Once upon a time during a period when England was the mother country, passage by ship was more or less mandatory, and countries were preoccupied with the occupation of colonies, the masses wanted beer. But the lands that lay abroad from Great Britain were either yet to establish their own breweries or were simply unfit for beer-making (India, for instance, was much too hot to tolerate the technology).
As with any other product, the world demanded it elsewhere, so the Brits decided to export the sudsy stuff to support these foreign markets. The exact history surrounding this is a little cloudy — bolstered by myths and word-of-mouth stories — but the moral of the tale is that sometime during the late 18th century, English brewers began adding excess hops to their brews to help them survive the long, rough, and sometimes hot journey to India and elsewhere. Somewhere along that same timeline, this style became known as India Pale Ale, or IPA.
Fast-forward to today, and the masses still want beer. And while they still want IPA-style sips, too, they want that beer to be made a lot closer to home.
Modern day brewers mimic these original conditions by adding a shipload more hops and upping the alcohol content to boot. Brewmaster Jamie Bishop at Poughkeepsie’s Mill House Brewery has long had a desire to create an IPA made more traditionally. He finally got the opportunity in late May, after a meeting between Hudson-dependent businesses brought about a sudsy scheme to draw the prominent waterway to public consideration. “We all wanted to do something to draw attention to the river as a natural resource right in our backyard,” says Bishop.
Their idea was to brew a beer, prepare it as if it were to embark on the aforementioned voyage, and use a local, Hudson-sailing boat to mock the journey. Riverkeeper, an organization that advocates for clean water across New York State, was one of the businesses present at the brainstorm sesh, which occurred earlier this year. “We’re working with Mill House because, well, beer. But more importantly to highlight the fact that so few are aware that the Hudson is a drinking water source,” says Dan Shapley, the Water Quality Program Director of Riverkeeper. “More than 100,000 people in seven communities in the Mid-Hudson Valley use the Hudson River for source water.”
Peekskill-based Trinity Cruise Company brought the boat (dubbed The Evening Star), Jerry Pantano of Pantano’s Wine Grapes and Home Brew in New Paltz offered up the barrels, and Bishop worked on the beer-making. “We brewed at Mill House and then barreled with extra hops for the journey aboard The Evening Star,” explains Bishop. “The exposure to the elements, temperature changes, use of barrels, and the extra hopping rates are what make this beer unique. In our production facility we use modern science, technology, and refrigeration to protect everything; this beer surrenders to mother nature and will be created by the process just as much as by the ingredients.”
On May 26, they put two kegs on board and opened ‘em up for the first time on June 21. If you’re interested to know how it all turned out, you can join staff from Riverkeeper at the Poughkeepsie Brewery next Thursday, June 29, from 5-7 p.m., where you’ll have the opportunity to try this one-of-a-kind IPA, and learn about the work being done to protect the Hudson River, its tributaries, and the drinking water for so many New Yorkers. “Our water comes from the city water supply, which is part of the Hudson River,” Bishop tells. “The watershed provides for some exemplary brewing.”