More than two dozen breweries opened in Massachusetts last year, and we should expect even more growth in 2019. If we see fewer brewery openings over time, it will be because craft beer fans have so many locally-loved businesses to buy from.
More than ever, we’re spoiled for choice, and the Valley is no exception. The brewers in this non-exhaustive list are looking hopefully into 2019. Here’s a peek at their planning.
Brewer and owner Lawrence George was excited to begin selling cans last year. In 2019, he will install more tanks. “We should have more variety available for visitors to the brewery,” he says. “While we continue to tweak and improve our IPAs (what we seem to be mostly known for) we are focusing more and more on traditional unfiltered lager styles.” Brick and Feather is also working on a pop-up outdoor beer garden for the warmer months.
Co-founder and head brewer Josh Britton says he’s proud to have made Beer Advocate’s 2018 list of the 50 best new breweries in the country, thanks in part to his popular series of milkshake IPAs. Vanished Valley plans to build a new brewery throughout 2019. The expansion would include a full taproom, a kitchen, additional beer styles, and a barrel aging program.
Progression opened its doors in 2018 with “four beers right off the bat that have been fantastically well received,” says brewer Todd Sullivan. In 2019, he is planning “many new and exciting New England IPAs and other hop-forward beers. Also some new and exciting non-hoppy styles … saisons, Belgians, stouts, porters” and possibly some barrel aging. Visitors can expect the addition of local concerts in the taproom and more live events.
“Finally, after 24 years,” says operations manager Jason Hunter, “Berkshire Brewing has a taproom open to the public for on-premise consumption!” BBC has also rolled out more beers in cans, plus taproom-only specialty beers and live events. Hunter adds that 2019 “marks ten years since the passing of brewing pioneer Greg Noonan, and hopefully we will revive the barrel-aged Scotch ale we brewed in his honor: Gude Greg’s Wee Heavy.”
Distribution sales doubled for Bright Ideas last year, and head brewer Danny Sump is adding tanks to the cellar. “We also are going to continue our barrel program with a maple bourbon Dark Ideas Imperial Stout releasing early January,” says Sump, “and port rye whiskey Dark Ideas releasing early summer.” Bright Ideas is also working on some collaborations with breweries in Eastern Mass and around the country.
Owner and head brewer Matt Tarlecki and his team are in the midst of a major brewery and taproom expansion, to be completed early this year. “This expansion will give us the opportunity to brew more experimental beers (think double IPAs, fruited sours, and barrel aged beers) and increase production of our core beers,” says Tarlecki. The expansion will also add a second taproom that seats up to 100 people for private and public events. Tarlecki adds that “we hope to work with some new breweries in 2019. Anyone out there interested in collaborating with us?”
In 2018, “we were thrilled to begin offering all of our seasonals in cans and start brewing our much loved Training Wheels Session IPA year-round,” as well as various beers that donate directly back to organizations, says brewery manager Chris Sellers. “Look for more canned beer offerings and new collaborations, barrel aged beers, innovative styles, and a variety of carefully crafted ales and lagers … Barrels will be playing an increasing role on tap too!”
“Year 31 saw us produce more barrels of beer than the previous year for the 12th year in a row,” says head brewer Donald “Boog” Pacher. In the next few months, Pacher promises “more innovation, collaboration, and continuation of what we do,” including “keeping ten different and unique beers on draft” and “partnering with our community to help raise awareness and money for the causes we believe in.” Plus, just maybe, some distribution of Northampton Brewery beers to the outside world.
After releasing four new beers in 2018, White Lion will release a New England-style IPA this month, says president Ray Berry. All recipes are by head brewer Mike Yates, formerly of Building 8, who is now a full business partner at White Lion. Berry plans to open the brewery’s new downtown taproom at Tower Square this spring. White Lion also went 100% independent last spring after divesting from its Anheuser-Busch InBev distribution partnerships. The company now self-distributes statewide.
