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Return Brewing Produces Crisp Pilsners and Experimental Ales in Hudson

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Photos courtesy of Return Brewing

In Hudson, Return Brewing unites four New York beer vets through a creative craft beverage program, with a taproom opening in 2022.

A Hudson Valley homecoming means the world to Columbia County’s newest brewing team.

Return Brewing aims to open its first taproom in Hudson, just a short stroll off Warren St, by mid-2022.

“I grew up in Coxsackie, and I’ve always been dreaming of coming back to the area to start a brewery,” Mikey Lenane, Return Brewing co-founder says. He—alongside head brewer JD Linderman and creative director Jack Liakas—started his career in the craft beverage industry at Brooklyn’s Six Point Brewing. Between them, the Return Brewing team has over two decades of experience.

“Conditions are right, tastes for craft beer are exploding, and the city of Hudson is a beautiful cultural nexus. But it doesn’t have that many craft breweries around, so it fits our collective vison perfectly.”

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Return Brewing founding team (from left to right): Bob Wise, JD Linderman, Jack Liakas, and Mikey Lenane

Linderman began as an apprentice at Six Point, and slowly built his way up to lead brewer. He oversaw production at the Red Hook facility in what’s historically known as South Brooklyn. There, he and Lenane fell in love with European-style farmhouse ales and other unique brewing methods. For instance, Scandinavian brewers infuse spruce or juniper into the water they use for the mash, delivering ales with added depth of flavor. Linderman experimented with bold ingredients and rediscovered old-world techniques.

“We were kind of the engine that was driving that innovation for several years, and that’s the best part of my experience there. I was able to be extremely creative. It really jumpstarted my career as a brewer,” Linderman recalls. 

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Polished Pilsner

According to Bob Wise, the fourth co-founder of Return Brewing, the team started looking for a building as early as March 2020. They searched throughout the northern Catskills, but, during the pandemic, it was difficult to identify a town in Greene or Columbia County for their brewery. Most importantly, the property had a “number of boxes it needed to check off,” chief of which was that it needed to be located in a vibrant, up-and-coming town.

Enter, Hudson. At the brewery’s future home on Columbia St, the craft beverage destination will have plenty of production space, along with the high ceilings required for a truly welcoming tap room and event venue. Outside, there is even ample space for an cozy beer garden. Return Brewing plans to host food trucks just off the street as well. If all goes to plan, the brewery will be a spot Hudson Valley beer lovers return to time and time again.

Part of the brewery’s fun, brand messaging involves sparking “nostalgia for a place you’ve never been before,” creative director Liakas says. Return Brewing’s logo emulates this feeling cleverly. It depicts an old stone staircase ascending toward a starry night sky.

“And I remember getting real inspiration when I was looking at this old book about castles in Germany. There was this book I was looking at featuring the castles of Germany. I wanted to nod to the rich history of brewing in Europe, and in Germany specifically. So, there was this really romantic image that came to my mind of a staircase leading to this place you just have to go explore,” he continues. “Return Brewing was our name from the beginning. There’s so many different ways you can you can spin our name, but what I really loved about it was it created this sort of mystical feeling.”

If you look closely, you’ll notice each step has visible wear and divots from footsteps. Certainly, it’s a well-worn passageway that many people have passed through. Return Brewing hopes to see just as many visitors after it opens next year. In fact, its first few beer releases are already on tap at Half Moon, Governor’s Tavern, and Main Street Public House in Hudson. In addition, beer lovers can grab a pint of Return Brewing’s flagship pilsner at Green Growler in Croton and Underground Coffee and Ales in Highland. DeCicco’s and Beer World locations throughout the Valley also carry the new line.

Return Brewing plans to release beers under three main “pillars,” dubbed tavern beers, garden beers, and archive. The first two beers, Polished Pilsner and Heathenous Double IPA, fall under the tavern group. To clarify, tavern beers should be accessible, easy to drink, and full of flavorful hops. Under this pillar, Return Brewing utilizes Linderman’s knack for creating highly crushable craft beers.

“Polished Pilsner is a modern German Pilsner. So, it’s very clean on the back end. We’ve worked really really hard to control the fermentation process so it’s really clean. A family farm in Germany grew the hops,” explains Lenane. While working at Six Point, the team formed a network of hop growers spanning continents. Hopfengut Farm in Tettnang, Germany, provided the unique Tettnanger hops for Polished Pilsner. These balanced hops are less grassy and vegetal, imparting floral notes. The resulting beer tastes clean and crisp with a dry finish. “It’s easy to drink many of them.”

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Heathenous Hazy Double India Pale Ale

Next, there’s the Heathenous DIPA. This hazy, 8% ABV ale showcases famous Sauvin hops from New Zealand. Susan Wheeler of Hop Revolution grew these particularly aromatic pellets.

“Susan’s hops are beautifully processed and they have have this white wine-gooseberry quality with tropical undertones. Nelson is an incredibly complex hop that can live on its own. So, we thought that we could really open some eyes by really showcasing it at a very high level of dry hopping,” Lenane explains. He and Liakas give insight onto this beer’s striking name and label. Hazy IPAs such as Heathenous are fairly short-lived, at they’re best when they’re fresh. This particular beer is in its prime for 13 weeks. Subsequently, the Return Brewing team wants fans to embrace that, and enjoy the beer while it lasts.

“The thought of lustfully enjoying something came to mind. Even if it’s a little bad for you, you’re fully into it. So, we have this pagan/druid character, being one with nature in a natural habitat, putting you in this mystical moment,” Liakas says. All good things come to an end, so revel in the moment.

Return Brewing has not started producing beers from its facility in Hudson just yet. Right now, Linderman teams up with Crossroads Brewing in Greene County to launch these first few tavern beers.

With garden beers, the second pillar of Return Brewing, he aims to highlight the Hudson Valley’s rich bounty. He’ll focus on using local fruits, grains, and herbs. Then, the team will process them in-house for added quality control. Of course, many of these garden beers will be sours or fruited ales. In addition to being terroir-driven, they’ll also take a “drinking by the season” approach. Return Brewing has already partnered with several farms in Greene and Columbia counties, with more in talks to supply future ingredients.

Lastly, there’s the archive pillar. Creativity runs wild with these releases, permitting Linderman and co. to realize their wildest brewing dreams. Return Brewing has several wild-fermented, texture-controlled libations planned, along with high-ABV barrel-aged beers (including an imperial-style barley wine). The team revives “primitive” fermentation techniques, using their in-house fruit puree as the live culture. Essentially, they’ll ferment local fruit and then mix it in with a grain or sugar source, pasteurize it, and blend it into a clean, aged beer.

“We can add that complexity, but in a stable way. Someone could actually keep these in their cellar and not worry about them exploding,” Lenane says, laughing. They’re also exploring the theory of whole-hive mead. Modern mead-making mostly relies on pure honey, which doesn’t contain all of the necessary nutrients for yeast to really thrive. By harvesting royal jelly, beeswax, and propolis, among other matter, from the hive, the Return team hopes to make a healthier ferment and a stronger mead. 

When Return Brewing’s taproom opens to the public early next year, beer aficionados can sample many of the team’s experiments with unique styles. For now, try the highly drinkable Tavern beers from several Hudson Valley pubs and craft beverage retailers.

Related: These 10 Trendsetting Breweries Lead the Hudson Valley Beer Scene

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