Beer gardens grow in Easthampton

  • Brass Cat owner Michael Lavalle, left, and garden designer Kami Trushaw talk about opening the beer garden Thursday at the bar in Easthampton. DAN LITTLE

  • Brass Cat owner Michael Lavalle talks about opening the beer garden Thursday at the bar in Easthampton. —DAN LITTLE

  • The beer garden at the Brass Cat, Thursday in Easthampton. —DAN LITTLE

  • New City Brewery's beer garden on Thursday afternoon in Easthampton. —DAN LITTLE

  • Jishava Patel, of Easthampton, left, enjoys a drink with Kinsey Foreman, of Hadley, in the beer garden at New City Brewery on Thursday afternoon in Easthampton. In the background are Elena Cicinskaite, visiting from York, England, and Alan Estes, of Haydenville. —DAN LITTLE

  • The beer garden at New City Brewery in Easthampton is busy Thursday afternoon with the Brewmaster’s Jazz series. DAN LITTLE

  • The Mothership Gourmet food truck parked nearby the beer garden at New City Brewery on Thursday afternoon in Easthampton. —DAN LITTLE

Published: 6/24/2016 12:43:30 PM

EASTHAMPTON — In the beer garden at New City Brewery on Thursday, the beer was cold, the company was good and the jazz was smooth.

“A great spot deserves great sound,” New City brewmaster Sam Dibble said as a foursome of young jazz musicians performed. “The idea is to combine things people enjoy — great beer, great music and drinking beer outside.”

Thursday brought the latest installment of the Brewmaster’s Jazz series at New City Brewery in Mill 180 on Pleasant Street. And with the opening of the brewery’s beer garden earlier this year, patrons can enjoy the tunes and brews both inside and out.

The outdoor beer venue is one of several already in the city. The Brass Cat opened its beer garden in May, while Tandem Bagel is in the process of getting state approval for serving beer outdoors.

Food trucks make regular appearances at New City, which means that people can also buy food with their beer. On Thursday, Mothership Gourmet was parked nearby the beer garden, which offers views of Mount Tom and Lower Mill Pond.

Something for everyone

Jishava Patel, a self-proclaimed “city person,” said the spot offers something for everyone.

For Patel, it was the buzz of people, the quality beer and the sound of live music. “This sort of gives me more of a city vibe,” she said. 

But her drinking partner, Kinsey Foreman, looked out to Mount Tom when she talked about why she loved the beer garden. “I like being outside a lot. I like the live music,” Foreman said.

Either way, both remarked at how New City’s cultural programming, beer expertise and effort to revitalize a once-vacant industrial property are contributing to the vitality of Easthampton.

Alan Estes agrees.

“When I grew up in the late ’60s, early ’70s, you never came to Easthampton,” the Haydenville resident said.

But now, places like New City help make the city a pleasurable destination to enjoy an afternoon, he said. “I just think it’s great,” he said. “Jazz is perfect in the summer.”

Estes said he’s a big fan of the Valley’s craft breweries, and on Thursday he brought a potential tough beer critic – an Englishwoman.

But Elena Cicinskaite, who was visiting from Yorkshire, England, said New City’s brews matched up well to the ales of British pubs.

“The ale is good, the people are nice,” she said. “I love the industrial heritage” of the former mill.

The beer was a big draw for Jeff Wakefield. The financial planner took 15 of his clients out to New City as a thank you.

“It’s an awesome place to have a nice summer evening,” he said. “When I first started drinking beer, there wasn’t microbreweries — it was Budweiser and Coors running the snow.”

The practice of breweries offering outdoor seating to enjoy their libations goes back hundreds of years in Germany, where they are known as “Biergartens.” In 1812, the Bavarian king signed a decree allowing brewers to sell beer — but no food other than bread — to avoid taking business from inns and taverns, according to The Atlantic magazine.

Brass Cat

Every Wednesday at the Brass Cat on Cottage Street, pub owner Michael Lavalle invites Mothership Gourmet to park outside the beer garden.

Lavalle first set up a temporary beer garden in the small parking lot of the bar during last year’s Cultural Chaos festival. It proved to be popular with people who enjoyed the streetside views of the city’s Cultural District, he said, so last fall he applied for a license to make it a regular warm-weather affair.

Lavalle suspects beer gardens are becoming increasingly popular because they serve an important local need.

“People like to drink outside,” he said. “It’s a long New England winter.”

Lavalle said he went for traditional in furnishing the beer garden, with a few unique accoutrements.

The orange tables, though similar to picnic tables, are traditional German Biergarten tables.

“We figured we would go with their style – they know what they’re doing,” he said.

And just like in Germany, Lavalle said his garden tables are meant to be shared – and people at shared tables often quickly get friendly. That can come as a surprise to Americans who are used to talking just among their friends.

The Brass Cat’s garden offers more than just beer. The area is planted with flowers aplenty – making what Lavalle says is much more than just a place to drink outside.

“It grows beer and happiness,” he said.

Chris Lindahl can be reached at

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Northampton, MA 01061


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