What do the movie business and the beer business have in common? More than you might think, says John-Anthony Gargiulo, who is in a unique position to know. He has abandoned his first career, as dolly grip in Hollywood, to return home to the Hudson Valley and open Hudson Valley Brewery in Beacon. He likens the six-year journey to this summer’s opening to making a film.
“The correlation between movies and this is: You start with an idea, a script,” says Gargiulo, 40. “You build a team. You do a lot of pre-production. The shooting is intense. Then, you put it out there for people to enjoy. We have been working to get it ‘in the can,’ as they say in LA.”
Or in the keg, in this case. As founder and president, “I look at myself as the producer, bringing all the elements together,” he says. Gargiulo, originally from Highland, changed careers to be closer to family and because he wasn’t happy with the LA lifestyle. He had enjoyed visiting the many microbreweries on the West Coast and, upon his return to the Valley, he immersed himself in learning the business, including working as bar manager and buyer at the Hop in Beacon, which is owned by a friend of his.
Gargiulo spent years looking for the right location with no success, until he discovered an abandoned factory on East Main Street. Actually, it was two buildings: The brick factory is from the 1820s, and an attached steel-and-cinderblock structure was built in the 1960s. “That duality helps so much,” he says, “the modern space for the brewery and the brick building for character and history.” It took several more years, and a $450,000 Empire State Development Grant in 2014, to finalize the purchase and fund the renovations.
Gargiulo then started working with two professional brewers, Michael Renganeschi and Jason Synan, both previously at the Brewery at Bacchus in New Paltz. They oversee a 30-barrel system that, this summer, began producing four to five beers, most of them in the currently fashionable sour style. “They do a mixed-culture; blended sour beer and the art of blending to their taste is, I feel, more artistic than following a recipe,” he says. “There are so many nuances when blending beers. They are so much more complex, one of a kind, really. You don’t ever have the same beer twice, which is very exciting for us.”
Gargiulo will wholesale the beers to taverns spanning Albany to New York City as he prepares the public space for opening later in the year. It will feature a 60-seat taproom, a private tasting room that he describes as “dark and basement-y,” casual foods such as pizzas and pastas, and an outdoor space with bocce courts. The factory’s third floor, an expansive, vaulted, brick-and-wood-beamed event space, includes a rooftop deck and views of Mt. Beacon and Fishkill Creek. Along with music and other events, he is already booking weddings and rehearsal dinners, adding to Beacon’s burgeoning business in all things nuptial.
Gargiulo admits that pre-production has taken longer than he anticipated, but his career in the movie business prepared him well. “That work helped me organize this project,” he says, “and Hollywood itself teaches you that anything is possible.”