Aaron Browne still remembers the very first true craft beer he ever tasted. “About 15 years ago I went to Half Time Beverage in Poughkeepsie and tried a Mendocino Valley Red Tail Ale. It was the malt in the beer, the flavors you can get out of it — to me, it was amazing. From that point I tried all sorts of beers.”
Having seen the malty light, Browne, a Wappingers Falls native, became a brewer himself about eight years ago, when his brother bought him a one-gallon home-brewing kit as a Christmas gift. “I loved the process,” he says. “I did a lot of batches, and took over the kitchen pretty good.” Eventually he graduated to a five-gallon system. “And that got me thinking about starting my own brewery.”
That brewery, Cousins Ale Works, opened this spring on Route 9, in the back of the Dutchess Shopping Plaza, in Browne’s hometown. He went into business with his cousin, Chris Dorn. A lover of Revolutionary War history, Browne designed the brewery in that theme. The outside of the brewery is made from rough-cut lumber, painted with colors picked from a Colonial-era color wheel. The windows, trimmed with lumber, are surrounded by historical art and artifacts like maps and muskets from the 1700s and 1800s. “We salvaged barn wood off of a 100-year-old barn on the street that I grew up on in Wappingers,” Browne says proudly. At their soft opening April 14, Revolutionary War re-enactors welcomed their first guests.
The brewery features a specialized system made in Colorado that allows Browne to brew in one large vessel instead of the typical three. “It’s the first one like it in New York,” he says. “My style of brewing is, I do what I want to do, and this system was built by the same kind of person. He likes to try different things, and our personalities meshed.”
Browne says the hoist-and-pulley system lets him brew more beer in the same amount of time. He focuses on malt-forward brews, particularly stouts. Some are aged in used oak barrels from nearby Hillrock Distillery; the barrels and their aging brew sit along the brewery wall for patrons to see. The pub has 10 taps, three “strictly for stouts,” he says, and the others for IPAs and pale ales, along with local ciders. He has a rotation of about 20 beers in his lineup, and even his IPAs and pale ales will be more on the malty side. The beverages will be served at the pub’s homemade, live-edge pine tables and the L-shaped pine bar, along with food provided by Noshi’s Coney Island. A local artist is even making tankards out of clay pottery for anyone looking to join their tankard club. The cousins hope to add music to the mix, leaning on Dorn’s connections as a drummer and music teacher. “We have a lot of ideas — music, comedy — we don’t want to be just a beer venue,” Browne says.
Their beers, like the Wappingers Rises Live Free Stout, reflect the cousins’ unique brand of patriotism and hometown pride. Browne is proud to bring a brew pub to his hometown. “I love the village of Wappingers,” he says. “I’ve seen this space used as many different nightclubs, and I want to see it be something else.” As the opening approached, he admitted both excitement and a bit of nerves. “It will be different seeing someone drink [my beer] in front of me and how people will review us. It’s overwhelming sometimes, but it’s a dream come true.”
1582 Route 9, Wappingers Falls; 845.702.4593