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Stoneman Brewery owner prides himself on using ingredients from the region

  • Stoneman Brewery owner Justin Korby quit his day-job as a stone mason, bought a farm and started making beer; he called his brewery Stoneman Brewery in honor of his former trade. Contributed Photo/Bri Stachowski

  • Stoneman Brewery is committed to supporting local agriculture. RECORDER STAFF/ANDY CASTILLO

  • Stoneman Brewery offerings on display at Korby’s farm at 20 Stetson Brothers Road in Colrain. RECORDER STAFF/ANDY CASTILLO

  • Owner Justin Korby sips a brew at his Stoneman Brewery in Colrain. RECORDER STAFF/ANDY CASTILLO

  • Stoneman Brewery’s IPA features 100 percent local ingredients. RECORDER STAFF/Paul Franz

  • Stoneman Brewery’s IPA features 100 percent locally sourced ingredients. RECORDER STAFF/Paul Franz



Recorder Staff
Wednesday, July 19, 2017

COLRAIN — Stoneman Brewery’s flagship IPA, “All in with Western Mass. Hops,” was brewed with 100 percent local hops and all of owner Justin Korby’s remaining capital as a Hail Mary pass to save his business. The gamble paid off.

“Beyond what I imagined. I’m pretty much sold out of it. And then I have a 40 batch that should be ready by the end of the week,” Korby said.

In a world of several micro breweries throughout western Massachusetts, Stoneman Brewery, housed primarily on Korby’s 74-acre mountainside homestead, is among the smallest, but his brews pack a locally-sourced punch.

Korby’s business model is intrinsically tied to the land and Franklin County’s rural farming economy. When his business succeeds, farms do too, like Four Star Farms Hops in Northfield which supplies hops. That commitment has come at a literal price, however, and over the years Korby has struggled to compete against bigger breweries that don’t follow the same principals.

The brewery opened in 2012, named after Korby’s former profession as a stone mason, and operated for years on a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) business model. Each month customers picked up their allotment of suds, allowing Korby to experiment with up to 40 unique recipes each year. At the time, he made each batch — enough to fill two big, round aluminum kegs or about 180 22-ounce bottles — in a large shed on his farm. But that didn’t prove to be a long-term success, and Korby paused the CSA last year to figure out another approach, recently contracting out his recipes to Brewmaster’s Brewing Services in Williamsburg.

“It was profitable for the first several years, but it wasn’t enough to sustain my business. There are pros and cons of being small and big. And I’m finding out the advantages of being bigger. I’m making a financial difference — the more I can sell, the more financial impact I can have. By doing this, it’s making a difference on the local economy,” Korby said.

“This is the first beer on a larger scale which I can use a (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) ‘local hero’ sticker,” he continued. In order to have the sticker, beers must source more than 50 percent of their ingredients locally.

Moving forward, Korby said his brewery remains “commitment to sourcing 100 percent ingredients from local farms.”

“Scaling up, I’m trying to keep that commitment. I’m still committed to local ingredients,” he said.

While difficult at times from the business end, by starting small and brewing often, Korby learned the ins and outs of business and what subtle recipe changes do to flavor.

“I’m definitely pretty experimental. I like to make very drinkable beer. Balanced, but different styles. There’s something about balancing a recipe, and making it approachable,” Korby said. “The more you brew — everything from mouth feel, to bitterness, to sweetness, those subtle changes — the more you can fine tune flavor. Once you brew enough batches, you understand what subtle changes do to the end.”

Korby, a quiet soul with a strong handshake and long beard, who is originally from New Jersey, described the “All in with Western Mass. Hops” as a “Northeast style IPA.”

“Because it’s made with 100 percent Northeast hops, it’s not bitter. It’s aromatic and doesn’t linger on your pallet. It’s cloudy, has a lot of wheat, 7 percent alcohol. But it doesn’t taste that strong, it’s super drinkable,” he said.

He was inspired to start Stoneman Brewery a little more than five years ago while building an elaborate stone wall and gazebo at Katy Wil, an environmentally conscious farming community about a stone’s throw from his property.

“That’s when I was home brewing a lot,” Korby explained. “I pulled all the stones down by hand, set everything in with hammers and chisels, and did this dry laid stone project. It was right here in the center of the wall where I made a choice to change careers a little bit. I’d been brewing at the time and decided ‘why not make a brewery on a farm.’”

A short while later, he bought his farm and married his wife, Katie Korby. These days, they have a young daughter, Maggie. It’s impossible not to appreciate Stoneman Brewery’s positive business philosophy or admire Justin Korby’s hard work and commitment to supporting local agriculture.

Every can purchased doesn’t just support his business, it also supports a network of local farms that rely on customers like Stoneman Brewery to survive. And as Stoneman Brewery continues to expands in the future — with a possible building upgrade on the horizon — Korby said he’s hoping his locally-sourced example will spread to other brewers in the region.

Stoneman Brewery brew can be found at Ryan & Casey Liquors in Greenfield, The Spirit Shoppe in Sunderland and Deerfield, Hager’s Farm Market in Shelburne, McCusker’s Market in Shelburne Falls, Catamount Country Store in Colrain, River Market Community Co-op in Northampton and State Street Fruit Store, Deli, Wines & Spirits in Northampton.

A day after Franklin County On Tap, Saturday, July 22, Stoneman Brewery will host an open house on Korby’s farm and brewery at 20 Stetson Brothers Road in Colrain.