The Hudson Valley has no shortage of craft distilleries.
Along the Hudson, the art of producing strong beverages from locally harvested ingredients has flourished. Nested in some of the most idyllic settings in all of New York, Valley distilleries offer sweeping vistas alongside smooth sips. Regional masters make everything from Beacon bourbons to Germantown gins, adding to a developing upstate terroir.
What better way to capture the full experience than to spend a night onsite at one of these much-beloved locales? Hudson Valley Distillers of Columbia County has a cozy, farmhouse bed-and-breakfast just a short walk from its tasting room.
“We’ve got a lot of great places around here. Families come from all parts of the state (and even the country) to hike and to ski. There’s Suarez Family Brewery, you’ve got Clermont Vineyards and Tousey Winery, there’s Rose Hill Cidery…there’s just so many tasting rooms in the area, it just makes sense to be able to stay here at one,” head distiller Chris Moyer observes.
Four bedrooms and three bathrooms can host up to seven guests. The property sits 20 minutes away from day trips to Hudson and Rhinebeck and just 10 minutes from jaunts to Tivoli and Red Hook, not to mention all of the trails and other outdoor activities in the immediate vicinity. Stays start as low as $230 per night for an affordable staycation in the Hudson Valley.
Moyer and his wife, Jen, who manages the tasting room and Airbnb, founded Hudson Valley Distillers in 2014. Weary from corporate life, the pair sought a permanent bucolic lifestyle. As avid skiers and lovers of all things craft, they knew the region’s beverage industry was ready to explode.
Their vision was inspired by the grand wineries of northern Virginia, destinations in their own right. The Moyers wanted the complete package: countryside scenery, outdoor seating, and barn taproom. On 11 acres of gorgeous Germantown farmland, their dream was realized, with the farmhouse-turned-Airbnb serving as bonus surprise.
Embracing and adopting the identity of the region, the Moyers have made Hudson Valley Distillers a hyperlocal operation through and through.
“We’re a ‘farm distillery,’ which means at least 75 percent of our ingredients must be from New York, and we surpass that. We get our grains from Stone House Grain, right up the road, and also source ingredients from Kukon Brothers and Migliorelli Farm. We even have a malt house just three miles away,” Moyer notes.
Invoking some of the oldest traditions in the region, HVD continues to produce America’s first hit spirit, applejack.
Colonial New Yorkers stumbled upon the brandy-sweet and whiskey-bold beverage by utilizing the abundance of apples the Hudson Valley produces. With natural yeast in the air, all fresh apple cider needs to do to turn “hard” is to sit. Early settlers would then let the hard cider stay outside during the winter, allowing the water to freeze and the alcohol to drain off, making applejack.
“I wouldn’t recommend making it that way, but that’s how it all got started,” Moyer jokes. “When we discovered this heritage drink, we thought it would be a great fit for us. Luckily Migliorelli’s orchard is so close, and we could use incredible fresh-pressed cider.”
HVD began bottling applejack before it even made its first whiskey. Inspired by the past and deeply connected to the Hudson Valley, the Moyers seek to make the best products possible for their patrons by focusing on drinkable, approachable distills.
One example is their Fellows Gin, made from an unexpected ingredient: grapes. As Moyer likes to say, “everyone has a gin story,” and juniper-heavy, pine-forward gins can turn some palates off of the clear spirit permanently.
“Believe it or not, wineries end up with a lot of excess wine that they have to throw out. We came up with [Fellows Gin] that’s a little more floral and citrus and way less juniper by making it from what was really the byproduct of wine production from local vineyards [like Hudson-Chatham Winery],” Moyer explains.
As the crisp, clean Fellows Gin grew more popular and wine byproduct alone could not sustain the growing demand, Hudson Valley Distillers began sourcing grapes for the base. The genesis of the gin is a story of sustainability and ingenuity.
Chris doesn’t just get inspiration from the local wineries, but also from nearby brewers. The way beermakers showcase the chocolate and coffee characteristics of toasted malt in darker brews fascinates him, and he’s working on a whiskey with the same flavor profile. In a few years, Hudson Valley Distillers will also release a special whiskey made from rye grown right on the property, aged in NYS wooden barrels.
Another creative twist the Columbia County craft distillery puts on the classics is with its sweet corn Three Cedars Vodka. It was important for Moyer to be able to work with Hudson Valley restaurants, so he developed a spirit at an attractive price point, keeping in mind that corn is an inexpensive base.
On top of that, Jen, as well as one of Moyer’s business partners, developed major gluten issues, highlighting the need for a gluten-free liquor.
“It’s an interesting vodka in that it’s got a little bit of sweetness on the nose, a little bit more than most vodkas, but it’s just really easy drinking. It’s great on its own, or mixed, like in our Pomegranate Pucker,” Moyer says.
Cocktails are big at HVD, and a great way to introduce new flavors and characteristics. The “Jack-ed Up Sidecar” swaps out the cognac for applejack. A “Gin-Basil Crush,” the classic Manhattan, and a “Lemon Drop” are a few of the fan-favorites that will soon receive bottling treatment. The Moyers have worked diligently to make their mixes shelf-stable, and will have a line of bottle cocktails releasing later this spring.
“That’s one of the many really exciting projects for us right now,” Moyer enthuses.