The Rural We: Bill Heaton
Bill Heaton began small with his big-time brewery dreams, and now he is owner/operator of the beloved Big Elm Brewery in Sheffield.
My wife Christine and I moved to Pittsfield in March of 2005 to open our first business venture, Pittsfield Brew Works, a brewpub downtown. We left well-paying jobs at a large regional brewery outside of Philadelphia called Victory Brewing. We sold our brewpub in 2010 to Baba Louie’s and the sale of the pub provided the seed money to start Big Elm Brewing. Christine is the Brewmaster at Big Elm; she has a Brewmaster’s Diploma from the Siebel Institute and Doemens Academy in Munich, Germany. I’ve been in the craft beer industry since 1997. I started out cleaning kegs and worked my way up to head brewer at Victory Brewing, where I met Christine. We fell in love, moved to the Berkshires, and started a brewery. (Doesn’t that sound like a song?)
Almost everybody we’ve met in the Berkshires has been supportive and super friendly. It’s amazing how jaded we’d become living in a large metropolitan area. Here in the Berkshires, there’s a real sense of place and community. And there’s a real connection with the land, local food and local products. It’s amazing to be in the area of the first CSA in the country. Everybody roots for the local producer. It’s a very special area that amazes me every time I visit friends or family in other parts of the country.
For the last two years, we’ve been hunkered down starting our new business and a family. But we’re going to try to get out as much as possible this summer. We enjoy hiking, biking and kayaking. And we’re excited about Beck at MASS MoCA. Things are good… and the beer is great.
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