Thirsty? Check out the breweries, wineries, cideries and more across the happy valley.

The Beerhunter: Schwarzbier, that German-style black lager, returns!
Dec11

The Beerhunter: Schwarzbier, that German-style black lager, returns!

Now that the colder months have blown in, bar managers across the Valley are pulling IPAs, pale ales, and pilsners from their tap handles to make room for some thicker, darker brews like stouts, porters, and barrel-aged specials. Seasonal variety is all well and good, but I’m not always in the mood for a beer that eats like a meal. Most winter beer styles are as filling and thick as those hazy, juicy New England IPAs we can’t stop...

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Having a Slice in the Pie-oneer Valley
Nov20

Having a Slice in the Pie-oneer Valley

A flaky crust, delicious filling, and a bite of nostalgia make pie the dessert of choice for many. Whether it’s pie with a damn fine cup of coffee or a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, you’ll instantly be transported to sweet comfort heaven with just a bite … if it’s good pie, that is. At its worst, bad pie can be like a slap across the face, whether it’s nasty ass chemical pie (we’re looking at you McDonald’s) or pie that tastes like...

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The Beerhunter: Westfield Welcomes Tin Bridge Brewing Company
Nov08

The Beerhunter: Westfield Welcomes Tin Bridge Brewing Company

Family-run business is the city’s first visitable craft brewery As the Valley’s local craft beer bubble continues to grow, Westfield looks primed for business. Downtown on Elm Street, Skyline Trading Company — a craft beer bar and homebrew shop — has proven a welcome recent addition to Westfield’s nightlife. And residents here often hop in the car (or on a bike) to visit the large barn that houses Westfield River Brewing Company in...

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O Cannabis: Hey Pilgrim, How Was Your First Weed Harvest? 
Oct23

O Cannabis: Hey Pilgrim, How Was Your First Weed Harvest? 

The harvest is in and I can’t believe the results. My husband and I didn’t weigh our cannabis haul from our home garden, but we were able to fill a bunch of regular-size salsa jars with marijuana. This is more than good enough for me! Like many weed enthusiasts in the state, we enjoyed our first home-grown harvest in October. Strike up the weed exchanges! It’s kind of like a cookie exchange — and there may be cookies — but way danker....

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New Column: Monte Belmonte Wines
Sep05

New Column: Monte Belmonte Wines

You are reading a wine column that was written by a non-expert: a rank novice who has never worked in the wine industry, or the restaurant industry; who has never been to France (outside of Charles de Gaulle) or to California (outside of L.A.); and who, frankly, has never written a column of any kind, for any newspaper, at any time before now. That being said, I am Monte Belmonte — a radio host on 93.9 The River with an extremely tiny...

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Late-Night Eats In Western Mass: Our Guide To Post-Midnight Grub
Aug14

Late-Night Eats In Western Mass: Our Guide To Post-Midnight Grub

Whether you’re pulling an all-nighter cramming for a test, pub crawling with friends, working the graveyard shift, or just woke up in the middle of the night with the sudden urge for a slice of pizza, there are restaurants, diners, joints, and donut shops in the Pioneer Valley that will answer your call for nourishment beyond midnight. And we don’t mean fast food drive-thru. If you’re hungry after 1 a.m. the Valley has a handful of...

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Pour Man: This Fair Trade Wine Might Be The Cheapest Thing At Your Co-op
Aug09

Pour Man: This Fair Trade Wine Might Be The Cheapest Thing At Your Co-op

Riojana; Rosé, 2016; La Rioja, Argentina, $6.99 Not only is Riojana rosé a very good wine that sells for an incredibly low price, but it is also a wine that you can feel good about drinking. Riojana wines are produced by La Riojana, a certified Fairtrade cooperative of more than 500 families in the Rioja region of northwestern Argentina. All of the owners are equal partners, a group of small- and medium-scale farmers, who grow the...

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Can Western Mass Support Farm-To-Table For Everyone?
Jul24

Can Western Mass Support Farm-To-Table For Everyone?

Nathan pulls his mother by the hand through the Springfield downtown farmers market stopping at none of the booths she wants to visit: the cookie stand, the hand-made jewlery display, the gourmet chips, and honey. The 2-year-old loves the farmers market, his mother Emily Riehl says, but she wishes he would gravitate toward more of the farm than the market. Lured by the musicians who often play the Friday afternoon market, Riehl, 20,...

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Where You Can U-Pick In Western Mass Farms
Jul24

Where You Can U-Pick In Western Mass Farms

Why should the farmers have all the fun harvesting the fresh fruits and vegetables from their own farms? U-pick farms abound in the Pioneer Valley. Strawberry season has mostly gone by, but blueberries are ripe for the pickin’, and it won’t be long before apple season hits us. Below is a list of farms where you can grab your own produce. These farms have pick-your-own that is open to the public, but some area farms allow members...

