Farm breweries are all the rage in the Hudson Valley. They harken back to the region’s craft beverage past. In addition, innovation through hop farming grants a window to the future.
Vosburgh Brewing Co., which opened September 2021, embodies this perfectly.
“I’m seventh generation on the farm, [and] it’s still a working apple farm,” Vosburgh Brewing co-owner Mark Stier says. Vosburgh Orchards, the Elizaville farm in question, remains family-owned since its start in 1839. In fact, a nearly 200-year-old Dutch post and beam barn houses the tasting room. “It was originally part of Livingston’s land. One of my ancestors worked for him as a land manager.”
Originally, the property served as a conventional farm, which raised dairy cows, cultivated grains, grew vegetables, etc. However, starting with Stier’s grandfather, the farm shifted focus toward apples. Currently, Arnold Vosburgh (Stier’s uncle) grows about eight different apple varieties. A commercial fruit farm, Vosburgh Orchards ships apples anywhere from Florida to Canada. Stier, along with his wife Hope and children Ryan and Ella, helps Arnold with this operation.
Further, their apples recently fueled small-batch ciders. Tyler Graham, who owns Kings Highway Fine Cider in Millerton, makes a cider called “Arnie’s Orchard Cider” out of the Columbia County fruit. Some of those apple trees are over 100 years old.
“It’s made from Idared, Mutsu, Sheepnose, Golden Delicious, and Greening. This last year, we’ve planted a bunch of old French and American-English varietals of cider apples. So, we threw a few of those in there as well,” Stier continues. Arnie’s is an English-style dry cider. With a bold 6.9-percent ABV, notes of caramel and an intense fruit profile round out the cider.
Of course, the heritage apple cider isn’t Vosburgh’s first craft beverage project.
Before Sloop Brewing Co. moved to the Factory at iPark 84 in East Fishkill, it launched in the 1800s Dutch barn in Elizaville.
“Adam Watson used to work for me. He’s a geologist, and I’m in geotechnical engineering (and a professional geologist). So, he and his partner, Justin, would make [The Red C] and bring it to the lab, and we’d all sample it,” Stier recalls. His day job is at Tectonic engineering.
Back in 2013, Watson and his team were ready to take the leap from home brewing and farmers’ markets. Stier mentioned the barn at Vosburgh Orchards, and invited the crew up for a visit. It was a pristine fall day when they came to scope out the property. Above all, the breathtaking foliage won them over.
Sloop Brewing Co. launched its beloved New England IPAs soon after. Initially, the brand planned on staying for five years. Yet the nationwide success of Juice Bomb led the team to outgrow the space in about two and a half years. The 30-barrel stainless steel system barely fit in the barn. Once they moved the brewing system to East Fishkill, Sloop kept a tasting room in Elizaville for a bit longer.
“So, it was decided that we would shut down this barn tasting room,” Stier says. He, his wife, and Arnie are still shareholders in Sloop Brewing Co. When Sloop left, “that gave us the opportunity to do Vosburgh Brewing. We had an empty barn that was kind of ready to go.”
In addition, Stier planted hops onsite in 2014. Vosburgh Orchard’s half-acre hopyard grows Hudson Valley Cascades, Centennials, and Nuggets. Prior to launching the new brewery, Mark and Hope Stier collaborated with Kieran Farrell, managing partner at award-winning Gun Hill Brewing in the Bronx, to make a wet hop pale ale with the homegrown hops. Vosburgh Brewing was founded on the heels of this first successful collaboration. Farrell and Mark Stier has met eight years prior through a mutual friend and, in 2019, Kieran was looking to set new roots in the Hudson Valley and start a new craft beer venture on a farm. The rest is history, so to speak, as they created a new partnership in Vosburgh Brewing.
“Kieran Farrell, with his passion for craft beer and his commitment to excellence in everything he does at Gun Hill Brewing, was the perfect partner for our new craft brewery,” Stier notes.
