Birdsall House in Peekskill
Photo by Enormous Creative
Top 10 new brews, the best places to grab a bite and a beer, two beverage trails to try — plus the future of the industry.
– Head to These Hudson Valley Gastropubs –
Crossroads Brewing Company
While their Catskill taproom relies on food trucks to satisfy hungry customers, Crossroads’ Athens location whips up scratch-made food perfect for pairing with their 10 taps. Salads are available for those who want to keep it healthy, but with the emphasis on gourmet comfort food, temptation may prove irresistible. At this brewpub, the beer makes its way into everything from the pulled pork to the meatloaf. But if you’re set on having a pint of the stuff, don’t forget that on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 4-6 p.m., you can get a beer for just $4 (try their New Normal Northeastern IPA).
The Dutch Ale House
A recently updated fixture of the Saugerties community, The Dutch Ale House retained the original menu’s greatest hits like The Harvest sandwich, but also injected the offerings with new riffs like their house-made sausage, served with IPA mustard and caraway sauerkraut. Chef Jonathan Botta brings Southern sensibility and refined techniques to his menu, which runs the gamut from shrimp and grits to his out-of-this-world pastrami beef rib. The tap list, a selection of more than 15 beers, is heavily weighted with Hudson Valley brews. Keep an eye out for tickets to their beer-pairing dinners, which they host with a local brewery four times a year.
Mill House Brewing Company
This big-box Poughkeepsie mainstay continues to deliver top-shelf brews and food six-and-a-half years after opening. Ordinarily, a restaurant serving St. Louis Ribs alongside branzino a la plancha might be cause for concern — a little too ambitious for everything to be executed properly, right? Not at Mill House. Somehow, Executive Chef Danny Crocco curates a sprawling menu with emphasis on house-smoked meats, inventive entrees, and classic sandwiches where almost everything hits its mark: pork schnitzel, ramen, bahn mi sausage, Fig and Pig pizza, and Dr. Pepper brisket with Brussels sprouts slaw. Love one of the beers you ordered? Ask for a crowler to-go and they’ll can it for you on site.
Sloop Brewing Company
You might as well call Sloop’s Juice Bomb “The Rock” because like Dwayne Johnson, this beer is everywhere. But not without reason: hazy and juicy, with a touch of bitterness, it packs a little extra punch at 6.5 percent ABV. But there’s much more to Sloop than just Juice Bomb. At The Factory in East Fishkill, there are about a dozen beers on tap, so you can sip on some other Sloop creations. Equally exciting is their food menu. Burgers, pizza, and tacos comprise the heavy hitters at The Factory, and each category has playful riffs like a peanut butter bacon burger, a mortadella pizza, and brisket tacos. For offbeat offerings, check out the “Other Stuff” section of the menu, home to fried chicken, Dan Dan noodles, and a quinoa bowl.
Rip Van Winkle Brewing Company
For more than 30 years, this spot was known as Angela’s, but under its new name and business model, Rip Van Winkle Brewing Company marries an in-house brewery with a sprawling menu of Italian food, not least of which is their selection of decadent pizzas like prosciutto with roasted garlic and arugula, shrimp scampi, and the Menza-Menza — half pizza, half calzone. You name it, they’ve got it at this Best of Hudson Valley-winning restaurant. The kitchen team also branches out beyond lasagna and fettuccine alfredo with buffalo chicken mac ’n’ cheese and bourbon glazed pork tenderloin.
Equilibrium’s gorgeous new space on South Street boasts 24 tap lines, a maximum indoor capacity of 150 guests, and an outdoor patio with fire pits; but perhaps most exciting is their 3000 lb smoker. The apparatus anchors their new food program, Equilibrium Bonfire, which unites beer and barbecue under one roof. Expect tender brisket, juicy pulled pork, and gargantuan beef ribs alongside live-fire-grill creations like Yakitori grilled chicken skewers and wood fired Brussels sprouts with smoked chili oil and beer cheese.
