Craft beverage makers speak to ‘labor of love’ at May Chamber of Commerce luncheon

Gary Bogoff, owner of Berkshire Brewing Co. in South Deerfield, speaks during the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce’s May luncheon, “Art of the Craft,” at the Northfield Golf Club.

Gary Bogoff, owner of Berkshire Brewing Co. in South Deerfield, speaks during the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce’s May luncheon, “Art of the Craft,” at the Northfield Golf Club. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/SKYLAR TOURVILLE

Peter Mitchell, owner of Headwater Cider in Hawley, speaks during the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce’s May luncheon, “Art of the Craft,” at the Northfield Golf Club.

Peter Mitchell, owner of Headwater Cider in Hawley, speaks during the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce’s May luncheon, “Art of the Craft,” at the Northfield Golf Club. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/SKYLAR TOURVILLE

Chris Sellers, co-owner of The Brewery at Four Star Farms in Northfield, speaks during the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce’s May luncheon, “Art of the Craft,” at the Northfield Golf Club.

Chris Sellers, co-owner of The Brewery at Four Star Farms in Northfield, speaks during the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce’s May luncheon, “Art of the Craft,” at the Northfield Golf Club. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/SKYLAR TOURVILLE

Franklin County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jessye Deane speaks during the chamber’s May luncheon, “Art of the Craft,” at the Northfield Golf Club.

Franklin County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jessye Deane speaks during the chamber’s May luncheon, “Art of the Craft,” at the Northfield Golf Club. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/SKYLAR TOURVILLE

Paul and Leslie Cameron, owners of Cameron’s Winery and The Back Room Brewing Co. in Northfield, speak during the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce’s May luncheon, “Art of the Craft,” at the Northfield Golf Club.

Paul and Leslie Cameron, owners of Cameron’s Winery and The Back Room Brewing Co. in Northfield, speak during the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce’s May luncheon, “Art of the Craft,” at the Northfield Golf Club. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/SKYLAR TOURVILLE

For the Recorder

Published: 05-28-2024 11:24 AM

NORTHFIELD — The Franklin County Chamber of Commerce’s May luncheon, “Art of the Craft,” gave craft beverage makers a platform to share their experiences within the industry and highlight how Franklin County’s craft beverage industry drives economic development and tourism.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jessye Deane told the audience at the Northfield Golf Club that Franklin County is home to incredible craft beverages as well as a modern-day craft cider movement, which attracts visitors to the area.

“Tourism in Franklin County was up 12.5% last year alone, injecting $86 million into our local economy, and the craft beverage industry is one of the county’s and the state’s fastest-growing economic drivers,” Deane said. “When people want to drink exceptional craft beverages, they come here, and today’s speakers are the reason why.”

Panelists included Chris Sellers, co-owner of The Brewery at Four Star Farms in Northfield; Gary Bogoff, owner of Berkshire Brewing Co. in South Deerfield; Paul and Leslie Cameron, owners of Cameron’s Winery and The Back Room Brewing Co. in Northfield; and Peter Mitchell, owner of Headwater Cider in Hawley.

Bogoff recounted the early days of Berkshire Brewing Co., which he founded in 1994 when there were only 10 breweries in Massachusetts. Today, there are 224 and counting.

“We started off making Steel Rail back then,” he recalled. “We were doing everything by hand. We brewed once a month, then twice a month, and eventually, we were brewing 24 hours a day on a little seven-barrel system. Last year, we brewed over 6,000 barrels. It really was a labor of love because beer does make people happy, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Bogoff, who has belonged to the Chamber of Commerce for the last 30 years, credited former Executive Director Ann Hamilton and local craft beer pioneers with helping to get the business up and running in the early days.

“The beer community back then was very communal — everyone knew each other and supported one another. If someone needed a piece of equipment or knowledge, there was help,” Bogoff said. “In the early days, we would sell more beer in Franklin County than in the rest of the Pioneer Valley. People have been very loyal to us, and we’re very proud of that.”

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Mitchell shared insights into his operation’s philosophy: “Our motto is ‘grow what you press, press what you grow.’ We grow exclusively cider apples and use only the apples we grow ourselves, making it a true state cider.”

When it comes to craft beer and cider, everyone has something unique to offer, he added.

“One of things you learn in Franklin County is that there really isn’t competition here. It’s all slightly different, and there’s a rich camaraderie here,” Mitchell said. “The festivals and the tastings are such a blast. You get to meet everyone else in the business and it’s really nice and tight.”

The Camerons, too, emphasized the strong sense of community in Franklin County.

“Each one of you has your own fabric of what you do, that makes you different, and that makes you part of what makes Franklin County strong and together,” Leslie Cameron said. “We are proud to be part of the big quilt.”

She also shared her passion behind the craft, noting, “You’re making this stuff and presenting it, serving it. You’re giving the best part of yourself to people. What’s better than that?”

Sellers reflected on his deep roots in the county’s craft beverage scene.

“I started when I was 22 at The People’s Pint in Greenfield. After about three years, I took over running the brewery there and managed it for another 10 years,” said Sellers, who is now 40 with two children. “As a brewer, cyclist and business owner, this is the best place. If you can’t find it here, you’re not really looking.”

For more information on the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce or to register for the June 21 Legislative Breakfast, visit franklincc.org.