Paper City Brewery, a success in Holyoke

It’s 6 p.m. on a Friday at Paper City Brewery on 108 Cabot St. in downtown Holyoke, Mass., and the joint is rocking. The brewery is jam-packed; people line the stairs eagerly waiting to get inside.

The stairs are wooden and worn. The brick wall is a bright maple leaf red on the bottom and off-white on the top. When you finally get into the brewery you will be greeted by Martha, a middle-aged woman with blonde hair. She will ask you for your ID and $6, then you receive an eight-ounce tasting cup and she says, ‘Enjoy!’

Once people receive a tasting cup they stampede to the bar, not noticing the historical motorcycles or the neat knick-knacks in the glass case. Once you get to the bar, you will be greeted by either Tom or Trish.

Now comes the difficult part, which beer to choose first. Your best bet is to start with the Ireland Parish Golden Ale, as it is a nice beginner beer.

Paper City has been in business for 13 years and each year they continue to grow tremendously. Part of their success is they set up an offer you can’t refuse, $6 for all you can drink for two hours, and when you leave they give you a four pack of beer for the road.

‘It’s a perfect place to pre-game on a Friday night and you can’t get this bargain anywhere else,’ said Jamie Murphy, a beer enthusiast and Paper City patron.

Over the years Paper City has expanded its style of brewing to create their own original beers, such as the Blonde Hop Monster, a strong beer with an intense amount of hops. The Riley’s Irish Stout is a dark beer reminiscent of Guinness. The Goats Peak Bock is a malty beer in a copper hue and the Denogginator is a golden lager.

Most Friday nights, Paper City Brewery is packed full of people enjoying quality beer while listening to whatever live band is playing that night. Their business is flourishing in the downtown sector of Holyoke. Many people come to the brewery for fun and entertainment to start off their night.

‘Most of the people who come to the brewery are not from Holyoke and it shows that coming to downtown Holyoke doesn’t bother them,’ said Jay Herbert, owner of Paper City Brewery.

Holyoke is a town that was once vibrant but is now fighting to make a comeback, having moved from a manufacturing economy to a service sector economy, which has left many vacant run-down mills, like the one Paper City used to be.

In 1995, Jay Herbert, who grew up in Holyoke, started Paper City Brewery in an old mill building on Cabot Street and the beer has been flowing ever since. In November of 1996, Paper City unveiled their first beer, the Dam Ale at the Yankee Pedlar Inn, which received a lot of praise from the local media.

By1997 Paper City began to gain some notoriety when their Cabot Street Wheat and their Winter Palace Wee Heavy won first place at the New England Beer Festival.‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘

Herbert still lives in Holyoke, on Pearl Street. When Herbert was 18, he would go into a package store and find the most exotic beers in the store. Herbert recalled some of the beers that he had tried back then such as Ballantine XXX, Heineken Dark, Dinkleacker which came in a big .5 liter keg can and Elephant beer from Australia, which came in an oil can shaped can.

When Herbert was 18, there weren’t many imported beers around. The selection was relatively small compared to many modern liquor stores’ stock. Herbert was doing some experimenting making his own beers.

The first floor of the Paper City Brewery used to be the Winter Palace Theater, which had a stage, a roller rink and was a very popular attraction for many people around the turn of the century.

Paper City respects and remembers their building and city’s heritage. You may notice that Paper City‘s winter seasonal is named Winter Palace Wee Heavy. You may also notice that many of Paper City beers are named after historical names or places in Holyoke such as the Dam Ale, Ireland Parish, Cabot Street Wheat and the Summit House Oktoberfest.

It’s now 7 p.m. and people are settling into the brewery. Most people stand while others are lucky enough to have grabbed one of the few seats. The people at tables are playing cards, drinking beer and listening to the band ‘- The Whiskey Junction ‘- rock out.

Paper City is just one of those places that is chill. Everyone that comes just has a good time and they serve excellent beer,’ said Sean Young, a Paper City customer.

At this point many people are already catching a good buzz and are enjoying the live musical entertainment. Long lines are quickly forming near the brewery’s bathroom.

Most of the time the line for the bathroom wraps around the corner stretching all the way down to Jay’s office. The reason for the long lines is there is only one toilet, however, it is a very clean toilet.

Once people come out of the bathroom, they rush right back to the bar to capitalize on the great deal. Some patrons slur their orders; the beer is getting to them by now.On either side of the bar, three tiered bookcases are filled with a nice collection of old beer bottles, and a very distinct black Paper City Brewery T-shirt is displayed. The bookcase on the right has an Irish flag hanging to represent Holyoke‘s heritage.

Once 8 pm rolls around and the band plays their final number, the people start to form a line to receive their four pack of beer.

Once you make your way to the front of the line to receive your beer you will throw out your tasting up in a barrel lined with a burlap sack on your left and Mike Adams will point to the white board that shows which beers they will be handing out. ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘This is the busiest but best part of the night, I enjoy seeing peoples faces light up when I give them their four pack of beer,’ said Mike Adams, a volunteer at Paper City.

Paper City is one of those breweries that is always experimenting, currently they are working on a coffee stout to add to their brew collection. Paper City‘s beer is available at retail locations in addition to the brewery. In the Amherst vicinity you can find Paper City beer at the Hangar, the Harp, Stonies Pub, R’amp;P Liquors, Spirit Haus and Liquors 44.

‘We take pride in distributing our beer throughout Massachusetts, to help Paper City get out in the public eye,’ said Jim Marcyoniak manager at La Resistance, distributor for Paper City Brewery.

Peter Shipman can be reached at [email protected]