Hilltown Beerfest is back after 1-year hiatus

  • Courtesy Hilltown Brewfest Facebook page

  • Courtesy Hilltown Brewfest Facebook page

  • Courtesy Hilltown Brewfest Facebook page

Recorder Staff
Monday, September 04, 2017

NEW SALEM — Drinking glasses don’t break when dropped at the Hilltown Brewfest.

There’s nothing special about the glasses, but the festival is held outdoors, on grassy terrain behind the New Salem General Store. It’s part of the ambiance of the event that is the brainchild of general store owner Rick Oliver.

“We start planning in January for this,” he said. “It’s going to be a heck of a good time.”

The festival is 10 years old and going into its ninth installment. Last year’s event was canceled late in the planning process when organizers learned state regulations required that its beer be purchased instead of donated by distributors. The group of volunteers decided to adjust the festival’s pricing to cover the cost of beverage purchases for the day, and remain able to fulfill its mission — raising money for local fire departments.

“I’ve been involved in the fire department since I was a kid,” Oliver said. He was a firefighter in the 1980s and is a member of Red Knights International Firefighter Motorcycle Club. “These little towns don’t get a lot of funding.”

The Hilltown Brewfest will be held rain or shine from noon to 5 p.m. at Cooleyville Junction, 837 Daniel Shays Highway (Route 202), in New Salem on Sept. 9.

Admission to the event is $40 at the gate or $35 by advance ticket purchase from the New Salem General Store, Stan’s Liquor Mart, Amherst Glass, Herrick’s Tavern, Home Fruit Wines, Honest Weight Artisan Beer, and online at hilltownbrewfest.com.

The general store and sponsors will again present a tasting of more than 40 brands, with an array of craft beers, wines, ciders and spirits. Many of these offerings are made in the North Quabbin region and the Pioneer Valley. There will be live music, local foods, raffles and a few specialty vendors.

Among the offerings this year will be a special beer brewed by Lefty’s Brewing Company as part of the Black Ale Project, a craft beer initiative to raise money and awareness on behalf of American war veterans. Breweries participating in the Black Ale Project donate money raised from that particular beer to a veterans charity of the breweries’ choice.

Perhaps the most local alcohol vendor will be Honest Weight Artisan Beer, which operates in the Orange Innovation Center. Sean Nolan and Jay Sullivan started the microbrewery in October 2015 and are looking forward to working their first Hilltown Beerfest, having been disappointed when last year’s was canceled. Nolan, who grew up in Athol and now lives in Orange, said he is happy to help the local fire departments that protect his business and his customers. The festival is 11 miles from the innovation center.

“This is the festival we’re most pumped about,” Nolan said. “Not only is it effortless — we just roll down to it ... It’s going to be a little more relaxed atmosphere.”

On Friday morning, Nolan and Sullivan confirmed which beers they will bring to the festival. They decided on Branch Bridge, an American oat pale ale, Semi-Impressionistic, an American IPA, and Gate 37, a buckwheat grisette.

Designated driver admittance is encouraged and remains at $10. Free parking is available on site and buses and bikes are welcome. There is again a no-pets policy and organizers request you leave your pets at home, instead of in your vehicle.

Directions, tickets and more information may be found online at hilltownbrewfest.com. Hilltown Brewfest allows children under 12 with a non-drinking parent. However, no teenagers will be granted admittance.

Musical entertainment will include The Boothill Express Band, Trailer Park and Boston Blackthorne.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 258. On Twitter: @DomenicPoli