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Columbia County’s Powerhouse Brewery Is a Marvel Inside an 1851 Mercantile Building

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What happens when an award-winning female brewer and a Zagat-rated chef join forces in Hillsdale? The result is Roe Jan Brewing Co.

*Open for curbside pickup daily during the COVID-19 crisis

Photos by Michael Mohr

Hillsdale paints the picture for small towns in the Hudson Valley. A dreamily serene corner near the Massachusetts border, Hillsdale is beloved by locals for its quietude and close-knit community.

So, when a brewery opens up in town, it’s understandably quite the news.

Said brewery is Roe Jan Brewing Company, and it’s not exactly “new” in the Hudson Valley. At least, the building isn’t. Officially known as the Hillsdale Mercantile Building, it dates back to 1851 and housed a medley of businesses (general stores, a shirt factory, a beer bottling business, you name it) before falling into disrepair. When Kathy and Steve Bluestone purchased it in June 2018, they had their work cut out for them to restore it to their former glory.

Steve and Kathy Bluestone

“Our building in Hillsdale is in a great location, two blocks off of Route 23, the main retail street in Hillsdale and the main east-west route connecting the Hudson Valley and the Berkshires,” Kathy, a Hillsdale resident, explains. It took 20 months for her and Steve to revitalize the structure’s historic appearance, but they brought it back to life with hard work, Steve’s background in real estate development and general contracting, and a clear vision.

Roe Jan Brewing Company opened for business at the beginning of February 2020. To say that it’s led by a dream team would not be an overstatement.

On the business end of things, the Bluestones, who drew the name for the brewery from the Roeliff Jansen Kill that flows through Hillsdale, oversee operations. When it comes to beer, however, they leave the brewing to operations manager Hayley Shine. Shine is an award-winning brewer from Chicago, but she relocated to the Hudson Valley to pursue her love of cider (she’s a cider maker, too).

Head brewer Hayley Shine

To craft her signature brews, Shine sources ingredients from the best producers possible. For Roe Jan’s Hillsner, for instance, she crafts the light, 4.9-percent ABV lager with locally grown Pilsner malt from Hudson Valley Malt in Germantown.

“That beer has a sense of place” she enthuses. While she loves all of her creations, she plans to rotate the brews on tap frequently to offer between six and ten at a time. She uses a seven-barrel Portland Kettle Works system to craft the beer and is happy to switch her style with ales, IPAs, lagers, and sours so there’s something for everyone. And by everyone, she certainly means it. In addition to beer, Roe Jan boasts a fair wine list along with Taconic Gold Cider from Little Apple Cidery in Hillsdale. Of course, if beer is what you’re after, there’s no better way to try a few of the sips on offer than with an RJBC beer flight. Guests can create their own flights, although there’s something to be said for leaving the selections in the hands of the brew team. Plus, for anyone who falls head over heels for a certain beer, the brewery offers growlers to go in both 32 oz and 64 oz cans.

The other attraction at Roe Jan Brewing Company is, unsurprisingly, the food. Chef Charles Kiely, formerly of The Grocery in Brooklyn and Sign of the Dove and Arizona 206 in New York, leads the kitchen, where he focuses on as much from-scratch preparation as possible.

Grilled romaine

“We’re dry-curing sausages for our charcuterie plate, baking sourdough bread to turn into bruschetta, and making small-batch spicy ketchup, malolactic fermented pickles, and hand-rolled buns to serve with our burgers,” he details. While meat has a place on the menu (proteins and dairy come from Kinderhook Farm in Ghent and Herondale Farm in Ancram), many of Kiely’s dishes are vegetable-driven to showcase the best of healthful, seasonal flavors. He prepares them all in the restaurant’s open kitchen, which features a Grillworks wood-fired grill for seared, smoky goodness all year long.

When it comes time to savor the brews and food, visitors can pull up a chair inside the 79-seat dining room, which boasts an octagonal bar and an assortment of café and communal tables. The space is cozy, thanks to rich wood accents and soft lighting. It’s also on the way to operation as a net-zero facility.

Roe Jan’s dining room

“With improved efficiencies in the renewable energy and battery storage fields, we have the technology to achieve net-zero energy buildings pretty much anywhere,” Steve notes. “Creating solar energy is a viable and clean option to consider for any project.”

As Roe Jan welcomes the community for a beer and a bite, it encourages everyone to reserve a table in advance to secure a spot. The brewery is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, with hours in the afternoons and evenings during the rest of the week.

Roe Jan Brewing Company
32 Anthony St, Hillsdale