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Long Live the Staycation! Why Leave Western Mass?
Jun26

Long Live the Staycation! Why Leave Western Mass?

Hanging around the house is something we all do, but usually in an unfocused, squished-between-chores-and-obligations sort of way. But when you stay home for vacation, your dwelling can become a sanctuary, free from the day-to-day grind. If you can’t afford to get out of town, treat your home like a resort: stock it with your favorite goodies, splurge a bit on something comfy, and postpone responsibilities for a while. Indulge in the...

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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 Pour Man: Super Premium Wine With Highfalutin Flavor
Apr30

The Pour Man: Super Premium Wine With Highfalutin Flavor

Bread & Butter Chardonnay, 2015; Napa, California; $14.99 Bread & Butter Chardonnay is among the top-selling super premium wines in the country — and there’s a good reason for that. It’s a dry, white wine that is flavorful, well-crafted and sells for a reasonable price. Although “super premium” sounds highfalutin, it’s just industry jargon for wines that sell in the $12 to $15 range and sometimes go on sale for less than $10....

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Advocate taste-off: Finding the perfect cheesecake
Apr18

Advocate taste-off: Finding the perfect cheesecake

Cheesecake is one of the most decadent and delightful treats of all the sweets. A cheesecake should be fluffy and creamy, sugary and buttery, fresh and delicate. Because when it’s not, it’s a damn waste of calories slathered onto your hips. Being one of the best desserts also means cheesecake is one of the worst for you in terms of calories, fat, and sugar (it’s wonderful for you in terms of soul-boosting). So, it’s important when...

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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 Pour Man: Prosecco Has it Over Cava
Mar13

The Pour Man: Prosecco Has it Over Cava

Lunetta Prosecco is one of the hottest sparkling wine brands on the American market, and there’s a good reasonta why — it’s well-made, inexpensive and widely available, an excellent wine to celebrate. It also is lower than many wines in alcohol, about 11.5 percent, so it’s a pleasant companion to take to a party and, unless you over indulge, it won’t give you a headache in the morning. In the past, sparkling wines weren’t my go-to...

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Sweet! The SYRUP Festival Returns This Weekend
Mar13

Sweet! The SYRUP Festival Returns This Weekend

With the SYRUP Festival, Piti Theatre Company in Shelburne Falls has hit on a tradition that most of us would never have realized we were missing: all-ages live performance, featuring world-class artists, mixed with handcrafted food and sweets from local artisans. Now in its eighth year, SYRUP comes back around this weekend. On Saturday, Jonathan Mirin performs the new solo physical comedy piece Sammy and the Grand Buffet at 2 p.m. An...

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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 Pour Man: Get Into a Dry Cab for Winter
Jan30

The Pour Man: Get Into a Dry Cab for Winter

Broadside Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon; $12.99 Although it might be hard to tell from our contradictory weather these days, we’re in the dead of winter, a season that cries out for deep, rich red wines full of dark berry and plum flavors. Cabernet Sauvignon is one of my favorite red wine varietals, and the one I most often turn to when the temperatures drop below freezing. And I’m not alone in my admiration; Cabernet Sauvignon ranks...

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O, Cannabis: Can I Give You Some Weed? and Other Important Questions
Jan23

O, Cannabis: Can I Give You Some Weed? and Other Important Questions

Recreational marijuana was legalized in Massachusetts on Dec. 15, 2016, but the state is in a legal gray area right now as a system to sell weed is established. The consumption of recreational marijuana is now legal, but the sale of recreational marijuana isn’t yet. That’s quite the conundrum. State lawmakers recently pushed back the open date of recreational marijuana retailers by six months, from January 2018 to July 2018, extending...

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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 Pour Man: Producers of MD ‘Mad Dog’ 20/20 Make a Surprisingly Good Pinot Noir
Jan03

The Pour Man: Producers of MD ‘Mad Dog’ 20/20 Make a Surprisingly Good Pinot Noir

At first blush, one wouldn’t think that the producer of one of world’s most popular “brown-bag wines” would be making a well-crafted, reasonably priced Pinot Noir, much less any other drinkable wine. But that’s the case with Chloe, which means “green shoot” in ancient Greek, in case you were wondering. Chloe’s parent company, The Wine Group, a privately-held, investment firm, makes MD 20/20, a cheap, fortified wine that comes in a...

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Cocktail of the Month Club: Dec. 2016
Dec21

Cocktail of the Month Club: Dec. 2016

This month, the Advocate visited the Five Eyed Fox in Turners Falls, where co-owner Aric Binaco showed us how to make a Bison Sour, a velvety, pleasantly sweet cocktail with a hint of spice. Here’s the recipe: The Bison Sour 2 ounces bison grass-infused vodka (infuse your own or buy Zu bison grass-vodka) 1 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice 1/2 ounce simple syrup (aka sugar water) 1/2 ounce egg white (optional, for texture) 1 or 2...

