By DOMENIC POLI
To all of you out there reading this online or in print, there is something I desperately need to confess: For a portion of my July, I have been drinking on the job.
But, in my defense, my editor told me to.
The number of craft breweries has exploded since the 1990s, when American palates began acquiring a fondness for more artisan flavors than what many big national and international brewing companies could offer. In fact, when U.S. Rep Jim McGovern spent a day in 2017 visiting small breweries in his district, he suggested western Massachusetts has the potential to be the Napa Valley of beer, which he stressed drives tourism here much like wine does there. And many local beermakers have added outdoor seating to accommodate tourists and locals alike.
With this in mind, we decided to profile some choice craft breweries – all in Franklin County, and all with outdoor seating of some kind – to get a taste of what it’s all about. It should be noted that the following does not comprise a complete list of breweries with outdoor seating in the county, merely those that this lucky reporter selected.
Four Phantoms Brewing Co., 301 Wells St., Greenfield
Opened in the fall of 2021 by owner Drew Phillips, Four Phantoms sits in the former home of Lefty’s Brewing Co., which closed in April 2019 after nine years in business. Phillips said he set up outdoor seating last summer after getting a permit from the city.
“It’s great,” he said. “I mean, people get to enjoy the nice weather and have a beer outside, especially at nighttime, when everything cools down. Because it’s (a) super quiet neighborhood here. You know, it’s nice and peaceful to just have a pint outside, watch the fireflies.”
Phillips said he has gotten lots of positive feedback from customers and he believes the outdoor seating has boosted business.
Visitors have a couple of tables to choose from near the facility’s parking area, with more seating inside. There are also board and card games and an old Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder arcade game.
Four Phantoms, which has a menu of food options, held a promotion in late April to celebrate the release of Pajama District, a breakfast cereal pastry sour ale brewed with Froot Loops, lactose and raspberry puree. Guests were invited to wear pajamas to the brewery and received a free doughnut from Adams Donut Shop with a purchase of the beer.
Phillips previously explained his brewery’s name is a nod to a year’s four seasons and their distinctive characteristics.
For more info, visit: www.fourphantoms.net
Tree House Brewing Co., 1 Community Place, South Deerfield
This brewery has erupted in popularity since starting in a small red barn in Brimfield. The primary brewery, coffee roastery, and distillery is located in Charlton, but the company owns and operates five facilities, including a massive operation on the former longtime Channing Bete campus.
Guests who enter the main door pay for drink tickets (each with the date on it) and a wristband before meandering a couple of hallways decorated with bright Tree House beers cans. A selection of pizza is made in-house and can be ordered at the pizza kiosk in the cafe. Takeout orders are not accepted.
Some diners choose to take their pizza and beer (or cold brew coffee, seltzers or spirits and canned cocktails) outside to the dozens of Adirondack chairs and picnic tables near the Tree House Summer Stage, where music legend Graham Nash performed last summer. The scene is picturesque and family-friendly.
One of Tree House’s myriad beers is a milk stout called Somewhere, Something Incredible Is Waiting To Be Known. It is brewed with pale, caramel and roasted malts, and conditioned with a blend of chocolate, vanilla and freshly roasted coffee. It bears notes of Swiss chocolate and vanilla ice cream.
For more info, visit: treehousebrew.com/visiting-deerfield
Berkshire Brewing Co., 12 Railroad St., South Deerfield
Owner Gary Bogoff founded BBC – the county’s oldest brewery – in Deerfield in 1994 and it was one of the spots McGovern visited on his tour in 2017, when the congressman explored the facility, chatted with Bogoff, and had a cup of InHOPnito American IPA.
Bogoff got a permit to expand his beer garden in 2021. There are some high-top tables and about 13 picnic tables inside and outside as well as stools at the bar, where there are nearly two dozen beers on tap. There are also menus to order delivery from local eateries.
At a public hearing regarding his request to expand, Bogoff joked about changing the town’s name from Deerfield to “Beerfield,” in reference to Tree House also being within the town lines.
BBC’s chocolate raspberry truffle barleywine/imperial stout, served in a goblet, is rich with flavor and invokes feelings of decadent hot chocolate during the winter holidays.
For more info, visit: www.berkshire-brewing.com
Element Brewing Co..16 Bridge St., Millers Falls
Ben Anhalt, who co-owns the business with Dan Kramer, said outdoor seating has proven popular, though not when the weather is oppressively humid.
“It’s like owning a convertible in New England… it’s good for a couple weeks but then it sits in your garage because you don’t want to use it, you can’t really use it. It’s either too hot or too cold,” he said. “It’s great in the spring and fall.”
Anhalt said business is bouncing back but still not what it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the outdoor area offers the flexibility of additional seating. It is also home to an herb garden that grows basil put on the brewery’s flatbread pizzas and mint and thyme bartenders use in cocktails.
“That part is kind of cool, too,” he said.
Anhalt also said Element has been known to have musicians play outside.
The business boasts a science theme, with its beers carrying names like Red Giant and Dark Element. A message on a chalkboard inside warns people not to trust atoms – because “they make up everything.” Tachyon is a gluten-free sake IPA, meaning rice served as the beer’s starch source. It is one of at least two rice-inspired beers on the menu, alongside Plasma.
For more info, visit: www.elementbeer.com
The Brewery at Four Star Farms, 508 Pine Meadow Road, Northfield
If you’ve ever wanted to see exactly where your beer’s hops come from, look no further than The Brewery at Four Star Farms. The outdoor seating area serves as a launch pad for a stunning view of hop vines amid a gorgeous backdrop.
Drinks are ordered inside and the seating area is rife with tables and seats on plush grass to contribute to the laid-back atmosphere. There is also cornhole and a food truck.
More than beer is offered as far as beverages go, with wine, seltzers and Harmony Springs sodas from Ludlow also sold.
Field and Camp is a light, crisp, airy American cream ale made with Crystal hops from the farm.
For more info, visit: www.fourstarbeer.com
Hitchcock Brewing Co., 203 South St., Bernardston
Hitchcock Brewing Company, named after ancient glacial Lake Hitchcock, started as a 10-barrel farm brewery in Whately in May 2016. The husband-and-wife team of Rich and Geneva Pedersen left their previous professions and planted more than 800 hop plants in 2013. Rich, who had been a home brewer for more than 30 years, converted the barn into a brewery over the winter of 2015 and the first batch of beer was brewed and sold by mid-May 2016. Business boomed and more space was needed, prompting a grand re-opening in its current spot in October 2019, though the brewery no longer grows its own hops.
The business, across the street Kringle Candle Company and next to The Farm Table restaurant, primarily brews American ales, and serves over a dozen varieties on any given day. There is enough room inside for live music, which is piped through speakers to the outdoor chairs and tables.
HBC’s Hurricane Porter delivers a smooth mouthfeel and invokes notes of chocolate and roasted coffee.
Fore more info, visit: www.hitchcockbrewing.com
Floodwater Brewing Co., 40 State St., Shelburne Falls
Worthington native Zack Livingston opened this brewery eight years after Hurricane Irene generated a massive flood that wreaked havoc in the area.
He had outdoor seating in front of this business for two straight years but decided against it this year because it is one more thing to keep an eye on. However, the popular back deck is still open, with its wonderful view of the Deerfield River and the Bridge of Flowers.
“That’s definitely our most popular spot in the brewery,” he said.
Thyme Machine is a light, refreshing ale made with thyme that Livingston picked himself.
For more info, visit: floodwaterbrewing.com
Reach Domenic Poli at: email@example.com or 413-930-4120.