A Skoolie in the Land of Massholes, and other Sideways Tales.. / by Heidi Geist

OKAY OKAY OKAY! You aren’t all Massholes!!

In fact, Massachusetts holds a dirty little place in my heart, where art and culinary magic meet just the right amount of crime, and that cute little speech impediment…the one where car is pronounced “cah”, and wash is pronounced “weRsh”, are endearing. Mass hosts lots of awesome music acts and a history, controversial as it may be, that we are all rooted in.

View of the forming line for Zwanze Day out front of Armsby Abbey 9/29

View of the forming line for Zwanze Day out front of Armsby Abbey 9/29

I left Connecticut on a Tuesday, headed for Worcester-the gritty soul of Mass-Worcester…pronounced Woo/Wu-Ster, unlike how those with any recollection of elementary school language arts might say it. I realize not many people would raise their hands to sleep in a “skoolie” on the Main strip of this city, but I sure did!

I have made friends here.

My buddy, Alec Lopez, of Armsby Abbey and the long time favorite fixture of Worcester, the Dive Bar, has a new project in the works…something more closely rooted in his personal history, and passion—Cónico. This highly anticipated restaurant will open right in Hudson, MA, and focus on the cuisine of Mexico City, perhaps with some Argentinian flare! Expect nothing short of amazing food and drinks..if you know Armsby, then you know.

I had the pleasure of painting a 45’ mural/installation piece for the windows..a little something to evoke excitement and curiosity, and offer a tiny taste of the future. We can talk more about this later!

Where was I….. OH! Trillium

Collaboration #4 for the 48 Beer Project is Trillium Brewing Company. In all my time in the industry, just a couple hours drive north of Trillium…I had never been, so was pretty thrilled at the opportunity to see the space, and meet the people behind the scenes. I was greeted by Jonathan Tompkins…the overseer of marketing at Trillium, and Leah Martocci, a recent New Jersey transplant (bless your sweet little soul). I got the grand tour, along with JC Tetreault (owner), of the storehouse and fermentation wonderland. Holy smokes, that place will blow your mind! I had no idea (excuse my ignorance) that their production was to the level it is!

Something you IPA chasers may not be aware of, is the sour program at Trill is fantastic, and huge! Walking through the foeder forest was magical…the spiders were quick to point out the determination and patience of the chemical processes contained inside…time…organisms procreating, dying, being reborn…flavors morphing and coming of age. JC has aged hops and hops aging and lots of vision for the beer here.


I compared the space to a Costco, had it been hijacked an.d organized by a brewing expert who suffered from, or perhaps, was blessed with a real case of OCD…Esther seemed to appreciate this perspective! No surprise.. this woman is the other face of Trillium Brewing Co., and she certainly has her shit straight. Ideas and dreams don’t just get boxed and stuffed in a closet with this duo, but they are given foundation and very thoughtful planning. You can feel the vision when you visit this space (Canton), and I can only begin to imagine what the future looks like with the farm!

I can’t omit the part where Esther and I joined “trivia night”, as reluctant participants—our team- “Too Much Pressure”, put on a rather underwhelming show, as in…it turns out neither of us are good at fast recall. But hey, we enjoyed lot’s of sausage samples and deep, intellectual conversation! Her energy is attractive as this business she has built, and hopefully we will have our chance to gain some trivia dignity back! Ha!

Photo credit: Trillium Hired Hand..

The label

JC named the beer, Head Long, a West Coast style Double IPA-a first of this style for Trillium…inspired by the 48 Beer Project and all that went into making it a thing! Indeed, the planning and organizing for this project has been monumental, and that isn’t even including the three months spent building out the bus! The emotional and physical roller coaster ride of making this idea a reality, is worth every second spent on it! I was pretty honored to share a part of this brewery’s energy and aesthetic. I had the pleasure of sharing gallery space a few months back with Kevin Cimo, whose exceptional work with Trillium, as the artist/designer/creative director, is very recognizable in the industry. Kevin has a unique style, with very realistic drawings and lots of cross hatch texturing/shading. He has done a pretty awesome job at staying true to the “vibe” of the company…which he helped shape.

Getting the label done for Head Long was a bit challenging though, as my time in Mass was extremely divided, with lots of driving and social calls. Zwanze Day fell that Friday, and, naturally, I went, but it was an hour and a half’s drive back west, at Armsby. Needless to say, I got no work done that day.

After some mechanical issues were fixed on the bus, I found solitude at a coastal campground, where I was able to wrap up the artwork. Before I completed the work that you now see on the label, I had initially taken things a much different direction…image included…but quickly decided that it wasn’t right for this particular collaboration, and, thankfully, the final result was sprung from one of those crazy moments us artists sometimes have… where, after much deliberation and creative frustration (think writer’s block), something clicked and I had the art finished within the night.

I couldn’t be more thrilled with how this label turned out, and hopefully I’ll get to taste the brew inside! (hint hint…)

I could write much more about my time in Mass, but I think I’ll save that for the book!