Home Posts tagged brewery

Getting Revved Up

Zach Schwartz (left) and Jason Tsitso

Zach Schwartz (left) and Jason Tsitso have One Way Brewing on the fast track to continued growth.


As with every brewery operation in Western Mass., there’s a story behind the name of this venture, one Jason Tsitso has told many times.

It harkens back to the days when he was a motocross racer, he said, adding that one of his good friends at the time worked for Ryder truck rentals. Tsitso said he and another friend would often help out at the Ryder facility, and one day he discovered his bike covered with the ‘one-way’ stickers that were affixed to the company’s vehicles.

“The next day, I was racing in a moto, and I was doing well, and the announcer said, ‘296 from One Way Racing,’” he went on, adding that, soon thereafter, he actually created a racing team with that name, complete with jerseys and other apparel with a ‘one-way’ logo.

And when he started home brewing with one of those friends from his racing days, they started tossing around ideas for a name and settled on something from the past. And it has stuck.

But there are other meanings behind this brand that Tsitso has established and grown with partner Zach Schwartz.

“There’s only one way to brew beer, and that’s fresh and local,” he told BusinessWest, adding that this way has helped give their brand a following, one that has enabled it to become one of the many emerging craft-beer labels in the 413 and a developing success story.

The two partners now have a taproom on Maple Street in Longmeadow, across from the plaza that was destroyed by fire just after they opened (more on that later), and a growing portfolio of craft beers, a few of them with racing-related names, such as Brraaap! (that’s the sound motorcycles make when their drivers hit the throttle), a New England IPA; and Kick Starter, another New England IPA, with which the partners got things started.

But there’s also the Betty, a Scottish export ale, One Rustic Cranberry Stout (no explanation needed for that one), One Hard Lime Seltzer (ditto), and others.

“Home brewers will come in and ask, ‘what’s your favorite? It’s very hard to be objective when all of these beers are your babies.”

The business plan is rather simple and direct, Schwartz said — to continue developing more of these beers and continue building on the solid foundation they’re created.

For Tsitso, vice president of Operations for a commercial construction company, and Schwartz, owner of Manchester, Conn.-based Fusion Cross Media, a printing company, this is still a part-time pursuit, or “passion,” as they call it, but one that is absorbing ever-larger amounts of the time not spent at their day jobs.

“This is more of our passion project,” said Tsitso, who also takes the title of head brewer. “Zack and I both like to build things, and this was our project when we started out. We wanted to see where we could take it and build it from grassroots; we expand as we have the bandwidth to do so.”

For this issue and its focus on breweries, BusinessWest takes an in-depth look at One Way Brewing and how its fast start has it on track for a high-octane brand of success in this sector where there’s friendly competition — or, as Tsitso described it, a “community” where customers are shared.


Lager Than Life

As he and Tsitso talked one recent Saturday morning about One Way Brewing, the route traveled to date, and where the road might take them from here, Schwartz first went about describing what they’ve created on Maple Street, and how it is different from a bar.

One Way’s portfolio of craft beers

One Way’s portfolio of craft beers continues to grow and now includes a wide spectrum of offerings.

“At a bar, you eat food, you have a drink, and maybe you watch TV,” he told BusinessWest. “Here at the brewery, Jason and I talk business with you. I don’t want to say that we’re entertaining, but we are engaged. And people are always asking questions — ‘how did you come up with that?’ and ‘what are your ingredients?’ or ‘what malts did you use?’

“Home brewers will come in and ask, ‘what’s your favorite?’” he went on. “It’s very hard to be objective when all of these beers are your babies.”

And that’s essentially how this venture started — two guys, Tsitso and Schwartz, talking about brewing, then doing it, and never stopping when it comes to asking questions, perfecting their craft, and creating more of these ‘babies.’

Elaborating, the two partners said they’ve known each other a long time and that their daughters hung out together. They both developed a thirst for craft beer — Tsitso has always had one, and Schwartz’s developed over time.

“I would say we got him into craft beer four ounces at a time,” Tsitso said of Schwartz, adding that they and other friends would do a lot of tasting over the years, activity that would eventually lead them down that stimulating but challenging path that would take them from tasters to brewers.

“We got tired of waiting in line,” Tsitso said with a laugh, adding that, rather than queuing up for other brewers’ offerings (although they still did some of that, too), they decided to brew their own.

