By Rachel Achmad
Long before local was trendy, a brewery and café in Greenfield, Mass., prioritized the concept.
[Dining] Alden Booth ’83, founder of The People’s Pint in Greenfield, Mass., did not drink a single beer during his four years at Amherst. He wasn’t interested in beer at all. What he was interested in was bicycling, and he spent countless hours pedaling around the Pioneer Valley, never imagining he’d be riding those same roads decades later in search of local purveyors for his own successful brewpub.
After graduating, Booth and his soon-to-be wife, Lissa Greenough ’83, moved to Boston, where Greenough gave him the gift that would help determine their future: a home-brewing kit. Home-brewing was a quirky, unusual practice in the mid-’80s. As Booth recalls, the one brew kit shop in all of Boston was located in a garage. But Booth gave it a go and discovered he had a taste for beer and a knack for brewing.
Within a few years, Booth and Greenough had returned to Western Massachusetts to raise their three daughters, including Grace ’12. While working at a fishery, he became friendly with Dan Young, another brewing enthusiast. Young had a background in food science, and Booth enjoyed preparing food to accompany his beers. It wasn’t long before they began to talk of creating a brewery and café in Greenfield.
At that time, Booth explains, “Greenfield had only burger-and-fry places. Nothing else.” People often drove many miles in search of other options, and that distressed the energy-conscious Booth and Young. So in 1997 they found restaurant space, and The People’s Pint was born.
Home-brewing was a quirky practice when Alden Booth ’83 took it up. Now he and Lissa Greenough ’83 own a brewery and café. Photo by Rob Mattson.
Long before local was trendy, the Pint prioritized the concept. Franklin County welders and craftsmen created and installed the entire brewing system, and much of the restaurant’s food came from local farms. “When we first opened,” Booth says, “half the people that came in here were local farmers.”
People kept filling the seats, and Booth experimented with ingredients. He’d bicycle to Franklin County farms and haul their produce back to the Pint. Diners might be unfamiliar with, say, the chard in their quesadillas—but they usually ate it up.
The Pint also insisted on conscious energy usage. The restaurant has never used any disposable products, for example—not even straws. Booth now gives presentations to others in the restaurant industry on how to achieve small-scale success while practicing conservation of resources.
Finally, there is the Pint’s advocacy work around bicycling. Booth, a bike commuter himself, came up with the Pint’s “Bike to Live” program. All area residents can track the miles they choose to bike instead of drive places. With each trip, they earn credit toward Pint gift cards. It’s a program run entirely on the honor system, and it has dispensed thousands of dollars in credit since its inception in 2003.
As much today as in the beginning, Booth’s success and his community involvement have a tandem relationship. He now co-owns the Pint with Greenough (Young moved to Michigan, where he now makes hard ciders), and while they have no plans to expand the restaurant, Booth sees an expansion of advocacy work in their future. When asked what’s best about what he does, he answers without hesitation: “Getting people to think about alternatives as to how we live our lives.” With a smile, he adds, “The Pint has worked out well as a stage for that.”
Achmad writes for Recipe.com and has worked in restaurants for 20 years.