Photos courtesy of Foreign Objects
Hudson Valley beer has come a long way from the early days of Budweiser and Miller Lite. No longer a stale, tasteless ocean of supermarket-style alcohol, the local craft beverage scene thrives as innovative breweries delight an increasingly knowledgeable audience with new flavors, methods, and partnerships. Yet with so many breweries on the horizon nowadays, how does one pick the shooting star amid a sky full of sparklers?
Foreign Objects can help with that. Since 2017, the brewer-owned company has forged a distinct path along the crowded terrain of northeastern breweries. Led by co-owner and Director of Brewing Operations Steven D’Eva, the brand carves an identity that is simultaneously fluid and concrete, that prioritizes creativity just as much as it considers concept, and that hybridizes innovation and history into each and every can.
Let’s start with the labels. On the shelf, the can design is impossible not to notice. Often water-colored and always emotive, they’re the result of the combined creative vision of D’Eva, a formal professional chef, and Seattle-based artist Molly Dolan. D’Eva begins by approaching Dolan with one of his own artistic works, then discusses the colors, concept, and textures he’d like to see on the can. From there, Dolan uses his visions to construct corresponding designs.
“Each can is an original piece of hand-painted art, which was one of the original concepts that I was unwilling to compromise,” admits D’Eva. “The labels for our line of lagers are all handmade cyanotype prints made with a variety of leaves and plants.”
Natural at their core, the can designs bridge the connection between the beer names and the brews themselves. Their eye-catching, powerful illustrations hint at the taste to come while hearkening back to the identity of Foreign Objects as a whole. Many of them make a nod to astrology, a topic which remains at the conceptual forefront for D’Eva and Foreign Objects.
“[Making those designs] is sort of like an internal homage and an offering of my own creative input that it may be added in some small way to the massive power of that thought-energy [of thousands of years of human astrological analysis],” D’Eva reveals. Deep though the meaning may be, the artistry catches the eye regardless of whether or not drinkers are aware of the symbolism behind it. The cyanotype lager prints enchant with the slightly haunting echoes of leaves and flowers, while the cryptic, somewhat dreamy images on cans like Sol in Gemini and Venus Rising entice viewers to sample what’s inside.
Speaking of what’s inside, it’s either going to be a New-American Hoppy Ale or a Neo-German Ungespundet-style lager. In regard to the first, Foreign Objects prefers to call them “New-American” instead of “New England-style” in order to break from the notion that New England IPAs are devoid of hop bittering and dryness.
“[The New England term} has come to be used to stylize beers which are sickly sweet and unbalanced with muted aromatic characteristics in lieu of focusing instead on emulating thick, sweet fruit juice, and we do not make our hoppy beers in that way,” D’Eva explains. “We focus on that beautiful, juicy, fruit character without making our beers diabetic-sweet or sacrificing any of the intense, fruity, earthy, resinous aromatics or clean, full hop character in the final beer.”
As for the lagers, their inspiration takes root in the historical origins of brewing and the means that were used to create those first frothy brews. To create its German-style concoctions, Foreign Objects lagers its beers at warmer temperatures without applying pressure to the tank before the final carbonation stage. The result is a nuanced pour that entices with deeper, naturalistic flavors that pay genuine homage to its predecessors.
Intrigued? You should be. The New Paltz-based brand is enchanting in the best way, with beautiful art that complements the beer inside without ever overshadowing it. For D’Eva, the beer and the art are partners, serving as a combined creative outlet that allows him to express himself as an artist.
“I had to bring [my art] into this really time-consuming part of my life,” he says of his decision to incorporate his designs into his beer brand. If his success so far is any indication, he certainly made the right decision. Since debuting in 2017, Foreign Objects has developed quite the cult following in the New York area. As a contract brewing company, it currently produces at breweries in Connecticut and Pennsylvania, then works with distributors like Remarkable Liquids to distribute the 400 to 700 barrels of beer that it churns out each month.
Because the brand works with an independent distributor, it does not have control over where its beer goes. That being said, all finer bars and craft beer retailers in New York should have access to it whenever a new batch releases, D’Eva explains.
“The best way to find our beer is to call your local shops or bars and ask if they have Foreign Objects beer available and, if they don’t, feel free to ask them for it,” he says.
If all goes well in 2019, he and Foreign Objects will have a brick-and-mortar to call home in Monroe. The company recently signed a lease on a cozy 1,400-square-foot space in Orange County that it plans to transform into a home base for special can releases and three themed beer lines that will be exclusive to that location. The first, called the Fetish Culture line, will feature fruited, milkshake-type IPAs in flavors like cherry-blueberry clafoutis and coconut boba tea. The Inversion Line, meanwhile, will spotlight fruity, soured, milkshake-style IPAs such as coconut limeade, sour peach meringue, and strawberry lemonade. As for the third line, Transgression Culture stands out with intensified versions of the brand’s popular beers. Wetter Gravity is a “triple” version of Foreign Objects’ Wet Gravity IPA, while Blueberry Cobbler Imperial Stout is a 12 percent stout brewed with cinnamon graham-cracker crumbs and blueberry puree.
While those admittedly over-the-top beers will feature prominently at the upcoming Monroe location, D’Eva assures that the brand’s signature New American IPAs and lagers will be available as well.
“If you come by for a crazy beer full of lactose and fruit pulp and…happen to want a beautiful, old-world Ungespundet Helles lager, you can leave with that as well,” he notes.
Until the Monroe spot opens (stay tuned to the Foreign Objects Facebook page for more details), D’Eva plans to keep doing his artsy, hoppy thing. He’ll also be dropping new records with his two bands, Destroying Angel and Luminance, both of which will head off on small tours around the Valley and upstate later this year.
While Foreign Objects’ upcoming plans remain largely under wraps, D’Eva hints at collaborations with other breweries and upcoming releases of oak-fermented, mixed-culture saisons, which he describes as his true brewing passion. If the planets (ahem, distribution systems) align, the brand’s lagers may even make their way across the country through nationwide distribution.
Further ahead, Foreign Objects may eventually settle in Boston or Philadelphia, where D’Eva is originally from, if and when it opens a namesake brewery. For now, though, he and his team are happy to be headquartered in the Hudson Valley. Who knows? If all goes well in Monroe, they very well might never leave.