Easthampton Brewery Wants to Serve on Premises

The proprietor of Fort Hill Brewery is seeking permission to pour pints of lager for visitors to his state-of-the-art facility on Fort Hill Road in Easthampton.

Masslive.com reports that owner and head brewer Eric Berzins appeared before the Easthampton Licensing Board on Monday night with his request. The commission took no immediate action, and agreed to inspect and tour the facility on Oct. 20.

Currently, Berzins has a farmer-brewery license, which allows him to brew beer on premises and sell it wholesale. The license also lets him sell retail bottles to customers, if they are opened and consumed off-premises. He is also permitted to give small samples to visitors.

Under state law, local licensing boards can grant a license to the holder of a farmer-winery license to pour and sell full pints, so long as it’s done in a manner deemed “reasonable and proper.”

Berzins said being able to pour and sell pints at a set price would “eliminate ambiguity” about the free samples. “It would make our lives better as businessmen,” he said. He said the extra revenue would help the brewery be more competitive. “Our electricity bills are very high,” Berzins said.

Fort Hill Brewery “would not operate as a bar,” Berzins promised, but would hold limited hours. The tasting room is open from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday.

Berzins said at full capacity, Fort Hill Brewery could produce 8,000 barrels a year, which puts his facility at about half the size of Berkshire Brewing in South Deerfield.

Berzins told The Republican / MassLive that Fort Hill has just released a new lager called “M3,” which represents an improvement over the previous lager known as “Mark II.”

“We’re trying to produce a lager that’s as smooth as possible,” he said. Berzins said the brewery adheres to the traditional Bavarian purity law, which allows only hops, barley, water and yeast in the brewing process.

He also said Fort Hill is ready to start producing beer in cans, and is waiting for federal approval for the cans’ labeling. The U.S. Tax and Trade Bureau must approve the labels for bottles and cans of beer.

The Boston-area transplant learned the beer craft by working at the Blue Hills Brewery in Canton, and by attending the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago and Munich, Germany.

Fort Hill, which delivered its first batch of beer in August, grows its own hops.

The public hearing on Berzin’s application was continued until Oct. 27, when a decision likely will be made. Any decision by the local board needs approval by the Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission.