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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Westfield River Brewing Company, Southwick, MA

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A few weeks ago we went to Six Flags and were looking to visit a brewery, of course. Westfield River Brewing is nearby in Southwick, MA. They say on their website they are the “primary location for those who are seeking both drinkability in their beer and adventure in their glass”.

 

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They are located on a 100 year old dairy farm. The building had been converted into a steak house for many years, but that closed. The brewery moved into this location a year ago from an industrial park. They have a farmers license so they can sell anything they make on the property as retail. They have 3 years of commercial brewing, the owner has been home brewing for 15 years.

 

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History of the property

 

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We ordered two sampler trays for each couple, four 6oz pours for $10. They had nine beers on tap, so they gave us the extra beer sample for free.

 

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Louie and Pepe’s – Mexican lager
4.7%    10 IBU
Really light beer, it was served with a lime in it, you can taste the lime. Megan, Sammie, and Dustin all liked it, a good summer beer.

 

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Strawberry Shandy – 1/2 strawberry blonde 1/2 lemonade
5.3%    6 IBU
A strawberry taste upfront, lemonade as the second taste. Pretty good balance, another good summer beer. We all went home with a few cans!

 

 

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Red, White and Raz – raspberry wheat ale
4.9%    11 IBU
Great raspberry taste, not super sweet but tastes like raspberries. Good taste. We all went home with a few cans!

 

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Sam and Dustin enjoying their samples

 

Oatmeal Stout – ‘hints of coffee, chocolate, and vanilla’
5.9%    14 IBU
Smells like coffee, toasted taste up front, a bit of a sweet 2nd taste. Sammie agree’s with us, Dustin thought it had a hint of a sour taste.

 

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Copper Roaster – copper ale
6.1%    19 IBU
Brewed with brown sugar as an english style ale. Pretty good for this style of beer, everyone liked it. Darker in color but light in body with a hint of sweetness. ‘Not offensive to the mouth’ according to Megan (she was super surprised that she liked it).  Dustin thought it was smooth.

 

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Big Red Barn – malty imperial red
9.5%    12 IBU
A heavy taste but light in body for this style and percent of alcohol. A little strange, sweet, maybe tangy, a strong flavor. Megan and Sam thought it tastes like dates, almost like one of their mom’s Christmas cookies.

 

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Farmhouse Honey – saison style ale brewed with honey
5.6%    10 IBU
Light in body, honey flavor, slight tartness or saison flavor, we would have liked to taste a little more tartness, but all in all it was good!

 

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Charlie – rye ipa with citrus notes
5.3%    57 IBU
Different than the other beers, it taste bitter. Citrus notes, but even that taste a little bitter, citrus and rye taste a little overpowering. This might be because everything else was so low in IBU’s and this was 57 IBU. Dustin felt that there was a juniper flavor.

 

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Session – ‘light in body with tropical fruit hops’
4.5%    42 IBU
Right on in the description, pretty good flavor, session ipa with a light body and flavor with tropical fruity hops.

 

A lot of the beers on tap certainly had a summer theme to them. We liked most, if not all, of the beers. The thing that stood out to Mark was the IBU’s. 7 of the beers on tap were under 20 IBU’s, the the Charlie was 57 IBU’s and the Session was 42 IBU’s. They make their beers to be drinkable.

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Unfortunately, when we were there the most popular beer was sold out, the El Dorado IPA at 7.5% with an IBU of 82. Must be good!

We all liked the atmosphere here. This is a place we would all hang out at if it was near where we lived. The building itself is welcoming, never mind the people who work there. We were very impressed with the whole feel of this visit, and really wish we could go back soon!

 

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Before leaving, we tasted an cask Honey Nut Brown beer they made in collaboration with the home brew shop that is attached to the brewery. This was tasty, and was Sam’s first experience with a cask beer.

 

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They have a decent size restaurant area inside. The place has a cool vibe to it, all old beams and rustic decor. We didn’t get any food, we were actually there on July 4th so the kitchen wasn’t open. They did however have AMAZING pretzels available… more on that below…

 

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The brewery out back, you can see from the restaurant. And lots of cans.

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They have a single canning machine behind the bar. You can get any beer you want that is on tap. You can also get any combination of beers, a 6 pack of them same, 3 and 3, or 6 different beers. We thought this was awesome.

 

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Sam and Dustin got 3 of the Shandy and 3 of the Red, White and Raz. The filled them right in front of us.

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We got a 6 pack of each of the Shandy and the Red, White and Raz.

 

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They also make giant pretzels to go from spent grain and home made spicy honey mustard. The flavor and texture were to die for, and the size- whaat. Well worth it.

 

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 Want to visit?
Hours

Wednesday – Saturday: 12pm – 8pm
Sunday: 12pm – 4pm

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