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Austin Design Inc.‘s fourth and most comprehensive architectural renovation for the Northampton Brewery is well underway. At nearly three decades old, the western Massachusetts restaurant is the oldest operating brewpub in New England; since pouring the first pint on August 10th, 1987, owner Janet Egelston has partnered with Austin Design several times to improve and expand operations at the popular destination. The current commercial architecture project will be larger in scope than the previous upgrades to the location, which included a deep energy retrofit in 2009, the addition of the popular sunroom in 2004 and the al fresco beer garden in 1996. The Brewery is easy to find, adjacent to the city’s parking garage, one block back from Main Street and sandwiched between Brewster Court and Hampton Avenue.
Signs of things to come: the building permit displayed at the Hampton Avenue entrance.
Tackling many different areas of operation at once, the major overhaul will allow the Brewery to continue its recipe for success, but with an even greater appeal. Quoting an interview in the Hampshire Gazette, owner Egelston noted “We’re not trying to be anything other than what we are, but the renovation will give us the ability to enhance what we already do.” She plans to reopen by March 3rd, when experienced restaurant contractor Gerry Shattuck of Gerry Shattuck Builders in Haydenville will move outside (fingers crossed) to tackle the rooftop beer garden, in time for warmer weather.
The existing bar from the second-floor balcony dining area on Saturday, a busy last day before the two-month closing.
Among the significant changes in store are: an expanded and updated open-concept kitchen, visible to patrons; an all-new and larger oval bar replacing the current horseshoe; a cheery fireplace added to the lounge; a revamped and streamlined outdoor dining area in the upper-level beer garden; and an extensive restructuring of the namesake brewery. Basically untouched since opening in 1987, improvements in the brewing area will reflect the drastic evolution of the public regulatory system since the craft beer boom began in the 80’s. Northampton’s pioneering operation will be adding a canning system for on-premise sales-to-go (along with growlers), a much larger windowed interior viewing area, public access for tours and tastings, a new draft serving system, and more natural light with three new exterior windows.
Up ’til now, only a small portion of the Brewery’s production area has been visible. Always fascinating to casual visitors and beer aficionados, widened views and access for tours and tastings will be a primary feature of the newly renovated brewpub.
While restaurant patrons and beer fans will certainly appreciate the Northampton Brewery’s efforts to improve their dining and drinking experiences, the 50-strong staff will no doubt find their ability to perform their tasks a much more pleasurable assignment as well. With expanded and updated service and prep areas, streamlined access and traffic patterns, and an all-around better working environment, they are looking forward to the reopening, after a two month furlough. The staff is an important part of any customer’s hospitality experience and the Brewery’s people are no exception; Janet Egelston says “Our staff is incredibly supportive; I believe that we’ll have most of them back.”
Long-time veteran bartender Jaime gives a thumbs-up to the renovation plans on the last night before closing; she’s eager to both enjoy the time off and return to a shiny, new brewpub (low bar lighting = ambience).
As far as ADi is concerned, two months can’t go by soon enough; we’re looking forward to seeing the project’s completion and the happy results, of course, but in the meantime we’ll be keeping you posted on progress. Watch this blog, follow us on Facebook, and meet us at the bar when we celebrate with a pint of the Northampton Brewery’s finest. Cheers to that!