The Beerhunter: A Crafty New Crop
Oct09

The Beerhunter: A Crafty New Crop

Stone Cow Brewing helps keep an old dairy farm going Massachusetts used to be covered in dairy farms. But industries change with the times. “You can’t really make it in New England solely as a dairy farmer anymore,” says Sean DuBois. “Wholesale milk prices have really fallen off a cliff.” DuBois lives in Barre, a rural Worcester County town chock-full of scenic views of Central Mass. It serves as a quiet mirror image of Valley...

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The Beerhunter: The Imperial Strikes Back
Sep11

The Beerhunter: The Imperial Strikes Back

Earlier this year, I reached into a friend’s beer fridge to grab something light and refreshing before heading outdoors for a hike (as far as I understand the rules, writing this column gives me free access to everyone’s beer). That afternoon’s chatter distracted me, however, because I made it two or three swings into my bottle before I felt what was hitting me. I glanced down to find I was sampling a beer called Olde School by...

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The Beerhunter: Roadtrip to The Hudson Valley
Aug04

The Beerhunter: Roadtrip to The Hudson Valley

The thing to remember about summer in the Valley — aside from which SPF to use and which local farm stands sell the best corn — is that it will be over before you know it. Sure, the swimming holes don’t really warm up until September, and the cows at Cook Farm gamely enable our ice cream habit into the chillier months. But that special windows-down, afternoon road trip is a fleeting thing. With that in mind, I’m putting the August...

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The Beerhunter: From Homebrew to Hotspot
Jul10

The Beerhunter: From Homebrew to Hotspot

Don’t let the name of their new Westfield brewery fool you — Mark Avery and Rich DeSousa aren’t preparing to quit their day jobs. But the two friends and business partners are still opening up every spare hour, every day they can, to get Two Weeks Notice Brewing Company off the ground. Avery’s beers proved a hit during Western Mass Beer Week in June, when Two Weeks Notice collaborated on an IPA with Ludlow’s Vanished Valley Brewing...

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The Beerhunter: The Eight-Day Cheers
Jun05

The Beerhunter: The Eight-Day Cheers

Any out-of-towner who would guess Western Mass has a quiet craft beer scene is bound for a rude, brewed awakening. But even locals may be surprised at the scope of the second annual Western Mass Beer Week, which runs June 10-17. Last year’s series of events at breweries, bars and restaurants around the Valley attracted 35 businesses, which hosted (by my count) 52 events. This year, more than 50 businesses are participating in 70...

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The Beerhunter: Stay Chilled, My Friends
May08

The Beerhunter: Stay Chilled, My Friends

In beer, as in life, context matters. If you crash a friend’s wedding in basketball shorts, you may be riding that easygoing reputation of yours a little too far. Conversely, if you’re mowing your lawn on a hot day, and you decide to dress up your lunch break by popping open a bottle of imperial stout, your chances of getting back off that cool, comfy couch drop to virtually nil. There’s a reason we eat, drink, and make merry by...

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The Beerhunter: Turnpike Two-Stop
Apr10

The Beerhunter: Turnpike Two-Stop

Two worthwhile breweries off exit 9 The naturalist John Muir once observed that “when one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” I’m no bearded environmental philosopher, but I do like to kick back with a pint sometimes and dwell on our interconnectedness. In the realm of craft beer, brewers and buyers often muse on the national and international history of the craft — but that must square,...

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The Beerhunter: Vanished Valley Brewing Company in Ludlow
Mar06

The Beerhunter: Vanished Valley Brewing Company in Ludlow

Local homebrewer Josh Britton scales up with a low-key launch On quiet winter days between reports of Valley craft beer happenings, your friendly neighborhood Beerhunter has been wandering a bit further afield. Over the past few months, I’ve written articles about my stop-ins at breweries in Worcester, Hartford, and northern Connecticut. But home is where the heart is. So on Instagram the other day, my scrolling thumb paused, hovering...

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The Beerhunter: Craft Beer Goals for 2017
Feb06

The Beerhunter: Craft Beer Goals for 2017

Local brewers share their predictions and plans Last year, the Beerhunter offered some “brew year’s resolutions” to serve as a checklist for craft beer enthusiasts on a year-long quest to try new things. This year, it seemed prudent to put the question to the brewers themselves. I asked them: what might craft beer lovers expect to see from you this year? In other words: what are your new year’s resolutions? Many responded with...