This 42-seat restaurant on Main Street in Warwick is well known for its beer-pairing dinners, which it’s hosted for the past nine years. Chef and owner Eddie Cullari has developed a menu that doesn’t rely on greasy grub to satisfy its customers (although that’s certainly an option for those who want it). Where else would you find the Goat Berry burger, with goat cheese, cranberry relish, and arugula? Even the mac ’n’ cheese at Eddie’s is next level, a gooey five-cheese mix with toasted panko breadcrumbs and optional add-ons of shrimp and buffalo chicken. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to try the ramen, a passion project that Cullari perfected over the course of four years.
Sister to ever-popular Gleason’s on South Street, Birdsall House is a cozy spot where much of the menu is available all day, so there’s no second-class selection if you go for lunch. Burgers and comfort food are the focus here, but not without flairs like the vegan-friendly seitan gyro, or the not-so-vegan friendly Cubano with three different cuts of pork pressed with Chaseholm Farm’s Gruyere cheese. Of course, come dinner time, there are some special additions like blackened salmon or a smoked-pork rice bowl. No matter what you order, it all goes well with the beers on tap and live music in the beer garden.
Melzingah Tap House
A relative newcomer to Beacon, Melzingah Tap House boast 23 taps loaded with trendy beer from the likes of Talea Beer Co. in Brooklyn, but not without appearances by locals like Industrial Arts and Kings Court Brewing Company. As far as food, Melzingah doesn’t disappoint with miso-marinated salmon with spicy bok choy and mussels and sausage with a toasted baguette. But if you’re not in the mood for meat, don’t worry — Melzingah carries the elusive Impossible Burger.
The People’s Pub
This hangout on Chatham’s Main Street always has something going on, whether it’s live music, dance parties, or one of their pop-up dinners. With 16 beers on tap and plenty more in bottles or cans, The People’s Pub is truly a populist’s paradise. Its menu of delectable dishes includes pan-seared duck breast with polenta, grilled rack of lamb, and tagliatelle Bolognese. For those just looking to snack, there’s small plates like stuffed mushrooms and rotkohl, a German sweet-and-sour red cabbage salad with apples. Don’t forget to follow the Pub on social media so you can stay up to date on Oyster Thursdays, their once-a-month event where they sell $1 oysters until they’re all gone.
– Craft Beverage Day Trips –
What better way to spend a day than taking a tour on a beverage trail. Here are two of our favorites to the north.
Catskill Beverage Trail
One of the smaller trails in the region, the Catskill Beverage Trail is the perfect day tour of the breweries and wineries in Greene County. And if you’re making a weekend of it, be sure to visit Hudson, just a short drive across the river.
Crossroads Brewing Co. – Athens Brewpub
For those who like their beer with a seasonal menu of locally sourced food, Crossroads’ Brewpub in historic Athens is an obvious stop. Housed in a renovated Opera House, the brewpub makes their burgers with grass-fed beef from Kilcoyne Farms, and their beers hold awards from New York State, the World Beer Cup, and the Great American Beer Festival.
Honey Hollow Brewing Co.
A hidden gem among hidden gems, Honey Hollow is “sub-nano,” producing an extremely limited quantity of beer with New York State ingredients and hops from their own garden. To reach the brewery, follow the Honey Hollow Brewing Co. sign off 376 Honey Hollow Road. If you reach an idyllic garden and shed that looks more like a milk barn than a brewery, you’re in the right place.
Rip Van Winkle Brewing Company
Viva Italia! In 2014, the LoBianco family added a brewing system to the long-running Angela’s family restaurant, and Rip Van Winkle Brewing Company was born. Today, the brewery offers eight homemade beers, as well as a menu of hearty Italian cuisine.
