The beer speaks for itself at Amherst Brewing Company

By Justin Surgent

The 100-foot copper bar top is huge, the beer selection even larger. Varieties range from dark porters to ultra-hoppy IPA’s, and home brewed beers are on tap alongside imported rarities. And if you want to take some home at the end of the night, home brews are sold in 64-ounce, hand-poured growlers.

The place is the Amherst Brewing Company, affectionately known as ABC, and it’s located at 10 University Drive.

ABC was established by owner John Korpita in 1997 in the spot now occupied by the High Horse. It moved to its current 20,000-square-foot facility almost two years ago.

“It wasn’t easy,” said Korpita, “We had a lot of stuff.”

But, in the end, the move was for the best.There’s more space for events and gatherings in the expanded space, where “everyone can find a spot they’re comfortable in,”

“We had a wedding in here two weeks ago,” said Korpita.

Originally from Sunderland, Korpita was a home brewer for years. After graduating high school and brewing something that he said “wasn’t horrible, but wasn’t beer” with friends, his interest really piqued after taking a brewing class at Greenfield Community College.

After four years working as a brewer at Windham Brewing in Brattleboro, Vt., Korpita decided it was time to create a place of his own.

“I worked construction on the brewery (in Vermont) for a year before,” said Korpita, “so I learned how to make a brewery from scratch.”

Korpita, who has moved from being head brewer to a more managerial role, works alongside head brewer and “encyclopedia of beer,” John Geraci, who joined the team a little over six years ago. Geraci is not only in charge of the brewing process, but he also gives tours of the brewery as well, breaking down the brewing process and explaining how different ingredients and fermenting processes will yield different types of beer.

“Hops, malted barley, water and yeast are the four main ingredients of beer,” Goraci said. “Every place isn’t exactly the same, because every water chemistry is different.”

All of the homemade beers are unfiltered, which according to Geraci gives them their slightly cloudy look.

“The haziness in beer is protein in suspension,” Geraci said. He also explained that filtering the beers, like many of the bigger name companies do, takes away much of their flavors.

The restaurant has over 30 different types of brews, with eight of them “regular,” or always on tap. Twelve to 15 of the 30 taps are usually occupied with the pub’s own brews, alongside cask beers and imports. ABC has a beer for everyone. Notable staff and patron home brew favorites are ABC’s Honey Pilsner, Gone Postal IPA and Cascade IPA.

“Most guys who drink here get the IPAs,” said Katy Madzar, a bartender at the restaurant.

The beers are liked by more than just the staff and surrounding community. ABC has received awards from GIBF (Great International Beer Festival), GABF (Great American Beer Festival) and GBBF (Great British Beer Festival).

“I think the beers are good,” Geraci said, “but others think so too.”

The company is also in its second year of hosting a brewing competition, where the winner gets to brew a beer with the team at ABC. Last year there were around 30 entries. This year the number was closer to 100.

The company is now starting to share its beer with businesses in the local community. For the first time this year, ABC is offering its brews in those 64-ounce growlers to take home or be bought in 18 stores in the area, from Greenfield to Belchertown.

“Each growler is filled by hand,” explained Bob Moriarty, head of distribution at ABC, “and right now we’re exploring the idea of 22-ounce bottles.”

Moriarty explained the size of a 64-ounce growler may scare some patrons away, for fear that they might buy a beer they don’t like and wind end up wasting the rest of it. The 22-ounce bottles would help buyers purchase beer in smaller increments, allowing them to test a brew before buying a substantial amount of it.

“That’s our goal for this year,” Moriarty said, “to get into the 22-ounce program, to get people to try a few different things instead of putting all their eggs in one basket.”

But at the end of the day, there is just something special about drinking a home-brewed beer at that giant copper bar top, straight from the tap.

In the words of John Korpita, “the beer speaks for itself.”


Justin Surgent can be reached at [email protected]