by Samantha Marsh
Easthampton is home to a number of historic mill buildings, many of which have been converted to studio space for artists or entrepreneurs, and some of which have sat empty for years. New City Brewery, which took over the old Paragon mill building on Pleasant Street, is one of a handful breweries that has popped up in Easthampton over recent years.
Easthampton is known for its pristine water, which has won several gold medals and is deemed the best water in the country. While this may have been what initially drew many brewers to the town, the historic charm that Easthampton possesses cannot go unnoticed.
“When I got into the space, even though it was in pretty rough shape, I could see the potential because it is so unique,” said New City’s brewer Sam Dibble. “It had a lot of elements that you look for in a brewery like industrial power, natural gas, nice high ceilings, concrete floors, and an industrial loading dock. It was love at first sight.”
Dibble and his five business partners (Danny Workman, Ray Pierson, Marcel Emond, Torrey Evans, and Bob Soares) have converted the mill space into what they hope will soon become a destination, complete with a production brewery and tasting room.
New City Brewery's main focus continues to be their ginger beer, which is currently distributed throughout Hampden and Hampshire counties to more than 25 bars and restaurants. The beer, made from organic ginger, fruit juice, cane sugar, and molasses, was the result of Dibble’s wish to make a dry ginger beer that still had a distinct ginger kick.
“If you don’t have some sweetness to balance the heat then it’s out of balance and it’s really spicy,” Dibble said. “So I’ve been tweaking with that balance and molasses is really the key. [Molasses] has some unfermentable sugars that the yeast doesn’t ferment, so it leaves behind a little body and a sweetness that cane sugar really can’t give you.” New City’s ginger beer, which is naturally gluten-free, is cold-filtered and bottled through a process called counter-pressure filling, making the bottles shelf stable and ready to drink.
While New City is known by locals for their unique ginger beer, they also brew regular beer to enjoy in their tasting room. These beers are currently brewed in a two-barrel system, however Dibble has plans to install a larger brewing system later this year.
“Beer is something we’re very passionate about. I love beer and I love making beer, and want to make it and sell it,” said Dibble. The tasting room, which recently opened to the public, has six beers rotating in a spectrum from light to dark. Dibble brews all different styles, as he believes that having variety in beer is essential.
“I love learning a style and making it, and then making it my own,” Dibble continued. “I like it all. We have a California lager that is one of my favorites. I’m kind of a hop head, though. I have, like, five IPAs that I rotate through,” he added with a laugh.
Dibble hopes that New City Brewery will become a place where people can come from all over to taste and experience their beer fresh from the barrels. “It's very cool because you get to involve people in the brewery,” Dibble said. “They get to come in and they get to see things in action. It's a very direct experience—something I haven't had before in my brewing career.”