Photo by Ashley Bohan
West Kill Brewing sits at the dead end of a six-mile road that winds through the Spruceton Valley. But Spruceton Road also offers trailheads to some of the Catskill Mountains’ more popular hiking trails, and nearly half of West Kill Brewing’s customers arrive on foot. It’s hard to find a more beautiful spot to, literally, walk in for a cold one.
That’s what Mike Barcone and Colleen Kortendick were looking for when they opened the brewery in 2017. He grew up in West Kill, she grew up in Wisconsin, they met at Suffolk University in Boston and got married. Barcone became a teacher in the Boston public schools and took up home brewing. “I loved the home brew community,” he says, and when teaching lost its appeal, his parents made an offer they couldn’t refuse: open land that had belonged to his grandparents, at a favorable rate, on the side of Rusk Mountain. “I heard the Catskills were coming back, there were more young people moving here,” he says. “My uncle owned the Spruceton Inn and told me a young couple from Brooklyn was buying it.”
Then, unexpectedly, both he and his wife lost their fathers to illness within five months of each other. “That was the spark to get out of Boston and live the life we wanted,” he says. “We decided, let’s open a brewery. We get one life to live, let’s do something together that we feel fulfilled about.”
Colleen Kortendick and Mike Barcone / Portrait by Tom Delooza
That was in 2013. In 2014 they visited Oxbow Brewery, in Maine. “We loved the vibe, and it clicked — let’s do something on the side of the mountain,” he said. Their West Kill property had a small cabin, but nothing to house a brewery, so they built one and turned the cabin into the tasting room. “We had to bring in electricity, dig the well, build a waste treatment system. Our top priority was as little environmental impact as possible,” he says. It took 18 months to build, during which time he worked for his family’s business and Colleen worked at the Spruceton Inn.
Their first batch debuted in May 2017: Earn Your Keep, an American pale ale named thanks to “an old-timer up here who said that when I was a kid,” says Barcone. He and co-brewer Patrick Allen strive to concoct “clean, simple, straightforward, easy drinking yet complex beers,” along with farmhouse ales, sours, and beers using ingredients picked from their gardens or the woods. “Our agriculture manager forages something somewhere, and we make beer with it,” he says. “We did one with basil. Also mushrooms.”
The brewery now produces about 1,200 barrels a year, and its beers are available at more than 60 locations from New York City to the Capital District. Looking to expand further, they are hiring another brewer to push more beer out to the Hudson Valley and into western New York. With snow covering the hiking trails in winter, they cater to skiers from nearby Windham and Belleayre mountains.
No matter the season, West Kill is an unusually lovely spot. “It seems like a far drive,” Barcone says, “but the people who make it say, ‘Wow, what a beautiful place to drink a beer.’”
2173 Spruceton Rd, West Kill, 518.989.6001
Photo by Ashley Bohan