Kieran Farrell, now co-owner at Vosburgh Brewing, is essential to the Vosburgh Brewing team. Beyond lending his expertise and experience in the beer world, Farrell and his team at Gun Hill serve as Vosburgh’s brewing facility for the time being. The Vosburgh brewery trio recently purchased a 10-barrel system and four 10-barrel fermenters. Their own brew system should be installed and up and running in Elizaville by early summer 2022.
Plus, Gun Hill beers round out the taproom selection. Vosburgh Brewing serves around four Bronx-based beverages at a time. The taproom features 10 total taps, the majority of which carry Vosburgh brews.
“2021 was our best year ever for hops. We got about 200 pounds of pelletized dried hops, and we are making our own beer with it. It’s a Helles-style lager called Elizaville. And, it’s made with 100-percent New York State ingredients,” Stier enthuses.
This lager sits at a very crushable 5.5-percent ABV. In addition to Elizaville hops, this beer also features malt from Hudson Valley Malt in Germantown. Vosburgh Brewing scored a large enough hop harvest to produce it quarterly.
Two beers will always grace the Vosburgh Brewing tap selection: Terra and How Lucky.
Terra (4.5-percent ABV) features Hallertau Blanc hops. These neo-noble hops from Germany bring a mild flavor. As a result, Terra has the crisp, clean taste of a pilsner with a subtle presence of hops.
On the other hand, How Lucky (6.5-percent ABV) is loaded with hops. In fact, the New England-style IPA is double dry-hopped with Amarillo, Citra, and Mosaic. Find tropical fruit notes along with very prevalent white peach and apricot flavors. Vosburgh Brewing sources pellets from places like New Zealand, Australia, and the American West Coast.
Similarly, Vosburgh Brewing has several beers in the works. First, there’s an unnamed Biere de Garde resting on oak in the Dutch barn. Experimenting, they mixed two different batches with different concentrations of apples from the farm.
Then, there’s an IPA called Silvernails. Its name comes from the old Silvernails train station just outside of Elizaville, where two old trainlines crossed. The well-balanced and very hoppy IPA is not exactly hazy. In fact, it’s quite clear.
Finally, Vosburgh brews Boompah imperial stout, a beer with sentimental values.
“We named after my grandfather. And it’s kind of a tribute to him. It’s an Imperial stout at 10-percent ABV, and we aged it on oak rum barrels. The last beer in there was a barleywine, which adds a bit of spice,” Stier explains.
As a part of the renovation process, Vosburgh Brewing opened the entire back of the barn (which used to be grain storage for Sloop) to expand the tasting room. In addition to a bigger tap system and new appliances, the team installed a kitchen.
Instead of building a culinary program from the ground up, Vosburgh Brewing invites local chefs for pop-ups out of the kitchen space. Wilson and Nadia Costa of Misto served up their signature Brazilian-Ukrainian fusion for the entire month of March 2022.
According to Hope Stier, future pop-ups include Cousins Maine Lobster Food Truck, Chef Matty Fraiman the Hudson Valley Food Dude, the Aloha Taco Girls, NOSH Food Truck from Kinderhook, This and That from Hudson, and a few local bakers. Of course, Vosburgh always offers Hudson Valley cured meats and cheeses alongside fresh Bavarian pretzels.
In a similar vein, don’t miss Hope Stier’s lovely u-pick flower program. From mid-July until the first frost of the season, pick blooming sunflowers, zinnia, dahlias, snapdragons, and many more right next to the brewery. On a clear spring day, pollinators like bees and butterflies can be seen throughout the beds. Grab flowers by the jar, ranging from $3 for a small arrangement to $10 for a large. You get as many flowers as you can fit in the container, and the farm even takes Venmo.
Stay tuned on social media for event announcements, as Vosburgh Brewing plans to hold two large festivals per year. Join the brewery for live music every Sunday. Local bands perform in the spacious taproom during the cold-weather season and outdoors in the spring, summer, and fall. Firepits, picnic tables, Adirondack chairs, cornhole, and a window for food service invite families and friends to enjoy the scenic orchard property.
“When Sloop was here, we had bands on Sundays and it was such a fun time that we decided to keep that tradition going with the locals. They love it. And people come from all over to see good music and enjoy our beer,” Stier says.