The Beerhunter: The Art of the Basement Brewpub
Mar12

The Beerhunter: The Art of the Basement Brewpub

The motto for the town of Dalton is “heaven in the heart of the Berkshires.” And much like heaven, a lot of people never make it there. With fewer than 7,000 residents, Dalton is a sort of transitional space in rural Massachusetts, cushioning quiet little towns like Windsor and Peru from the busier Route 7 corridor, which runs from Great Barrington through Pittsfield and up to Williamstown.   Many of those traveling west from the...

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The Beerhunter: Shake Your Cabin Fever with a Taproom Day Trip 
Feb19

The Beerhunter: Shake Your Cabin Fever with a Taproom Day Trip 

It is right about now, during the shortest month of the year, that I have sat through some of the longest evenings of my life. Cabin fever is no joke, even if your cabin comes equipped with a fire, good books, and a stockpile of craft beer (plus some loved ones, I guess). February is cold, wet, and boring enough to make you pine for a quick spring thaw. It will come. Until then, remember that most breweries are open, and those valiant...

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Brew Years Resolutions 2019 – Local brewers share their plans for the coming year
Jan18

Brew Years Resolutions 2019 – Local brewers share their plans for the coming year

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. Brick and...

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The Beerhunter: A Pint of Perseverance
Dec24

The Beerhunter: A Pint of Perseverance

Delayed breweries in Buckland and West Springfield open their doors The craft beer tide is rising, and it is lifting many local brewers into the role of small business owners. But this work isn’t always smooth sailing. In recent weeks, I’ve been chatting with the owners of two newly-opened local breweries that faced some extra hurdles along the way: Two Weeks Notice Brewing Company in West Springfield and Floodwater Brewing Company in...

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Last-Minute Gift Guide: Learn to Homebrew at Beerology
Dec15

Last-Minute Gift Guide: Learn to Homebrew at Beerology

The artisanal food scene is exploding here in the Valley, and that includes a wealth of locally-crafted libations from the newest crop of area breweries and vineyards. It’s likely you know someone who wants to know more about brewing and wine making, and the perfect gift for them might be signing them up for classes to learn just that. It’s never been easier to swing by a local tasting room to sample the liquid bounty on offer, much...

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The Beerhunter: Progression Brewing Company opens in old Gleason’s Camping Supply space
Nov21

The Beerhunter: Progression Brewing Company opens in old Gleason’s Camping Supply space

As a kid, I would sometimes wander the aisles of Don Gleason’s Camping Supply on Pearl Street in Northampton and daydream about living off the grid. In unchaperoned moments I’d climb in the tents, test flashlights, browse survival kits, and plan my inevitable, possibly permanent getaway into the woods. Gleason’s closed in 2016, after nearly 60 years of business. But I sat in the space last week, in the new taproom of Progression...

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The Beerhunter: How to Age Gracefully (if you’re a beer)
Oct26

The Beerhunter: How to Age Gracefully (if you’re a beer)

Jay Sullivan joins me at a taproom table and sets down a bottle of Real Friends. He flicks open the bottle, then lines up three glasses: one for himself, one for Sean Nolan, and one for me. The beer is a grisette, a Belgian-style farmhouse ale similar to a saison, which has been aging in oak barrels for over a year. Sullivan and Nolan co-own Honest Weight Artisan Beer in Orange. Thanks to them, Real Friends is just one of many...

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The Beerhunter: What the hell is a Milkshake IPA?
Sep28

The Beerhunter: What the hell is a Milkshake IPA?

The mountain drive from Montpelier up to Burlington is, of course, beautifully scenic. But a Valley Beerhunter has homework to do, even on the occasional summer camping trip. So I pulled off the highway last month in Williston, VT to stop in at Burlington Beer Company, where I got to know the milkshake IPA. A few local brewers make milkshake IPAs here in the Valley — I’ve tried and enjoyed several — but Burlington is the place to...

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The Beerhunter: New neighboring breweries find homes in old industry buildings
Aug29

The Beerhunter: New neighboring breweries find homes in old industry buildings

This month’s local craft beer update highlights a pair of new Valley breweries that are opening soon. If your first thought is ‘Oh man, not again,’ this probably isn’t the column for you. Massachusetts is in the midst of another wave of entries into the craft beer market, and tracking the progress of these newcomers will be taking up a lot of this Beerhunter’s time for the next few months. The arrival of these new companies — some...

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The Beerhunter: Invisible Flavors
Aug01

The Beerhunter: Invisible Flavors

Hermit Thrush Brewing hunts the hills for wild yeast Many brewers rely on websites, blogs, and social media to follow the latest craft beer trends. But lately Christophe Gagné, the bearded Vermont dweller who runs Hermit Thrush Brewing, seems more interested in following deer. The opportunity doesn’t arise much in downtown Brattleboro, where Gagné and his team opened their brewhouse and tasting room on High Street in 2014. There is...

