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GREAT AWAKENING BREWING COMPANY

4/1/2021 |

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Opening any new business, let alone one that offers food and drink, during the COVID-19 pandemic is a risky proposition at best.

Yet that is just what beer entrepreneurs Andy Grenier and Mark Netzer did last October when they opened the doors to Great Awakening Brewing Company. It was a gutsy move, but they had already poured heart and soul into building out their space within the Mill at Crane Pond and setup their long awaited seven barrel brewing system, which produces about 220 gallons of their one-of-akind libations per batch. And, they didn’t want their investment to sit idle. So, the two brewmeisters believed that if they began to pour, people would come. And they were right.

“We didn’t do any advertising because we were in a unique position. Over the years, we had already built up a loyal following from the many beer festivals we poured at. Besides I would always share our beers with anyone I could to build up even more hype for our opening. So, it was really word-of-mouth and social media that brought us customers,” Netzer said.

Now in full swing - before opening the doors to their brewery and taproom they offered curbside can sales - customers will find a broad range of 16 rotating beers on tap crossing a broad spectrum including New England IPAs, barrel-aged beers, sours, saisons, and stouts alongside craft food.

The seeds were sewn for turning their passion for great-tasting brews into a business almost a decade ago, but neither realized it at the time. “The first craft beer I ever tasted was from Berkshire Brewing. They were the only game in town for years and years, but they put out some really enjoyable beers. I didn’t understand the different beer styles back then, but enjoyed drinking the different brews they were putting out,” Mark said.

Andy’s eyes were opened to the depth of the craft beer scene when he first tried one of Mark’s sour craft beers. “My first experience drinking a sour craft beer was one that Mark had brewed, called Purist. It was a fruited kettle sour beer, one that has a refreshingly tart and jammy taste, made with black currants and vanilla and it was amazing. I was unfamiliar with this whole sour genre and how delicious and satisfying they were,” Grenier said.

It was back around 2012 that Netzer’s father-in-law, who was an avid home brewer in the ’80s, thought it would be a good idea to give him the equipment he had purchased so his son-in-law could have a try at it.

“He came over to my house one weekend and we made a batch of beer on the stove in my kitchen. It wasn’t great, but it was drinkable, and the whole process of making your own beer interested me. I thought to myself, ‘I can do better,’ and continued to play around with that same recipe until I had perfected it. And along the way home brewing became an obsession as I constantly sought to improve my beers as my palate became more refined,” he said.

Eventually working out of his garage on a small half-barrel, Netzer expanded his brewing efforts to include IPAs, stouts and sours. And it wasn’t long before the confidence level in what he was producing reached a point where he was comfortable entering his beers into competition - his American Brown Ale took first place in the Southern New England Regional Home Brew Competition and his Precitration IPA was awarded first place for American IPA at the annual national beer competition held at the Virginia Beer Blitz - and traveling to different beer festivals to bring them to the public.

“There were huge lines for our beers at the festivals. Craft been enthusiasts not only loved the taste, but the diversity of styles we offered,” Grenier said.

So, back around 2017 figuring it was time “to make the move,” he partnered with Netzer based on their following and untapped social media rating to put a business plan together and make their dream a reality to open a brewery. With their strategy aligned, Great Awakening kicked off their search for a perfect location in western Massachusetts and top-quality brewing equipment.

Today when beer lovers enter their doors there are always 16 beers on draft at The Great Awakening Brewery.

“We wanted to have at least 16 brews available because of our history of going to fests and bringing a broad range of beers, so those attending could experience the spectrum of different styles of craft beers,” Grenier said.

While their draft list is constantly rotating with new additions added weekly, here’s an example of seven concoctions to quench your thirst:

Imaginary Islands - Sour Blonde Ale, 5.0%
Conditioned on mango, pineapple, coconut, and marshmallow to provide layers of flavor.

Odyssey #5 - American Pale ale, 5.8%
Hopped with a blend of Citra and Sabro. A soft and sessionable Pale Ale.

