The beloved city of Boston bustles with livelihood, character, excitement, energy, sport, and, of course, beer. With its history, Boston personifies a piece of what it is to be an American. As the capital city embedded with the roots of the nation itself, it deserves the attention it gets and the reputation it has. With that powerful reputation, it becomes a habit for outsiders to place the rest of the state under the umbrella of its capital city.
West of Boston are reservoirs that push drinking water to the many residents of the thriving metropolitan area. Towns of humble backgrounds surround those reservoirs. They have their own history and can also trace roots back to the foundation of the country. They, too, have pride in their culture. But, operating in the shadow of its big brother, the West has struggled to make a true name for itself. Now, the beverage industry appears to be helping Western Massachusetts change that. The brewing reputation outside of Boston has been gaining respect and making more and more noise in the past decade.
One of the most shared experiences of anybody from Massachusetts is the following conversation with people from out of state:
“Where are you from?”
“I live in Massachusetts.”
“Oh, so you’re from Boston?”
“. . . “
For many, that may very well be accurate. Or people might say they are from Boston, to begin with, to avoid the conversation. The rest of the population has either grown tired of explaining there are other parts of the state or persevere in the effort to get others to recognize the precise location of their hometown. Many members of Western Massachusetts have split the difference by consistently turning to the phrase, “well, I live a couple of hours west of Boston.”
In the shadow of one of the more well-known cities in the world, the trend growing up in Western Massachusetts is to move to the city. There has always been more to do, more job opportunities, and often an apparent increase in status when your primary address changes to a more recognized location. But plenty of people remain out West and are looking to inject life into their part of the state.
A Team Bringing New Experience to Western Mass
Three of those individuals who have stayed include Mike Rodrigues, Joshua Britton, and Manny Vital. This threesome is the force behind Vanished Valley Brewing Company, a young brewery in Ludlow, Massachusetts that is quickly expanding and making a name for itself.
Mike Rodrigues has long been a part of the restaurant industry. Restaurants have run in his family, and it was only natural that he would eventually have his own. Europa Restaurant became his right of passage. For seven years, he owned and operated the restaurant with success, but another passion lurked in the background.
“I’d always wanted to open a brewery,” Rodrigues says. “I use to brew a little bit with my cousin, and I knew it was something that I always wanted to be involved in.”
It seems that he and Joshua Britton were a pairing waiting to happen. Britton is the master brewer of Vanished Valley, while Rodrigues handles the restaurant end of the business. Add in Manny Vital, who has proven an essential piece to the puzzle in combining these two businesses, and the team was born. At first, this brewery remained a relatively small operation.
For the past three years, Vanished Valley has been operating behind the Europa restaurant. Vanished Valley Brewing got started in a small shed by the trio of Rodrigues, Britton, and Vital. The original experiment has proven worth expanding. With a sizeable expansion underway, they will be turning Europa into a full Vanished Valley culinary experience. They will be retaining the staff from Europa with additions for Vanished Valley. The kitchen menu will reduce to shift the attention of the establishment to the brewery production.
New construction means significant expansion for the brewery. Their current production of beer does not allow for a high level of distribution, but with the increase in space will come much more beer. There are also renovations to the dining area for more of a pub feel that will also include a game and retail area.
The History of Vanished Valley
For the past three years, Vanished Valley has been operating behind the Europa restaurant. Their founders and the community are excited to have it come out from the background of the operation and take center stage.
The original creation of Vanished Valley is their Pamona IPA, which continues to be a favorite. With the success of the Pamona IPA, they were able to expand their list of offerings to include plenty more IPAs, Double IPAs, Stouts, Sours, and a Milkshake Series, among others.
Being a part of the brewing culture of the state has been a powerful experience for the team. In an industry that is more collaborative than most, Vanished Valley has found no problem injecting itself into the mix.
“We’re friends with a ton of the local breweries in the area,” he mentioned, “its good to be able to get together and bounce some ideas off of each other.” The brewery has seen the benefit of this comraderie. The creation of their ‘That Just Happened’ Cherry Sour Ale was in collaboration with Greater Good Imperial Brewing Company of Worcester, Massachusetts.
Still a young brewery in what is ultimately a budding industry in Western Mass, the team is looking forward to growth. With their minds towards the future, they have not taken for granted the past of the region.
Prioritizing the Memory of Sacrifice
Vanished Valley has taken its name to pay homage to the memory of four towns that were sacrificed to create the nearby Quabbin Reservoir. This Reservoir is one of the resources for Boston’s drinking water.
The creation of this Reservoir required the impounding of the Swift River and the drowning of four towns: Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott. Created in the 1930s, none of the founders of Vanished Valley were close to being born. Still, the sacrifice that the four towns and their residents made is significant to each of them.
Rodrigues says that he grew up visiting the Quabbin and taking hikes there. Although he had no material bond to the location, the sacrifice that was made by those towns became important to him. The Quabbin Reservoir is now robust with wildlife, and many besides the Bostonians that receive its drinking water have enjoyed its creation and protection.
During the winter holiday season, Vanished Valley releases two special edition beers each year with a portion of the proceeds from those sales donated to the Friends of the Quabbin. Friends of the Quabbin is a non-profit volunteer group devoted to the awareness and preservation of the Reservoir and Reservation.
The holiday series includes two titles: Gratitude, which is released for Thanksgiving, and Joyous, which is released for Christmas. They are available every year, each time with its individual twist for a signature beverage year after year.
The Future of Western Massachusetts
With the anticipated opening of the expanded brewery, restaurant, game, and retail space, the future of Vanished Valley looks bright. They have further expansion plans where the brewery will be growing their own hops behind the brewery. The space they have available will not enable them to brew strictly with their own hops but is sure to provide an added twist to their specialty beverages in the future.
There will also be the addition of a beer garden that will open seasonally for their patrons to enjoy the New England outdoor with a beer. The location is also planning to hold events and outdoor performances when the season comes.
As one of the youngest breweries in the Western Mass area, the fast expansion that Vanished Valley has been able to accomplish is evidence of the region’s growing beverage popularity. With other attractions not far, including the Basketball Hall of Fame and the new MGM Casino in Springfield, the breweries are bringing a host of new reasons for visitors to make their way out to the West of the state.