EASTHAMPTON — The upper Pioneer Valley keeps adding breweries. Franklin County has five, Amherst has two and Northampton and Williamsburg have one each, and now Easthampton is poised to join the list.
Construction of two breweries in the city is nearly complete and owners said they hope to offer beer within a month or two. Both owners are seasoned homebrewers and Valley transplants in their 20s who are bucking the microbrewery trend of IPAs to focus on other styles of beer.
Plans for a third brewery at 180 Pleasant St. are on hold, though a company could be brewing there later in 2014.
Abandoned Building Brewery at 142 Pleasant St. is fully licensed and aims to brew its first batch before the end of the year, said 28-year-old owner and head brewer Matthew Tarlecki of Hadley.
Fort Hill Brewery at 30 Fort Hill Road is waiting on a state brewing license and expects to have a beer fermenting sometime in January, according to owner Eric Berzins, 27, of Easthampton.
But for now, plans for High & Mighty Beer Co. to brew in a former mill building at 180 Pleasant St. have been tabled. The brewery partnered with the building’s owner, Michael Michon, to build a production space starting in 2011, and though the space is ready, the brewery is not moving in.
“There is going to be a brewery there, but it won’t be High & Mighty,” owner Will Shelton said by phone recently. He lives in California but said he still has a hand in running High & Mighty Beer Co.
“It’s unfortunate because we were looking forward to being in Easthampton,” he said.
Tarlecki, a native of Philadelphia, plans to focus on brewing Belgian-style beers as well as traditional American styles such as pale ales and stouts. The brewery will use local malt from Pioneer Valley Malt in Hadley as much as possible, he said.
His brewery includes a 15-barrel system that will allow him to brew about 450 gallons of beer at a time and a system for filling kegs and half-gallon jugs, called growlers, for purchase. There is also a tasting area with refinished hardwood floors and a bar he built with used wood.
Tarlecki started brewing beer at home eight years ago and eventually his recipes were good enough to win prizes at regional home brewing competitions. He was introduced to the Pioneer Valley by friends and moved here in February 2012 to find a good spot to build his brewery and the investors needed.
Fort Hill Brewery
Just over a mile away, Berzins is building Fort Hill Brewery. “Craft brewing is really increasing its presence in the beer market,” he said. “So investors have a lot more faith in projects.”
His first lager could be ready in February, he said. “It will be a variation of a German Oktoberfest with an Easthampton twist,” he said.
He plans to use hops from 500 plants he planted in a field off Duda Lane in some of the 5,000 barrels he plans.
Berzins plans to focus on lagers, which can take anywhere from three to six weeks to brew, compared to the ales most microbreweries are making, which take only 11 days to three weeks to brew. He will sell beer by the keg and growler and also in cans.
He said he is considering applying for a new license from the state, called a Farmer Series Pouring Permit, which if approved would allow him to sell pints of beer to customers touring the plant. If he does get the license, he would likely only open the tasting room bar for limited weekend hours, he said.