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The Beerhunter: Cold Weather Craft
Jan09

The Beerhunter: Cold Weather Craft

The best seasonal beers for winter months When predictions of blizzards rolled into town, our parents and grandparents ran to the package store and grabbed a 30-pack of cheap lager cans (we used to call them “dad soda”) along with bread, milk, and eggs. These days, the Nor’easter stockpile options are a bit more refined, and many newer craft breweries produce darker, spicier beers for winter — complemented by older holiday mainstays...

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The Beerhunter: Over the Borderline
Dec05

The Beerhunter: Over the Borderline

Filling a glass where Connecticut meets Mass Most night owls are easy when it comes to shifts in ambience, but I can’t say that many of us thrive under fluorescent light. That might have been why, on Wednesday afternoon, my editor found me sighing heavily at my desk. She encouraged me to take a break from the blinking cursor on my screen and hit the road for a few hours. Didn’t I have a Beerhunter column to write? Why yes, as a matter...

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The Beerhunter: The Pumpkin Beer Taste Test (Round 2)
Nov14

The Beerhunter: The Pumpkin Beer Taste Test (Round 2)

When I think back to last fall, and the dozen taste tests I did of pumpkin-flavored beers, my tongue conjures flashbacks of bad and bewildering brews. What can I say? I’m a glutton for punishment. Or maybe I’m an optimist, holding onto a hope that there are pumpkin beers out there that don’t taste like thin perfume, cloying candy, or bitter-tinged pumpkin guts. To be fair, last year’s search unearthed a few solid options. I enjoyed...

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At Beerology, Homebrewers Can Go Local, Too
Nov14

At Beerology, Homebrewers Can Go Local, Too

At Home with the Brew Local beer ingredients abound, but commercial brewers aren’t the only ones who can get their hands on them. Fun and creative brewing starts at home, too — and many in the Valley have taken up the calling. Mike Schilling has been homebrewing for seven years. Schilling works as the “beer guy” at Provisions specialty food store in Northampton, but his most recent endeavor with his wife Jordana Starr is Beerology,...

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What’s in an “All Local” Beer, Anyway?
Nov14

What’s in an “All Local” Beer, Anyway?

From the Valley, Born and Brewed The crafty little explosion of local breweries up and down the Valley over the last 20 years has become a point of pride for neighbors and travelers alike. But as local craft beer markets across the country have matured from clusters of quirky start-ups into primary players in local food movements, more and more opportunities have cropped up for brewers to partner with farmers in an effort to source...

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Beerhunter: Hartford Beer Fans, Take Heart
Nov07

Beerhunter: Hartford Beer Fans, Take Heart

In the two years since I took on the role of Valley beer reporter, I’ve tried to keep things local whenever possible. Aside from an international sojourn or two — like when I tried a mug of saliva-fermented ‘chicha’ corn beer in Peru last year — I’ve generally been happy to stay close to home, and the talent of Valley brewers keeps the beat from growing stale. But wandering out to Worcester last month piqued my interest in those New...

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Fruity Beers That Don’t Suck
Oct10

Fruity Beers That Don’t Suck

They’re out there… and they probably don’t use blueberries When Erik Jensen took over as brewmaster at Green Flash Brewing at the beginning of this year, he knew he had some big shoes to fill. The San Diego brewery had become one of the biggest in California over the past decade, thanks to former brewmaster Chuck Silva’s way with aggressively flavored, highly hopped IPAs. This year, with Green Flash poised to open an...

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The Beerhunter: Worcester’s Downtown Breweries
Sep06

The Beerhunter: Worcester’s Downtown Breweries

Three Cheers for the Woo The local craft beer movement has taken off in every nook and cranny of Massachusetts, and Worcester is no exception. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, since the city is the second largest in New England, and it sits along pretty much all roads from point A to point Boston. Creative people of all stripes pass through, and a few of them even stay, buy some fermenters and brite tanks, and get down to...

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The Beerhunter: Get ‘Em Here — or Nowhere
Aug08

The Beerhunter: Get ‘Em Here — or Nowhere

Compass Pints Four hidden corners of the Valley’s craft beer map Some people have trouble leaving their work at the office. As the Beerhunter, I’ve never really had to contend with that. In fact, if my editor turned around in her swivel chair and saw me taste-testing local craft beers at my desk all afternoon, the paper would probably assign me to a less bubbly beat. So to a certain extent, I have to “work” off-hours, keeping my...

