 100 music videos of local bands playing original music  –  MUSIC

You Can't Sell Right Field

– A Novel By Brian Tarcy of Cape Cod Wave

“This is a terrific read. Brian Tarcy’s style and sense of humor make it easy reading, while his subject matter is of more importance than most communities realize. If you care about growth in your community and the lack of thoughtful planning, you owe it to yourself to read this thoughtful piece of fiction that is all too real in smaller communities in our country.” YOU CAN’T SELL RIGHT FIELD, A Cape Cod Novel


About the author

Brian Tarcy

Brian Tarcy is co-founder of Cape Cod Wave. He is a longtime journalist who has written for the Boston Globe, Boston magazine, the Cape Cod Times and several other publications. He is the author of "YOU CAN'T SELL RIGHT FIELD; A Cape Cod Novel." He is also the author or co-author of more than a dozen mostly non-fiction books, including books with celebrity athletes Cam Neely, Tom Glavine and Joe Theisman. His previous book was, "ALMOST: 12 Electric Months Chasing A Silicon Valley Dream" with Hap Klopp,who created the iconic brand, The North Face.
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Brian is a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan with a long-running NFL predictions/political satire column connecting weekly world events to the fate of his favorite team, now at

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