By Chris Maza
There are some very exciting things happening for those who appreciate the art of beer in Western Massachusetts.
There was no fooling around on April 1 for East Longmeadow’s The Beer Shop, in my mind one of the best craft beer dispensaries, just some really good news as owner Richard Caudill and his wife Tatiana got the OK from the Board of Selectmen to begin a massive expansion of the store located at 33 Harkness Ave., in the plaza behind the Big Y.
The project would involve knocking down the wall that separates the current store and the former location of Maureen’s Sweet Shop, which has relocated to Center Square. The plan would more than double the store’s current capacity from 1,000 square feet to 2,200 square feet.
Caudill told me in a conversation prior to the town approval that he was excited at the prospect of expansion because the current space and set up did not allow him to optimally sell all of the beer products that are currently in demand.
The store currently stocks more than 1,000 craft beers, plus wine.
While the state still needs to grant approval for the project, it appears to be a great move. And don’t worry. The store will remain open during expansion.
“We’re too busy to close for even a day,” Caudill said. “It won’t be an overnight process, but our goal is to make it seamless.”
The Caudills aren’t the only ones preparing a major project.
Westfield River Brewing (WRB) also announced in March on its Facebook page its intentions to move its operation from its current location on Mainline Drive in Westfield to the other side of the river in Southwick.
WRB will move into the former Chuck’s Steak House building on College Highway (Route 202) – you know the one, it’s shaped like a big, red barn.
Other than location, not much else about the brewery would change. While the building was originally a restaurant, the company said it would not serve food and become a brewpub. The hours during which growlers can be filled would also remain the same – Thursday and Friday from 2 to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m.
Utilizing local hops in not a new practice for the company as in the past they have stuck a collaboration with a local farm, but the extra space at the new location would allow WRB to continue growing hops on their own land.
Once all of the approvals are in place, it would take the brewery approximately three months to have the new operation up and running.
Both projects are a tremendous statement on the area’s thirst for quality drinking options, but also its interest in supporting the local economy.
While it might seem like they’ve been around much longer, The Beer Shop only first got its approvals to open in July 2012 and WRB also opened its doors for the first time that year. With that in mind, these expansion projects are pretty big steps being taken by a pair of locally owned businesses that are really very much in their infancy.
I’ll raise a glass to that.