New Around the Woo: Moon Hill Brewing Co.

Expect to see Moon Hill beer around town. The brewing company has recently announced its foray into distribution outside of its current home at the Gardner Ale House in Gardner.

“The Gardner Ale House has been open since June 2006. We opened because Gardner needed something really cool, and a brew pub was just what it needed. Our big thing, about a year ago, was the decision to distribute beer outside of the ale house,” said Moon Hill owner, Rick Walton.

“We realized that ‘Gardner Ale House’ wasn’t going to work, so we started using ‘Moon Hill Brewing Co.’ for branding. Gardner Ale House is supporting Moon Hill as we become an independent brewery,” he said.

Walton explained why he and his team decided to expand beyond the Gardner Ale House. “We wanted to go out there and do what other craft beer companies are doing,” he said. “We want to go to competitions, distribute at bars and hotels and eventually liquor stores.”

Walton added, “I had no plans for the distribution part. I thought I was going to run a restaurant and a brewery and call it a day, but then I thought I wasn’t done yet. I want to get out there. That’s the most fun industry there is right now — craft brewing, etc.”
Walton has worked in a variety of industries. But brewing beer has always been a part of his life.

“I was a medical technician, taught high school physics, then I was a software engineer for a while, but I became an avid home brewer for 15 years. I brewed beer for my own wedding,” he said.

In 2005, Walton had been in engineering for 17 years, Walton was ready to make a change. “I quit my job and went to finance my operation (Gardner Ale House). The bank got behind me and took a leap of faith, and it’s worked out. I was confident, because I knew the location was popular and adding beer was an exciting differentiator for the business we would do out there,” he said.

Fast forward to present, Moon Hill currently has 65 active accounts, but Walton and his team know there’s work to be done. A major goal is to open a nearby location for the brewery, independent from the Gardner Ale House.

“We need to get to 150 accounts, at which point we’ll have the finances to open a larger location for Moon Hill across the street from Gardner Ale House. In the meantime, we’re just going to sell, sell, sell,” he said. While Walton doesn’t have a hard timeline, his goal is to open this location in 2018.

“Massachusetts law doesn’t allow a brew pub to self-distribute, so we have to go through a distributor. We are working on that,” Walton added.
As for the types of beer available, some of Moon Hill’s standouts include one called Rufous lager, the Oktoberfest lager (selling out in a day at the Ale House’s Oktoberfest celebration), and seasonal sours. “We brew a wonderful double IPA called Craft Punk, which is very hoppy and hazy. We do farmhouse ales, Belgian ales, as well as a lot of flavorful light beers,” Walton said. There are also gluten-free choices on the menu, such as a ginger beer and cider.

Walton said Moon Hill will also venture into bottling and canning. “We did some small collections bottling of imperial stout, Chunk Norris, for Christmas…. We will do more bottling and canning in 2018 with the help of an outside canner,” he said.

As for pricing for Moon Hill, Walton said, “We look at what everyone else is selling it for. We consider ourselves high-end craft beer. We look at the market and we charge as appropriate.” For example, Walton prices a sixth of a barrel of double IPA at $120.

“We are open seven days a week and only close four days a year,” Walton said. “We have a tasting room in the form of a pub; it’s friendly, open and warm.”

While we wait with anticipation for Moon Hill’s independent location, be sure to head to the Garner Ale House at 74 Parker St., Gardner, to check out all the delicious Moon Hill craft beers.

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Rachel Shuster