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CASTLE MALTING NEWS in partnership with www.e-malt.com Dutch
25 May, 2020

Brewing news USA, MA: White Lion Brewing sees launch delayed by pandemic’s reach

The coronavirus pandemic has of course caused immense large tragedies in numerous lives. But it also has caused minuscule twinges of pain, which although may be microscopic in comparison, still elicit a sigh or two.

One such local mild annoyance for beer fans is the delay in White Lion Brewing’s opening of its brewery and taproom in downtown Springfield. The company, which is set to become Springfield’s first fully operational independent craft brewery, has seen its launch delayed by the pandemic’s reach, masslive.com reported.

The 11,000 square-foot facility at 1500 Main St. sits in the space formerly occupied by Spaghetti Freddy’s.

Brewery founder Ray Berry said the company had been in a position to likely have a series of soft openings in June if the COVID-19 pandemic had not taken place. But now he’s looking at actual brewing at the new facility to take place in August, followed by some soft openings of the taproom in September.

Finally realizing the dream that he envisioned five years ago was worth the wait, Berry said.

“We’re super excited to be downtown,” he said. “That was our original objective. We’ve been able to meet that, and it will be an extra attraction/destination for folks, – individuals and families – who want to come and experience a downtown brewery that is returning brewing to the city of Springfield.”

If there was any silver lining for White Lion during the current crisis, it was that the new facility wasn’t online yet. But Berry stressed that the overall community was at the forefront of his mind.

“We’ve been able to work with our contractors and banks to assure there is little to no disruption or penalties, and I’m thankful for that,” he said. “But we extend our condolences and blessings to everyone who has been impacted by COVID-19 and we wish them and their families well. The pandemic has also impacted the hospitality industry which has caused a countless amount of unemployment and uncertainty.”

Berry lauded brewer Mike Yates for his ever-expanding role during the crisis. Yates at first acted as a consultant and advisor, and put together a number of recipes back when the business was just a dream.

“Since that time, our relationship and partnership has evolved to a point where Mike was in a position to work with our architect, our engineer, the facility management at Tower Square, and our design team to really mold and frame out what the brewery would look like from an infrastructure perspective. No one else on the team had that experience, and Mike was perfect to facilitate and drive all of those conversations,” Berry said. “His bandwidth is far greater than just brewing beer.”

Yates’ attention now encompasses the entire breadth of the business, from dealing with the facility and contractors to doing quality control of the beer at the contract brewing site in Williamsburg to sales and even doing deliveries.

“So he’s wearing four or five hats just because of his commitment to seeing White Lion move forward,” Berry said. “And that’s just a tribute to who he is. Every team needs a franchise player, and Mike is that guy.”

Springfield used to be a major brewing hub before Prohibition when the city had three or four breweries brewing up to 100,000 barrels.

“So to follow those breweries 80 years later ... and bring it back to the city, it’s very humbling, and we’re very grateful to be in a position to do so,” Berry said.

Berry noted that he has always envisioned White Lion as representing inclusion and community and he expressed gratitude to the community for helping the brewery becomes a reality

“So many people stepped forward, private companies, giving advice, wanting to see this project come to fruition,” he said.

While he remains hopeful, he is practical about the current pandemic situation.

“We see a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s coming. As long as folks follow the guidelines and the recommendations, we’re all going to benefit at the end of the day. It’s just a matter of being patient. Society wants to get back to ‘normal normal,’ but we have to understand there’s probably gonna be a new normal. And if we can wrap our heads around that and embrace it, we’ll be better off in the long term.”


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