They started attending brew fests, which back then drew both professional and home brewers, and found themselves often mistaken for the former.

“At our first brew fest, we had a logo, we had a brand, we looked like pro brewers,” Schwartz recalled. “We were at a beer fest in Vermont, and people kept asking, ‘where’s your brewery? We want to check out your brewery.’ And we said, ‘we brew out of our garage.’

“And at every brew fest after that, people would enjoy and ask the same thing — ‘where’s your brewery?’” he went on, noting that with those comments as inspiration — and as the pandemic forced brew fests to take a lengthy pause — they eventually went about creating one.

They began with cans and eventually opened their taproom after COVID restrictions were fully lifted in the spring of 2021.

As for beers, they started with … Kick Starter, a beer that would in many ways set the tone for this venture.

“It came about as West Coast IPAs were really popular and New Englands were just getting started,” Tsitso recalled. “Our whole concept with that beer was to create something that was really approachable for non-IPA drinkers, was well-balanced, and really got them into enjoying IPAs and broadening their beer drinking.”


Draught Choice

This same thought process has gone into subsequent additions to the portfolio, including Brraaap!, which was created to mark the two-year anniversary of the opening of the taproom; One Hard Lime Seltzer; One Rustic Cranberry Stout; and Spilled Milk Mango, a mango milkshake IPA and another popular seller.

While Tsitso is the head brewer and recipe developer, the two will work together on potential additions to the roster, looking at what might be missing from the lineup and what the next logical new label should be.

The same is essentially true of the broad business plan, said the partners, adding that the goal is sustainable growth and building on the solid base they’ve created.

“One thing we’ve always tried to do is not overextend ourselves and get to the point where we can’t manage it, either from the stress level or it just doesn’t become fun anymore,” Tsitso said. “As we get the bandwidth to expand, we expand.”

Possible avenues for expansion include a larger footprint in the plaza where they’re currently operating, and enhanced distribution, with most of it coming currently at the taproom, with beers on tap in only a few area restaurants.

Moving forward, the partners say they’re looking forward to operating with the nearby shopping plaza rebuilt. Former anchor Armata’s grocery store will not be part of the new mix, as it was destroyed by fire just a few months after they opened in the spring of 2021, but they could already see that it helped drive traffic to their business, and they long for the day when that busy intersection can turn back the clock and become a true destination.

“We’re excited that they’re rebuilding across the street, because that will really enhance traffic,” said Schwartz, adding that the taproom has a solid working relationship with a pizza shop next door and other businesses at that intersection.

Meanwhile, the partners are already drawing visitors from Longmeadow, East Longmeadow, Springfield, Enfield, and well beyond, he went on, noting that craft-beer enthusiasts travel well and are willing to put some miles on the odometer to experience something new and different.

Still, the taproom’s bread and butter is a cadre of regulars who come, as Schwartz noted earlier, not simply to drink beer, but to talk beer and experience beer.

“In the beginning, we bartended Thursday and Friday nights; we alternated every week,” he went on. “And those regulars … we developed relationships with them, talked beer with them, and shared our passion and dream with them. A lot of them come here to drink beer and visit — it’s that kind of atmosphere here.”

All this has made One Way not just a business, although it is certainly that, but also a passion, one that has taken the high road to success and is certainly revved up about what might come next.

Features Special Coverage

In Good Company

Jeff St. Jean, left, and John DeVoie, co-founders of Easy Company Brewing

Jeff St. Jean, left, and John DeVoie, co-founders of Easy Company Brewing

It will be called ‘Brécourt.’

And like the beers that came before it — and the ones that will likely come after it — this one celebrates a chapter in the powerful story of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, known simply as Easy Company. This was the ‘band of brothers’ whose exploits during World War II are famously chronicled in the Stephen Ambrose book and HBO miniseries that both took that name.

Brécourt Manor is a town about three miles southwest of Utah Beach in Normandy, France. It was the location of a German artillery battery that was disrupting landing forces of the U.S. 4th Infantry Division on D-Day. Easy Company’s assault on the Brécourt Manor, led by First Lt. Richard Winters, is one of the unit’s more noted accomplishments, and there were many.

