Area brewers share their predictions and plans for 2020

  • Beer made by Hitchcock Brewing Co., of Bernardston. STAFF FILE PHOTO/ANDY CASTILLO

  • Stoneman Brewery founder Justin Korby at his farm in Colrain. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Hitchcock Brewing Co. owner Rich Pedersen stands for a photo at the newly opened brewery and taproom at 203 South St. in Bernardston. Staff Photo/Dan Little

For the Recorder
Published: 2/4/2020 3:22:06 PM

Across America, the craft beer scene is fizzing with activity. Food and drink options have expanded at taprooms, many of which are finding ways of attracting a daytime crowd by showcasing new skills like coffee roasting. Craft maltsters are starting to get the attention and buyers they deserve. Women and people of color own more breweries than ever (although real parity is still overdue). And according to the Brewers Association’s 2019 year-end report, the nation’s 8,000-plus breweries are contributing close to $80 billion to the U.S. economy.

Closer to home, our local brewers are looking optimistically ahead. Here’s a sneak peek at what we might expect from most of them in 2020.

Holyoke Craft Beer, Holyoke

Head brewer Adam Copeland looks to spend the coming year “getting more of our beer out into the wild” and hosting more events at the brewery. “We are incredibly proud of our core beers: Podoke Porter, Milling About White Ale, and Theory New England IPA,” he says. While Copeland plans to keep refining those recipes, he says he’s most proud of the Podoke Porter. “We knew this beer was good, but the reception it has gotten has been wonderful to see.”

Bright Ideas Brewing, North Adams

The MASS MoCA-adjacent Bright Ideas started canning in 2019, with local distribution around Berkshire County and the Valley, says brewer Danny Sump. “Some of our favorite beers we brewed this year were our triple IPA, Dad Hat, Aztec Winter Mexican hot chocolate stout, and Maple Bourbon Dark Ideas.” 2020 will bring increased canning production and wider distribution. And Sump says, “we have plans to collaborate with more breweries and community and neighboring organizations.”

Element Brewing and Distilling, Millers Falls

When asked what he’s proud of from 2019, co-owner and brewer Dan Kramer points to the release of Element’s 10th Anniversary Dark Vanilla beer, which clocked in at 15.5 percent ABV, as well as the growth of spirit sales. “We will be releasing more of our beers in 16-ounce cans, including our flagships,” Kramer says, and “we will continue to offer the flagships in 750-milliliter bottles.” A possible expansion to the facility, he hints, may also be on the horizon.

Sena Farm Brewery, Worthington

The Hilltowns’ newest brewery will be opening soon, says Jared Sena, a former employee of Berkshire Brewing Company, who has built out his facility and taproom in the barn that once housed Worthington’s auction hall. “We are just waiting for the inspectors,” says Sena, who has canned several beers — a dry-hopped pale ale, a chocolate malt stout, a grisette, and a port wine barrel-aged saison sour blend — that have also been on draft recently at the Rabbit Hole in Worthington, Belly of the Beast in Northampton, and the Common Table in Chester. “We are planning on a soft opening this winter,” says Sena, “and increasing production for the spring.”

Building 8 Brewery, Northampton

Sales manager Drew Burns reports a successful collaboration with local artist Luke Cavagnac, who designed the labels for Building 8’s first New England IPA, called Oooh, Shiny! “While this was the first of a line of beers coming from us, we had a great response,” he says. The brewery will likely expand distribution in 2020. Fans should also expect a return of The Dark One imperial stout (with a Vietnamese coffee variant planned) along with more hazy beers and new kettle sours.

Iron Duke Brewing, Ludlow

“2019 brought our five-year anniversary, which is a huge milestone for us,” says owner Nick Morin. “Happily, we are still operating our brewery and taproom in Ludlow and have won Best Local Microbrewery for the second straight year from Masslive Reader Raves!” Iron Duke will soon reveal some changes to its location and taproom. Morin says the brewery is also planning new beers for 2020: “Experimenting with barrel aging and sour beer has become one of our favorite areas of innovation here in the taproom.”

White Lion Brewing, Springfield

White Lion grew considerably in 2019, says general manager Ray Berry, and released new beers including a milkshake IPA, fruited kettle sour, fruited summer ale, and a herb/spice ale. White Lion’s summer beer garden has also grown from one day to four days a week, with pop-ups in West Springfield, Holyoke, Westfield, and South Hadley. “Consumers can look forward to more styles in 2020, the opening of our taproom, expansion of the outdoor beer garden, and more community events,” Barry says.

Brick and Feather Brewery, Turners Falls

Brewer Lawrence George says 2020 will be the first year since the brewery opened in 2015 that it’s not taking on an expansion. “That being said, we are focusing on developing new beers and expanding our tasting room presence with more food trucks and outdoor events,” he says. “We’ve got new beers that we’re developing now — a Bamberg-style smoked lager, a Belgian table beer, more mixed culture farmhouse beers — and we will be bringing out some old favorites we haven’t brewed in a while.” Brick and Feather has expanded its tasting room hours, and may add more as summer approaches.

