Sally Noble is an unofficial tour guide for Western Massachusetts beer.
Customers who meet Noble at her Northampton restaurant, The Foundry, are likely to hear about and get directions to a brewery nearby. Typical tap offerings at The Foundry include brews from Brick & Feather, in Turners Falls, and Honest Weight Artisan Beer in Orange. Noble counts many of the brewers as friends.
“All of the breweries here are basically a persona,” says Noble. “My customers, when they associate a brand and a brewery, they think immediately of the person who made the beer.”
Noble is among several business owners and brewers trying to bottle that neighborly, hyperlocal vibe and spread it to the public. From June 11-18, the region is joining cities like Philadelphia and Portland, Ore., in hosting its own beer week. The organizers hope to make it an annual thing.
“There’s all these cool beer-related things to do out here,” says Brick & Feather owner Lawrence George. “It kind of happened overnight.”
George makes 200 gallons of beer per week, focusing on hop-forward offerings (”the excitement comes when I put a new IPA on tap”) and mixing in the occasional Belgian-inspired farmhouse ale. In Northampton, brewer-founder O’Brian Tomlin lives a couple hundred yards from his brewery, Building 8 Brewing, churning out a West Coast-style IPA. Tomlin also runs a restaurant, the Sierra Grille in Northampton.
“We are a little bit out of the rat race out here,” says Tomlin. “We have a parking lot. People aren’t waiting in a line for beer.”
Notable Western Mass. Beer Week events include the Worthy Craft Beer Showcase, a four-hour sampling of area beers at Smith’s Billiards in Springfield, on June 18. There’s also Pedal 2 Pints, a June 18 event in which riders select a riding distance and make a couple of brewery stops along the way. Tomlin and six other brewers, including Abandoned Building Brewery and Brewmaster Jack, will each bring a special cask beer to The Foundry Firkin Faceoff on June 15 (Tomlin’s offering is an IPA with ginger, Valencia orange peel, hibiscus, and pink peppercorns).
Eighteen breweries and more than a dozen restaurants are signed on to participate in Western Mass Beer Week events.
“I’m still baffled sometimes by some breweries that are right under people’s nose and they didn’t even know,” says Noble.
For a complete list of breweries and events, go to www.westernmassbeerweek.org.Gary Dzen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GaryDzen