The first time I meet New City Brewery founder Sam Dibble, he’s walking with a case of ginger beer slung over his shoulder, as if about to hoist it onto the back of a pickup truck. Clad in Carhartts and work boots, Dibble is as handy as he looks. A mason and carpenter by trade, he built New City Brewery by hand, transforming the factory space of an old Easthampton mill with the help of his father and his uncle. The trio built a giant walk-in cooler, waterproofed the walls, and installed floor drains. They rescued an old bar top, discarded from the right-field roof deck at Fenway Park. “We took our time,” says Dibble.
The result is an 8,000-square-foot space with 37-foot ceilings, built in 1885 but outfitted as a current-day taproom. The space had a soft opening of the new taproom in August. The Pioneer Valley brewery makes two dozen varieties of beer in small batches, only available on its premises. The company’s flagship is an alcoholic ginger beer, which is gluten-free and made without preservatives or artificial flavorings.
Dibble’s story is different from other upstart craft brewers. He’s been brewing for 10 years, but not always beer, starting companies that produced mead and kombucha tea. In the same building where the brewery is currently housed, he had a carpentry shop, where he would tinker with small batches of the kinds of beer he liked to drink. The working-class town, at times down on its luck, appealed to him. Dibble, 30, was raised in neighboring Northampton.
“When I first saw the space, the builder in me was like, ‘This is amazing, this is unique, this needs to be restored,’ ” he says. “There’s broken glass everywhere, but this old brick building had a lot of character.”
New City Brewery Original Ginger Beer is a distinguisher, Dibble says, a way to stand out in a crowded marketplace. In the taproom, it functions as an option for customers who don’t normally drink beer. “It’s on the drier side,” says the brewer.
“We get this question all the time: Do you make everything here?” says Dibble. “And we say, yeah, we make things here. People appreciate the fact that someone’s taking time to make something with their hands. That’s sort of what it’s all about.”
New City Brewery, 180 Pleasant St. (Rear Studio 12), Easthampton, 413-529-2000, www.newcitybrewery.com. On Oct. 10, the brewery is hosting a taproom grand opening party. New City Brewery Original Ginger Beer is available at Whole Foods Market locations that sell alcohol, and at Craft Beer Cellar Westford (978-577-6443) and The Hill Tavern in Boston (617-742-6192).