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Honey Hollow Brewing Co. Crafts Small-Batch Beers in the Catskills

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Photo courtesy of Donna Taormina

The owner of Greene County’s first farm brewery turns a 30-year hobby into a thriving beer business in the Hudson Valley.

Homemade and homegrown is the name of the game here in the Hudson Valley. At any local farmer’s market, small businesses and farms put their goods on display for an abundance of visitors and neighbors who come for New York’s best. 

Matty Taormina, owner of Honey Hollow Brewing Company in Earlton, is a Catskills farmers market superstar.

With such a vast community of booming craft breweries throughout the Hudson Valley, it can take a lot to launch a new fan-favorite brewery—and even more to maintain its popularity.  Honey Hollow stands out with an authentic “family” feel and a brewing process that has been perfected for three decades. 

 

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It was all in the cards for Taormina. He began practicing his craft 30 years ago while working for a railroad company, using his free time to perfect his brews. When the railroad faced financial difficulties, he spent more time brushing up on everything malt and hops.

“That one year, I bought a book by Charlie Papazian, and I started making home brews with a buddy of mine,” he says. “Since then, I haven’t stopped.”

Papazian wrote several home-brew guides in the 1980s, and his words inspired an entire generation of brewers. With guidance from a legend of the beverage industry and help from his wife, Donna, a master gardener, Taormina turned a fun experiment into Greene County’s first farm brewery. 

 

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Farm breweries, as designated by New York State, produce beers with locally sourced ingredients. In 2012, New York State passed several laws supporting local breweries and wineries in the form of a tax benefit. This opened doors for small business owners and  generated new jobs for farmers. It even sparked a drastic increase in the agritourism industry, a staple of the Hudson Valley today.

This law allowed small breweries to open restaurants, sell their products in other stores, and gave them a $150 tax exemption, where other big businesses would have to pay for their brand label to be sold. 

When Taormina and his wife learned of the news, they immediately jumped at the opportunity. Honey Hollow opened its doors in 2013. The Hudson Valley brewery cultivates its own hops right on the premises, as New York’s Farm Brewery bill requires 60 percent of hops and 60 percent of other ingredients in local craft beers to be locally sourced to secure a brewing license. 

 

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Making beer in a hop-and-grain-to-glass style offers its own set of challenges. For this reason, Honey Hollow only brews about three special batches per year from its own homegrown hops. 

“Leaf hops are difficult. They don’t last as long as pelletized hops. Even though we don’t have a lot, it’s time-consuming to take them all down,” Taormina says. “Plus, then they have to be dried and all of that…it’s quite a bit of labor.” 

 

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However, the farm-fresh beer draws guests from all over the state — and the world. Taormina has even hosted guests from as far as  Mexico and Japan. People visit the bucolic two-barrel brewery just to watch the process. Plus, homebrewing enthusiasts can even pick their own hops to try their hand at making their own beers, just like Taormina once did.

With nine beers on tap during business hours, the farm brewery partners with Chatham Brewery to feature additional local beers as well. Some of Honey Hollow’s signature creations include fan-favorite Hurricane Pale Ale, an Irish malt called Ruby Red, and Angry Trout IPA, made with mosaic hops. 

 

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“I say I probably have about 16 beers that we make,” says Taormina. Of course, some are limited edition. One of his most unique beers is the Revolutionary Ale, made from an ingredients list belonging to Thomas Jefferson. It includes blackstrap molasses, malted wheat, oats, and malted barley. Be sure to check out Honey Hollow in the summer, because the Revolutionary Ale is only around for the Independence Day holiday. 

Taormina still has plenty of tricks up his sleeve, including experimenting with his signature Smash Orange. It features a single malt and single hop pale ale, with a Grand Marnier and orange zest tincture mixed in for a sweet citrusy flavor. 

 

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That’s not all Honey Hollow has to offer. Taormina’s wife’s garden is a focal point for guests. Visitors can play a game of bocce ball on the court and enjoy the views of the farm and a nice cold ale from the picnic area. 

Although the Taormina family has taken a break from the Coxsackie Farmers Market in 2020, they’re eager to return and continue engaging with the Catskill community. They are still open for business on Fridays and Saturdays, when visitors can come for beer tastings and flatbread pizzas. 

Above all, expect farm-fresh ales and gorgeous Hudson Valley scenery. After all, what’s better than a bit of “brews and views” on a pristine day?

Related: Old Factory Brewing Company Revitalizes a Historic Cairo Bottling Plant