Some years back, newly minted forestry degree in hand, Roesch left the University of Massachusetts and returned to Worcester, moved in with some buddies and started scuffling for work. Pickings were slim.
As he mailed resumes, Roesch started boiling batches of beer on the stovetop in his little slacker flop house. He’d picked up homebrewing while away at school and it quickly took hold of his imagination.
Then in one week he got two job offers. One was doing forestry work for the state of Massachusetts — all-but guaranteed lifetime employment with security and a state pension. The other call was from Cambridge Brewing Company, near Boston. This job offered virtually nothing in terms of security; it was part-time with less pay and no retirement plan. Some other guy took the forestry job. Ben chose to follow his dream: brewing.
Part-time pay and a long commute didn’t dull his enthusiasm one bit. On the contrary, he flourished, learning to brew on a commercial scale from Cambridge’s Head Brewer, Will Meyers.
The next few years saw Roesch move from Cambridge to Wachusett Brewery to Nashoba Valley Winery, who were then expanding into brewing. At each step he basically went to a smaller operation but assumed more responsibilities. Already taking root was Roesch’s ultimate dream — his own place.
In 2009 he entered into talks with Tom Oliveri Jr., scion of a Worcester family restaurant business to open a brewery. Negotiations were friendly but tough — Roesch fought to keep possession of his recipes if the business went sour and rejected the first seven contracts he was offered. Finally a deal was struck.
Roesch and Oliveri settled on Wormtown Brewery as a name. Beantown is to Boston as Wormtown is to Worcester. The old nickname was revived by a local music paper from the 70s called Wormtown Punk Punk Press, which celebrated the do-it-yourself ethos of this scrappy industrial city. Roesch and Oliveri conspired against long odds. Worcester hadn’t supported a brewery since 1962. From sourcing materials to getting pieces custom machined at the last moment, the hurdles were many. The only space available to them was in a little used annex in one of Oliveri’s restaurants.
The partners cobbled together some startup funding and got busy. All the tanks were custom made. Even with cash on the barrelhead, this proved difficult. Nevertheless, Roesch fought to source locally, even forgoing one Canadian bid that would have delivered working tanks months earlier and for less money.
Wormtown Brewery opened on St. Patrick’s Day 2010, just in time for the big Irish parade that careens down Park Ave. They brewed 700 barrels of beer that first year.
Three years operational and growing rapidly, now with one part-time and three full-time employees, Roesch still tries to source locally. Even if it sometimes means a 150% price premium he says, “I want to know my hopsters, I want to know my farmers.” Every Wormtown beer contains some local ingredients — their motto is: “A piece of Mass in every glass.”
Roesch is happy riding the homebrewer-turned-professional gig as far as it’ll take him. The other guy who took the forestry job? Roesch knows the guy, they talk. But he has no regrets. He brews beer for a living.