Axis - American Brown Ale, 6.5%
Creamy, full bodied brown ale with a slight sweetness on the finish featuring nine specialty malts and house caramelized brown sugar.

Hana - Farmhouse Ale, 6.8%
Brewed with wildflower honey, balances mild acidity and light funk with a bounty of elegant and nuanced flavors. A slight dryness, typical of the style, is counteracted by the honey addition resulting in a unique take on this underrepresented style.

Aurora Tropicalis - Double IPA, 8.0%
A Double IPA featuring amplified doses of a well-refined blend of Citra, Amarillo, and Mosaic deliver a big, bright, citrusy punch. Excellent showcase of what these classic Pacific Northwest hops have to offer.

Cayambe - Imperial Stout, 8.7%
Imperial Stout conditioned on cocoa nibs and house toasted coconut.

Madera Vieja - barrel-aged Imperial Stout, 10.2%

Pedro Ximenez - Sherry barrel-aged stout
Presents an oaky, chocolate syrup aroma and delivers flavors of blackberry brandy and chocolate-covered cherries. Served at 48°F

Craft Beer Joe on his website, craftbeerjoe.com, notes “….while beer has the ability to connect people; food has the same power. So naturally, combining beer and food takes this to the next level.” It’s a concept that both brewers agreed with.

“Just as our beers differentiate, we wanted our food to stand out and differentiate and awaken all the senses as well. We were lucky enough to find a great chef who takes the same scientific approach to cooking as we do with our beer, and combines some of our brews in our dishes. It all comes together perfectly,” Grenier said.

Two of the five current appetizers on the menu make good use of their brews including the Drunken Pimento Cheese Dip infused with Even Fuzzier Triple IPA and served warm with toasted baguette and flatbread crackers. The New England Crab Cakes consists of lump crab meat gently formed with lemon, chives, and bread crumbs and served with Odyssey #4 IPA mustard aioli and braised greens. Their French Onion crock of soup is made with signature Axis Brown ale-braised onions, while one of three main dishes, Short Rib Mac & Cheese, features a honey chipotle Aurora Tropicalis IPA BBQ sauce. Even one of their two desserts, Blackjack Parfait, is an XMAS Bender Imperial Stout-infused chocolate mousse with Hazelnut whipped cream and snickerdoodle cookies.

For teetotalers accompanying their drinking friends, there is bottled water, Italian Orange Seltzer, Nantucket Nectars Lemonade and Jamaican Ginger Beer to wet their whistle. The brewery space is also a very family-friendly environment, with a separate kids menu, activity books, high chairs and more.

Great Awakening Brewing Company’s logo is very unique and according to the two brewers, it was designed as an acknowledgment of the craft beer movement that has swept the region, as well as the ability of their quality craft beer to awaken all of one’s senses. The logo consists of an eye with a “G” and “A” interwoven into the design, with both letters forming the other letter in a paradoxical fashion.

“We feel that the logo embraces our style of craft beer by creating a truly eye-opening experience,” Grenier explained.

As for the future, as COVID-19 restrictions lift, Great Awakening will regularly host live music, special events, and plenty of special beer releases. Long term, they have plans in the works for an outdoor deck overlooking the scenic Little River Dam.

“In the meantime, we have a nice riverside counter - it has table service - set up alongside the windows where customers can sit and enjoy the view while sipping their beer and enjoying their meal,” Grenier said.

Great Awakening Brewing Company is located at 77 Mill St. in Westfield. The spacious taproom overlooks the Little River dam and taproom hours are Thursday and Friday from 4-9 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 9 p.m. Online preorder curbside pickups are available on Fridays from 3-5 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 2 p.m.

Before visiting the brewery, patrons are encouraged to reserve tables online through their website www.greatawakeningbrewing.com.
For more information, including the latest beer and food menu, visit greatawakeningbrewing.com or email help@greatawakeningbrewing.com

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