Hermit Thrush Brewery, Brattleboro

“Every year our resolution is to make the best sours possible with our beautiful region’s wild native mixed culture yeasts,” says brewer Christophe Gagné. “This year we will focus on crushable wild kettle sour ales.” Look for new sour double IPAs, new fruits in the Party Jamz fruited sour series, and a chocolate sour ale in February. “We will continue pushing the envelope for barrel aged sours, spontaneous ales, and multi-vintage blending,” Gagné says, “but our fresh, bright, wild culture kettle sour program has us totally captivated recently.”

Great Awakening Brewing Co., Westfield

One of Westfield’s exciting breweries-to-be is building out its 12,000-square-foot space in the historic paper mill at Crane Pond, says co-founder Mark Netzer. Great Awakening will brew on a seven-barrel system. “Consumers can expect hazy pale ales, IPAs, and pastry stouts, in addition to a wide variety of barrel aged beers, blended beers, saisons, and sours,” says Netzer. When the brewery opens this spring, it will offer cans and bottles to go. Partnerships with neighboring businesses and food trucks are also in the works.

New City Brewery, Easthampton

As New City enters into its fifth year, owner and brewmaster Sam Dibble seems psyched about time spent “building a great team and brewing more beer than ever.” 2020 will bring more new beers, and Dibble also plans to expand New City’s flagship line of ginger beers. “We’d like to do more seasonal beers and beers incorporating local ingredients,” says Dibble, and the brewery may collaborate on a batch of beer made with 100-percent local ingredients. New City’s five-year anniversary blowout is scheduled for October.

Vanished Valley Brewing Co., Ludlow

Major expansion plans are under way at Vanished Valley, says co-founder and head brewer Josh Britton. “Our new facility will be like no other brewery in the area, with a full kitchen fueled by a custom-made brick oven, which will produce the majority of our many artisan-style food offerings from our gastropub menu,” Britton says. “With our increased capacity, Vanished Valley lovers can also expected to see an increased distribution footprint. Stay tuned for more details!”

Leadfoot Brewing, Chicopee

Co-owner and brewer Jeff Thibodeau is proud to have opened Leadfoot’s taproom and 30-barrel brewhouse this past May, in a high-ceilinged 5,200 square foot space in the Willimansett area of Chicopee that formerly housed Hampden Brewing, and later Piels Beer. Thibodeau, who owns the business with his friend Pat Randall, says he’s happy most recently with Leadfoot’s Mr. Jack Pumpkin Ale and their Oktoberfest Marzen-style beer. In 2020, look for Leadfoot in 16-ounce cans. Thibodeau says he’s also intrigued by the idea of an outdoor deck on site.

Drunken Rabbit Brewing, South Hadley

In 2019, says owner and brewer Bruno Coelho, Drunken Rabbit partnered with El Gringo food truck to provide food full-time on site. The brewery also brought two new brewers onto the team, and ventured into cider production, with a focus on sustaining local orchards. “In 2020 we are looking to expand our distribution and continue to produce creative new fermented beverages,” says Coelho. “Be on the lookout for hard seltzers and hard teas.”

Northampton Brewery, Northampton

Looking back on 2019, head brewer Donald “Boog” Pacher says he’s proud that the brewpub’s 75 year-round staffers (100 in the summer) were able to offer 10 rotating draft lines (he’s also stoked to see more people drinking craft lagers). “We are putting in a brand new brewhouse and opening up the existing brewery space to accommodate more customers,” he says. “In March, people will be able to have a beer and food in the old brewery space and watch us through the glass.” With the new brewing equipment, Pacher hopes to offer more beers in cans in 2020.

Progression Brewing Co., Northampton

Head brewer Todd Sullivan introduced many beers this past year, including a vanilla porter, milkshake IPA, and several New England IPAs that made it into cans. “We have also brewed dozens of other experimental offerings,” says Sullivan, including a bourbon barrel-aged espresso imperial stout, an imperial blueberry wheat wine, a double brown ale, and a Galaxy imperial New England IPA. 2020 will bring more barrel-aged products, more experimental ales and lagers, on-site festivals and beer dinners, and new can offerings.

Two Weeks Notice Brewing, West Springfield

“In the short time the taproom has been open, I’m extremely proud of creating a vibe and spot for not only locals but craft beer travelers,” says head brewer Mark Avery, who opened Two Weeks Notice with his wife Murph less than a year ago. In 2020, Avery plans to launch a sour beer program and grow the brewery’s list of pilsners and lagers, along with special releases and collaborations. His hope, he says, is to “continue to grow and create beers that we love, and love to share. And our one-year anniversary in May will be an absolute rager!”

Amherst Brewing, Amherst

Head brewer Caleb Hiliadis looks back warmly on the “collaborative spirit of 2019, with a string of collaboration beers brewed with new friends and old.” In 2020, Amherst Brewing has even more collaborations planned with friends in the industry, and is preparing for the release of more fruited and non-fruited wild ales. “We’re going to continue to revisit some of our classic recipes, especially the malt-forward styles,” Hiliadis says, “while continuing to explore hops and hop-forward beers.”

