A beer festival with a mission is set for Saturday in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
Matt Motter and Jim Bronson are the brains behind the Berkshire Craft Beer Festival. Both work at Jiminy Peak in Hancock, Massachusetts. Motter is the ski resort’s executive chef, and Bronson, its food and beverage director. Ahead of the festival’s fifth annual installment, Bronson says it all began with a conversation he and Motter had in 2013.
“Matt and I have been in the event business our entire careers, and as you look at my gray hair you can see that my career’s been even longer than his," said Bronson. "But we wanted to give back to the community, so what we did was think, what are we good at? Putting together events! So we wanted to do something for the community.”
All the festival’s proceeds go to charity.
“We bought one food bank a refrigerator, we bought truckloads of personal care items for a different food bank," said Bronson. "Stocked another food bank, and each year we also do a little bit of money to the Jimmy Fund, to the Boy Scouts of America, and we have a scholarship for students, a community service award at Wahconah High School for kids that give back to their community.”
The pair have chosen to direct this year’s donation to the Pittsfield office of a Western Massachusetts mental health nonprofit.
“This year, we’re working with ServiceNet, and helping them hopefully in the next year relocate their Barton’s Crossing homeless shelter to a new and modern place in downtown Pittsfield," said Bronson. "What they have now is really falling apart and not even located in the greatest place to help those most in need. It’s kind of far away from where a lot of the homeless in Pittsfield are.”
Barton’s Crossing is located at 1307 North St., about two miles north of the city’s core. Amy Timmins, ServiceNet’s Vice President of Community Relations, said that the shelter is “definitely in need of some refurbishing and refreshing and possibly replacement over time.”
On the beer end of things, Motter says the festival is designed to flex the region’s rich offerings.
“We got a lot of local breweries," said the chef. "We’ve got basically the state of Mass from Boston, Cape Cod, all the way back here into the Berkshires, and there’s a new brewery that just signed on – they’re like two weeks old, Leadfoot. We’re looking forward to having them. It’s trying to get awareness through the state – there’s not a lot of beer festivals that happen in this side anymore, over in Western Mass, and we’re pretty much the only game and the biggest in town. And we’ve got Vermont breweries, we’ve got New York, we’ve got Connecticut, Rhode Island, all of New England.”
Berkshire breweries participating in the festival include Pittsfield’s Wandering Star, Dalton’s Shire Brewing, North Adams’ Bright Ideas Brewing, and more.
“You’ll see plenty of IPAs and stouts and porters and probably some of the fruity beers out there and ciders and sours," continued Motter. "There’s going to be a huge variety. We’re looking at probably around 200 beers as of now and probably around 55 breweries.”
Some of the festival’s sponsors include local adult use marijuana dispensaries Temescal Wellness and Berkshire Roots. Motter says that given the restrictions those businesses face in marketing their products, supporting the festival becomes a win-win.
“They have to be a 21 and over crowd, and there’s a lot of restrictions and they can’t do billboards or there’s certain TV ads – it has to be the right demographics and they have to prove it," explained Motter. "They could be investigated and there’s some heavy fines and penalties. So us being a beer fest 21 and over, it’s easier for us to put it up on banners and say these guys are helping us out, they’re great.”
At a time when interest in microbrewing is soaring, Bronson says the festival is a celebration of Western Massachusetts.
“The whole country’s doing it, but it’s great that we’re part of it," he told WAMC. "Our part of the world has got a lot of beer. Makes us happy.”
The Berkshire Craft Beer Festival kicks off with a charity 5K “Chug Run” just after noon on Saturday. The beer stops flowing at 4:30, but the event continues into the night with a concert by The Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band at Pittsfield’s First Methodist Church at 6:30.