Sam Massoto and Ryan Kelly are the only two employees brewing on a Wednesday morning.
“You almost finished adding in the hops?” Massoto called over to Kelly, as Kelly stood over the massive equipment, checking to make sure every ingredient was scaled out perfectly.
Massoto, 36, is the owner, president, grand chancellor and head brewer of Bonn Place Brewing Company. He opened the brewery with his wife and co-chancellor, Gina, in July 2016.
Bonn Place, located on 310 Taylor St. in Bethlehem, is a quiet place and the owners intend to keep it that way.
Massoto and his wife were actors for years and were looking for a place to open a brewery. They came through Bethlehem in 2012 and fell in love with the area, specifically the South Side. Massoto said once they found the location on Taylor Street, they decided it was here or nowhere else.
Massoto is satisfied with how Bonn turned out and loves being able to say he achieved his goals.
“Even if I close tomorrow, I’d be pretty happy,” Massoto said.
Bonn functions as a bar with a brewery in the back, open to the public Wednesday through Sunday until it closes at 11 p.m., or 7 p.m. on Sundays. Masotto said he’s always at work, brewing and managing the business.
Kelly, an assistant brewer at Bonn, works at Keystone Homebrew Supply as a sales associate. After meeting Massoto while he was getting supplies for his business, the two built a rapport, and Kelly began frequenting Bonn. He shadowed Massoto, learning how to brew and waiting for a position to open at the brewery.
Kelly fell in love with the brewing business and a position finally opened up.
“Sam (Massoto) taught me pretty much everything I know,” Kelly said. “To anybody who’s looking to get into the industry, it’s really about getting your foot in the door and following your dreams.”
Bethlehem native Mitch Thomas, ’17, first heard about Bonn from his parents and local newspapers. He said he keeps coming back because the environment is irresistible.
“They make really great, interesting beers,” Thomas said.
Massoto said Bonn is busiest at happy hour everyday, and all the time on the weekends. They offer seven beers on tap and more behind the bar.
Kelly said his best experience was being able to add his own recipe on tap called “Sunshine and Rainbows.” He’s a huge beer fanatic and considers himself a “hop head.”
Massoto said 30 percent of Bonn’s customers are from Lehigh, either undergraduate students, graduates, faculty or staff. The other 70 percent of people are from the Lehigh Valley area.
“We prefer not to (advertise) aside from Instagram and Facebook,” Massoto said. “We’re where we want to be, and it’s all word of mouth. Once you start advertising, you start letting everyone know that you’re around, and I kind of like that we’re a little secret.”
Thomas would agree the brewery is an intimate setting and a cozy place to hang out.
“After coming only a few times, everyone there learned my name,” Thomas said. “The people are awesome.”
Massoto started brewing in 2008 when he worked at a bar in New York for four years while pursuing a career in acting. He said he connects with beer spiritually and religiously and is thrilled he could make a living out of it.
“It’s a big part of who I am and what I do,” Massoto said. “It’s my job, and it’s also something I recreate with.”
The Massotos named Bonn Place after the first street they lived on in New York. They love meeting new people and developing relationships with their guests.
“I see people who met here hanging out outside of here now, and we’re part of the greater community but there’s a community within the business itself,” Massoto said. “That’s my favorite part.”
The motto for Bonn is “Love! Gratitude! And EVERYTHING NICE!” and the people who run the brewery live by exactly that.