New Brewery Popping Up in “New City”

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.”

12 Years Without Christmas

 By Kristen Davis 

The first lesson in the restaurant business: Weekends and holidays are for chumps. It’s a guarantee that Friday night, when the world is celebrating the weekend, you’ll be working. Mother’s Day, working. Easter, working. Christmas? It’s not fair, but that’s the job, and the sooner you let go of your beloved holidays the less disappointed you’ll be when another can’t-be-missed celebration comes around—and you miss it.

I had an easier time letting go of the holidays, because I set off to travel the world when I was 19. As a chef, often working at remote island resorts, there’s no time for the holidays. Besides, it’s hard to get into ye olde Christmas spirit when you’re sweating it up in 90° tropical heat.

My third Christmas in Thailand, I was single, sad, and missing home. The closest thing to Christmas dinner I could find was a McDonald’s cheeseburger. I snagged a rather suspect bottle of Sauvignon Blanc that looked more like a rosé and tasted like cider vinegar. I sat on the beach and ate my burger and fries while washing away my tears with a bottle of questionable life choices. The bottle was done by noon and so was I.

Some years the holidays were more joyous than that one, but the traditions I’d grown up with had long been forgotten. Christmas dinner was more likely to be a barbecue and game of beach volleyball than presents under the tree. These days, paradise is just a daydream and the start of another chilly New England winter brings the promise of the holidays. I have a young son now, so I’ve started a few new traditions to share with my family.

The First: Close the restaurant on Thanksgiving and Christmas. For a restaurant owner, there are never enough days off, so I’ll take this excuse and leave the business to the Chinese delivery joint down the street.

The Second: We MAKE Christmas magical. But I spent a decade with all of my worldly possessions strapped to my back, so walking into a store and paying for Christmas really isn’t my style. We make our decorations, presents, and traditions. Each year the family strolls around the neighborhood foraging for materials: twigs and branches, holly snipped from a neighbor’s yard, a few dried flowers and leaves. After a trip to the grocery store for some popcorn, oranges, cinnamon sticks, and other aromatics, it’s time to decorate the tree. Armed with a hot glue gun and delectable bottle of red wine for the grownups, we laugh and sing as we craft our ornaments. We dehydrate orange wheels; bake simple, indestructible gingerbread cookies (cinnamon, water, and seasonal spices); glue popcorn kernels to sparkly gold ribbon, and tie cinnamon sticks alongside twigs and berries to create a tree that is truly magical.

The Third: The holidays are all about the food … I mean family. Let’s face it, chefs are really in it for the food. I’m not RSVPing to Thanksgiving dinner to see my second cousins, I’m coming for my second helping of turkey, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and pie. Oh, pie. The best part of the holidays is eating food we don’t have to cook. Feast of the Seven Fishes? Make it 11 and you can guarantee I’ll be back next year.

As my family grows, we add new traditions and borrow some from my wild adventures. Maybe next year we’ll break out the water balloons to ring in the New Year.

Kristen Davis is an award-winning chef, international restaurateur, and entrepreneur. Her current project, The Platinum Pony, in Easthampton, showcases her craft cocktails, creative snacks, and eclectic nightly entertainment. For more info visit ThePlatinumPony.com or find them on Facebook here.

Kristen's Indestructible Gingerbread recipe

On the Cutting Edge

By Chris Figge as told to Mary Reilly | Photographs by Georgia Teensma

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No matter what’s on the menu, a knife is usually the first kitchen tool I reach for. A dull knife, however, can be a danger to your ingredients and to your fingers.

There are several ways to keep your knives in shape, and one of the easiest, most convenient, and least expensive is the use of a water or oil stone.

Most stones are two-sided and for most of us a 400/1000 stone will do the job. knife_3

The first step is to lubricate the stone. If you want to use water, it’s easiest to soak the stone in water for five minutes before you start sharpening. If you want to use oil, make sure you are using a non-petroleum-based food-grade oil. Squirt or brush a layer of oil over the top of your stone. (The stone manufacturer may specify oil or water. If not, you may use either, but  know that while you can oil a stone than has been used with water, you can’t do the reverse.)

Place the stone (coarse grit side up) on a dishtowel or mat so it doesn’t slide around while you’re sharpening.

With both hands, hold the knife on the spine (the dull edge). Use your index and middle fingers on the top side and your thumb underneath.

Hold the knife at a 22° angle and gently but firmly, push it away from you and across the stone—it should feel like you’re trying to scrape a thin layer off the top of the stone. Do not use a lot of pressure, the weight of your hands should be enough.

You can sharpen the entire length of the knife by sliding it sideways across the stone as you push forward. (You can also sharpen in sections the width of whetstone. As each section is sharpened, move to the next section, overlapping sections slightly.)

After 10–20 passes on one side of the knife, turn it over and repeat the process with the other side. When the edge is sharp, flip over the stone and repeat the process with the fine grit side of your stone. Stop when your knife is sharp.

To keep the edge sharp, use a steel. A steel does not sharpen a knife; it simply realigns the knife edge after it’s started to go dull. Working at a 22° angle, run your blade along your steel, gliding it down and across the steel to make contact with the entire edge of the knife. For best results, “steel” your knife each time you use it.

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Store your sharp knives in a knife block, on a magnetic strip mounted to the wall, or in a knife roll. Never store knives loose in a drawer.

 

 

Chris Figge is an artisanal baker, practical joker, herbalist, and handyman. He co-founded The Haberdashery in March 2014 with wife, Melody.

Georgia Teensma (photographs) is a freelance photographer and a second-year student at Hampshire College.

The Haberdashery
Goods & Guidance for Crafty Homesteaders
52 Union St., Easthampton ◆ 413-527-1638
ValleyHaberdashery.com

 

Thank you always to Ed Jones for the knives we used in this story.