Revitalization by the Pint

Holyoke Craft Beer

By Jordana Starr, Photos by Dominic Perri

Chemical engineer Mike Pratt started playing around with fermentation as an undergraduate at UMass, when he took a fermentation lab his senior year. Though he admits that the wine he ultimately made “came out terrible,” the class had piqued his curiosity. He wanted to learn more.

After graduation, Pratt started homebrewing. Initially taking it up as a hobby, his love for the craft evolved into the desire to open his own brewery. But then life got busy, as it often does, as he and his wife grew their family by two. Now that their daughters are approaching school age, the time was finally right to revisit that dream.

And that dream, as it turned out, was twofold. After moving to Holyoke, Pratt fell in love with the city and could see enormous potential among the unoccupied buildings in the once-thriving industrial town. He points out that Holyoke, with its former paper and textile mills and brick warehouses, is set up for producing things. The new Arts & Innovation District on Race Street, which includes Gateway City Arts, the Holyoke Community College Culinary Center, and Freight Farms—an urban hydroponic farm located inside two refurbished shipping containers in which residents and HCC students are growing food—seemed like an obvious choice for a new brewery and taproom.

“We need to do this now,” he says, “and on Race Street.”

At 208 Race Street, precisely. On February 2, 2019, Holyoke Craft Beer officially opened its doors to the public in the basement of the STEAM Building, a former factory that had once produced valves and steam lines. The brewery itself is a one-barrel kettle with six fermenters, which allows them to keep a rotation of a variety of beers on tap. Ninety-five percent of the grain they use comes from Valley Malt (see page 26), just up the river in Hadley.

The beers themselves pay tribute to Holyoke, with names like Revival Pale Ale, Dreamers & Makers Saison, and Podoke Porter—a reference to the Podokesaurus holyokensis, a dinosaur fossil that was discovered in a hill near Mt. Holyoke College. Holyoke Craft Beer’s head brewer Adam Copeland, the creative mind behind the names, also wrote the recipe for 413, a session New England IPA comprised of four types of grain, one hop variety, and three yeast strains. “This beer,” he explains, “is an homage to where we come from and what put the area on the map: making hazy New England IPAs.”

In addition to Copeland, Pratt brought on Andy Gaylord and Corey Lynch as assistant brewers. All the brewers—who, just like Pratt, got their start homebrewing—work as bartenders in the taproom, which is open on Friday evenings and Saturday afternoons. Pratt also has enlisted the help of local brewing consultant Mike Schilling,* who has designed several of their recipes.

Holyoke Craft Beer is starting to show up on tap in places beyond its Race Street taproom, such as Gateway City Arts, Smith’s Billiards in Springfield, and the Taproom in Hadley. But right now, their main focus is their taproom and encouraging people and businesses to return to downtown Holyoke, as their Double IPA’s name, No Vacancy, suggests.

*Disclosure: The author is married to Mike Schilling.