“We have close to 3,000 beers from all over the world,” says Al Daniels, walking around his 9,000-square-foot, warehouse-style shop, Half Time Beverage, on Route 9 in the town of Poughkeepsie. “Here we’ve got the domestics; here are the micro-imports, they’re organized by country.” But their place of origin is just the beginning of what Daniels can tell you about each and every beer. “If you go online, you can check out the tag system that I developed. It tells you the hops level and the color; the hops have five levels, and the colors 10. That way, if you know that you like something, you can try to find something similar.”
Daniels loves educating his customers, although many are already devoted beer enthusiasts who count on Half Time to have the hard-to-find favorites, as well as the latest craft creations. He says that, in general, the priciest (and highest quality) beers are from Belgium, although the most expensive beer in the shop is Sam Adams Utopias. “It’s about $200 a bottle,” he says. “It’s a limited edition. It comes in a specially designed porcelain bottle, with the look and feel of a copper kettle.”
Half Time hosts a “meet the brewer” tasting almost every week. Daniels recalls the shop’s “best tasting of all time”: In 2003, he asked the folks at the famed Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown to try kegging their beer for the very first time. “We had 150 people outside the store before it opened. We went through six kegs within three hours. After that, Ommegang reevaluated and started kegging.”
Also popular are Half Time’s Beer of the Month clubs (there are a dozen different ones), and beer gift baskets. “We also have 12 beers on tap; a lot of people don’t realize that,” says Daniels. A new state law passed this year has helped business by allowing wholesalers like Half Time to sell ancillary items like glassware and beer-making supplies.
Daniels knows that the owners of many small breweries started off as homebrewers, and he welcomes them at the shop. “If you have a concept that you’d like to homebrew, go ahead and homebrew, drop it off, we’ll put it in the system. You can come down and pour the beer and greet the people. It’s doesn’t get any more grassroots than that.”
And Daniels plans to try a little brewing himself. “Three years ago, I acquired the rights to the most famous brewer in Dutchess County,” he says.
Yes, Daniels plans to launch the Matthew Vassar Brewing Company (and brewpub) in an undisclosed Dutchess County town. “We’re in the process of forming our recipes now,” he says. “It’s exciting.” Stay tuned for details. 845-462-5400; www.halftimebeverage.com