Composing a Craft Beer
For Christine and Bill Heaton, their 413 Farmhouse Ale—its namesake a nod to Berkshire County’s area code—embodies the philosophy of their Sheffield brewery, Big Elm Brewing: carving a foothold as a small, local business. It’s flavored with honey from Bear Meadow Apiary in Ashfield; pink peppercorns, imported from Brazil and procured at HimalaSalt in Sheffield; chamomile from a neighbor in Sheffield; and lemon peel from Atlantic Spice on the Cape. In the fall, they will use locally grown hops, and they are working on procuring local malt from Valley Malt in Hadley.
Meanwhile, Big Elm beers’ main ingredient—water—is, of course, local and responsible for the dominant flavor profile; rich in minerals and slightly hard, Sheffield’s water accentuates the hops character of the beer.
Big Elm’s commitment to localism goes beyond its ingredients. The brewery’s byproducts go to local farms for compost or feed and its distribution is concentrated in package shops from Sheffield to Williamstown. “Beer should be consumed fresh,” says Bill Heaton. “It’s not meant to travel far.”
There are also the local partnerships. For example, Big Elm partnered with Route 7 Grill in Great Barrington to create Route 7 Rauchbier; Route 7 smoked Big Elm’s barley in its hickory smoker and then Big Elm added local maple syrup and hops.… Read the rest