“They charged that gun nest and took all four guns out, saving countless lives,” said John DeVoie, co-founder of the growing Hot Table chain of panini restaurants, who has long been entranced by the story of Easy Company. So much that, when he and his longtime best friend and fellow veteran Jeff St. Jean — they both served with the 104th Tactical Fighter Group at Barnes Airport, and St. Jean still does — decided to create a beer label and donate all the profits from the sale of those products to agencies that assist fellow veterans, the name came easily — although not much else has, as we’ll see.

Easy Company Brewing, branded simply as ‘E,’ plans to introduce Brécourt, what’s known as a keeping ale, in the coming months. It will join two labels already available in many liquor stores, bars, and restaurants: Currahee American Lager, named in honor of the hill the men of Easy Company had to run up daily while in training in Toccoa, Ga., and Ald-Borne, a new English IPA, named after Aldbourne, the tiny village in the south of England where the unit would begin the preparations for D-Day.

“We thought, ‘why don’t we just give it all back?’ We’d model it after Newman’s Own and give 100% of the profits to charities that support veterans.”

DeVoie and St. Jean, both beer lovers themselves, could hardly contain their excitement as they pondered what might come next for beers as their venture continues to follow the story of Easy Company as the war progressed. Indeed, the unit took part in the ill-fated Operation Market Garden in the Netherlands, famous for its beer, and also in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium, equally famous for its beer, then were in several operations in Germany, including occupation duty at Berchtesgaden, home to Hitler’s famous Eagle’s Nest, at the German-Austrian border.

the brewery’s offerings follow the story of Easy Company

Starting with American and English ales, the brewery’s offerings follow the story of Easy Company through World War II, with beers from France, Holland, Belgium, and Germany to come next.

“The next stop is Holland … and these guys captured Eagle’s Nest, so we may use that name when we get to making a German beer — or not; there are plenty of options from Germany,” DeVoie said, noting that, in honor of Dick Winters, famously a teetotaler, they may make a non-alcoholic beer.

But the two are even more excited about where this venture could go in terms of what it can do for veterans.

Launched just before Memorial Day in 2022, Easy Company Brewing did not turn a profit its first year due to the high operational costs involved with getting the venture off the ground, but the two partners wrote checks anyway to several well-vetted nonprofits that assist veterans, including Operation Second Chance, the Special Operations Warriors Foundation, and the Tunnel to Towers Foundation.

The brewery is expected to turn a small profit this year, and there is considerable optimism about where all this might be down the road.

In a word, the story of Easy Company Brewing and its mission “resonates,” said St. Jean, adding that most all those who hear the story, or just see the name, want to know more and support the effort in some way.

That goes for everyone from the thousands who sampled the Easy Company’s offerings at the Big E to Donnie Wahlberg, who played First Lt. Clifford Carwood Lipton in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers — and who, upon becoming acquainted with the venture and its mission when St. Jean and DeVoie met him briefly at Foxwoods at the opening of a new Wahlburgers restaurant, posted on Instagram a picture of himself with a large class of their brew and the words “my new favorite beer!”

Donnie Wahlberg, who played one of the men of Easy Company

Donnie Wahlberg, who played one of the men of Easy Company in the Band of Brothers miniseries, shows his support for the venture in an Instagram post.

For this issue, and with Veterans Day approaching, BusinessWest talked with DeVoie and St. Jean about their venture, the veterans (and especially the members of Easy Company) who inspired it, and how they intend to make what is now a local story into a national phenomenon.


Lager Than Life

As they talked with BusinessWest earlier this month, St. Jean and DeVoie were making plans to head to Newport, R.I. the following weekend for a reunion involving descendents of the men of Easy Company.

There are no living members of that unit, but the reunions, which started in 1946, the year after the war ended, have continued, said DeVoie, adding that he met the granddaughter of William ‘Wild Bill’ Guarnere, a staff sergeant in Easy Company, recently, and she invited the partners to this year’s gathering.

“We’re going there almost with reverence — we’re going to share our beer with them and tell our story,” he went on, adding that, given their mission and the way it honors those in Easy Company, they were to be “guests of honor” at the event in some ways.

In most all other ways, the two consider themselves merely stewards of the Easy Company name, and they have made it their mission to use it to both honor those men and to help those who have served their country — as they have themselves.