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The Beerhunter: Bright Ideas Brewing in North Adams
Jul05

The Beerhunter: Bright Ideas Brewing in North Adams

Back to the Mill New breweries tend to pop up in unlikely industrial spaces, and Bright Ideas Brewing in North Adams is no different. The small but ambitious operation is a new tenant of MASS MoCA, which means that finding the front door to the brewery involves some poking around in the art museum’s front courtyard. After a minute or two, you spot it: the bright orange, all-caps lettering jumps out from the window above a set of glass...

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Brew Kids on the Block: A new Senate bill would allow beer sales at farmers markets
Jun14

Brew Kids on the Block: A new Senate bill would allow beer sales at farmers markets

    Have you ever wondered why Massachusetts farmers markets don’t allow the sale of beer, even though vendors are typically welcome to sell hard cider and wine? So have state lawmakers. Early last month, the Senate passed a sweeping agricultural bill (S.2258) intended to help boost and promote local farms through, among other initiatives, the inclusion of brewers at farmers markets. The bill, which passed by a vote of 36 to...

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The Beerhunter: Five O’Clock Everywhere: Western Mass Beer Week June 11-18
Jun06

The Beerhunter: Five O’Clock Everywhere: Western Mass Beer Week June 11-18

The Beerhunter’s ears are always pricked to news of local craft beer happenings, and this month, they’re positively tingling. All that excitement in the air is thanks to the first-ever Western Mass Beer Week, a series of events at breweries, bars and restaurants all around the Valley June 11-18. Eighteen breweries and more than a dozen eateries have teamed up to celebrate the beer brewed around here. All told, 52 events are scheduled...

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The Beerhunter Abroad: Land of the Rising Suds
May09

The Beerhunter Abroad: Land of the Rising Suds

Japan After dark, standing in a 24-hour convenience store in downtown Kyoto, I scanned the rows of canned and bottled beers in a bright refrigerated case. Virtually everything on offer was a product of one of the “big four” Japanese breweries: Sapporo, Suntory, Asahi, and Kirin — all of which are available in the United States. This was discouraging. As in my last installment of Beerhunter, Abroad! — in which I wandered the streets of...

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The Beerhunter: What is ‘Randalling’?
Apr12

The Beerhunter: What is ‘Randalling’?

Flavor Savers For my birthday this year, can someone pick me up an organoleptic hop transducer module? I know that sounds like a piece of equipment that Doc Brown would install under the hood of his DeLorean. But really, I’m a simple man. This module, also known as a Randall, was created for packing an extra punch of flavor into that pint you’re about to pour. Simply put, it’s a device that adventurous beer lovers can use to steep...

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Beerhunter: Franken-Steins (Have wacky beer ingredients gone too far?)
Mar14

Beerhunter: Franken-Steins (Have wacky beer ingredients gone too far?)

The dumbest thing I ever did on a date was to invite my lucky lady off-campus for an Indian dinner of vindaloo. The dish was so spicy that I spent half an hour struggling to force small talk out through my seized-up throat (luckily, the chili peppers hit her just as hard). So I can’t say that the glass of Habanero Sculpin (7% ABV) I ordered at Ballast Point’s brewery in San Diego last spring was the biggest spice surprise of my life....

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The Beerhunter: Q&A with Brewer Mike Yates
Feb16

The Beerhunter: Q&A with Brewer Mike Yates

Beer has been good to Mike Yates, the head brewer at Building 8 in Florence and at White Lion Brewing in Springfield. His 16 years of experience in Western Mass and Connecticut have made him a trusted and well-respected name in the local craft beer scene. Since he first rolled up his sleeves for this labor-intensive work, America has seen an explosion of new breweries. It’s an exciting industry right now, but don’t think for a minute...

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Madame Barfly: Mixing Beer? Have Fear
Feb03

Madame Barfly: Mixing Beer? Have Fear

Naturally, I was really excited about the whole beer cocktail thing. Beer is good, and cocktails are good, so how can we go wrong, right? As it turns out, some beer cocktails are good and others are downright disgusting. The Beerhunter and I put our booze brains together to see if we could come up with any tasty beer cocktails. It’s more challenging than we’d anticipated — beer has a flavor profile that frequently doesn’t play well...

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Brew Years Resolutions: 16 tips for a fun year of beer
Dec21

Brew Years Resolutions: 16 tips for a fun year of beer

Happy almost New Years, beer fans! Let’s draw 2015 to a close in style, drink responsibly, and make some plans for the year to come. Hint: there will be craft ales aplenty. Here are 16 items on my personal checklist that I hope you’ll take to heart when you do your own beerhunting in 2016, in the Valley and beyond: • Quick, before the holidays are over: grab a limited-edition bottle of Magic Hat’s Feast of Fools raspberry chocolate...