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The Beerhunter: A Bright New Berkshires
Jul04

The Beerhunter: A Bright New Berkshires

Putting shake-ups behind them, two brewers plan for the future Massachusetts has more than 120 visitable breweries, 19 of which are in the Valley. That’s a lot of taprooms to keep a Beerhunter busy around Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden counties. Still, you can’t cover beer news in Western Mass without fully appreciating what “west” means. Berkshire County boasts five breweries. The oldest is Barrington Brewery in Great Barrington,...

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Podcast: Beerhunter Hunter Styles and Beer Week co-founder Sally Noble talk beer
Jun18

Podcast: Beerhunter Hunter Styles and Beer Week co-founder Sally Noble talk beer

Advocate alumnus Hunter Styles, who still writes our Beerhunter column, and Sally Noble, co-founder of Western Mass Beer Week, tell us about the embarrassment of riches of beer we have in the Valley. Hear about Sally’s beer beginnings and the start of Western Mass Beer Week, of Hunter’s recent travels (and beer sampling) in Norway, and see whether the pair can convince Gina that beer is actually...

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The Beerhunter’s guide to the 2018 Western Mass Beer Week
May30

The Beerhunter’s guide to the 2018 Western Mass Beer Week

Raise a glass across the Valley (and throughout the Berkshires, too!) as the third annual Western Mass Beer Week rolls in this month. The eight-day celebration of local craft beer — which runs June 9 to 16 — is jam-packed with limited releases, special collaborations, beer dinners, cask tappings, and local products at breweries, bars, and restaurants across Franklin, Hampshire, Hampden, and Berkshire counties. Typically, we might say...

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The Beerhunter Abroad: Norway – Despite strict alcohol laws, a new generation of craft brewers is born
May02

The Beerhunter Abroad: Norway – Despite strict alcohol laws, a new generation of craft brewers is born

As a New Englander accustomed to long, cold winters, I had never put the Arctic Circle atop my summer vacation list. But in case you missed the billboards along Interstate 91, Norwegian Air now offers discount flights to Europe from Boston, Providence, and New York City, some priced at around $100 (sadly, service into Hartford was short-lived). That’s how I found myself in the Arctic last July, dancing to Nordic pop music at the Riddu...

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The Beerhunter: It’s Almost Kölsch Weather
Apr04

The Beerhunter: It’s Almost Kölsch Weather

Despite what you’re seeing out your front window, hot afternoons in New England are not so far away. Once spring really hits, from the beach to the backyard, we’ll be reaching for lighter beers that are, to use an all-American term, “thirst-quenching.” For the past couple of centuries, Czech and German-style lagers have fit that bill stateside. It’s been a market dominated by beer giants like Bud, Coors, and Miller, which all sell...

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How to Fight Big Beer
Mar07

How to Fight Big Beer

In 2011, Anheuser-Busch InBev bought the Chicago craft brewery Goose Island. Today, the international conglomerate owns stake in a dozen formerly-craft American breweries. (Leah Kelley photo)   I used to bartend at one of the oldest dive bars in Western Mass, pouring drinks for the proudly unhip. Such neighborhood joints watch the decades pass with a warm and studied slowness. Behind these doors, familiar routines trump most...

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Beerhunter: Veteran-owned Arcpoint Brewing Company takes root in Belchertown
Feb12

Beerhunter: Veteran-owned Arcpoint Brewing Company takes root in Belchertown

Chris Peterson tweaks his craft beer recipes the same way he works on multimillion-dollar military aircraft: very, very carefully. Peterson is a tech sergeant in the 439th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee. As a technician and avionics expert, it’s his job to ensure that a plane’s communication, navigation, and guidance control systems are running smoothly. Peterson and his fellow Air Reserve...

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The Beerhunter: Craft Beer Goals for 2018
Jan08

The Beerhunter: Craft Beer Goals for 2018

Local brewers share their predictions and plans Cheers, America! According to the Brewers Association’s 2017 year-end report, there are now more than 6,000 breweries nationwide — an increase of 500 breweries from just six months ago. And here’s some even better news: 98 percent of those breweries are small and independent, and 83 percent of citizens over the age of 21 now live within ten miles of a brewery. Here’s an early glimpse of...

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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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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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The Beerhunter: Would You Like Squid With That?
Nov06

The Beerhunter: Would You Like Squid With That?

If you weren’t expecting this craft beer column to start with a plate of silkworm larvae, believe me, I’m as surprised as you are. But there they were, next to my glass: half a dozen off-white baby bugs, each about an inch long and doused with a honey balsamic sauce. I had no idea how this snack would go down (answer: soft and crispy) or whether the larvae would pair well with my short pour of Madrugada Oscura, a Belgian-style sour...

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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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