Canned Magic

Long before bitter Arctic weather swept across the nation last week, fans of locally brewed India Pale Ales (IPAs) had been dreading an equally bleak forecast.

This fall, the Northampton Brewery announced that it would be starting the new year by closing its doors for a two-month planned renovation. Architects from Austin Design in Colrain, who have worked with the popular pub before, will be reconfiguring the bar and kitchen and expanding the deck and brewery. As exciting as these developments may be, until the renovations are completed, brewer Donald Pacher’s prize-winning beers will not be flowing.

Like I said: bleak news, indeed.

As some consolation, for about a month prior to the taps running dry, the Brewery renewed sale of its beer in growlers for patrons to take home. Not wanting the beer to go stale and needing to drain their reserves before contractors got to work, the Brewery made a welcome if somewhat bitter-sweet addition to my holiday festivities with the 64-oz. jugs.

Unlike in the past, when the beloved Blue Boots IPA ran out a week or so before Christmas, I knew there wasn’t another batch coming just behind it. What made the situation even more dire, though, was that while I was steeling myself for the Brewery’s closure, my second favorite Bay State IPA had disappeared from stores across town.

From Worcester, Wormtown’s Be Hoppy once came in a big brown bottle covered with overly-ornate designs in yellow ink. You could spot it across a package store. But everywhere I looked last month, there was only a gap on the shelves where it had once been.

I’d begun to resign myself to this sad fate when a few days into the new year, my old friend returned. But the beer was transformed. Or at least its container and price had changed—and for the better. Instead of a 22-oz. bottle, the beer now comes in packs of four 18-oz. cans. The bottle would run you an average of $8 depending on where you found it, but the four-pack I found at State Street Liquors cost just under $12.00.

To those who buy their canned beer in cases, that might sound like a lot to shell out for for four beers, but a sip of Be Hoppy should set you straight. Wonderfully pungent citrus mellows out the sharper bitterness and offers up something I think competes with any IPA from the West Coast.

While for the next few weeks I’ll be missing the Brewery, its fine staff and the divine beers, having Wormtown back in reach and safe in my home eases the blow somewhat.

It’s also helps to know that a key part of the Northampton pub’s transformation is a new canning system. Come this spring, its colorful spectrum of IPAs will join the party going on in my fridge with their yellow cousin from Central Mass.•

Author: Mark Roessler

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