Indeed, they served together as mechanics in the 104th’s engine shop, servicing the A-10 Thunderbolts that flew over Barnes — and served in tip-of-the-spear operations in many parts of the world, including both Gulf wars. Nicknamed the Warthog, the plane was not pretty to look at, but, then again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

St. Jean, still serving in an administrative role with the 104th, likes the A-10 much more than the F-15s currently flown by that unit, and DeVoie said simply, “everybody thought it was ugly; I thought it was beautiful.”

DeVoie left the 104th after 11 years, but he and St. Jean have remained good friends, getting together often. One of their favorite spots is the Student Prince in downtown Springfield, and it was there that the story of Easy Company Brewing began.

Indeed, while enjoying a few Spatens at the bar there in 2018, and thinking about all the beer-making countries where the men of Easy Company had been, that they started discussing the notion of creating a beer label that would pay homage to that unit.

They quickly decided that, while this was a good concept, they could not, in good conscience, profit off the names of the men of Easy Company, many of whom died in combat.

So they shelved the concept, only to revisit it later and ultimately decided to honor those from Easy Company and … not profit. To be more specific, they would profit, but then turn those profits over to select organizations assisting veterans.

“We decided that we were going to try to do it on our own; I just read anything and everything I could about brewing, I bought books, read articles, watched a ton of videos, and just started experimenting.”

“We thought, ‘why don’t we just give it all back?’” said DeVoie. “We’d model it after Newman’s Own and give 100% of the profits to charities that support veterans.”

Elaborating, St. Jean said that, as good stewards of the Easy Company name, the brewery and the foundation created to distribute its profits are very selective when it comes to the nonprofits they support.

“We reached out to several charities, but we decided we would only reach out to those charities that gave more than 85 cents on the dollar back to veterans,” he said, adding that they have found several that met this standard.

a location at the recent Big E.

Easy Company Brewing has maintained a consistent presence in the region, including a location at the recent Big E.

While the partners knew they had a good idea, and also knew a lot about business — Hot Table will soon be opening its 12th, 13th, and 14th locations — as well as the story of Easy Company, they didn’t know a lot about brewing or the growing, immensely competitive brewing industry.

So they, and especially St. Jean, set about learning.

“We tried to think of ways we could work with an established brewer to develop recipes, but there are a lot of barriers to entry there,” he said. “So we decided that we were going to try to do it on our own; I just read anything and everything I could about brewing, I bought books, read articles, watched a ton of videos, and just started experimenting.

“I brewed a ton of recipes in my basement, and we enlisted the help of some friends in the area and in the industry to help us taste the beer, develop the flavor profiles, and give us feedback, essentially, until we settled on what we thought we wanted to brew,” he went on, adding that the partners brought the recipes to a contract brewer, Brewmasters Brewing Services of Williamsburg, which scaled them up commercially.

The partners started where Easy Company started, with an American Lager named Currahee, and officially launched, with ceremonies at the Fort, in May 2022. Since then, the learning curve — involving everything from brewing to distribution to marketing — has continued, and they’ve been climbing their own steep hill to profitability.


Mission Focused

The Tunnel to Towers Foundation was launched to honor the life and work of New York firefighter Stephen Siller. He had just finished his shift on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, and was on his way to play golf with his brothers when he got word over his scanner of a plane hitting the North Tower of the World Trade Center. He abandoned his golf plans and returned to Brooklyn’s Squad 1 to get his gear.

He drove his truck to the entrance of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and, upon finding it closed to vehicular traffic for security reasons, ran the full length of the tunnel with 60 pounds of equipment on his back. He reached the Twin Towers, where he died while trying to save others.

Today, the foundation carries on a number of programs, including the Smart Home initiative, which builds mortgage-free smart homes for catastrophically injured veterans and first responders, and the Gold Star Family Home Program, which honors the legacy of fallen veterans by providing mortgage-free homes to surviving spouses with young children.

That mission certainly resounded with St. Jean and DeVoie, who have made the foundation one of five charities to which the Easy Company foundation will distribute profits from the brewing operation.

The profits are expected to grow as the venture continues to scale up and expand, geographically and otherwise. There are still some considerable hurdles to clear — it’s costly and difficult to expand into new markets in this state, let alone into other states and other regions — and there is immense competition.

