After beating Stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Crociati’s art degree from UMass Dartmouth pushed him to get creative when he opened Sour Not Sorry, Massachusetts’ first sour brewery, in Plymouth.
When Colin Crociati ’16 opened his 21st birthday gift from his mother, he couldn’t stop the puzzled look from crossing his face. He peered at the home brewing kit sitting in his lap, wondering where his mother got this random idea. As a typical college student studying graphic design at UMass Dartmouth, he was no stranger to a cold beer every now and then, but brewing it himself?
“I really discovered beer for the first time when my mom bought me that kit,” Crociati said. While he may have been confused at first, it was his mother’s insistence that this was right up his alley that made him seriously consider it as a hobby. “I think she thought it would be a cool thing for me to try out.”
So, Crociati brewed his first batch of beer at home and brought it to his on-campus apartment to share with his closest friends. Along with Mike Churchill ’16, James Sevasin ’16, Joseph Rouleau ’16, and Caroline Schwetz, Crociati took the first sip and… recoiled. He said, “Being the brewer behind the beer, I was so excited for them to try my first batch, but it was absolutely awful. Just terrible. Luckily, everyone was super nice about it.”
It was UMass Dartmouth’s kindhearted community that made Crociati feel comfortable enough to try brewing beer again, and again, and again. He made the kind of friends that stuck with him through the ups and downs, that would drink ill-tasting beer to help perfect his craft. It took three years for him to get his beer just right, and that same group of friends who took the first sips were there to taste the final product.
“It was toward my senior year that I started thinking that maybe I would turn this into a career,” said Crociati. Aside for his love of the arts, Crociati was also drawn to the stage as an actor and loved to perform improv with UMass Dartmouth’s theater company. He thought if he wouldn’t pursue graphic design, he would lead a career in the filmmaking industry as an actor or director. “I was going to move across the country to California to do some freelance acting, but I think that discovering beer and failing so many times made me love it so much.
“If I had made a great batch right away, I would have thought it was a fun activity, and that was it. The constant failures kept pushing me to make a better product,” he continued. Opening a brewery was never on his professional radar, but Crociati discovered that the graphic design program at UMassD gave him the artistic skillset that would make his sour brewery stand out in a crowd of countless competitors.
Artistry behind brewing sour beer
When Crociati graduated from the College of Visual and Performing Arts in 2016, he witnessed fellow Corsairs dash to local airports in search of thrilling getaways in unexplored territories before embarking on their professional careers. However, he was overcome by an urgency to leap headfirst into the brewing industry and start working his way from the bottom to the top immediately. His motto was simple: Work hard now, live life later.
Crociati was employed by four different breweries post-graduation: Harpoon, Mayflower, Hopsters, and, until the pandemic, Shovel Town. Despite working in his desired industry, he saw how demanding it was to perfect a brewery’s beers, but his passion for his career and the opportunity to learn more about the business overrode his longing for more of an adventurous life.
In 2018, Crociati was given unexpected news: a diagnosis of Stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, right in the middle of his thriving brewing career. Since his health must be his primary focus, he pushed his passions aside and took a hiatus from brewing beer, spending over six months undergoing treatments with two hospitalizations. By the time the COVID-19 pandemic struck, he was in remission and beyond eager to begin his redemption story.
“I felt like this really was my shot at redemption after being forced to put everything on hold,” Crociati said. “I beat cancer and wanted to do something really special. Once the pandemic hit, I took that as my opportunity to take a step back from other breweries and focus on my own beers.”
Ever the creative mind, Crociati couldn’t sit idle while the world was on lock down and began to brew beer out of a shed in his parents’ backyard. After getting approval from the town, state, and federal governments, he sold 31 gallons of beer per week out of the trunk of his Honda for two years. By August 2023, he worked hard enough to open a real brewery in Plymouth, Sour Not Sorry Brewing, that made statewide headlines for being the first sour brewery in Massachusetts, much to the delight of sour beer lovers near and far.
“I think my art background really pushed my vision of my brewery,” Crociati said. He reflects on how physically engaging with art in a sculpture class he took at UMassD causes him to think outside of the box with every single beer recipe he creates to this day, which allows him to mold his brewery into the exact business he envisions. “The craft beer scene in Massachusetts has been heavy with New England IPAs. I think people are looking for other beer styles like lagers, stouts, and sours. This new love for sours in the community is really what gives Sour Not Sorry Brewing the edge.”
Getting creative with his beer recipes isn’t the only thing that sets Sour Not Sorry Brewing apart from others in the area. According to Crociati, one step inside will show you that his eye-catching brewery is nothing but art. “I’m so blessed to have my art degree from UMass Dartmouth because it’s really transformed my own brewery today. From our tap handles, which are spray paint cans, to all of our bright and colorful labels, I try to incorporate art everywhere I can.
“Since we are the first sour brewery in the state, I also really want to create brand new types of sour beers in our community,” Crociati said. “I want to show people what other sour beers can be made and taste amazing. For a long time, other breweries have said fruit is good enough, but I think it’s time to try something new.”
Crociati’s journey from a graphic design major to the founder of an iconic sour brewery demonstrates how applications of his creative skills learned at UMass Dartmouth was a catalyst for success in his unexpected career ventures. Aside from brewing delicious sour beer, his unmatched artistic flair gives Sour Not Sorry Brewing a distinct brand identity that keeps guests coming back for more. And to think, it all started with a home brewery kit and a terrible first batch of beer.