In 2018, Big Elm expanded its footprint around New England, says co-owner Bill Heaton. He adds that this year “we are excited to produce more beers with all-local ingredients,” as well as continuing Big Elm’s taproom expansion.” Per tradition, Big Elm will continue to release one new beer per month, and will also look to offer more food options on-site — a project that may involve an increased presence of food trucks at the taproom.
Co-owner and brewer Chris Peterson reports that Arcpoint’s first annual charity 5K this past year — which raised funds for the Pioneer Valley USO — went very well, and the brewery has continued to push distribution into Worcester County. Arcpoint released its first canned double IPA in October. The brewery has also been doing “loads of planning” for its new taproom, which will be located in Belchertown. Construction on the new space will begin soon.
“This time of year we are getting ready to brew our lager series, which includes four lagers available through the spring and early summer,” says co-owner and brewer Andrew Mankin. “We also have introduced a New England-style IPA this fall, which is flying out of the building.” Barrington Brewery recently switched from bottling beer to canning, and now offers 16-ounce cans for sale at the brewpub seven days a week.
Formerly based in Ludlow, Iron Duke has finalized the purchase of a new home in Wilbraham, says co-owner Nick Morin. “We laid the groundwork for a new brewery and taproom construction project to begin in early 2019,” he says. Iron Duke plans to expand brewery capacity, add additional beers, and “greatly improve our taproom experience,” Morin says. Also: “keep an eye out for Iron Duke expanding outside of the greater Springfield area.”
“We fully restored an additional 9,000 square feet of our barn and now offer a full event venue,” says brewer Sergio Bonavita. This year will bring “a continuing evolution of our beers … Our kitchen will expand and we will be adding a craft distillery, distilling several different spirits and offering them in our taproom and at our events.” Visitors should also expect “a really exciting summer concert series and some cool events on our farm.”
The new taproom space at The Hangar Pub and Grill in Amherst will offer a curated list of beer, wine and spirits when it opens this year, says brewer Caleb Hiliadis. In 2019, Hiliadis says to expect more collaborations, barrel-aged and fruited kettle sours, and experiments with hops. “We are proud to have started working with Valley Malt,” he adds. “We are now using their malted wheat in every batch of Juliette, Lauren, Marissa, and most Jane Doe experimental hoppy beers.”
“While this sort of ‘accomplishment’ might not be noticed by most, we made major strides in our quality control/assurance in 2018,” says owner Tyler Guilmette. “We’ve got some real cool stuff coming along: a new experimental IPA series hitting shelves in February, more fruited kettle sour beers starting in March, and a new style of beer we will be debuting at Extreme Beer Fest in Boston next month.”
“The growth of our taproom has been very rewarding,” says co-owner Dan Kramer. “Many folks are surprised to see our cocktail and food menu.” To celebrate its tenth anniversary, Element will be brewing an extra-strong edition of Dark Vanilla. Several events are planned for this anniversary year, Kramer says, “such as hosting a holiday craft fair showcasing local artists [and] working with local artists to hand-paint bottles … we are still brainstorming more ideas!”
Zack Livingston opened his brewery on the Buckland side of Shelburne Falls just two months ago. When asked for predictions, he says he’s “holding my cards close to my chest,” since “three years of ‘I’ll be open in a few months’ has taught me not to discuss anything until I am on the home stretch.” That being said, Livingston is planning to ramp up production with “traditional and unique offerings featuring predominantly local ingredients,” open a riverside porch, and add more live events.
In 2018 “we expanded our lineup with six new beers, including our new kettle sour series,” says founder O’Brian Tomalin. Building 8 has gained more outlets in the Boston area in recent months, and Tomalin is hoping to build up more out-of-state distribution over time. A taproom and pouring permit is “on our minds,” he says. An imperial stout is expected to arrive in February, and Building 8 plans to continue a steady production of kettle sours.
2018 marked three years of business and one full year of in-house canning and distribution, says member manager and brewer Tanzania Cannon-Eckerle. This year, she’s planning a more broad array of beer styles, more brew collaborations, and continuing to support local causes and to open her doors to the music and arts community. Brew Practitioners is eyeing an additional location — one with more green space and — hint, hint — room for wine barrels.
