For Michael Sharry, 26, a thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail with friends from the Berkshires after high school put him on a path that leads to living and working here.
“That hike changed my life course,” says Sharry, who decided to switch direction on his college plans after spending five-and-a-half months trekking from Maine to Georgia. He went to Green Mountain College in Vermont, where he earned a degree in sustainable agriculture and food production.
Sharry was already making beer with friends, creating unique brews with hops and other ingredients they grew themselves when he headed to Italy for a year as a winemaker’s apprentice after college. In 2014, he returned to the States knowing he wanted to put his experience into working for a distiller, preferably one located in his home state of Massachusetts. Berkshire Mountain Distillers was hiring.
Four years later, Sharry manages research and development for Berkshire Mountain Distillers as well as its farm and orchard operations. Founded in 2007 by Chris Weld, the company is a ‘grain-to-glass’ operation. Their award-winning spirits are handcrafted in small batches by a small team using ingredients sourced locally, including botanicals grown in the distillery’s own gardens under Sharry’s care and the granite-fed spring water found on the property. Innovative collaborations with other artisanal food and beverage makers in the area are helping to expand the business further, along with the creation of new flavors for their own product line.
“The Berkshires offer an opportunity to align with people who hold the same values around sustainable food production and creating change,” says Sharry. “It’s an inspiring place to be!”