Kismet Brewing Co., Westfield

“In the new year, we look forward to finally opening our doors to the public, so they can taste what we have been working so hard on,” says brewer Rich DeSousa, who plans to open Kismet with his wife Liz within the next few months. The brewery’s 1,800-square-foot space will offer to-go can sales, although the DeSousas are open to considering a taproom buildout and on-site pours if sales are strong. “We can’t go backward,” says Liz, “so we figure we’ll start small and see where it takes us.”

Stoneman Brewery, Colrain

Stoneman recently celebrated its sixth anniversary. After many years based on his home property in Colrain, owner and brewer Justin Korby is excited to announce that Stoneman will be moving down the hill and up the mountain to the Warfield House in Charlemont. “I’ve been looking for a new place for Stoneman Brewery for about four years, and I finally found the place,” says Korby, who has also begun planning for a beer garden on the Deerfield River. Stoneman’s newest beer is called the Warfield Dream IPA, now available in cans.

Hitchcock Brewing Co., Bernardston

Hitchcock owner and brewer Rich Pedersen is celebrating the move of his family brewery from Whately to Bernardston, and the opening of the new taproom, live event stage, and brewery. Hitchcock has 24 tap lines, Pedersen says, and recent months have seen “great live music on the Hitchcock stage, and all sorts of outdoor events under discussion with the folks at the Farm Table and Kringle Candle.” The brewery is looking into creating an outdoor beer garden and patio, with details to come.

Rustic Brewing Co., Springfield

“The Western Mass beer scene is an amazing place, and being welcomed into it by fans of craft beer and our neighbor breweries has been the fuel to drive us all year,” says Todd Kopiec, who opened Rustic a little more than a year ago with Jared Methe and Eric Paul. Kopiec says the brewery has already been able to grow and increase production. “We have many goals for 2020, including increased business hours and the beginning of our barrel-aged stout program,” he says. “In conjunction with increased production, we hope to be able to offer additional to-go formats for our beer.”

Honest Weight Artisan Beer, Orange

Co-owner and brewer Jay Sullivan says he’s most proud of getting Honest Weight’s beers into cans in the last couple of months of 2019, with more cans planned for 2020, “including our first double IPA release in January.” As the brewery has added tanks, Sullivan says, “we are now able to keep lagers on at the tasting room year-round, as well as sending more Prescott Pilsner out into the world.” In the coming year, Sullivan and his brewing partner Sean Nolan hope to produce more barrel-aged beers, collaborations, and pop-up food events at the tasting room.

The People’s Pint Brewery, Greenfield

Brewer Chris Sellers plans to continue brewing classic styles while branching out into new styles. “We are also looking forward to more collaborations with local breweries in the hopes of building community,” he says. The People’s Pint is planning a couple more barrel-aged projects, plus a few more Belgian and English styles, starting with a special new black lager (yet to be named) that Sellers brewed in collaboration with Abandoned Building Brewery in December.

Arcpoint Brewing Co., Belchertown

2020 should be a big year for the veteran-owned and operated Arcpoint, says brewer Chris Peterson. After a successful 2017 Kickstarter campaign, and a few good years of contract brewing and regional can sales, Peterson and his co-founders CJ Eldridge and Tom Scott are planning to break ground in the spring on a Belchertown taproom. The team is hoping for a late fall opening.

Floodwater Brewing Co., Shelburne Falls

In its first full year of production, Floodwater collaborated with Hitchcock Brewing and West County Cider, began distribution within Franklin County, and has donated more than $4,000 to area nonprofits, says founder Zack Livingston. Daily tap offerings have grown from three to six varieties, and Livingston plans to add another fermenter and brite tank in 2020. Also planned: a buildout of the deck overlooking the Bridge of Flowers — “arguably the best view of any brewery in the Northeast” — some Brett saisons, and the new Floodwater Head for Higher Ground Half Marathon, with 1,500 feet of vertical climb, says Livingston. “Not for the faint of heart.”

Outlook Farm Brewery,Westhampton

In 2019, Outlook Farm launched its backyard taproom, a 600-square-foot covered patio with an eight-tap kegerator and permanent bar for festivals and tastings, says brewmaster Jeff Morse. 2020 plans include a fruit sour beer made with Outlook Farm produce, along with an extra pale ale this spring. “Outlook Farm Brewery is seeking to expand its reach throughout the Pioneer Valley, and partner with beer trails and tours,” Morse says. “In addition, Outlook is seeking to collaborate with local grains and hop growers to perfect a truly local pumpkin or Oktoberfest ale for the coming fall.”

Abandoned Building Brewery,Easthampton

“In the summer of 2019 we finished a major expansion that added a second taproom with a capacity of 200 to our facility,” says brewer Matt Tarlecki, and “we have increased our tap room hours from 4 days to 7 days a week.” In 2020, Abandoned Building will be open 7 days a week, with live music on the weekends and rotating food trucks. “We will continue to host our popular summer Food Truck Friday events,” Tarlecki says, and “our taprooms are available to rent for private events.”

Contact Hunter Styles at hstyles@valleyadvocate.com.


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