Brewer Bruno Coelho says his team spent its first year building a local following, and “putting out some creative beers that produced great feedback.” In 2019, Drunken Rabbit fans should look forward to monthly can releases, more creative beers showcasing unexpected flavor combinations, weekly live entertainment, and a permanent food truck on site. Perhaps in the cards as well: collaboration beers and, at some point, a home brew competition.
Brewmaster Christophe Gagné reports that the average age of his all-sour brewery’s oak-aged beer is now over one year. “There’s nothing that gets better with time like sour beer,” he says, “and we are very happy in our fourth year to have built enough of a cellar inventory to be able to offer very, very well-aged beer, all the time.” In the next few months, Gagné says, “you’ll see more Hermit Thrush four-packs on the shelf, with focus ranging from huge local hop flavors to balanced and complex fruit additions, all superimposed on great tart beers.”
In 2018, as the Lefty’s tasting room expanded into a full taproom with more events, owner Bill Goldfarb says he loved seeing visitors stop in to enjoy samplers and pints. “It has been a wonderful opportunity to share small-batch and special release brews with our customers,” he says. Among other things, Lefty’s is planning to produce more barrel-aged offerings in 2019.
“2018 was a huge transitional year for us,” says brewmaster Sam Dibble. “We started canning two of our most popular beers (Fenway Froth and Microburst) as well as our ever-popular New City Mule.” New City launched a barrel-aging program last year, and Dibble is planning more barrel-aged beers, plus three more beers in cans and some new ginger beers. He also wants “to launch collaboration beers with some of our favorite local breweries, with a couple things in the works already.”
“The Policemen’s Porter, Key Lime Gose, Dunkel Weizen and Golden Facade collaborations with Bright Ideas were some of our favorite beers created in 2018,” says co-founder Andrew Crane. He and his partner Nick Whalen plan to add more fermenters in 2019, and hope to expand distribution. Also coming soon: a mixed-fermentation sour red ale from Shire’s foeder barrel, more collaborations and barrel-aged beer, and “a couple other crazy concoctions,” possibly involving tequila and mezcal barrels.
What was brewer Mark Avery most proud of in 2018? “I’m proud of opening, period!” he says. “It was three years to get to that point, and to see a line formed before we opened for our first day of can sales was something we’ll never forget.” Two Weeks Notice plans to open its taproom this spring, and Avery says he’s excited to brew more styles, to excite people who may not be IPA drinkers. This year, he hopes to “continue to grow our following and eventually start giving back to the community.”
Owner Rich Pedersen is proud to report that two recent beers from Hitchcock “crushed it in the market.” Those were Strawberry Gold — a golden ale collaboration with Tea Guys infused with a strawberry kiwi apple tea — and a pumpkin ale called Nice Rumpkin. Having significantly upped its distribution in Western Mass, Hitchcock is looking toward more collaboration, more seasonal beers with local ingredients, and possibly growing into a new taproom location.
Over 1,000 people showed up to Rustic’s grand opening this past fall, says Eric Paul, who founded the brewery with Todd Kopiec and Jared Methe. “We see the desire for our beer from our customers and would love to be able to expand to fill that desire.” The brewery is currently on a 1-barrel system, which is soon to be a 2-barrel system. Rustic will keep brewing established recipes in 2019, “but also play around with some new interesting brews as well.”
Honest Weight took on more staff in 2018, says co-owner and brewer Sean Nolan, and brewed more beer than ever, including a bunch of collaborations. There are “lots of events planned for the tasting room,” says Nolan, and “several collaboration beers with some of our favorite breweries,” plus mixed-culture bottled beers and a new limited stock of naturally-carbonated mixed-culture kegged beers. On the horizon: experimental, hop-forward, mixed-culture beers conditioned in bottles and kegs — “think American IPA meets old world saison.”
The Beerhunter appears monthly. Contact Hunter Styles at email@example.com.