Another month, another brewery — or so it seems. Since we published our August cover story that, among other things, outlined 15 breweries big and small in our region, yet another pair of brew-drinking buddies has decided to join the keg party.
Not that it was a snap decision, by any means. James Walsh (left) and Kristop Brown, close friends for more than 15 years, are both longtime veterans of the food industry. Along with his wife Michelle, Walsh owns the popular Mudd Puddle coffee house/café in New Paltz; Brown is a seasoned wine-maker, who currently works at both Robibero and Glorie Farm wineries. But Walsh has long been obsessed with beer making and has hopped around the country studying fermentation and the like at esteemed places like UC Davis (that’s like the Ivy League for brewing).
Yard Owl Craft Brewery actually made its first “official” batch — Farm House Ale — in March. In June, New Paltz’s Jar’d Wine Pub hosted an event for them. And the rest, as they say, is history — at least around the New Paltz area, where loyal fans wait patiently for the next batch to show up at K&E Beverage (it’s sold in 22-ounce bottles) or at restaurants like Jar’d, Rock and Rye Tavern, or Bacchus. Even the über-hip live music joint the Falcon, down the road in Marlboro, has put Yard Owl beer on tap for a special occasion. “The response has been very, very good,“ says Walsh. “We keep selling out.”
Currently, between their other gigs, the duo makes a double batch of beer every other week on Walsh’s three-acre property in Gardiner. “I think we are the smallest brewer in New York State,” he says. They have four different styles: Farm House Ale, Fire Pit Golden Ale, Elf Owl Tripel, and Dubbel Ringer. “That last one is a Belgian style beer; it’s like the kind that the monks make in Belgium,” says Walsh.
And that name? “Well, it’s all happening in my yard, and there is a large contingent of owls around the property, so — there you go,” he says. “We think it’s a great name; we have a great logo. It’s all good.”
See the gallery below for more photos of Walsh and Brown brewing beer.
Ah, fall — the season when the thoughts of young beer lovers traditionally turn to: Oktoberfest. The famous, 16-day celebration of all things beer has been held in Munich, Germany since 1810 and is the ultimate destination for brew aficionados and, let’s face it, anyone who wants to be part of the world’s biggest party. But sadly, not everyone can just hop on a plane to Germany, so Oktoberfest celebrations have been popping up all around our region in recent years. While at the original Oktoberfest, only six German breweries (including the famed Augustiner-Brau and the popular-in-America Lowenbrau) can produce Oktoberfest Beer, our regional celebrations often court local breweries, in addition to serving up German food, beer, and entertainment (psst, this is your chance to get your polka on). Here are a few of the bigger ones:
Bear Mountain Oktoberfest: Every Saturday and Sunday from September 14 through October 27; that’s seven weekends! Free admission; parking is $8 per vehicle. German food, beer, entertainment, and craft vendors. Guests can also explore the Trailside Museum and Zoo, take a ride on the historic Merry-Go-Round, or hike in the park (www.visitbearmountain.com).
Hunter Mountain Oktoberfest: October 5-6 and 12-13. Free admission. 11 a.m.-6:15 p.m. German food, beer, and entertainment as well as vendors and a kids’ tent featuring Mike the Juggler, Puppet People, and more. Catch local polka legend — and 18-time Grammy winner — Jimmy Sturr, who performs with his orchestra three times each day (www.huntermtn.com/huntermtn/festivals/summer-festivals-oktoberfest.aspx).
Amy Helm performs at Bethel Woods’ Craft Beer Festival this month
Craft Beer Festival at Bethel Woods: October 12. All right, so it’s not officially being billed as an Oktobertfest celebration, but it’s beer — and chili — in October, so we thought we’d include it. $40 in advance; $45 at the door; $75 VIP Sampling Pass. 12:30-5:00 p.m.
“With the advent of all the distilleries and breweries popping up in the region, it seemed like a wonderful way to showcase New York’s vibrant beer, wine, cider, and spirits industry,” says Bethel Woods CEO Darlene Fedun about this inaugural event. Beer from 25 different (mostly local) breweries can be sampled, while Amy Helm & the Handsome Strangers take to the stage. Tickets to the beer fest are not required to attend the Chili Cook-Off, which pits not-for profits and community organizations against each other (www.bethelwoodscenter.org/bwevents).