West Kill Brewing
West Kill Brewing provides a true taste of Upstate New York in a glass, with beers that include local maple sap, honey harvested from on-site hives, cherries from their own orchards, and clean mountain water. Located on a 127-acre dairy farm in the heart of the Catskills, it’s the perfect place to show up with a family or group of friends. Try Thicket, an IPA brewed with wild berries, or Brookie, a lager brewed with New York State Iroquois white dent corn from the Mohawk Valley.
West Kill, www.westkillbrewing.com
For a change from beer, visit the recently renovated Hudson-Chatham Winery in Tannersville, which serves some of the region’s most impressive reds. The 2014 Middlehope Casscles Vineyards Baco Noir received a 91 from Wine Enthusiast, and the 2014 Columbia County Pinot Noir got a 90. Also available from Hudson-Chatham are Hudson Valley cheeses and local farm products, so grab a bottle of wine, stock up on provisions, and head into the mountains for a picnic.
Capital Craft Beverage Trail
While most beverage media focuses on the breweries in the Lower Hudson Valley that are easily accessible from New York City, the Capital Craft Beverage Trail highlights more than 50 producers in Columbia and Greene counties, in and around Albany, and up to Lake George. This includes beer as well as mead, cider, wine, and spirits. Go in the summer to take advantage of the warm-weather activities the area has to offer, like camping, hiking, and fishing.
R.S. Taylor & Sons Brewery
Head to downtown Saratoga Springs to catch a horse race, an opera performance, and a farm-to-glass beer from the R.S. Taylor & Sons Taproom. For the more adventurous, take the 45-minute drive northeast to Misty Bleu Farm, which houses the actual brewery. Perfect for an intrepid couple, because what’s more romantic than drinking a beer on 50 acres of fields, hardwood stands, and protected wetlands?
Saratoga Springs, www.rstaylorbeer.com
Common Roots Brewing Company
After a fire nearly destroyed Common Roots Brewing in March 2019, father and son founders Christian and Bert Weber vowed to rebuild. Now, the Webers are back and better than ever, serving modern IPAs and sours from their temporary taproom in South Glens Falls. Support the brewing community and enjoy one of their juicy IPAs like Good Fortune or Almost Daylight.
South Glens Falls, www.commonrootsbrewing.com
Even the most seasoned beverage connoisseurs might raise an eyebrow at Yesfolk, one of the most unique beverage producers in the country. The family-run facility in Troy makes kombucha, a fermented tea, as well as water kefir. The ethereal recipes only use ingredients that meet the founders’ exacting standards, and the fermentation often takes place in custom barrels provided by Adirondack Barrel Cooperage. Bring your Kierkegaard and reflect on the nature of things with a single-origin Jasmine kombucha.
Fort Orange Brewing
This Best of Hudson Valley winner for Best New Brewery is located in Albany’s booming warehouse district, and named after a 19th-century brewery that once had been housed nearby. Owners John Westcott, Craig Johnson, and Jim Eaton moved their home-brewing business into the space in October 2017 and added a seven-barrel brewing system, began brewing a variety of IPAs, stouts, and seasonal brews (like stawberry wheat and raspberry blonde ales), and brought a fresh, family-friendly establishment to the Capital Craft Beverage Trail.
The Greenhouse Cidery
By day, The Chatham Berry Farm produces hydroponic produce, meat, and seafood, and offers family fun with their U-pick berries. But at night, the destination caters to the young and hip with The Cidery, a pastoral speakeasy built into an old greenhouse that used to grow tomatoes, peppers, and herbs. The casual spot is the perfect place to bring a date, or to indulge in the area’s rustic beauty before heading to livelier locales.
– Top 10 New Brews –
We asked Hudson Valley contributor Kenny Gould, founder and editor-in-chief of Hop Culture online magazine, to pick his favorite newcomers to the craft beer scene.
Common Roots Brewing Company
Good Fortune IPA
For those who want a New England-style IPA brewed in New York State, this year-round release from Common Roots is packed with Galaxy, El Dorado, and Amarillo hops. Enjoy a great beer and support the brewery, which suffered a devastating fire in March 2019 and is still recovering.
