Starting a new business can be tough under the best of circumstances. Rich Coleman started his under, perhaps, the worst. In the fall of 2013, two days before the soft opening of his beer and hops venture, Westtown Brew Works, his wife, Amanda, was diagnosed with advanced melanoma. She died the following June at age 36. Coleman was suddenly not only a business owner, he was also a widower with three children under the age of four, with a full-time job in food marketing. “Needless to say, I was pretty busy,” he says ruefully.
He persevered, and, this past June, Westtown Brew Works celebrated its grand opening. It has since proven so successful that Coleman is already planning a larger brewery in nearby Pine Island, to expand his current three-barrel system to 15 barrels. This will allow him to sell his products commercially.
Coleman, 40, received a sign — literally — to choose Westtown as his location. “We had friends in Warwick and loved the area,” he says. “We were just driving around scouting locations when we saw a sign for the town of Minisink, which said, ‘A heritage of agriculture.’ That sold it right there. Three or four miles down the road, we saw these never-ending views of the Black Dirt valley. As soon as we got to the top of the hill, we knew it was the spot.”
He planted his first hops crop in 2012, and built his brewery and tasting room in 2013. Dealing with his wife’s illness and the typical hassles of starting a business slowed him down — but didn’t stop him. With his partner Pat Doty running the two-acre farm producing nine varieties of hops, he keeps his six taps flowing with a rotation of the 18 recipes he has crafted. “I am trying to source every ingredient within five miles of the brewery, and hope to get to 100 percent in about two years,” he says. One of his most popular beers is Three Hives, a brown ale made with honey that comes from about four miles down the road. Another favorite, Wit Tail, is brewed with local wheat and coriander.
Don’t miss: Bad Archaeology, a medium bodied, lightly hopped blend of pale and roasted malts, wheat, and spices. “It was named after we were delayed by the planning board over an easement that needed another archeological evaluation,” Coleman says. “We made it as a one-off beer for the locals, because they knew what was going on, but it became one of our most popular and is now in regular rotation.”
The Taproom is open Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. and is available for special events. Music and food trucks are on-site most weekends; check their Facebook page for latest listings. 845-683-1203; www.westtownbrewworks.com