Matthew Tarlecki plans third new brewery in Easthampton
Matthew Tarlecki, the owner of Abandoned Building Brewery, pours his saison in the new space in Easthampton March 25. Purchase photo reprints »
Matthew Tarlecki, the owner of Abandoned Building Brewery, in his new space in Easthampton March 25. Purchase photo reprints »
Matthew Tarlecki, the owner of Abandoned Building Brewery, pours a saison in his new space in Easthampton March 25. Purchase photo reprints »
A saison, pale ale and stout made by Matthew Tarlecki, the owner of Abandoned Building Brewery, in his new space in Easthampton March 25. Purchase photo reprints »
Matthew Tarlecki, the owner of Abandoned Building Brewery, with two of his home brewed beers, a stout and saison, in the new space in Easthampton on March 25. Purchase photo reprints »
EASTHAMPTON — A 27-year-old Philadelphia native is the latest to add his name to the short list of brewmasters who plan to open new breweries in Easthampton within a year.
Matthew Tarlecki of Hadley has been brewing beer at home for years under the name Abandoned Building Brewery. Now he’s found a former mill building on Pleasant Street that, though it isn’t abandoned, he believes is the perfect spot to reinvent his brewing operation on a commercial scale.
“It may take extra renovation work but I think this area is ready for revival,” he said while standing in the space that he hopes will hold a working brewery by August or September. It’s on the first floor of the 1910 mill building at 142 Pleasant St. known as The Brickyard.
Tarlecki is not the first brewer to take a liking to the brick buildings on Pleasant Street that housed much of the city’s manufacturing industry that thrived in the late 19th and early 20th century.
High & Mighty Beer Co., a company that has been brewing beer at Paper City Brewery in Holyoke since 2006, plans to move its brewing operation later this year to Mill 180, a building just a few doors down.
But Tarlecki is pleased that another microbrewery will be his next-door neighbor when his business is up and running.
“It seems to me that if there are two breweries in one location, it just gives people more of a reason to come by,” he said.
And just over a mile away, a third brewer is constructing Fort Hill Brewery and Hop Farm in a field near the intersection of Fort Hill Road and East Street. Owner Eric Berzins of Easthampton said the free-standing building will be finished in June and he hopes to have his first beer brewed by the new year.
“I think it’s great that we’re turning into a hub of brewing,” Easthampton City Planner Jessica Allan said. She said she’d love to see Easthampton’s three future breweries added to the Valley Beer Trail when they open. The trail is a list of approximately 30 breweries or beer bars in the Pioneer Valley put together by 93.9 The River and WHMP.
Allan said it makes sense for brewers to choose the former mill buildings as their brewery sites.
“I don’t know why this new brewer selected the mill at 142 Pleasant St., but these buildings are made for manufacturing and brewing is a kind of manufacturing,” she said.
Because the buildings are zoned for “light industrial” use, the breweries don’t even need special permits from the city to start building, and the structures have the space, loading docks and other features needed to build a commercial brewery.
As to whether the revitalized mill buildings make ideal brewery locations, Michael Michon, owner of Mill 180 and president of High & Mighty Beer Co., said it varies by the mill.
“They’re all unique, so it really depends on how they’re set up,” he said.
But he’s confident that the influx of brewers is going to put the city on the brewing map. “It’s a great thing for Easthampton,” he said.
Though his operation is built and fully licensed as a brewery, Michon said the delay in opening now is in trying to license the space for a restaurant. Originally, Michon and the brewery’s founder, William Shelton, had planned to open the brewery first and build a brew pub there later, but Michon said the new plan is to open everything at the same time.
“It’s at least a few months away,” he said of the opening.
Out of the kitchen
At a work table in his new space in The Brickyard on March 25, Tarlecki poured a glass of a Belgian-style beer called a saison that he brewed at home.
“We’re going to try to create a name for ourselves as a great Belgian brewer in western Massachusetts,” he said. The Belgian beers he plans to brew include standards like blondes to more exotic brews like dark strong ales and sour beers, which are highly acidic.
“The Belgian market isn’t huge, but it’s definitely growing,” he said. “Brewing Belgians also gives you more flexibility. You can do a lot with barrel-aging and blending sour beers with others.”
Tarlecki said he also plans to focus on American-style beers, such as pale ales and stouts.
He started brewing at home seven years ago. While getting his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering and working for a consulting firm in Philadelphia, he continued to perfect his brews.
Over the last three years, as his beers started winning prizes at regional home brewing competitions, he started thinking more seriously about opening a brewery.
He chose the Pioneer Valley as the location after he visited friends here and liked it. Valley Malt, a Hadley malt house that prepares local barley, wheat and rye for brewing, also drew him to the area. “I started using their malt in test batches with great success,” he said.
Tarlecki moved to Hadley in February 2012 to start work on his brewery. That involved finding the right location, drawing up a business plan and courting investors. “It’s mostly family and friends, but we’re always looking for more,” he said, laughing. He expects it will cost $200,000 to get the business built and off the ground.
He has started work on the space, which formerly held a plastic bag manufacturer, including prying sheets of plywood up to expose the worn wooden boards of the original mill floor. The area has high ceilings, brick walls and is separated from a neighboring manufacturer by a blue tarp until a dividing wall is built.
His business plan involves a 15-barrel system that will allow him to brew about 450 gallons of beer at a time, he said. The space will also include a tasting area for the public and a place where they can buy growlers — half-gallon jugs — of his beer. At least at first, he will only sell his beer in kegs or by the growler, though he may bottle it in the future.
Tarlecki named his home brewing business Abandoned Building Brewery years ago after his fascination with vacant industrial buildings in Philadelphia. So it was just a coincidence that the brewery’s first commercial location is in a formerly vacant building. Its first floor now holds businesses including a recording studio and manufacturers, and building owner James R. Witmer II plans to put in apartments in the future.
Rebecca Everett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.