Furnace Brook Winery at Hilltop Orchards, Richmond, MA

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While out in Western Mass with our friend Bre, we visited Furnace Brook Winery, which is located at the Hilltop Orchard in Richmond, MA. This was actually a place Bre found and wanted to go to because they make their own cider as well as wine.

You can sample any 1 wine for free, or 5 wines for $5, so we all tried some different ones.

White Wines

Pinot Grigio – A crisp, golden white wine, slightly dry.

Riesling – Mark and Megan both liked this. Fruity but not too sweet, nice flavorful balance. We both skipped the Dry Riesling for this one.

Mead – A light, sweet mead with a very strong honey flavor. Honey sourced locally from Westfield, MA.

 

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 Red Wines

Shiraz Special Reserve – Peppery with hints of berry, dry but not overly dry.

Ruby Port – Mark really liked this, very tasty. Bre and Megan both thought it was sweet. It is wine, fortified with Brandy.

 

Sparkling

Blanc de Blancs – Bre tried this, slightly fruity, easy drinking.

Muscato – Very sweet, crisp, a bubbly muscato, Bre and Megan really liked this, we bought a bottle for Mark’s sister Michelle.

 

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Ciders

Johnny Mash Dry Gold – A very dry, but refreshingly clean cider. Made simple on purpose, goes well with anything, for day drinking we were told. Did we give off that vibe?

 

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Cidre Special Reserve – Light and a little sweeter than the Dry Gold, still dry. The apples were fermented whole, with the skins on, in stainless steel tanks, then aged in French Oak barrels.

 

Johnny Mash Hard Cider – Light, slightly sweet, minor oak notes, aged in American Oak, good cider, 6%.

 

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Ice Wine

Berkshire Winter Harvest Ice Wine – Sweet, tasty, a complex cider ice wine. They grind the apples and make juice (cider) they freeze the juice, then remove the nectar and ferment that. It takes about 45 apples per bottle.

 

Hilltop Orchards is one of the largest cider mills in New England. They make cider for lots of other places. They are proud to grow, pick, grind and mash, as well as ferment all their cider onsite.

 

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There are miles of trails on the farm, and they rent snow shoes and cross country ski’s. They get a lot of traffic during the winter, people coming to use the trails and then sample some wine or cider. There was not enough snow when we were there to take advantage of that. Maybe some day… we would definitely visit again if we are in the area.

 

They also use and integrated pest management system, IPM. This means they plan when to spray based on rain, wind, etc, they use the weather to their advantage to keep the apples and grapes and fresh and clean as possible.

 

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Of course we got some Cider Donuts before we left as well.

 

Hours

9:00 – 5:00 Daily, year round

 

 

 

 

 

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Northampton Brewery, Northampton, MA

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We recently visited Northampton Brewery out in Northampton, MA. We were on our way out to western Mass with our friend Bre and stopped there for beer samples and dinner. This has been on our list for a while, they have a long history and connections with some local breweries in NH.

 

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Northampton Brewery opened in 1987 and was the second brewpub to open in the region. They are currently the oldest operating brewpub in New England. A brief history: Northampton Brewery was founded by brother and sister Janet and Peter Egelston. In 1991 they opened another brewpub, Portsmouth Brewery in NH. In 1994 they opened another brewery, a small production brewery called Smuttynose Brewing Company. In 2000, Janet and Peter bought each other out of their respective businesses, which left Janet the sole owner of Nothampton Brewery, and Peter owner of Portsmouth Brewery and majority owner of Smuttynose.

 

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Similar frothy mug to Portsmouth Brewery

 

Northampton Brewery has gone through several renovations over the years, which leaves them with a pretty good sized brewpub, which includes a rooftop bar area, which we did not go to since it was December.

 

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One of the renovations added this large back room with high ceilings and exposed beams.

 

 

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They do flights of 4 beers, you can pick any 4 off the menu so we each got a flight so we could try as many beers as possible.

 

Redheaded Stepchild 5%
Pretty good for a red ale, described as ‘well balanced’, we agree.

Deckbier 4.5%
A golden ale with slightly more flavor than a typical golden ale. A light bodied beer with a light citrus flavor.

 

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Greyhound IPA
Smells like grapefruit. Light in body for an ipa, super cloudy with a very strong grapefruit flavor. Bre liked this and isn’t usually a fan of ipa’s.

ESB 5.7%
Better than a standard ESB, not quite as bitter, balanced and drinkable.

 

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Blue Boots IPA 6%
Slightly hazy, smells citrusy and piney but tastes more piney. Decent ipa.

Hoover’s Porter
Megan smelled vanilla, Mark smelled coffee and chocolate. A good porter, smooth, well balanced, a hint of coffee and vanilla, not bitter at all. We were pleasantly surprised by this porter.

 

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Milk and Cookies 5.6%
A dark beer, medium to heavy body. A touch of chocolate with some roastyness, with a cookie sweetness to the finish. Bitter start, smooth sweet finish. Not quite as good as we were hoping for from the name, but pretty good.

Old Brown Dog 5.2%
A smooth brown all, creamy, with a touch of sweetness on the finish, not very malty at all.

Mark asked about Old Brown Dog, since that is one of Smuttynose year round beers. When the businesses separated they both had rights to the Old Brown Dog recipe. We think this tasted a little different than Smuttynose Old Brown Dog, but not quite sure.

 

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Northampton American Pale Ale 5.7%
Pretty good, nice and hoppy for a pale ale.

 

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Bre enjoying her samples

 

Food

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BBQ Chicken Pizza

 

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Green Mountain Burger

 

All the food was very good and so was the service.

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We were pleasantly surprised by the beers as well. They do make some of the less interesting, ‘typical brewpub’ beer styles, like a Golden Ale, ESB, Porter, but they put their own unique twist to their recipes, which makes the beers more interesting and enjoyable.

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They makes all their own beer in the brewery. The also can and bottle all their own beer in house as well. We bought cans and bottles to go, which is nice to have offerings other than growlers.

 

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Mark, Bre and Megan

 

Hours

Monday – Saturday: 11:30 am – 1:00 am
Sunday: 12:00 – 1:00 am

As always, check their website or Facebook for updated hours and offerings.