By Martha Jackson Suquet
Along with local vegetables, fruit, cheese and meat, local beer rounds out the joys of eating local in the Berkshires. We are lucky to live in a region with a wide array of quality craft breweries, each of which combines simple ingredients to blend into delicious, complex beers. For those bourbon-loving friends and wine aficionado visitors, the Berkshires offer high-quality local vineyards and distilleries, too.
Why are the Berkshires home to so many great beverage producers? It’s a combination of creative farmers and craft beverage makers, (some) government support, and a customer base that appreciates the quality and ethos of local beverages.
All alcoholic beverages are the result of a process that’s both simple and complex. A few basic ingredients, carefully fermented and often aged, give us a wide variety of tasty drinks. For beer, it’s hops, grain (often malted barley), yeast, and water. Wine is even simpler: grapes, yeast, and water. And distilled spirits can be made from a variety of ingredients: corn, wheat, sugarcane, even potatoes. On top of those basic components, additional flavorings like fruit, herbs, and spices can be added to create unique beverages.
Pictured is Christine Heaton, co-owner of Big Elm Brewing.