Western Mass. Beer Week aims to put Berkshires on map for beer lovers


PITTSFIELD — There are 30 breweries located in the four counties of Western Massachusetts, and some of them even have attained notoriety thanks to the craft beer craze.

But it would be a stretch to say that beer lovers are flocking to the western part of the state. A group of local industry professionals and enthusiasts is hoping to change that perception beginning this weekend.

The first Western Mass. Beer Week, which opens Saturday, is being held to draw attention to the many breweries in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties. It's billed as "a grassroots collaborative effort" driven by the breweries and craft beer-focused venues that inhabit this part of the state.

"The main goal is to call attention to Western Massachusetts as a beer destination," said event spokeswoman Melissa Breor.

Many of the events are taking place in the Pioneer Valley, but the Berkshire Craft Beer Festival will be held from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday at The Common in Pittsfield.

Other Berkshire events include the Building 8 (BLDG8) Berkshire County Draft Debut at Moe's Tavern on Railroad Street in Lee on June 15-16; and an event held in conjunction with Big Elm Brewing of Sheffield at Moe's on June 16-17.

A fourth event, "Lefty's at Powder Hounds" is set for June 16 at Powder Hounds on Brodie Mountain Road in Hancock.

The organizers have designed Western Mass. Beer Week after similar events in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Portland, Ore., and Portland, Maine, that were put on to highlight those areas as beer destinations.

"It's a great idea," said Moe's Tavern owner Josh Cohen. "The bulk of the places to visit unfortunately are in the Pioneer Valley at the moment, but there's this culture of beer tourism where people travel from small brewery to small brewery that don't offer distributing outside of their own walls.

"Most of the breweries participating in this don't have mainstream distribution," he said. "We can tell people from Boston and New York this is good place to do a lap and check out different breweries."

A lap?

"People head up to Vermont and do a lap around an area where they hit every bar and brewery in the region," he said.

An example of the small beermakers participating next week is Building 8, which is brewed by the owners of the Sierra Grill in Northampton, Cohen said. The beer is named after the building it's brewed in.

"We've been selling their cans for the last few months," Cohen said. "This is the first actual keg that's made it into Berkshire County."

This is the second year that Jim Bronson, of Pittsfield, and Matt Mottor, of Hinsdale, have put on the Berkshire Craft Beer Festival. The organizers of Western Mass. Beer Week asked them to join their event this year.

"Part of the main reason Matt and I did our festival here is for charity for downtown Pittsfield," Bronson said. The event raises funds for the Fenn Street Community Development Corp.

"But Matt and I make beer ourselves," he said, "and we think beer education is great."

Contact Tony Dobrowolski at 413-496-6224.

If you go ...

What: Berkshire Craft Beer Festival

When: 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday (VIP tickets honored at noon)

Where: The Common, Pittsfield

Cost: General admission tickets vary in price, starting at $30; VIP tickets are $50.

On the web: www.berkshirebeerfest.com/ or www.westernmassbeerweek.org/events


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