Get Your Beer Here
Hudson Valley Brewers fill our cups with some of the freshest, tastiest beers in the country — bar none
At the Gilded Otter in New Paltz, at least nine different homemade brews are served up at any given time
Photographs by Chris Ware
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It’s 11 a.m. on a Tuesday; the early lunch crowd shuffles in to Brown’s Brewing Company, on River Street in Troy.
A man sits at the bar, reading his paper, drinking coffee. If he looked up, he’d notice another man, clearly visible through the plateglass window behind the bar. Rubber-booted and hip-deep in a gooey concoction, this man is standing in a 700-gallon stainless steel tank with a shovel and a hose. He is Rob Rafferty, a brewery assistant, and his current job is to clean the vat of mash, a gloppy porridge that is left over from the first step in making what will be Brown’s Pale Ale.
Scenes like this are familiar to beer connoisseurs up and down the Hudson Valley. At least eight small, local craft breweries and brewpubs dot the landscape from Troy all the way to Pearl River. Some, like Brown’s, have been around almost two decades, nearly from the time of the Big Bang of the U.S. craft beer explosion. Others, like Cave Mountain Brewing in Windham, are just getting their sudsy feet wet. They serve English-style beers, Belgian-style beers, German-style beers, beers made of wheat and barley and rye, beers flavored with chocolate and pumpkin and maple syrup, extra-hoppy India Pale Ales and extra-fruity cranberry white ales, Wassails in winter and hefeweizens in summer, and whatever else the brewer fancies that day.
— King Gambrinus of Brabent, the patron saint of brewers
What they don’t make is thin, pale, tasteless, American-style beer. (“Why is American beer served cold?” the old beermaker’s joke goes. “So you can tell it from urine.”) And while thin, pale, tasteless, American-style beer still accounts for about 96 percent of all beer sales in this country, the remaining four percent who drink craft beers — a number that likely skews a bit higher in regions like the Hudson Valley — do so with a passion and devotion that can sometimes border on the religious. They complain when a personal favorite is dropped from the rotation. They pester while awaiting a seasonal style. They expect to see brewers like Rafferty mucking about with shovels and hoses in the background.
As more than one of the Hudson Valley’s humble brewers pointed out, “We don’t own our beers. Our customers own our beers.”
» After the article: Beer 101 and Meet the Breweries