How Vitamin Sea Brewing became a beacon of hope for Massachusetts’ craft lovers
Just about one year before a pandemic changed the way everybody approached everything in their lives, Vitamin Sea Brewing opened its doors on Massachusetts’ South Shore in Weymouth. Long before those doors opened, local boys and founders Dino Funari, Joshua Sherman and Richard DiBona began building the legend of their craft.
Visit their retro cool taproom and you will notice an ice cooler high on a shelf—the same cooler where Funari kept his beer in at his house when he brewed it at home and gave it to friends, family and fellow craft enthusiasts. The cooler, it turns out, is just one of the many nuggets in the legend of Vitamin Sea. For the rest, Funari and company invite you to stop by and share in the stories.
In a town that seems perfectly fit for the brewery life, Vitamin Sea fits right in, boasting a location that has a perfect proximity to all things Weymouth, i.e., restaurants, food, shopping, etc. As for the future, the Vitamin Sea Brewing team is just getting started.
We sat down with Funari to get the latest on the brand and the year ahead for the craft beer market.
Tell us a little about your brand.
Opened in February 2019, Vitamin Sea Brewing has its roots firmly planted on the South Shore of Massachusetts. Our taproom features 12 taps covering a wide range of styles—from IPAs to stouts and even cold brew coffee, as well as a wide range of merchandise, and great local cuisine from our many food vendor partners. We are excited to be a part of this great local craft beer scene and look forward to bringing you lots of delicious beer for many years to come.
What kind of conversations are you having with your customers today?
There’s definitely a lot of “thank you’s” being given after people stuck with us and supported us throughout the pandemic. We lost 40% of our business when we had to close our taproom. We more than made up for that with can sales.
Give us a snapshot of today’s craft spirits market.
From a craft beer perspective there’s going to be a flushing out of brands. Subpar products can’t be masked by flashy taprooms. You can get anyone to go to your place once—but quality products will keep them coming back.
What’s likely to happen next?
I think the future is combining restaurants with taprooms. Onsite food keeps customers from having to leave. Not just chicken fingers and French fries either, but curated, higher-end food items to pair with brand specific beer.
What trends are defining the space?
The big beer hall style is still alive and well. Communal seating to spark conversation. Minimalistic decor gives a clean look
What’s your story from a brand perspective?
We built a brand years before we opened. We were home-brewers that utilized social media to give us global awareness. We were canning beers in my basement and giving them to friends to try. They would tell their friends and then they would tell their friends. I had this blue cooler in my front yard and we would leave cans in there for people to try. We would get calls saying, “Hey, I was told that if I left a four pack in your cooler, I could take a four pack of your beer in exchange.” We got our beer into the hands of so many different people this way. We couldn’t sell our beer, obviously, but this helped us get the name out there.
Walk us through your branding strategy.
Merch is absolutely huge for us—to the point that we’ve been accused of being just another T-shirt shop, which is a story for another day. We take that as a compliment. If we can put a logo on it, we probably would. We have made friendships in different industries that have their own fandoms—television, professional sports and music. There’s a fine line between maintaining the cool factor and selling out.
What’s the biggest issue today related to the marketing/sales side of the craft beer business today?
There are so many breweries that don’t have their own identity. It’s very hard to differentiate one from the other. What makes a consumer want to buy your product?
What’s the secret to creating a branding story that consumers can buy into?
I’ve always felt like we were the underdogs, if you will. A group of folks who were brewing in a basement and made of the best of the opportunity that we were given. We weren’t “money” guys who were buying our way into something cool. Our beer is a passion project. Our heart and soul goes into every batch, as corny as that sounds. People have been rooting for us since the beginning.
What’s the one thing every craft beer brand should do in the way of marketing?
Social media. Hands down. There are new breweries opening every day and nobody has even heard of them. There’s a reason Hollywood shows a movie trailer six months in advance of the premiere—it’s to get people excited and get them talking. Word of mouth is the best endorsement you can get—and it costs nothing.
What do you see as some of your biggest opportunities moving ahead?
We’re far from being a mature company in our third year—especially post-pandemic. We’re trying to keep a pulse on consumer habits going forward. The way people buy beer now is different than it was six months ago. Will it be different six months from now? With this in mind, how do we adapt to the post-pandemic consumer? We are always looking at ways to bring people to us. An evolving menu is important. Collaborations with our breweries has its own draw. I’d say another taproom could be in our future.
What’s the biggest item on your to-do list?
This hasn’t changed since day one—create the best possible product that we can and serve it in the best possible environment while giving the customer the best possible experience.
Connecting with Vitamin Sea Brewing
30 Moore Road
Sitting down with Dino Funari…
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
We have created an environment that has fostered so many friendships. People are genuinely excited to come and see us and each other each week. We put a smile on people’s faces.
What was the best advice you ever received?
Find a building with enough parking. You can never have enough.
What’s the best thing a customer ever said to you?
You got me through the pandemic. Coming to visit you to buy beer and see everyone was the one thing that remained constant.
What’s your favorite brand story?
I’ve always been very impressed with Patagonia and what they stand for. They have been true champions for the environment and I’m proud to be a customer of theirs. With a mission statement of: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” How can you not support them?