Kevin Mullen makes beer. His wife, Jenny Kemp, makes art. Together, they have made Rare Form Brewing Company, which combines their passions in tasty and tasteful ways. The couple opened the Troy brewery in May 2014 after a peripatetic lifestyle that took them from their native Colorado and Wisconsin, respectively, to Seattle and then Albany, where Kemp, 36, earned her MFA in painting at SUNY Albany. Mullen, 38, was a dedicated home brewer, and they decided to hang their decorative shingle in Troy. “It’s a walkable town with a big artistic community, so all the pieces came together,” Mullen says.
They chose the word “rare” to connote his small-batch, uniquely flavored recipes, and “form” to connote her artwork, which explores line and form. “We both love art and think beer, in a way, is a form of art as well,” he says. Indeed, Kemp designs many of the labels and posters that decorate their taproom, and she invites some of her artistic friends to contribute as well; their posters are available for purchase on their website.
Mullen’s five-barrel system keeps five main beers in regular rotation: Sabbatical Session Ale, Cascadia Double IPA, Wee Plaid Scottish Ale, Karass Robust Porter, and Satan’s Gut Oak-Aged Imperial Stout — named after a Colorado River rapid that he rode during his days as a whitewater rafting guide. He supplements these with seasonal options that suit his whim and sense of experimentation. Mullen features local ingredients as much as possible, and likes to experiment with unusual flavorings and ingredients, like the wild Brettanomyces yeast he uses in his Black IPA. “Everything is open for us to play around with,” he says, “and we brew what we think will be great beer.”
And in a nod to his roots as a home brewer, he started the Scale Up project in which he and his team sample homemade beers and choose one that they allow the neophyte to brew on their system and serve in their room. “It’s fun to have your beer on tap and enjoy it with people besides just your friends,” he says.
Don’t miss: Royal Toasted Coconut Cream Ale, aged with real toasted coconut
Fun fact: the Karass Robust Porter is named for author Kurt Vonnegut, who wrote his novel Cat’s Cradle while living in Troy and coined the term karass to mean a group of cosmically linked but otherwise unfamiliar people — like beer connoisseurs.