If you had any doubt that beer is good business these days, consider the case of Angela’s Italian Bistro and Brewery in Catskill: The restaurant has been around for more than three decades. It has a devoted following who love the family-style pastas and pizzas. Everyone knows the LoBianco family who owns the joint, including mama Angela, its namesake.
And that’s all being replaced — by the brewery that the family started just three years ago.
Now known as Rip Van Winkle Brewing Company, it joins the ever-growing number of Hudson Valley establishments that put beer first. Owner Joey LoBianco has rebranded the whole operation, built a new website, and altered the menu. “We are embracing the Rip Van Winkle name,” he says. “We are changing the focus a little bit, more to capture a wider audience. We want to be known as a food and beer place, not just an Italian place.” He calls the move a “gradual steering of the ship. We have a deep history and don’t want too much of a shock. There may be a little confusion out there, but it will take care of itself and we will be good.”
They haven’t exactly been hiding their beer, he says — along with serving it at Angela’s, “Our beer has been going out of the building to other bars and restaurants.” In the last year or so, however, LoBianco, who also owns Hyde Park Brewing Company, has expanded the brewing facility, adding 30 barrels of fermentation and storage, plus a bigger chiller, walk-in box, and keg washer. Head brewer Colin Coan crafts eight different styles of beer, of which three or four will be marketed to other venues.
LoBianco is “big on naming beers,” he says, reflecting the history of Catskill and the region. “It’s important, when you are developing a regular clientele, that they have sense of ownership, that ‘this is my beer, I drink my beer in my town.’” Thus, you can order a Kiskatom Brown Ale, a Rip Van Wit, a Palenville Pale Ale, and a Kaaterskill Krush Double IPA. Playing to Catskill’s glory days as a boxing mecca, he also offers the Iron Mits Stout, Brawler Black Ale, Bare Knuckle Stout, an oyster stout called Shucker Punch, and a Peek-A-Boo Porter, named after the fighting style that legendary trainer Cus D’Amato taught his fighters, including Mike Tyson.
The menu will continue to feature some of the Italian dishes that diners have loved over the years. “We will still have nuances of Angela’s on the inside, and some menu items still have her name on it, staples that have been around for years, including pizza,” LoBianco says. But he is adding more pub-style offerings, from crab cakes and soft pretzels to steak and seafood entrees — “With an Italian influence, of course,” he is quick to amend.
If you think the family is sad about this new course, think again. “My parents have always been open-minded about things,” LoBianco says. “They are willing to change with the times.” What about the eponymous Angela? “She is OK with the name change,” LoBianco says. “Beer has been good to us.”
Closed Mondays. Open 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Tues–Sat.; 9 a.m.–9 p.m. Sun;
4545 NY Route 32, Catskill; 518.678.9275; www.ripvanwinklebrewery.com