Ultimate Hudson Valley Guide to Local Beer and Breweries in 2013

Today, new microbreweries are appearing in the region faster than you can say “bottoms up.” Discover these hot spots, learn about their pilsners and IPAs, and see which local beers make our expert’s “can’t miss” list



A jar of Hurricane Kitty — a signature brew from Kingston’s Keegan Ales — and sliders

Photographs by Jennifer May

Want to make a small fortune? Start with a big fortune, and go into the beer business.

Yes, that joke has been made about a lot of other endeavors — show business, the restaurant business — but that doesn’t make it any less true for wannabe brewers. The leap from simple homebrewer to professional manufacturer can set you back many thousands of dollars in start-up costs and licensing fees. The payoff: long hours, slim profit margins, and calling in favors from friends and family to help with the heavy lifting.

And yet, more and more happy hopheads are taking the small, first steps into professional brewing. The Brewers Association estimates that more than 400 craft breweries (defined as annual production of six million barrels or less) opened nationwide last year.

Fortunately for us, some of the best are here in the Valley — and more are popping up all the time. Excitement is building on Poughkeepsie’s Main Street as construction continues on the old Mill House (formerly the home of Mill House Panda). This fall, a new brewpub is slated to open at the site, which promises “artfully crafted ales” and an all-out celebration of “Hudson Valley food, farms and beer.”

And there is lots to celebrate. Many of our local breweries are racking up an impressive and ever-growing list of awards, which keeps everyone motivated. And of course most brewers aren’t usually in it for the money — not yet, anyway — they’re in it for the love of beer and all that it stands for: fun, festivity and, in many respects, community. A bar, as anyone old enough to remember Cheers can attest, is where everyone knows your name. Inside the brewing world, everyone knows one another as well, and that’s one of the unexpected benefits of the trade.

“We all help each other,” says Adam Watson of Sloop Brewing Company. They hold monthly meetings, open to all local brewers, to get together, trade ideas, talk shop, and sample each other’s latest concoctions. And they’re all willing to lend a hand. “I talked to Tommy Keegan [of Keegan Ales] for hours, and he was more than happy to help,” Watson says. “He even drew diagrams of how to set up a brewing system.” Garry Brown of Brown’s Brewing in Troy helped Tom Crowell and Jake Cunningham at Chatham Brewing get equipment. “We did a collaboration with Neil Evans at Albany Pump Station to develop a new product,” says Crowell. Cave Mountain brewer Jamie Caligure gives Crossroads Brewery’s Hutch Kugeman a day off each week by helping out with some grunt work. It’s not unknown for one brewer to wash another’s kegs.

For all that bonhomie, however, there is, not far below the surface, a never-ending level of stress. “It’s not like you can just wake up one morning and make beer,” says Alan Daniels of Half Time Beverage. “It’s the most interesting entrepreneurial endeavor you can become a part of. You can have the best recipe, but you need business smarts before anything else.” From getting the financing — “it takes forever to get up enough money to open a brewing facility,” Daniels says — to wading through the Byzantine licensing requirements and the mandatory beer distribution system, brewers quickly learn that they may be in over their suds-soaked heads. The good ones stick it out, though, because they just can’t imagine doing anything else.

And they tend to stick it out here because the Hudson Valley is a great place to be; Crowell says it is actually underserved compared to other markets. “There aren’t as many breweries per capita as in Vermont, Maine, or Boston,” he says, “so the market hasn’t gotten overly competitive.” Which leaves room for even more brewers in the future. “We are in an industry that is still in its infancy,” says Daniels. “Everyone wants local. It’s growing, it’s exciting.”

See below for our 15 favorite local breweries, some beer history, a new hops co-op, and our top five beer bars and brews.

keegan ales

Keegan Ales, Kingston

The best brews and news to come out of Kingston’s Keegan Ales in 2013
newburgh brewing company

Newburgh Brewing Company, Newburgh

The best brews and news to come out of Newburgh Brewing Company in 2013
hyde park brewing company

Hyde Park Brewing, Hyde Park

The best brews and news to come out of Hyde Park Brewing Company in 2013
sloop brewing

Sloop Brewing, Poughkeepsie

The best brews and news to come out of Poughkeepsie’s Sloop Brewing in 2013
peekskill brewery

Peekskill Brewery, Peekskill

The best brews and news to come out of Peekskill Brewery in 2013
skytop steakhouse and brewing company

Skytop Steakhouse and Brewing Company, Kingston

The best brews and news to come out of Kingston’s Skytop Steakhouse and Brewing Company in 2013
rushing duck brewing company

Rushing Duck Brewing Company, Chester

The best brews and news to come out of Chester’s Rushing Duck Brewing Company in 2013
ch evans brewing company at albany pump station

C.H. Evans Brewing Company at the Albany Pump Station, Albany

The best brews and news to come out of Albany’s C.H. Evans Brewing Company in 2013
captain lawrence brewing company

Captain Lawrence Brewing Company, Elmsford

The best brews and news to come out of Elmsford’s Captain Lawrence Brewing Company in 2013
chatham brewing company

Chatham Brewing Company, Chatham

The best brews and news to come out of Chatham Brewing Company in 2013
cave mountain brewing company

Cave Mountain Brewing Company, Windham

The best brews and news to come out of Windham’s Cave Mountain Brewing Company in 2013
brown's brewing company

Brown’s Brewing Company, Troy

The best brews and news to come out of Brown’s Brewing Company in Troy in 2013
crossroads brewery

Crossroads Brewery, Athens

The best brews and news to come out of Athens’ Crossroads Brewery in 2013
defiant brewing company

Defiant Brewing Company, Pearl River

The best brews and news to come out of Pearl River’s Defiant Brewing Company in 2013
gilded otter brewery

Gilded Otter Brewery, New Paltz

The best brews and news to come out of New Paltz’s Gilded Otter in 2013
beer history

The History of Beer: Albany, New York, Once the Largest Brewing Hub in America

Sudsy state: The Valley’s extensive beer history is rediscovered
half time beverage

The King of Beers: Half Time Beverage, Poughkeepsie

Alan Daniels’ Half Time Beverage remains one of the world’s best places to buy — or just browse — brews
mothers milk keegan ales

Five Can't-Miss Hudson Valley Brews

Alan Daniels of Half Time Beverage in Poughkeepsie weighs in on his bucket list of local suds
beer bars

Top Five Hudson Valley Beer Bars in 2013

The Valley’s top five bars that take their craft brew collection to a new level
dutchess hops

Dutchess Hops Cooperative at Eastern View Farm in Lagrangeville to Create First Major Commercial Hop Yard in the Hudson Valley

Things are hopping: A new Lagrangeville co-op brings hops production back to the Valley

 

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