Beer and Bourbon Recon: The Pioneer Valley

Have you ever wanted that smooth and warming sensation, complete with that slow burn at the back of the palate. You know the one. When you sit there, take that first sip of a smooth, slightly complex bourbon, that just brings a smile to your face?  Or, maybe you’ve wanted that easy go-to beer, or special craft brew to enjoy on your own or share with friends?

Most of the people reading this will probably say “yes” to one or more of the above.  But the next question that comes up, “where should I go to purchase said items?” This article will touch on a few local businesses that provide a wide variety of options for all types of taste buds and budgets. I will list pros and cons to each, based on my reconnaissance mission to find beer and bourbon.

In my travels, I explored these establishments, compared prices -and practices. As you read, keep in mind that we are not preferring one establishment over another, but just providing unbias options based on our interactions and observations.   

 

Bertelli’s Liquor Mart – 726 Main St B,  West Springfield, MA 01089

Bertelli’s is a “diamond in the rough”, in that they look like your regular corner package store, but they have a treasure trove of items. 

Pros:

  • Great pricing on bourbons (as well as other spirits)
  • Regular prices are sometimes many dollars cheaper than “on sale” items at other local spots
  • Due to their small size, some of their items sit on the shelf awaiting mark down, while they sell out at other places
  • They will order pretty much anything for you
  • Staff is friendly and knowledgeable

Cons:

  • Due to their small size, they have a very limited selection and much of their selection is not geared towards “savoring the moment”
  • Prices tend to increase during the holidays, and stay higher on items that sell well 

 

Table & Vine (Flagship) – 119 Riverdale St, West Springfield, MA 01089

Table & Vine is owned by Big Y (a local super market chain), and is very much like a local Total Wine, a shopping mall specifically for adult beverages.

Pros:

  • Conveniently located with ample parking
  • An impressive, and nearly unmatched, variety of beers, bourbons, wines, etc.
  • They will order items they don’t stock and run them on trial basis
  • Much of the staff is knowledgeable and friendly and will get answers for your questions
  • Pre-COVID tastings/seminars were super educational
  • Currently they have many online seminars and meets with distillers and brewers
  • They can get beers from eastern MA that are not distributed to Western MA
  • They sell most of their beer in singles or full packs

Cons:

  • Since they carry more items than surrounding establishments more regularly, their pricing can be $3-$10 more than other places
  • “On sale items” are usually close to regular pricing at other local stores
  • Big Y places restrictions on certain beers
  • “Glass case items” with per-customer limits, can be found at other liquor stores with no limit, and comparable pricing
  • Wine staff is very knowledgeable, however the beer and spirits staff are not as acquainted with the products

 

Super Phipps – 485 E Main St, Westfield MA 01085

Super Phipps is part of a small local chain of Phipps liquor stores, and, as one might deduce from the title “super,” it’s the bigger of the stores. 

Pros:

  • Ample parking; located right next to a brewery
  • Rare beer and spirit finds
  • Great, and in some cases, unbeatable deals
  • Variety of items that other stores “are out of” or “on back order”
  • Staff is friendly and will call you when items are delivered if you ask
  • Rarely place per-person limits
  • You can purchase single cans/bottles

Cons:

  • Prices on spirits can be higher than they should be
  • Some beer brands take longer to make it there
  • Traffic on E Main St.

 

Phipps Liquor – 1350 Springfield St, Feeding Hills MA 01030

Phipps is the smaller location nestled between Wendy’s and Pride Gas station; and while not as big as their super store, they have some good quality products.

Pros:

  • Decent parking
  • Across the street from a great BYOB restaurant
  • One of the largest varieties of low to high quality 375 ml spirits
  • Ample supply of Buffalo Trace and Woodford Reserve
  • Great grab-n-go location
  • Helpful staff
  • Single bottles/cans are available

Cons:

  • Due to their small size, they have a very limited selection and much of their selection is not geared towards “savoring the moment”
  • You may pay a little more than expected on higher quality items
  • Only have a Facebook page

 

McCarthy Liquors – 430 Main St., Agawam MA 01001

McCarthy Liquors is one of two locations – the other being Johnny Mac’s in Springfield – and is owned by someone with a passion for good beer.