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A Beershare Off the Beaten Path
Nov23

A Beershare Off the Beaten Path

I drive until I lose cell service, then I keep driving. Downtown Colrain falls away behind me as I follow the North River up into the wooded hills. I park my car on a quiet road, two miles from the Vermont border, at Justin Korby’s house. Colrain’s small population is spread out — about 40 people per square mile. It’s the kind of lovely, near-silent landscape you see in spy movies, when the feds come knocking on a cabin door to coax...

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Raise Your Glass (Ceiling): Where are all the women brewers?
Nov16

Raise Your Glass (Ceiling): Where are all the women brewers?

Two years ago, Kate Telman started making beer at her home in Easthampton. She planned to perfect a few brews, then shop her skills around to area breweries in the hope of getting a job. “I knew there weren’t really any job postings for what I wanted to do,” said Telman, 29. “I just had to get in with the brewers.” While meeting with brewers and passing out samples, Telman would bring her husband for moral support. “Almost everywhere...

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The Magical Mountain Mystery Tour: What craft beer adventures await in the Berkshires?
Nov16

The Magical Mountain Mystery Tour: What craft beer adventures await in the Berkshires?

As the Advocate’s resident Beerhunter, my reportage on the art of the local craft brew has taken me up and down the Pioneer Valley, with the occasional stop in Brattleboro, Boston, and beyond. But there’s one big region on the Western Mass beer map that I’d been overdue for a tour through: Berkshire County. I set out to remedy that. Berkshire County has some good craft breweries, although not in such a high concentration as in...

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King of the Pumpkin Patch: 12 pumpkin craft beers face off
Oct26

King of the Pumpkin Patch: 12 pumpkin craft beers face off

In 1923, when The New York Times asked George Mallory why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, the adventurer quipped: “Because it’s there.” That’s not the most promising mantra to cling to — Mallory perished on the mountain the following year — but I fear it’s one that many brewers fall back on when pumpkin beer season rolls around. We’re all rational adults. Why are we putting pumpkin in our beer? Just because it’s there? Clearly, the...

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The Beerhunter: Brick & Feather Brewery in Turners Falls
Sep29

The Beerhunter: Brick & Feather Brewery in Turners Falls

The 11th-Hour Taste Test Lawrence George pours a hazy-gold sample of beer from the tank and passes it to me in a small glass. It is a bold and flavorful take on an American pale ale: hoppy, tangy, and delicious. In another tank, George is fermenting a slightly sweeter version of this beer, tweaking the recipe until he gets it just right. That one won’t be ready for a while. In the meantime, he lets me try a third test brew: a...

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The Beerhunter: Drink Local! The Valley’s Top 10 Must-Try Craft Beers
Sep01

The Beerhunter: Drink Local! The Valley’s Top 10 Must-Try Craft Beers

Welcome back from summer vacation! Sadly, the heat wave isn’t over just yet. But the Beerhunter predicts cool evenings ahead, so be sure to make time to kick back on your couch, porch, or at your favorite neighborhood bar and appreciate everything the Valley’s craft beer scene has to brag about. While you were off getting some sun and resting up, the Beerhunter has been hard at work paring down the long list of local offerings into a...

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The Beerhunter: Brattleboro by the Glass
Aug04

The Beerhunter: Brattleboro by the Glass

The southern Vermont town of Brattleboro does a lot of things right: green hills, friendly people, fun bookstores, and a few stellar swimming holes. But this month, the Beerhunter looks into this town’s newest promising trend: craft brewing. Out of the beer spots in Brattleboro, I particularly recommend two: the tasting room at Hermit Thrush Brewery on High Street and the Whetstone Station restaurant and brewery on Bridge Street. Hit...

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The Beerhunter: The The Other ‘L’ Word, never fear, good light beer is here
Jul08

The Beerhunter: The The Other ‘L’ Word, never fear, good light beer is here

Thinking about “light beer” brings up distasteful, albeit fun, memories. Long nights in college spent pouring cans of Keystone into red plastic cups; fly-fishing with grouchy uncle Roy, paddling around with a cooler full of Molson; going to that barbecue last summer that only stocked bottles of Bud Light Lime. (Talk about an ice bucket challenge.) Why do low-calorie beers taste bad? It’s simple. Calories in beer come from...

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