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October 24, 2017 Manufacturing Insights

Moon Hill Brewing to distribute first bottled beer

PHOTO/BRAD KANE Rick Walton, Owner & President, Moon Hill Brewing Co.

Gardner-based Moon Hill Brewing, operating in conjunction with the Gardner Ale House, will soon begin distributing its first bottled beer to limited liquor stores. The company announced last December it would begin distribution. Owner Rick Walton sat down with the WBJ to answer some questions about the new venture.

How long has Moon Hill Brewing been around?

Moon Hill Brewing Co. has been around since 2006. Our first venture was a brewpub we call the Gardner Ale House. The Gardner Ale House is now 11 years old and going strong. We are a full-service restaurant and micro brewery. We have made a mark in Gardner as an active community presence and a purveyor of fresh house beers and fresh house foods.

Why didn't the brewery begin distributing immediately?

We didn't distribute immediately because our goal was to become a big player in this city (Gardner) as a restaurant and to be a big player in this city's plans to revitalize. Distributing was not even a thing for us. Never occurred to us. We just wanted to be local and popular and a part of the plan for a better city.

Did that business model work and excite people about the beer even more?

Yes, that plan worked. We grew every year, and we turned many people over to the craft side, so to speak. Our beer sells over the bar like crazy, and there is no problem with us just staying a brewery and restaurant and enjoying the game in Gardner. People love it. However, we have a crew and a product that must be made available outside our four walls. We all feel this strongly. Our neighborhood is growing beyond Gardner, and we love putting our beer out there in the neighborhood.

The first-ever bottled Moon Hill beer is available Halloween. Why Halloween?

Halloween just happened to coincide with the maturity of our first barreled product. A happy coincidence. And since it is a dark beer on a dark holiday, the poetry of the release is easy to imagine.

Our first bottle release is Chunk Norris, an imperial stout aged in oak barrels previously used for maple syrup, brandy and bourbon. Our Chunk Norris bottle label is our first too! It's a 9-percent alcohol-by-volume imperial stout. We describe it as a malty, roasty kick to the chin!

Will that be the first Moon Hill beer distributed? Has it been canned before?

You are teasing me! Talking about canning, distributing! We cannot wait to get out of the gate! We cannot wait to can, bottle, sell the living daylights out of our beer! We just love the beer business! We brew, we taste, we talk, we compare, we show, we visit, we sell. And when we aren't doing all of that, we are learning and going to conventions. This business is too much fun to pass up. We spent 11 years perfecting a local brewery and just one day woke up and felt like we had to tell the world. Sell to the world.

Where will the beer be available?

Well, for sure, it will be available right here at the Gardner Ale House. Since Berkshire Brewing Co. is our distributor, we will be talking with them and placing the beer here and there in liquor stores not too far away. If you have suggestions, pray tell! Perhaps a few on-premise establishments will be interested too.

What's with the name Moon Hill?

Moon Hill Brewing Co. is named after a neighborhood in Lexington, Mass. known as Moon Hill. It was a neighborhood conceived by idealistic professionals seeking a more deliberate and practical suburban lifestyle. Out of this ‘hood was born an architect’s daughter, Katrina, who married this guy named Rick, a would-be brewer. Fifteen years later Moon Hill Brewing Co. was begun in Gardner, Mass. The year was 2006.

What kind of beer is Moon Hill making these days? Any fun seasonals this year? Pumpkin something?

We just finished off our most popular seasonal, Oktoberfest lager. We have a huge party the last Saturday in September, which we dub Oktoberfest "Party In The Street". It's a massive affair in which we can go through something like 90 kegs of beer, Oktoberfest being the biggest seller. After that, we have Perley Girl, a light German lager and Rufous, a mightier, darker German lager very appropriate to the fall. We have just brewed our latest hoppy black ale, which is currently nameless, but like a baby, we will take a look and give her a name. We have a wonderful new series of beers based on the Kolsch style, that we hop up quite a bit. They are lovely, sessionable, tasty ales. Our first is Social Relevance #1, and it's a drinker!

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