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Fudge Judging: We found the best local fudge around
Dec19

Fudge Judging: We found the best local fudge around

The winter holiday season is the best time for fudge. It’s a season of indulgence and sharing and sweets and fun — that’s what fudge is all about. Stock up on some now and hand out pounds of rich, creamy, gooey goodness as presents or keep it home and eat it sliver by sliver, chunk by chunk, handful by handful, etc. Advocate staffers editors Kristin Palpini and Hunter Styles, art director Jennifer Levesque, staff writer Peter Vancini,...

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Alicia Fuhrman’s Local Libations: A wine cocktail for winter
Dec12

Alicia Fuhrman’s Local Libations: A wine cocktail for winter

Make me something good. I used to get this request (and versions of it) often, and almost always from strangers. It was a high-turnover tourist town I worked in — most faces you’d only see for one night. But isn’t that so much of the bar experience: not knowing? The people sitting three stools down and what your second drink is going to be. Especially now, in the world of craft drinking — i.e. consumption with interest in the...

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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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Winter Arts Preview: Top Valley Events (Jan-Mar 2017)
Nov28

Winter Arts Preview: Top Valley Events (Jan-Mar 2017)

A Spirited Debate One of two things will happen to you when confronted with the bold and brassy acts of clairvoyance that Rebecca Anne LoCicero whips up onstage. One will be a sense of reluctant amazement. The other will be a deep, head-shaking skepticism. LoCicero has been working in the New England area, nationally, and worldwide for more than two decades, and the funny, occasionally outrageous impromptu readings she performs on...

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Can All-Natural Kava Really Soothe Anxiety?
Nov28

Can All-Natural Kava Really Soothe Anxiety?

Chocolate is a treat, but when you add kava, chocolate is medicine. At least that’s what Rachael Gibney, a reiki healer from Shutesbury says. She is mixing a bowl of raw cacao with ground kava at a workshop at the Bower Studio in Pelham, showing people how to make medicinal chocolate at home. “It’s really good at releasing anxiety, especially social anxiety,” Gibney tells the crowd as she stirs the pot. Kava is the root of a plant...

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The Pour Man: Cheap Chianti for Sophisticated Adults
Nov28

The Pour Man: Cheap Chianti for Sophisticated Adults

My first recollection of Chianti, as it is for many people, was the iconic straw-wrapped bottle, not the wine. Occasionally, an unopened bottle would show up at our house, usually a gift from a friend coming to dinner, and by the end of the adult evening, it would be empty. The bottle would hang around for a few days. My mother would say she wanted to put a candle in it to decorate the table the next time she served spaghetti and...

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The Pour Man: Wines With Turkey
Nov21

The Pour Man: Wines With Turkey

Finding a wine that goes with every course of the Thanksgiving dinner can be a bit dodgy because the meal is a hodgepodge of dishes with distinctive flavors. Viognier, Cava, Pinot Noir and Cotes du Rhone have been my favorites in the past, but this year I’m trying a couple of very nice California blends with our meal, wines that don’t stray too far from my traditional standbys and that go very well with a variety of foods. Of course,...

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How to talk politics with your family on Thanksgiving: an Advocate chat
Nov21

How to talk politics with your family on Thanksgiving: an Advocate chat

The Valley Advocate is starting up a new feature: chats! Our inaugural chat will be about mixing family and politics during Thanksgiving. If you want to hear about some of our coping strategies, read on! The conversation has been lightly edited. dave.eisen (Dave Eisenstadter, web editor): Shall we begin? kristinpalpini (Kristin Palpini, editor): Yep petevancini (Peter Vancini, staff writer): Off we go kristinpalpini: What are we here...

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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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If You Brew It, They Will Come: Tree House Brewing in Monson attracts international recognition
Nov14

If You Brew It, They Will Come: Tree House Brewing in Monson attracts international recognition

It isn’t hard to pick Dean Rohan out of a crowd. He’s the tall guy with glasses in the muck boots and ratty work pants. And he’s wearing a red T-shirt with his own face on it that reads “I’m with Dean.” Today, he’s overseeing the arrival of a tanker truck filled with grain as it offloads its cargo into a giant stainless steel silo emblazoned with the logo of Tree House Brewing. Rohan is one of the brewery’s three co-founders, who grew...

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Dry Weather, Drought a Mixed Bag for Northeast Vineyards
Nov14

Dry Weather, Drought a Mixed Bag for Northeast Vineyards

Grape harvests are underway at vineyards in the Northeast where unusually dry warm weather this summer was ideal for growing grapes. But in parts of New York and southern New England, where drought struck, some growers are seeing decreasing yields. New York, the country’s third largest wine producer, was hit hard by drought in the Finger Lakes wine region. Gene Pierce, owner of Glenora Wine Cellars on Seneca Lake, said his and other...

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