Amherst Brewing focuses on ‘hop-forward beer repertoire’

  • Amherst Brewing’s head brewer John Geraci works on a batch of Jess. Contributed photo

  • Amherst Brewing’s head brewer John Geraci, center, and staff. Contributed photo

  • Head brewer John Geraci and staffer. Contributed photo

  • Some of the products available at Amherst Brewing. Contributed photo

For The Recorder
Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Amherst Brewing has lived several lives since its founding in 1997 — the company used to operate as a brew pub on North Pleasant Street in Amherst, in the space now owned by High Horse, then moved to University Drive in 2011, and merged with The Hangar Pub and Grill in 2015. But even though many visitors who come through the Hangar’s doors are mainly looking for fried pickles, wings, and nachos, the brewery at the heart of the operation is as restlessly creative as ever.

The result, for those stopping in seeking draft pours and canned packs, is a wide array of capable and satisfying craft beers. Amherst Brewing makes some of the best respected beers in the Valley, like the New England IPA called Jess, the pale ale called Katie, and the Belgian wheat beer called Liz.

But head brewer John Geraci is also into collaboration brews, and it shows in some of July’s featured beers: an imperial IPA called Alpaca Sweater created with Hitchcock Brewing Company in Whately, a Double Toasted Coconut Cream Coffee Porter made with java from Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters, a collaboration between Drunken Rabbit and Two Weeks Notice (the winners of the 2016 Worthy Homebrewers Competition) called The Worthy IPA,  and an IPA called Gone Postal brewed alongside Ed Malachowski from the Amherst Post Office.

As usual, there is at least as much in the works at Amherst Brewing as there is on tap.

“We're ramping up our barrel program,” says assistant brewer Caleb Hiliadis, “and this summer some of these offerings will be ready. We've diversified our barrel collection to include bourbon and rye whiskey, gin and tequila barrels, and even Chardonnay.”

“We have some stouts that will be ready soon,” says Hiliadis, plus “some long-term, mixed-culture fermentation sours that will be in the barrels for another eight months or so. And some ‘Brett’ [Brettanomyces yeast] fermented lagers in gin and tequila barrels that may be ready in the coming months.”

Hiliadis adds that the brewery is also in the pilot stages of developing a third IPA, “to fit into our hop-forward beer repertoire with the likes of Jess and Juliette.”

They’ll be joining fellow Valley brewers and beer fans at Berkshire East. At the On Tap festival, Amherst Brewing will be pouring Jess, Toasted Coconut Cream Coffee Porter, and Liz.

“We're really excited to be attending with so many of our local beer friends,” says Hiliadis. “And the setting couldn't be more perfect.”