South Glens Falls, www.commonrootsbrewing.com
Obercreek Brewing Company
Emergence With Black Currants
If you believe the hype, Obercreek Brewing Company might be one of the most exciting breweries to open in the last couple of years. They use fruit, grain, hops, and Upstate New York’s natural microflora in much the same way as their Belgian predecessors, crafting delicate beers like Emergence, a 6.3 percent ABV farmhouse ale.
Wappingers Falls, www.obercreekbrewing.com
Equilibrium’s Fractal IPA series plays with different hops, and this variant uses Strata. A relatively new hop varietal, Strata (formerly known as X331) gives beer the juicy, dank, passionfruit flavors that have become Equilibrium’s calling card.
Arrowood Farm Brewery
If you want local, visit Arrowood, a farm that makes their beer with solar power, water from nearby limestone caves, yeast cultivated from around the farm, and organic hops grown on site. For a true taste of New York terroir, try Waxwing, a saison made with juniper.
Accord/New Paltz, www.arrowoodfarms.com
Industrial Arts Brewing Company
Autumn Landscape ‘19
Industrial Arts is known for light, easy-drinking beers that pair well with food. That ethos is perhaps best exemplified by Autumn Landscape ’19, a crisp, 5.9 percent ABV lager that’s perfect for day drinking or enjoying with a fresh-off-the-grill burger.
Captain Lawrence Brewing Co.
Winner of two bronze medals at the Great American Beer Festival, Golden Delicious is a seasonal specialty from the Hudson Valley’s largest craft brewery. A Belgian tripel, it packs a walloping 10 percent ABV, meaning it’s best enjoyed at home or with a designated driver.
You don’t often see “foeder-fermented kolsch,” but trust Woodstock Brewing in Phoenicia to make one with subtlety, flavor, and purpose. Brewed with pale and wheat malt, it’s a delicate beer with a touch of oak and a dry finish.
District 96 Beer Factory
Head down to New City for a pint of M.O.A.B., a juicy Double IPA filled with notes of passion fruit, pineapple, and mango. Almost any of District 96’s beers could’ve made this list, but a fresh batch of M.O.A.B. is some of the best beer in New York, if not the country.
New City, www.district96beer.com
Hudson Valley Brewery
Made with raw wheat, malted oat, milk sugar, strawberries, and vanilla beans, this beer tastes like a strawberry shortcake in a glass. It’s the best example of the “Sour IPA” style you’ll find anywhere in the country.
Suarez Family Brewery
Although it’s not new, Palatine Pils from Suarez Family Brewery in Hudson has yet to be dethroned as one of the best lagers in America. Crisp, clean, and absolutely delightful, it’s the quintessential beer.
– Brewers’ Favorite New Brews and All-Time Favorites –
Jason Synan • Hudson Valley Brewery, Beacon
My favorite beer of all is the ‘1809’ Berliner Weiss by Professor Fritz Briem. Simple, articulate, and supremely quenching.
Digging the newly launched Freethought’s ‘Temporal’ Sour Ale with plum, cardamom and rosewater; hopped with Mosaic & Amarillo. The owner Ben Clayton’s uncommon and inspired approach toward flavor arrangement is something all of us should be certain to keep an eye on, moving forward.
Emily Watson • Plan Bee, Poughkeepsie
I recently have been into Allagash’s canned beers. My favorite is their new brew ‘River Trip.’ Also, we recently made a trip up to Quebec and visited Unibroue. We tried so many great beers, but I have purchased their ‘Ephemere’ since I was in college when I wanted something special for myself.
Another favorite of mine was from our trip to Forest & Main Brewing. Their cask-drawn bitters are great and I wish I had access to their rotating cask beers more often! However, much like Evan (Watson, co-founder of Plan Bee), my guilty pleasure beer is definitely Guinness. We’re joined in our effort to find the perfect pint in all our adventures and near home.
