Beer Nut 2-weeks worth

CiderDays fit for both urban and rural folks

Published: Wednesday, August 03, 2011, 3:57 PM

clip_image002By George


Not only is this week’s column not about beer, it may seem about three months too early.

But bear with me, as there is a method to my premature posting today.

In a recent exchange with Becky George of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, she asked me if I might mention CiderDays, a community event celebrating all manner of apple-esque things, in my column. I told I’d be glad to, and asked when the event was going to occur. I’m not a huge fan of hard cider. I enjoy it here and there, but don’t drink it regularly, so I had no idea when CiderDays took place. Of course, if I had stopped to think for a second, I would have realized that cider-making is largely an autumnal activity. So when Becky said the event was scheduled for Nov. 5-6, I suggested that maybe her entreaty for coverage was just a tad early.

"True, but we sell out every year and often the locals get shut out by the city folk, so if we alert them early they can get their seats," she responded.

City folk? Am I on "Green Acres"? I live in downtown Northampton. Is she talking about me? Well, no matter. Here’s the deal:

This year is 17th year of CiderDays that will include a host of activities, such as of orchard tours, cidermaking and tastings, workshops and much more. Advising to the press release, the event is for "all who love apples, fresh or hard cider, apple cuisine, apple orchards or just being in New England in the fall."

While there is a charge for some of the activities, there is no admission for many of the others at local orchards, nor or for the workshops or Marketplace at the Shelburne Buckland Community Center in Shelburne Falls (from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. on Nov. 5).

So there you have it, local cider fans. You have been warned (or "forewarned" as some might write, although aren’t all warnings "fore"? What’s point of warning someone after something has happened? "Hey, Bill watch out for that roof tile that just fell on you!") you have three months advance notice. Get your tickets now before city slickers like me gobble them all up. (I gently kid my pal Becky, here of course.)


Since I’m avoiding beer today, I have one more piece of other fermentable news (also from Franklin County): Green River Ambrosia will be celebrating National Mead Day on Aug. 6 with an open house from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tours of the meadery and samples will be available. Green River Ambrosia is at 324 Wells St. in Greenfield.


Beer ruling has columnist hopping mad

Published: Wednesday, August 10, 2011, 10:30 AM

clip_image002[4]By George


In many ways, I’m an old-school progressive when it comes to government. Despite what detractors say, government regulation has given us cleaner water, better foods and safer travel.

But regulators overstep their boundaries, I immediately transform into a libertarian. Such seems to the case with last week’s ruling by the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission. The ABCC stated that any brewery in the state that holds a farmer-brewer license must grow or buy at least 50 percent of its beers’ ingredients in Massachusetts.

Now I’m going to do some more research on this decision and write on it again in coming weeks. So for now, I’m withholding any final judgment. But on prima facie evidence, this seems like an ill-advised and capricious ruling.

The decision was issued during the application process by Idle Hands Brewery in Everett, which hopes to open a brewery in an industrial park in Everett under the umbrella of a farmer-brewer license. I don’t necessarily disagree with the decision to question whether a brewery in an industrial park should be considered a "farmer-brewery," what bothers me is the overreaching "50 percent" restraints the ABCC then tacked on to the ruling, which will now affect every farmer-brewer in the state.

There are a lot of brewers operating under a farmer-brewer license and for good reason: the license is a lot less expensive than the other two licenses that control brewing, the manufacturer’s license and the pub-brewery license. Both of these licenses have constraints of their own (some of which, again, seem draconian and nonsensical). So by forcing farmer-brewers to either grow or buy at least 50 percent of their ingredients in-state, the ruling effectively makes it impossible for some brewers to survive, or so it seems at first blush.

For one thing, I doubt there are enough malt producers in the state to provide all the farmer-brewers with 50 percent of their grains. And I’m almost absolutely sure there aren’t enough hop growers to fill this need. Even if there were, the varieties of hops that van be grown here probably wouldn’t make for a wide spectrum of flavors among farmer-brewers.

Now one can argue that if these folks are truly farmer-brewers, then they should just grow their own ingredients. And some do. But 50 percent threshold seems arbitrary. Where did the ABCC come up with that number? I’ll be asking them and hope to have answer for you. As it stands, it seems to me that requiring extant farmer-brewers to comply with the 50 percent rule next year seems unduly harsh and based on nothing.

Maybe the ABCC can explain the method to its madness. We shall see.

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