Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Visit to Pittsfield Brew Works

Aside from its proximity, the factor that drew us most to the Pittsfield Brew Works was the discovery that the co-owners, Christine Bump and Bill Heaton, had met while working together at Victory Brewing in Downington, Pennsylvania. We made quite a pleasant visit to Victory last summer, and it had long been a favourite prior to that. They are probably best known for their flagship, Hop Devil IPA, but also make several other excellent beers that are widely available regionally: Prima Pils, Storm King Imperial Stout, Golden Monkey, et al.

The mere knowledge that there was a Victory connection this close to home that we had somehow neglected to visit for so long was enough to drive one to madness. Rather than giving in to the madness, we chose to investigate.

Pittsfield is a small city in Western Massachusettes, located about 35 miles east of Albany. Close enough that the latest issue of Metroland, the marvelously worthless, free weekly paper of the Capital Region, was stacked on a table just inside the door as we entered the Brew Works.

Despite the short distance, getting there was a bit of an adventure, as we had to negotiate throngs of yuppster hippies in Audis and Subaru Outbacks who clogged Route 7 (we can only assume they were headed for Tanglewood), but don't let that be a detractor. Once in downtown Pittsfield, we wandered just a bit, but managed to find our way to 34 Depot Street without much trouble (hint: it's near the train station). We parked in the spacious gravel parking lot under the row of windows along the side (back?) of the brewpub and headed for the main entrance under the distinctive 'black sheep' sign that serves as the brewpub's logo.

Once inside, we saw the aforementioned stacks of Metroland, surrounded by walls coloured yellow to match the background of the funky sheep logo. The dining room has a half dozen tables and roughly as many booths, with windows overlooking the brewing tanks. Pass through an arched doorway, and you're in the glassed-in bar area. Most of this room overlooks the parking lot and train station, but provides a decent view of what exists of downtown Pittsfield on the near end. The other end of the stretched, rectangular room features a large, three-sided booth with windows on two sides. During our visit, this booth was filled, curiously enough, mostly with gentlemen sporting matching Cats t-shirts.

The bar itself is dark wood, with room for perhaps 15 thirsty patrons along its length. Most of the beers on draught are listed on a large chalkboard above the expanse of the bar's back wall, with plenty of taps and some glassware occupying the foreground. There are televisions on either end of the bar tuned to one sporting event or another, but we were there mostly for the beer.

There were ten of their own on draught for our visit, along with a tasty-sounding Coffee Porter guest tap from nearby Berkshire Brewing Company. The sampler, which comes highly recommended, includes ample samples of all of the available house beers. On this occasion, these
included the following:

Dohoney's Gold
Pitch Pilsner
Berkshire Weiss
ESB (on cask)
Geri Dog Stout
Legacy IPA
Warrior Pale
Summit Pale
Amarillo Pale

Cursedly, we did not take any notes, but rest assured that there was not a dud in the group. Predictably enough, the Gold and Pilsner were probably our least favourite, but still plenty drinkable. The stout was creamy smooth, and the IPA did nothing to betray its' Hop Devil heritage. It's always nice to see a brewpub with a cask offering. The cask ESB was good, but not quite as fine as we'd been led to believe. Perhaps most interesting, all of the P ales ( there is normally a fourth, Columbus, available as well) are made using the same recipe. The only difference is the type of hops used.

Distinguishing such nuances as one hop variety from another is an admitted shortcoming on our part. That said, this practice is simply fantastic. Each pale was sufficiently different from the rest that we did not realize the hops were the only difference until reading about it later. Perhaps the names should have been a dead giveaway. We may be alone in thinking this, but the varietal pales on their own merit another visit for further research.

Did we mention that the ten beer sampler only cost $6? As if that weren't enough, a follow-up pint of the pleasantly flowery Amarillo Pale only set us back $3.35. Why, again, had we never been to this place previously?

No brewpub would be complete without food, and the Brew Works did not disappoint in this department either. The menu is relatively inexpensive (we saw nothing over $15) and has plenty of appealing options. We stuck to the appetizers on this trip, and were not sorry. The Buffalo Chicken Tenders (6.95) were crispy and nicely spiced. A 1/2 order of Brew Pub Nachos (4.95) included tasty ground beef and pico de gallo, and were big enough that we worried that they'd given us a full order. Homemade Onion Rings (3.95) were beer battered and perfectly fried.

Pittsfield Brew Works proved to be quite a find; a really pleasant setting with solid pub food and great beers. All at very popular prices. It's worth a slight detour should you find yourself in the general area of Route 7 (or even I-90) in far Western Mass. We plan on going back on a fairly regular basis. Soon, Lord willin' and the creek don't rise.

Pittsfield Brew Works
34 Depot Street
Pittsfield, MA 01201
(413) 997-3506

Closed Mondays

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