All hopped up: Local couple following their passion opens brewery in Whately

Originally published on July 7, 2016 by Greenfield Recorder

Look for Hitchcock Brewing Company on the local craft beer list at a growing number of local restaurants, and support the newest brewery in Franklin County.

The brewery is located just off Christian Lane in Whately, next to Tall Grass Alpaca Farm.

Rich Pedersen, who co-owns the beer business with his wife, Geneva Pedersen, said their goal as brewers is to create a brand that puts the craft of beer making first — and that keeps in touch with local flavor.

“We produce local ales for local people,” he said. “We want to make beer that people want to drink and (isn’t) necessarily the hottest thing on the market.”

In addition to making good beer, the two brewers also farm hops. The brewing company sources its hops from about 850 hop plants that twist up, twine strung, across a field behind the brewery.

Hitchcock Brewing Company is named after Edward Hitchcock, who was born in Deerfield and became the first state geologist for Massachusetts, as well as the third president of Amherst College.

Hitchcock offers three types of ales — a pale ale, golden ale and an India pale ale (IPA), which has more hops than the pale .

Right now, the brewery only sells kegs. However, Pedersen said he intends to release a porter soon and will begin selling canned beer later this fall, after a tasting room at the Whately location has been completed.

The new brewery shipped its first keg on May 15, and intends to attend the Recorder’s Franklin County on Tap fermenters festival of 13 beer, cider and mead makers July 16 at Berkshire East.

Since that first batch, Pedersen explained, they’ve been able to get their beer into several popular restaurants and bars around western Massachusetts, including Amy’s Place, Brass Cat, Tavern on the Hill and Luthier’s, all in Easthampton, Fitzwilly’s Restaurant and The Deck Bar, both in Northampton, JJ’s Tavern in Florence, Yarde Tavern in South Hadley and the Deerfield Inn and Champney’s in Deerfield.

He also said Franklin County is a great place for emerging beer brands to make a start, because the craft beer business is rapidly expanding.

“What we’re seeing up in Vermont, we’re seeing here,” said Pedersen, about the expansion of the beer industry in the region — one of the reasons he and his wife decided to settle in Franklin County.

The couple grew up in the Pioneer Valley and have lived in Southampton, Westhampton and near Stowe, Vt.

After retiring, the couple moved back to the area in 2013.

Hitchcock Brewing Company blossomed from the Pedersens’ love for making beer — and for farming.

Rich Pedersen, former chief information officer for the National Life Group in Vermont, started brewing in his basement back in the mid 1980s.

“I’ve always wanted to open a brewery,” he said. “My wife and I both did an early retirement and decided to chase a dream.”

Geneva Pedersen, who worked as a nurse practitioner before she retired, said she was interested in the idea of starting a brewery because she wanted to return to and farm the land.

“The farming piece is what entices me,” she said, adding that combined with her husband’s love for making beer, the business has been a success. “The two pieces work really well together.”

In the future, Rich Pedersen said he intends to infuse locally-produced fruit and other ingredients in the beer and experiment with hyper-locally-produced concoctions.