“We can throw a rock and hit Connecticut from here, but we haven’t been picked up by a distributor yet,” said DeVoie. “Each state is different, all the laws are different … it’s very complicated.”

But the partners have two big things working for them — the name Easy Company and the mission they have taken on. As noted earlier, both resonate with constituencies ranging from beer drinkers to veterans groups to the business community.

This was made clear to the partners — not that they really needed more affirmation — at the Big E, where they had a presence at the Local Brewers Showcase and other locations where their beer was sold. And it’s been made clear in the feedback and offers of support they’ve received, not just locally, but nationally and even internationally.

“Quite often, people from across the country and even around the world, particularly Europe, will inquire about us and our beer. People will say, ‘hey, can we get your beer in the UK?’ And we hear that in Ohio and California and all over.”

“We don’t see this is as just another local brewery — there are so many great breweries in every city and town now,” said DeVoie. “We see this as really a national brand.

“When we tell people this story, they get excited about it,” he went on, adding quickly that the story has spread rapidly with the help of social media. “Quite often, people from across the country and even around the world, particularly Europe, will inquire about us and our beer. People will say, ‘hey, can we get your beer in the UK?’ And we hear that in Ohio and California and all over.”

Right now, they can’t get the beer, but they can buy swag, in the form of Easy Company Brewing T-shirts, hoodies, hats, koozies, and other items, which are selling well and raising some revenue, said St. Jean, adding quickly that the beer is the heart of this operation, and the obvious long-term goal is to sell it in more places and to more people.

Already, Easy Company’s beers are in many liquor stores and several taverns and restaurants, including the Student Prince and those at MGM Springfield, and its reach has extended across this region and into Central Mass. thanks to a partnership with distributor Quality Beverage. The goal is to continually add more distribution points and eventually expand well beyond the current markets.

DeVoie summed it up poignantly by saying their mission now is to “sell a lot of beer and give away a lot of money.”


Easy Going

Getting back to Brécourt, the new label that will be coming out soon, St. Jean and DeVoie acknowledged that, while the French are known mostly for the production of fine wine, champagne, and cognac, they said they also make some very good beers.

And so do the Dutch, the Belgians, the Germans, and the Austrians.

Which is why the partners are looking ahead with such enthusiasm to how they will continue to tell the story of Easy Company through beers that reflect the countries where the band of brothers made history together.

But more than that, they’re looking forward to making that mission much broader and more impactful.

Cover Story

Coming to a Head


Brewer and owner Matt Tarlechi

Brewer and owner Matt Tarlechi

Matt Tarlechi says many people assume that he found a home for his fledgling brewery and then attached a name that spoke to that location.

Truth is, he and friends had long before settled on the name Abandoned Building for this venture — he’s from Philadelphia, and, apparently, there were a lot of abandoned buildings there at the time — and then went about securing a home that, well … fit that description.

He found one, sort of, in the complex of mills on Pleasant Street in Easthampton. The spot chosen, in the sprawling Brickyard Mill, wasn’t exactly abandoned, but it was vacant, having last been occupied by a manufacturer of plastic bags and similar products.

A decade or so after settling in, Tarlechi and a growing staff now numbering 14 have found more than a home. They’ve found a place — among the growing number of breweries in Western Mass., in the community of Easthampton and the surrounding area, and, increasingly, on the list of intriguing destinations on Friday night.

Indeed, in addition to producing a wide variety of brews with names like Dirty Girl IPA, Galactic Insanity (another IPA), and Cool Beans, a cold-brew coffee stout, ABB, as it’s called, has become well-known for its Food Truck Friday, which is just what it sounds like — the gathering of a few food trucks, some live music, and cold brews in the mill’s parking lot.

“We had a good amount of time to establish ourselves as a craft brewery that puts out consistent beers throughout the year. And we’ve had a lot of customers who have been here since early on that we still have today.”

“We set up tables and chairs, and we invite three to five different food trucks to come out,” he explained. “We also have live music and provide beer in the beer garden. We do it 16 times a year, and it’s become a staple in Easthampton for families, friends, and visitors.”

On a good night — and weather is usually the biggest factor — these events will draw more than 700 people to the mill, he said, adding that they have become part of the fabric of the community and succeeded in helping to make Easthampton, a former mill town that has evolved into a center for hospitality and the arts, into a true destination.