Chris Woolston, Phil Shaw, and Kyle Miller • Obercreek, Wappingers Falls
At Obercreek Brewing Company, our favorite beer of all time is Cantillon Fou’Foune. This beer comes from such classic roots and has been inspirational to our own beers. And it’s always pleasing. This Belgian classic was the first beer we drank together after our first brewday was over.
Lately, we have really been digging all of the beers from Afterthought Brewing Company that have made their way into our hands. The Old World vision combined with contemporary touches has created some really pleasing beers.
Peter Oates • Equilibrium Brewing, Middletown
My favorite beer of all time is ‘Heady Topper’ by The Alchemist: Equilibrium wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the unfiltered hazy style brought to us by The Alchemist. It’s a classic that demands respect. I still order one every single time I visit Vermont. Jen was kind enough to meet with us and give us some plays out of her own playbook to help get Equilibrium off the ground.
‘Anne’ by Hill Farmstead was the beer of the year for me. It’s a beautifully complex wine-barrel-aged farmhouse ale that was fermented with honey and aged on yellow raspberries. It’s a perfectly integrated beer with a beautiful wine barrel presence. It’s bright, elegant, delicate, balanced, and full of flavor. It was an experience.
Pat Allen • West Kill Brewing, West Kill
My all-time favorite beer would have to be Sierra Nevada ‘Celebration Ale.’ It’s the beer I look forward to every year. Its what I like to call a heritage-style IPA with big malt flavor matched perfectly with fresh citrusy piney hops. The enjoyment of any beer oftentimes coincides with the time and place where it is being enjoyed, and ‘Celebration’ is released just in time for fireside chats with friends and family around the winter holidays.
When recently brewing a collaboration with the soon-to-open Wild East Brewing Co. in Brooklyn, I tried their ‘Cartesian 10,’ a 6 percent ABV blend of one- and two-year-old inspired Lambic ale. It has a bright, assertive acidity leading way to layers of strawberry, lemon peel, and Spree with a delicate touch of parmesan rind cheesiness that I love in sour beers. Keep an eye out for more of their sours coming to market.
– How Craft Brewers Can Survive In a Saturated Market –
“Aportion of craft is in trouble,” warns Robert Mitchell, Vice President of Retail Execution at Manhattan Beer Distributors. One of the top five beer distributors in the United States, Manhattan carries goliath brands like Corona and Miller Lite, but also manages several Hudson Valley companies including Captain Lawrence Brewing Company, Newburgh Brewing Company, Bad Seed Hard Cider, and Keegan Ales.
Most of the breweries in Manhattan’s craft beer portfolio consist of Hudson Valley breweries that entered the market just prior to the boom: Keegan Ales and Captain Lawrence were opened in 2003 and 2006, respectively, with Newburgh Brewing coming along in 2012. These three breweries came in the wake of early players like Boston Beer Co., Lagunitas, and Dogfish Head, and the ensuing market correction in the late ‘90s.
At the start of the millennium, craft beer had established itself as a fledgling market and was still locked in battle with Big Beer. The stories of these breweries — of underdogs, career changers, and homebrewers disrupting the iron grip of brands like Budweiser — combined with liberating legislation out of Albany and gangbuster growth, inspired a new generation of craft brewers to open their own taprooms. Newburgh’s opening in 2012 marked the beginning of what can only be described as the modern craft beer craze.
The last five years have seen an exponential increase in the number of craft breweries opening in New York State. As of December 2019, there were 96 breweries in the 10 counties covered by this magazine — a 700 percent increase since 2010.
As Paul Halayko, President and Chief Operating Officer of Newburgh Brewing Company tells it, the best indication of craft beer’s success is not just in the proliferation of craft breweries, but in their permeation into corporate business. While the local craft beer bar has always been supportive of small breweries, the sea change in the industry has come in the ability to walk into a supermarket or even a convenience store and find Newburgh Brewing on the shelves alongside Heineken and Bud Light.
