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Night Shift Brewing is coming to Philly after all thanks to new distribution deal

Though the pandemic killed plans for its new home in Roxborough, Night Shift has a new deal with Penn Beer Distributors.

Night Shift Brewing founders (from left) Rob Burns, Michael Oxton, and Mike O'Mara at the brewery in Massachusetts.
Night Shift Brewing founders (from left) Rob Burns, Michael Oxton, and Mike O'Mara at the brewery in Massachusetts.Read moreCOURTESY NIGHT SHIFT BREWING

The pandemic threw a wrench into the plans for Night Shift Brewing, a Boston-area craft brewer with a Bucks County connection, to open a $10 million production facility, taproom, and distributorship in Roxborough.

Night Shift partners Rob Burns, Mike O’Mara, and Michael Oxton were applying for building permits for a vast building at 401 Domino Lane when the nation began to shut down. “We got concerned with the project,” Burns said. “We didn’t know what the future would hold, and we had to protect the mother ship before we extended ourselves further.” So that project was scuttled, though they officially say it’s “on pause” because they would like to open a plant in the Philadelphia area some day.

But now, Night Shift is coming to Southeastern Pennsylvania through a distribution arrangement with Penn Beer Distributors — which happens to have occupied the Domino Lane building before it moved to larger quarters in Hatfield, Montgomery County, in 2019.

Burns said the first truckloads are expected to leave Everett, Mass., in mid-November. Penn, one of the region’s largest distributors, also handles brands such as Budweiser, Becks, Victory, and Yards.

Night Shift started in the partners' sprawling apartment in Somerville, Mass. They went pro in 2012, quickly growing throughout Massachusetts and New England.

Burns calls himself the “keystone” of their friendship. He and O’Mara, who grew up in Yardley, met in Boy Scouts and went to Holy Ghost Prep in Bensalem. Burns went on to Bowdoin College, where he studied computer science and met Oxton, whose diverse background includes teaching English in Chile and working as a production assistant on the film Ted. Burns and Oxton lived together after college and dabbled in home brewing.

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Burns went home one Thanksgiving and told O’Mara about the hobby. O’Mara, who worked in finance, moved to the Boston area to help start the company, which is family owned.

Nick Funchion, an owner of Penn, said his company reached out to offer assistance when they learned that the deal had fallen through. Then came a series of Zoom calls. Penn will carry packaged beers as well as draft.