Ten years on, Tarlechi told BusinessWest, his brewery has really found its place, and the business plan essentially calls for more of everything that has gone into the success formula. And there are many ingredients — from the beers to the food trucks to the growing appeal of the created event space, which will soon host a wedding, but is better-known for wedding-rehearsal parties, showers, birthday gatherings, and the like.

Overall, the craft-beer landscape has changed considerably since ABB first opened its doors, with a huge increase in competition across the 413. But that competition has only helped in some ways, as we’ll see, and this venture has a name and track record for excellence that are well-grounded.

“One of the great things that has been an advantage to us is that we did get in here early on — we’re coming up on 10 years early next year,” he explained. “So we had a good amount of time to establish ourselves as a craft brewery that puts out consistent beers throughout the year. And we’ve had a lot of customers who have been here since early on that we still have today.”

Abandoned Building Brewery

Abandoned Building Brewery has steadily added to its portfolio of Belgian-style beers over the past decade.

For this issue and its focus on breweries and wineries — a growing and ever-more-intriguing component of the region’s business community — BusinessWest opens the tap on Abandoned Building Brewery, which arrived with a brand, but has increasingly made a name for itself within the 413.


Perfecting His Craft

Tarlechi is an engineer by trade. But like many who start breweries, he was bitten by the home-brewing bug, and what started as a hobby while he was in college — California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo — eventually became his career.

“The science-y part of me was into the chemistry behind brewing, and the tinkerer in me was into all the fun setups of the home-brewing process,” he explained. “And throughout the end of college, and then grad school, and into my professional career, I was always doing home brewing on the side, entering competitions, earning a couple of medals.”

“The science-y part of me was into the chemistry behind brewing, and the tinkerer in me was into all the fun setups of the home-brewing process.”

After college, he returned to the Philadelphia area, where he grew up, and started work as a civil engineer in Valley Forge while home brewing on weekends.

His life, and career, took a dramatic turn after several visits to high-school friends who were attending Hampshire College. He would bring his home brews with him for these gatherings, and, after a while, his friends began to encourage him to take his brewing beyond his home — and into their backyard, figuratively speaking.

“They were saying, ‘there’s not a lot of breweries up here; you should start one in Western Mass.,’” he recalled, noting that the landscape was much different than it is now when it comes to players in the craft-brewing industry within the 413.

Food Truck Fridays

Food Truck Fridays at Abandoned Building Brewery have become part of the landscape in Easthampton, drawing people from across the region and beyond.

Indeed, there were a few established players in the region, but not many, and there was certainly room for more.

“I started doing some research, looking at the different towns,” he recalled. “At the time, I was only visiting a few days at a time, so I didn’t know the area really well. I started visiting more, looking at more of the area, and trying to figure out what breweries were up here. Back in 2013, there weren’t many — Berkshire Brewing, Lefty’s, Opa Opa was around, Northampton Brewery … those were the mainstays. The craft-beer explosion hadn’t really taken off here yet.”

Fast-forwarding a little, he said he drafted a business plan and started looking for a location — one that would go with the name Abandoned Building Brewery.

“Luckily, there were a lot of old mill buildings here in the Valley,” he said, adding that his search brought him to Holyoke, Chicopee, and other communities before settling on space in the Brickyard Mill on Pleasant Street in Easthampton, a former felt factory that had become home to a large recording studio, an electrician, a plumbing business, and a host of other tenants.

The space in question had been vacated by Yankee Plastics several years earlier, he went on, adding that it was well-suited to a brewery operation, needing only some cosmetic work, which he undertook almost entirely himself — paint, refinishing the floors, and adjustments for equipment.

“Having a really awesome space for people to visit has been at the core of moving us forward through the years.”

With the space secured, he commenced brewing in early 2014, focusing on Belgian-style brews, which makes this venture unique in many respects.

“These beers are not extremely popular in the broader craft-beer sense, like IPAs, brown ales, and stouts,” he explained. “But they’re popular enough, and they’re fun beers to make, like our Belgian Saison, which translates to ‘summer.’ It’s a lighter beer; it’s very unique in that the yeast, which is the showcase of the beer, gives it a lot of unique flavors — a lot of pepperiness, a lot of spice. We don’t add any of these things to the beer — it’s all about how you treat the yeast during fermentation.”