However, while the number of craft breweries has continued to rise, the market hasn’t grown proportionately. In fact, overall beer consumption decreased in 2019, with craft adding another 4.1 percent to its market share.
Which is to say, while there is still demand, there are only so many tap lines to replenish, only so much space on grocery store shelves. The industry has reached an inflection point where the conventional wisdom of “more beer equals more money” no longer holds true.
Along with increased competition, the advent of canning technology gave breweries a cost-effective way to distribute more widely, experiment with new varieties, and create vibrant can art, which, when these stylish releases first hit shelves, clearly stood out from the competition. But now? “It’s never been harder to sell your beer once you get far away from your brewery,” says Halayko. “I have no illusion that in Pennsylvania there are 20 breweries that make an IPA that is also fantastic. With that in mind, how could I ever expect [Newburgh’s] Megaboss IPA to compete in Pennsylvania?”
Many craft pioneers have been bought by parent companies. Goose Island based in Chicago, Lagunitas in California, and New Belgium in Colorado, for instance, have been acquired by AB-InBev, Heineken, and Kirin, respectively. Closer to home, the big guys simply still have too much clout to cut them out of the tap list. “The bar or the retailer who still has a macro-lager on tap has decided that macro-lager works for them, [and] it works for their consumer. It’s not changing,” says Halayko. “No one should fight that battle anymore, because that’s what the retailer thinks, and they know their business and that’s what works for them.”
Instead, much of the competition concerns local versus nonlocal. That is, replacing Allagash’s White with 2 Way Brewing Company’s Wit, or Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale with Equilibrium Brewery’s Photon.
Still, the competition will only grow, which Mitchell (of Manhattan Beer) insists will up the pressure on breweries: a customer’s experience, not just the beer, must be perfect to win out over their competition — especially if the new guy down the block is doing the same thing.
As if the market weren’t already fraught enough, spirits and ready-to-drink beverages like canned cocktails posted increased sales in 2019. Included in the latter category are two words that are perhaps even more frightening to craft brewers than “market saturation”:
“It’s one of those things that makes marketers scratch their heads because nobody could see that coming,” says Mitchell. The drink cuts across all demographics, from health-conscious consumers to college students, and in turn, is cutting into every market share from craft beer to Tito’s vodka. The scariest part? It’s estimated that hard seltzer only has 7 percent household penetration.
Some craft brewers have tried to hop on the hard seltzer train, but Mitchell is skeptical of any small business challenging a national brand like White Claw — the leading hard seltzer, which posted two years of consecutive, triple-digit growth — to an arms race.
However, according to Captain Lawrence’s manager of taproom education and engagement, Chris Konopka, diversification will be crucial for craft breweries moving forward, although there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Scott Vaccaro, owner of Captain Lawrence, recently launched a new distillery called Current Spirits, which, given the scale of his operation and the limited competition in Westchester, is viable from a business standpoint.
Farther up the river, Newburgh Brewing Company now serves blood orange Old-Fashioneds in its taproom after partnering with a new distillery in the neighborhood (more about that on page 70). And in Beacon, 2 Way Brewing Company has expanded its taproom with more seating and entertainment, as well as the ability to host private events.
In the same way that distribution challenges have commenced a retreat back to the taproom, Halayko anticipates a resurgence in flagship beer sales. When faced with that aisle of 30 different one-off beers, consumers revert to what is familiar and reliable – often the beer a brewery built its name on.
Mitchell expects to start seeing more brewery closings than openings in the future, a good portion of which will simply be the market correcting itself. “Just because it’s local doesn’t mean it’s good,” he explains. “People who produce high quality, differentiated liquids that offer consumers a great experience will survive. And new guys will pop up that will thrive, but there’s others that might be near the end of their runway.”