The Berkshires is an expansive area covering a large part of the western edge of Massachusetts. North Adams is just a tiny part of the Berkshires, but I so enjoyed my time there I thought it deserved it’s own post.
The area is organized around William’s college which is a lovely campus that would be great for a morning stroll. It’s far from the only place get in a scenic walk in North Adams. There is natural bridge state park, and mount Greylock (the highest point in the state of Massachusetts) is just south in Adams, MA.
Here are the places you can not miss if you find yourself in North Adams.
Visit Greylock Works in North Adams
When I first pulled into the parking lot at Greylock works it reminded me of Industry City in NYC. It’s a business park/co-working/events space with stalls waiting to be filled by restaurants and food vendors. A few of the locations are already filled with a cafe, a cidery, and a distillery which makes it ideal for a lunchtime stop.
The Breakroom at Greylock Works
The restaurant is industrial chic in ambiance, similar to the rest of the Greylock Works building, but still feels cozy. Long tables run along the front and the back of the space and a handful of hightops line the bar so there is plenty of space, even in the times of COVID.
For lunch they have pretty standard fare with fresh ingredients sourced locally, it looks like the dinner menu is a little elevated. The same proclivity toward local purveyors is found on the drinks menu which features local breweries, the cidery next door, and distillers from the Berkshires.
Part of the breakfast menu is a build-your-own toast or biscuit bar which definitely caught my eye for a future visit and their handcrafted espresso drinks were made carefully to order, so even if you can’t hang around it’s worth stopping in for coffee.
The Distillery at Greylock Works
Ryan is the master distiller (and a two-time U.S. National Champion and part of the National Ski Team!!) with an incredibly intimate and hands on process. He forges for many of the botanicals in his gin and spiced rums. These hand harvest ingridients infuse the terroir of the Berkshires into his spirits using a single pot still.
In fact, all of Ryan’s equipment is in plain sight. The pot still, a large contraption where he makes a concoction very similar to beer to distill into spirits, and a hand-operated bottling line. He says his rums and gins are currently available at five shops in the area. He’s operating at max capacity but isn’t speeding up for now, the focused balance in the flavor of his spirits comes from careful time consuming production methods.
The results are unforgettable: a white rum with enough character and flavor to sip on it’s own (he calls this one a ski bum rum), a vanilla rum that is creamy and fragrant without coming off as overly sweet, and a gin with a subtle profile of earth and spice made by forged dried wild strawberries and flower buds.
During “normal times” (what does that even mean any more, eh?) Ryan also plays bartender. When he’s shaking up cocktails it gives his small one room distillery a speakeasy vibe. Of course, he crafts cocktails out of local, artisan ingredients. Hopefully you can visit when the cocktail bar is in full swing. If not, he also has recipes and suggestions on his Instagram.
We left with three bottles, likely because that’s all we could carry.
Check Out Mass MoCA
Perhaps the biggest draw to North Adams is Mass MoCA (The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art). It’s located in the sprawling complex that was once a print factory, now converted into a sophisticated museum for both visual and performing art. It is one of the largest venues for contemporary art in the country and being so vast it is able to house plenty of parking, a full restaurant and a craft brewery.
Bright Ideas Brewing
This brewery is located on the campus of Mass MoCA and the museum’s influences can be felt when you walk inside. The walls are painted a vibrant yellow, and illustrated posters advertising beer releases cover one wall. There is art (that I assume rotates) hanging throughout the space so there is no shortage of things to look at while you sip beers brewed from malts grown in the Berkshires.
Of course, there are several IPAs to choose from but Bright Ideas Brewing also offers more classic styles like an English Bitter and Schwarzbier. I will admit to having a pastry-esk stout as they called it a “double milk stout” with cinnamon and other spices that reminded me of Stone Xocoveza. It was good, but I was happy it came in a smaller size than the other beers. And yes, if you’re looking for seltzer, they have that too.
My favorite on the menu was a simple blonde which was refreshing alongside the barbecue from next door.
A-OK Berkshire Barbecue
They’re serving everything you would expect from a BBQ joint, and then some. Chilli, chicken, sausages, and sides plus a selection of breakfast sandwiches are available. You can choose to stay at the restaurant or have your chow delivered to the Bright Ideas Brewery.
The ideal plan is to visit on a weekend when A-OK is open. That way you can have lunch with a couple beers at Bright Ideas. Then and walk it off around Mass MoCA for a couple hours before you drive home.
Where to Stay in North Adams
The surrounding mountains are an especially strong draw in the fall when “leaf peepers” (my new favorite term) emerge. But because the museum is also a constant attraction there are a couple really special lodging options in North Adams.
For those feeling a bit artsy, Tourists is a 48-room hotel that is “inspired” by a classic American motor inn. This means all the rooms are walk-up on the ground floor. The first floor set up immerses you in the serene surroundings of the Berkshire hills with plenty of nooks for fire pits and lounge chairs for bird watching. Don’t let the humble inspiration fool you, Tourists is still plenty bougie. There is a gourmet restaurant onsite and high-end touches throughout. the hotel and grounds.
This unique hotel is made from several converted row houses and it’s located a short walk from the Museum complex. There is a lot of whimsy to this hotel inspired by the arts center close by. It has a retro meets modern vibe. Plus, indoor comfort meets outdoor scenes on the hotel’s series of (you guessed it!) porches.