Meanwhile, Tarlechi and his growing team have expanded and further renovated the space, building out a larger tasting room several years ago and adding an outdoor beer garden, while also taking full advantage of a municipal project to pave the back parking lot. These steps have made the brewery more visible and more accessible.

Mike Cook (left) and Will Meyer

Mike Cook (left) and Will Meyer opened their Vegan Pizza Land trailer at Abandoned Building Brewery in May.

“Before, it really lived up to its name of being an abandoned building — people were wondering what was going on back here when we first moved in,” he recalled. “But the city and the building owners got this grant money, and they were able to improve utilities — electrical, water — and add the parking lot you see now.”


Draught Choice

Over the years, ABB has added a number of new labels to the portfolio while continuing to produce many of what could be called its legacy brews, including Dirty Girl, a Western-style IPA; Galactic Insanity, a New England-style IPA; and Curbside Pils, a Bohemian-style Czech pilsner that has become a staple of the brewery.

Additions over the years include Lola’s Saison, a pale-golden-colored, Belgian-style farmhouse Saison; Oktoberfest, ABB’s interpretation of a classic Marzen-style brew; Odin Quadrupel, the most complex Belgian-style ale in the portfolio — and the beer that started Tarlechi down the path to opening ABB — and Zappa Zappa Zappa, another New England IPA featuring a new and esoteric hop called Zappa.

These beers and others are available in the tap room, and also in cans in package stores across the region, said Tarlechi, adding that, like most breweries in this region, cans became the distribution model of choice, rather than ‘growlers,’ the large, half-gallon glass jugs that were popular several years ago, or the smaller bottles.

“It turns out that the aluminum can is actually a much better vessel for containing beer,” he explained, noting that a mobile canning operation comes to the brewery three or four times a month. “It doesn’t let any light in, the seal on it is much more durable than a bottlecap, and it’s easier to ship and easier to store.

“Once the cans came onto the market, it really changed everything — it allowed us to get into more locations,” he went on. “It’s a lot easier to sell to retail package stores with cans — they’re a little more attractive.”

But, as noted earlier, this venture has become about much than the beer, although that is still, and always will be, the main attraction.

Which brings us back to the space, to events like Food Truck Fridays, and also to a food truck that has become a permanent part of the landscape in Easthampton, one selling vegan pizza. They all factor large in the business plan moving forward.

“Having a really awesome space for people to visit has been at the core of moving us forward through the years,” Tarlechi said, adding that the space has certainly evolved over the years and has become a destination of sorts, especially with the two other breweries in town — New City Brewery and Fort Hill Brewery — creating a sort of Easthampton craft-beer trail. “Having dedicated spaces where people can go and hang out and bring their friends … you almost need to have that these days.”

Indeed, while ABB draws most of its visitors from the 413, others are coming from Connecticut, New York, and the Boston area as well.

They come for the beer, he said, but also the food trucks and the live music on Friday nights, which have become somewhat of a tradition in the region. They start in May and end in October (sometimes with space heaters), and, as noted earlier, they draw several hundred people to the mill on Pleasant Street.

“I’ve tried to keep the same equation since we started,” he told BusinessWest. “We provide the tables, the chairs, the food trucks, and the music, and that’s it. People come, bring their friends, and … community just kind of happens at these events.”


When It Rains, They Pour

The weather has not been kind to Food Truck Fridays — or many other business endeavors — this summer, said Tarlechi, noting that this is a rain-or-shine event, and on at least occasions, it’s been the former.

Still, the show has gone on, albeit with smaller crowds and a maybe one or two fewer food trucks.

But the tradition — where, again, community just kind of happens — will continue, he said. In fact, it has become part of the vision and the business plan at this brewery, a venture that, 10 years later, has found not only a home that conveys its name, but a distinctive place within the 413.


After a Year to Forget, This Springfield Label Is Ready to Roar

Ray Berry, seen here at the canning line at White Lion’s downtown Springfield brewery

Ray Berry, seen here at the canning line at White Lion’s downtown Springfield brewery, is moving on from ‘cans to go’ to the next chapter in the story of this intriguing business venture.


He called the promotion ‘cans to go,’ which pretty much says it all.