Pros:

  • Great variety of beers – both domestic and craft – and spirits
  • Great specials on random items
  • Friendly and helpful staff who are passionate about the products
  • They have access to rare items that the local clientele usually pass over
  • Large craft beer selection
  • Connections with breweries

Cons:

  • Over priced on most of their items
  • Management refuses to sell single bottles/cans
  • Beers that should not be refrigerated can be found in the coolers
  • No website

 

Towne Liqours – 384 Walnut St Ext., Agawam MA 01001

Towne Liquors is smaller package store connected to Towne Taproom, right across the street from EB’S.

Pros:

  • Excellent selection of craft beers of all varieties
  • Single can/bottles are encouraged
  • Overall pricing is comparable to surrounding liquor stores
  • Helpful staff
  • Good quality spirits

Cons:

  • Good deals, but many of the beer brands are in a higher price range
  • $10 minimum on credit/debit cards
  • Beer storage can be questionable: e.g., in the summer it gets very hot and many beers that require colder temperatures are out in the open, while other beers that do not require refrigeration are in the coolers
  • Occasionally, you will be followed around the store by an employee
  • Small location means limited selection on spirits and beer
  • Only have a Facebook page

 

Cooper’s Corner – 31 Main St., Florence MA 01062

Cooper’s Corner is part liquor store, part deli and is located about 7-9 minutes from Northampton center.

Pros:

  • Great place for a beer and a sandwich
  • They have bragging rights to small batch, rare and hard to obtain wine and beer
  • Overwhelmingly large selection of beer from all over New England (Foam, Timber Ales, Burlington Beer) and the world
  • Single cans/bottles are available
  • They aren’t shy about having an equal or greater selection of beers other than IPA’s
  • Friendly and expertly knowledgeable staff
  • Located near breweries and eateries
  • They have the things that should be located at other stores
  • On Untappd

Cons:

  • No restrooms (I learned that the hard way!)
  • Over priced spirits
  • Higher quality beers lead to higher pricing
  • Parking is cramped 

 

Provisions – 30 Crafts Ave, Northampton, MA 01060

Provisions is another “diamond in the rough” spot, with great finds, a wonderful staff and much to do nearby.

Pros:

  • Massive selection of wines
  • Great single serve wine variety
  • Single cans/bottles of beer
  • One of the best cheese selections in the area
  • Great cured meats
  • Very knowledgeable staff
  • Rare and vintage beers
  • Great deals on spirits
  • Near breweries and wineries
  • If you are uncertain about food or beverage purchases, the staff will assist you to make an informed decision based on your palate (pre-COVID allowed for food sampling)

Cons:

  • Small location means limited beer selection
  • Very limited spirits section

 

Four Seasons Wine and Liquor – 333 Russell St, Hadley MA 01035

Four Seasons is a very unassuming, “hole in the wall” location with a great selection of whiskeys, rums and much more.

Pros:

  • Super knowledgeable and eager to assist staff
  • A wide array or spirits, both rare and limited
  • Comparable pricing
  • Great variety of 375 ml bottles if your aren’t sure on what to get
  • Craft beer
  • “Ask and you shall receive” mentality – the staff will let you know what they have, even if its behind the counter or in back
  • Sales representatives customize recommendations based on your budget and palate; they don’t try to push you on the cheapest or even the most expensive
  • Located near many eateries, farms and breweries
  • Great sale items

Cons:

  • Small and confined 
  • High traffic area for parking

 

The Beer Shop – 33 Harkness Ave E. Longmeadow, MA 01028

The Beer Shop is a quaint store, located next to a pizzeria, with a fine variety of beer, wine, liquor and beer making equipment. 

Pros:

  • Vast array of beer – one of the best in the area
  • Walk in cooler
  • Single cans/bottles
  • Good variety of spirits and wines
  • Home brew equipment sold
  • Will place orders and call you with availabilities
  • Special access to rare brews
  • Knowledgeable staff
  • Variety of yeasts for brewing 
  • Decent parking

Cons: 

  • Mostly generic whiskeys, due to their size
  • Beer and liquor have a higher price range

 

Galaxy Liquors – 247 Hazard Ave, Enfield, CT 06082

Galaxy Liquors is a smaller shop, but has a big variety and a huge focus on rare and craft beer.

Pros: 

  • One of the best variety and quality selections of beer around
  • Variety of all styles of beer
  • Beers from breweries that are not available in MA
  • Right over the MA/CT border
  • Rare and top shelf spirits
  • Single cans/bottles of beer available
  • On Untappd

Cons:

  • Small location – limits the amount of product
  • Higher prices
  • No official website

We hope this helps you to decide if it’s worth the trip, or worth switching it up a bit.

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