Weekly Beer Nut

Beer ruling goes down the drain

Published: Monday, August 15, 2011, 8:12 AM

 clip_image002By George Lenkermasslive.com

clip_image004The Republican

In the words of Roseanne Roseannadanna: "Never mind."

I couldn’t help think of the classic Gilda Radner character from "Saturday Night Live!" last week when the state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission reversed its ridiculous decision regarding farmer-brewers, which it had handed down a week earlier. As I mentioned in last week’s column, the ABCC had ruled (arbitrarily, it seems) that farmer-brewers had to either grow, or buy from local vendors, 50 percent of their malt and hops.

Since there are not nearly enough malt and hop producers in the state to even come close to the demand this ruling would have created, a hue and cry rose from all corners (including this one). Our calls to the ABCC asking why this ruling was issued without any input from farmers or brewers (along with my question: where on earth did they come up with the random 50 percent threshold?) seemed to have garnered the attention of state treasurer Steven Grossman, who oversees the commission. To his credit, Grossman announced last week that the ruling was being rescinded and that officials were eager to meet with brewers and and hold hearings. Grossman also stated that the ABCC wants to foster craft brewing, not stifle it, and will work to that end.

This is pleasing news on many levels. First, it means smaller breweries aren’t suddenly in trouble. Second, it means that rather than issue arbitrary rulings, the ABCC is now on the hotseat to make sure it nurtures craft brewing. Third, it means at least once in a while, government works as it should. Sure, the ABCC made a mistake. Everyone does. But it was refreshing to see how quickly the mistake was acknowledged and corrected. A pat on the back goes to Grossman and others from this column for doing so.


The Northampton Brewery will hold another beer social on September 6 from 6-8 p.m. The event will feature Master Brewer Ben Roesch of Wormtown Brewing in Worcester (which would have been one of the breweries affected by the now-rescinded ABCC ruling). As usual at these beer socials, will be several beers from both breweries, accompanied by an array of food, featuring fresh produce from J.O.E.’s farm. The menu will be a collaboration between the brewery’s current Head Chef Chris Ware and his replacement, Nate Wagner. (Ware is leaving to re-open Jake’s, a legendary local breakfast spot that closed earlier this year.)

Slated to be on the menu are such treats as caramelized onion, goat cheese and duck pizza; drunken mussels (featuring Northampton’s Belgian-inspired Bier de Boog); local bread and cheese table; and much more. As always, Northampton Head Brewer Donald Pacher will break out some special treats (vintage beers or a special cask). Roesch is supposedly bringing Wormtown’s pumpkin ale. The cost for the whole shebang is $30, which also gets you a commemorative tasting glass. Call (413) 584-9903 for more information.

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