Indeed, while he could brew his craft-beer label, White Lion, at his new facility on the ground floor in Tower Square, Ray Berry couldn’t sit any visitors at the attached pub because the facility wasn’t finished and painstakingly slow in its progress. But he could sell cans to go — and he did, quite a few of them, in fact — on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 2:30 to 7 p.m.

May 26 was the last of those Wednesdays, and the last day for the promotion. Berry was sad to see them go. Well … sort of, but not really.

He called a halt to cans to go so he could direct 100% of his energies into the next phase of the White Lion story, a chapter that has been delayed more than a full year by COVID-19 — the opening of that much-anticipated downtown brew pub and a resumption of outdoor events with the now familiar White Lion logo attached to them.

“We want to make sure all the I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed, take a pause, exhale, and made sure everything is in place for our June opening,” he said. “We want to be ready to really hit the ground running.”

As he talked with BusinessWest, Berry was checking the schedules of a number of prominent elected officials, trying to find a date when most of them could attend a ribbon-cutting for the opening of his downtown facility. That ceremony will be both a beginning and an end — a beginning, as we noted, of an exciting new chapter, and the end of 15 months of COVID-fueled frustration that didn’t derail White Lion, but struck at the absolute worst time for the brand born in 2014.

“COVID set us back a full year,” he said, adding that the owners of Tower Square, who also act as the general contractor for the buildout of his facility, had set May 2020 as the date for that project to turn the key and open for business. “We’ve been creative, and we’ve made a number of pivots along the way and diversified our portfolio, but the bottom line is we lost a full year and more.”

He said moving up the timetable for fully reopening the state will certainly help, giving him an additional 10 weeks of operating without restrictions that he wasn’t anticipating — although he was watching the situation closely and was hoping the date would be moved.

“We’ve been creative, and we’ve made a number of pivots along the way and diversified our portfolio, but the bottom line is we lost a full year and more.”

“We were already going to gear up for some sort of opening during the month of June,” he explained. “But we always wanted to be in a situation where any opening would be an unrestricted opening first, rather than a restricted opening, so we’re very happy to be in this new normal.”

Berry acknowledged that the office crowd that has helped make his outdoor events so successful — and will be one of his target groups for his Tower Square facility — hasn’t come back yet, may not return until the fall, and certainly may not be all that it was, sizewise, at the start of 2020. But he said that audience is just part of the success formula for this endeavor and that the ultimate goal is to bring people into downtown from outside it.

“We’ve never predicated our business model on one particular group,” he explained. “Craft breweries are destinations — they are considered experiences to the consumer. So consumers will take it upon themselves to find out where the local craft breweries are.

“Even when we had cans to go two days a week, we would have an influx of people from outside the area who would say they were driving through or were eating somewhere local downtown and looked up ‘local breweries,’ and White Lion popped up, so they came in.”

As for other aspects of the White Lion business, Berry said the beer garden that was a fixture in the park across Main Street from Tower Square will return in some form in 2021 — and at multiple locations. He’s currently in discussions with those running Springfield’s Business Improvement District and other business partners to schedule what he called “a series of special events that will encourage people to come out and support the local businesses in the downtown corridor.”

Overall, a dream that was years in the making took another full year to finally be fully realized. But, at long last, White Lion is ready to roar to life in downtown Springfield.


—George O’Brien

Business Talk Podcast Special Coverage

We are excited to announce that BusinessWest, in partnership with Living Local, has launched a new podcast series, BusinessTalk. Each episode will feature in-depth interviews and discussions with local industry leaders, providing thoughtful perspectives on the Western Massachuetts economy and the many business ventures that keep it running during these challenging times.

Episode 42: Dec. 7, 2020

George talks with Nick Morin, founder and president of Iron Duke Brewing

Nick Morin, founder of Iron Duke Brewing

BusinessWest Editor George O’Brien talks with Nick Morin, founder and president of Iron Duke Brewing about the intriguing turn of events involving his brewery and landlord Westmass Development Corp. A year or so ago, this company was brewing Eviction Notice IPA and seemingly bound for Wilbraham. Now, it’s staying in Ludlow Mills and has plans for expansion. Hear how it all happened and what’s next for this growing company. It’s must listening, so join us on BusinessTalk.

Also Available On