Microbrewery set to open in South Hadley

  • Preparations are nearly finished for the opening early next month of the Drunken Rabbit, a new craft brewery to be located off New Ludlow Road in South Hadley. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 11/12/2017 5:44:44 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — Two friends plan to open the town’s first craft brewery off New Ludlow Road, called the Drunken Rabbit, early next month.

Bruno Coelho of Ludlow and Dave Smith Jr. of Southampton plan to open the tasting room to serve their inventive homemade recipes to a wider audience. Blueberry sour cream beer and a cold brew coffee stout are among the many experimental flavors.

“I’m a brewer, so making the beer excites me,” Coelho said. “There’s something that really drives me to make these beers, and making one that transcends what people think about beer.”

The Select Board granted the team a farmer series pouring permit in September — the first such permit issued by the town. The permit provides a shorter path for approval for small-scale brewers. The special pouring permit adopted by the state in 2013 is an on-site license that allows the licensee to sell and allow samplings of the alcoholic beverages it manufactures on its premises.

“When we started researching it it seemed the state was behind it, and the path didn’t seem so far away,” Coelho said.

South Hadley Town Administrator Mike Sullivan said the permits are part of the state’s “grow local” movement. As a former restaurant owner himself, Sullivan applauds the new business choosing to take root in South Hadley.

“This whole movement has turned the industry on its head,” Sullivan said. “It’s grown the industry, and given it wider margins.”

For seven months, Coelho and Smith have been building the space at 749 New Ludlow Road — the former site of the Presstek electronics recycling company — and brewing beer for the anticipated Dec. 1 opening. By then, they anticipate having just six beers on tap, and will plan a second grand opening when all 14 taps are ready.

“Dave is very persuasive, very, very persuasive,” said Coelho. “We had some really good discussions about what it would be like, what would be the potential risks and what would be the potential gains before deciding to start this.”

They started small, competing in local brewing competitions and learning the tricks of the trade. Now, the Drunken Rabbit team is a two-time winner of the Springfield Worthy Brewfest’s homebrew competition.

“A turning point for me was the praise I got at competitions, and people asking where they can buy the brew,” said Coelho.

As of Thursday, a Kickstarter page started by Coelho’s wife Cindy had raised $6,876 of the brewery’s $16,000 goal. If the page doesn’t meet their goal by Nov. 22, all donations are returned and the business gets nothing.

The Drunken Rabbit advertises 14 different taps and a 10-barrel brew house with a matching 10-barrel fermenter on-site. They anticipate brewing around 15,000 barrels of beer in 31-gallon barrels annually.

The application allows for a capacity of 99 patrons with indoor seating and a 380-square-foot outdoor patio. The site includes 86 parking spaces, some of which will be reserved for food trucks.

The Drunken Rabbit will not produce any food on-site for retail. Instead, Coelho said food trucks from the Agawam-based Murphy’s Pub and Springfield’s Korean restaurant Sun Kim Bop will be stationed outside the brewery, among others.

“It seems to be an inventive way to cross-germinate several businesses,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said the only obstacle to the Drunken Rabbit becoming a restaurant is acquiring a health permit. For Coelho, the son of the former owners of the Hadley House Restaurant, now Europa, serving food is not out of reach.

“It became evident there was a demand,” said Coelho. “And there was a demand in South Hadley and we wanted to go to a community that would embrace something like this.”

Coelho said they will have local musicians play at the venue on a regular basis, but have no acts lined up at this time.

“It’s another amenity in South Hadley, and we appreciate deeply their investment in the town,” Sullivan said.

The Drunken Rabbit Brewery will be located at 749 New Ludlow Road at the former site of the Presstek electronics recycling company. The intended hours of operation are Sundays, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3:30 to 8 p.m., Fridays from 3:30 to 9 p.m., and Saturdays from noon to 9 p.m.

Sarah Robertson can be reached at srobertson@gazettenet.com
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