These days, no Hudson Valley town or village is considered truly viable unless it has its own brewery. Catskill was in that category until this summer, when Athens-based Crossroads Brewing Company, one of the Valley’s oldest and most celebrated brewers, moved into a second location on the Catskill Creek.
Don’t despair for Athens, however. Crossroads, which opened in the then-derelict Brooks Opera House in 2010, is keeping its original location open for business and will continue to produce and sell beer to the faithful. The new facility was created simply because — almost from the day it opened — the brewery wasn’t big enough to meet a demand that far exceeded the original plans of owners Janine Bennett and Ken Landin.
A victim of its own success, the brewery won the prestigious Matthew Vassar Cup for Best Brewery in the Hudson Valley at the 2011 Tap-NY festival, as well as the inaugural John Cahlen award for best IPA or Pale Ale in the State for its signature Outrage IPA, before it had even gotten its sudsy feet wet. “We have been maxed out since the beginning,” Bennett says. The seven-barrel system in Athens simply couldn’t make as much as they could sell.
That’s a nice problem to have, and they built out their taproom and food offerings as they could. Eventually, they cast about for expansion opportunities, and found that Athens doesn’t have the infrastructure needed to support the kind of large-scale operation they envisioned.
But Catskill did. And, about last June, they purchased a 13,000 sq ft building that was once the printing facility for the Daily Mail. It was large enough to house a 20-barrel system; it fronted Catskill Creek; it sat on a proposed walking loop that would bring hikers, bikers, and skaters right past their front door. It was perfect — except that it was a mess. “The roof leaked, the basement had a foot of water in it, the windows were rotted, there was a tree growing through it, it was filled with critters and bugs,” Bennett says. In other words, it was pretty much what they encountered at the old opera house in Athens, and what most fledgling brewers use to get their business off the ground.
One difference, though, is that they farmed the rehab work out to others. “Thankfully, we are not doing it ourselves this time. It is a much bigger job, we couldn’t do it ourselves,” she says. The town secured a state block grant, a regional grant, and a low-interest loan to make the financials work. “There’s a strong vision for Catskill’s future and passionate folks who are dedicated to seeing the vision through. Crossroads Brewery is one small piece of a well-thought-out plan to create a thriving destination for travelers.”
The Catskill location has a more industrial look to it than the Athens space, with concrete floors and exposed steel beams. The taproom, which seats upwards of 60 people, serves up pints and growlers and cans of its many rotating beers. There is no kitchen, but food trucks will be available, and bring-your-own victuals are encouraged. “Get a pizza delivered to your barstool if you like,” Bennett says. The new location also helps produce mass quantities of Outrage IPA, to increase their distribution reach. “At Athens, we can do more interesting things that we couldn’t do because we had to keep up with Outrage,” she says. “Brewing will be fun again.”
It’s all pretty heady stuff for Bennett and Landin, who named their brewery as a nod to the career crossroads they had reached that prompted their move to brew in the first place. “We never thought the first location would be this popular, let alone build this,” she says. “It’s all surreal. A second location in Catskill was a no-brainer for Crossroads,” she says. “We are very excited to settle into our second home.”