Oh Hudson Valley beer, how we love thee. We could wax rhapsodic about the merits of the craft breweries, locally sourced grain, and highly anticipated label drops that keep the local beer-loving scene buzzing. This time around, however, we’re cutting straight to the boozy chase and shining the spotlight on the hoppy happenings in Wappingers Falls.
This March, two of your favorite Dutchess County food and drink destinations bring an epic new beer to the Hudson Valley. Of course, it’s not just any beer. Cousins Ale Works and Sweetbakes Café would never stoop to the level of a #basic brew. Instead, Aaron Browne and Chris Dorn of the Revolutionary-themed brewery combined creative forces with waffle-centric couple Jenny and Bobby Jordan to create their hybrid chocolate waffle stout.
“It actually started before Sweetbakes even opened,” Browne admits of the beer’s creative origins. He met Jenny at The Ugly Mug in Poughkeepsie, where he had stopped by to discuss another Cousins collaboration, The Ugly Mug Coffee Stout. He and Jenny stayed in touch and eventually became friends who regularly partner on comedy nights at Cousins. Yet all the while, the idea of a collaboration never strayed from their minds.
Fast-forward to 2018, after Sweetbakes opened. Jenny, who has quite the local reputation for her custom cakes, originally wanted to do a cake-themed beer. Once she and Bobby built up a reputation for their “Wacky Waffles,” however, the group switched gears and opted for a chocolate waffle flavor instead.
“We did a whole bunch of taste testing, which was fun,” Browne says.
After perfecting the batter, Jenny and Bobby got to work creating the 100 pounds of waffles needed for the limited-edition batter. With five waffle irons and five and a half hours, they whipped up a whopping 200 6-oz waffles for the beer.
Jenny stands next to her completed chocolate waffles.
Waffles completed, “the brewing process was all on me,” Browne notes. With Bobby’s help, Browne began work on his custom chocolate waffle stout. Notably, he designed the base of the stout to play upon the brew’s natural coffee flavors instead of its chocolate ones.
“I didn’t want the beer to be chocolatey,” he reveals. “I wanted to showcase the notes of the chocolate in the waffle itself.”
To do so, he extended his brewing day to accommodate the larger production scale and nuanced flavor. Using 100-percent New York ingredients (95-percent of which are from the Hudson Valley), two mashing stages and a three-and-a-half-hour boil period, Browne perfected the essence of the rich chocolate brew.
As a finishing touch, he added 33 pounds of lactose on top to boost sweetness, then left the product to rest in the fermenter, where it will turn into alcohol. In total, the brewing process took about seventeen hours and produced an estimated 120 gallons.
Aaron Browne (left) and Bobby Jordan (right) brew the stout.
Once the fermentation period concluded, Browne and the Sweetbakes team released the finished product in conjunction with the Wappingers Falls St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 2. During the parade, Sweetbakes offered the beer to passersby who needed a refresher during the jaunt through the village. Afterward, locals were invited to attend the release party at Cousins, which is located on Route 9 in Wappingers Falls. Browne canned about 15 gallons for sale and kegged the rest of it. He is also aging part of it in a bourbon barrel for a later release in 2020.
“The beer itself is more of a dessert-style stout with a 9.5-percent ABV,” Browne says, adding that it was extremely well received at a New York State Brewers Association event earlier in March. On March 13, he and Cousins release the brew, dubbed “Bearded Waffle Imperial Stout,” to the public at a 6 p.m. launch party. The Sweetbakes team will be onsite during the event, which will include small bites for guests to munch on while sampling the beer.
Will you try the new Cousins Ale beer? Let us know what you think of the local collaboration in the comments or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.