Within the Old Walls of Lawrence Mill Building... Change is Brewing
by Adam Tokarz, Merrimack Valley Magazine
ohn Cornejo, a Lawrence native affectionately known as “El Padrino” (translation: The Godfather), is the innovative founder of Spicket River Brewery, and he’s betting his craft-style servings will be an offering that the local community can’t refuse.
“I’ve been home-brewing for about 10 years. I got the beer to a level where I started getting attention through home-brewing circles and whatnot,” Cornejo says. Linking up with professional brewer Jeff Goodno, Cornejo also partnered with Joe Errico — who had previously opened a brewery in Florida — and Gary Sidell, a local community activist and real estate developer/property manager who owned the perfect space in an old mill building at 56 Island St. (Sidell now sits as the chief adviser on the brewery’s board. The ownership group is rounded out by Cornejo’s fiancee, Michelle Berube.)
“I’ve believed in the creative arts as an impetus for economic development and rebirth,” says Sidell, whose family has owned parts of the mill building since the mid-1990s. “I always thought this space would be great for a restaurant or brewery.”
Cornejo says his vision for the brewery is all about revitalization and the restorative power of art.
“You take the name. Spicket is the most polluted water in Lawrence,” Cornejo says. “We were trying to spin that off. Lawrence can be a viewed negative, and we try to spin that and show the positive of what can come out of this. What comes out of the pollution or the negativity.”
The brewery, which opened in the fall of 2019, features two large outdoor spaces — the alley and the patio holds around 200 people.
Inside, everything is custom built, from the brick oven for pizza (overseen by Executive Chef Aran Flores) to the geometrically-intriguing tasting bar to the seven-barrel brewing system that lines the brewery’s back wall. Vibrant murals depicting river monsters and iconic Lawrence landmarks, including the Ayer Mill clock tower, flow throughout the space, inside and out. Marquis Victor and Alex Brien of Elevated Thought in Lawrence collaborated with the brewery to create the colorful three-story outdoor mural.