Our Western Massachusetts Beer Crawl Itinerary
Western Massachusetts has never had the craft cachet of Portland, Maine, or Greensboro, Vermont. In fact, when it comes to anything farther down the Mass. Pike than Monson’s Tree House Brewing, most suds seekers are as green as a Cascade cone. But the Pioneer Valley is now coming into its own, thanks to beer bars fronted by James Beard Award–nominated chefs and German-style breweries that rival any in Deutschland. Here, your itinerary for New England’s next great beer region: the heart of Hampshire County.
Building 8 Brewing
Commence your westward excursion at Building 8, which produces a small-batch beer that’s quickly becoming the most coveted in the state. Aptly named The IPA, this dank and drinkable specimen is a worthy successor to hop bombs like Heady Topper. Impressing hop lovers since 2014, it’s not only received a top newcomer nod in BeerAdvocate, but also a celebrity boost from Susan Sarandon (whose brother O’Brian Tomalin is operations manager).
320 Riverside Dr., Florence, 413-570-4104.
Abandoned Building Brewery
With its slouchy papasan chairs and tables built from repurposed electrical spools, Abandoned Building’s brew house smacks of a college kegger—except, of course, for Matt Tarlecki’s very serious saisons and barrel-aged stouts on tap. Using barley from Valley Malt and the brewery’s own six varieties of hops, all grown in neighboring Hadley, these terroir-driven beers deserve better than a Solo cup.
142 Pleasant St., Easthampton, 413-282-7062, abandonedbuildingbrewery.com.
Fort Hill Brewery
Eric Berzins scouted more than 60 Boston-area locations for his first brewery, but was ultimately drawn to something less glamorous: Easthampton’s water supply. An adherent of Reinheitsgebot—the purity laws governing German breweries— Berzins set up shop over the Barnes aquifer system. It’s the secret to his crisp Vienna lager, as well as the occasional contemporary detour (see: LagerHaus IPL).
30 Fort Hill Rd., Easthampton, 413-203-5754, forthillbrewery.com.
Ye Ol’ Watering Hole
Fight palate fatigue with a fresh-squeezed tequila sunrise at this legendary Northampton dive. Sure, you’ll find a handful of craft drafts, but after a hop-fueled trek around the Pioneer Valley, the perfect way to wind down is with a boozed-up shot of vitamin C and a ’Gansett beer back. Even better than the $10 tab? The gratis admission to Ye Ol’s beer-can museum, which boasts more than 4,000 specimens.
287 Pleasant St., Northampton, 413-585-0990, yeolwateringhole.com.
Coco & the Cellar Bar
Recent James Beard nominee Unmi Abkin has helped redefine this former no-frills mill town with dishes such as kicked-up buttermilk chicken drizzled in chili oil, and honey-miso egg noodles. In short, this is not your typical après-beer-crawl pub grub. Yet with 10 craft brews on draft and Abkin’s pedigreed menu (she’s a Chez Panisse alum), there’s no other place you’ll want to rally for the ride home.
95 Main St., Easthampton, 413-203-5321, cocoandthecellarbar.com.
UPDATE, July 5: This article was originally published in the July 2016 issue of Boston magazine. As of print press time, Building 8 Brewing offered just one beer, the IPA. On June 30, the brewery released its second-ever offering, the Session. This online article has been updated to reflect that change.