Hoppin’ On Over To Pfälzerbräu

April 13, 2017

It was a dry and partly sunny day when I drove over to meet Heiko Giesberg, co-owner and brewmaster at New Paltz Brewing Company in Wawarsing, NY (a small enclave in the Route 209 corridor of Ulster County). Upon arriving, I met his brother Jeff out in the parking lot, who was putting out their “Bier” sign at the road’s edge to let passersby know that the taproom was open.

IMG_2075Jeff escorted me around the back of the building to the brewhouse, where I met Heiko. I then spent the next 45 minutes or so getting a first-hand look at the brewing operation, where he walked me through the chapter and verse of his brewhouse process as he worked on his latest batch.

Heiko is from the Saugerties area originally, but grew up in north-central New Jersey, before ultimately returning to the place of his roots in the Hudson Valley. Having always been interested in beer and brewing, he and Jeff founded the New Paltz Brewing Company in 2013, and in their early days, Heiko brewed 12-gallon batches at a farm stand in West Park.  In 2015, they found the property  in Wawarsing, which allowed them IMG_2082to brew on a larger scale, and where they now have a kegging and bottling operation.  And their taproom opened officially in October of 2016.

Being of German heritage and having actually spent several months last year brewing in Germany, Giesberg adheres largely to the ‘reinheitsgebot‘ standard, which is the Bavarian purity law of 1516 dictating that only water, barley, hops and yeast may be used in the brewing process. This law was mainly economic in its basis, as the Bavarians did not want rye and wheat to be used in brewing for fear it would drive up the price of bread, and cause economic stress on the baking industry.  The law has since been modified to include all malted grains, and contains some other IMG_2085provisions that allow for broader distribution of product.

Although not actually in New Paltz itself, the brewery takes its name from the influence of the Huguenots, who originally left France for fear of religious persecution and fled to neighboring Germany. Some remained there, but others followed the Dutch to the new world, settling in what is now New Paltz, and naming the town after the Pfalz region of Germany from which they emigrated. Pfälzerbräu – the branded name of New Paltz Brewing Company – is a tribute to the Huguenots of New Paltz.

Giesberg told me that the most prominent guiding principle in his brewing process is experimentation. He loves trying new things, and to that point, I watched him as he steeped his latest batch of hefeweizen with a mesh bag full of orange peels. This devotion to experimenting with beer is one of the things that puts the word “craft” into the craft beer industry. Brewed and crafted by hand, with love and passion for the art form as the driving factors for each and every batch’s success.

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After my extremely informative tour and observation time in the brewhouse, Heiko took me into his tap room, where Jeff was already serving fresh lagers and ales to local patrons.  Jeff gladly walked me through samples of each beer on their list, from the German ale style known as Altbier (translating to “old beer”), to a Grätzer, which is a smoked wheat.

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Of all of their taproom offerings, the only one I would say I didn’t enjoy was the Keller, and it was not for lack of its quality or trueness to style. I think it’s just that this particular variety of German lager doesn’t appeal to the tongue of the affirmed ale lover in me.

The Sauerkraut beer was interesting, and when I asked Heiko “does it really taste like sauerkraut?,” he promptly replied “It sure does!” And how this very distinctive flavor is accomplished is primarily through the use of hops and yeast. Heiko was right – this one was a sauerkraut “bazinga!” if ever there was one. Believe it or not, I had a whole glass, and loved it.

But my favorite offering from Giesberg’s brewhouse is the Hefeweizen.  Done perfectly to style, with the flavor of the wheat taking front and center, it was a little maltier than most other hefeweizens you’ll try, which appealed to me immensely.

If you enjoy great craft beer brewed in the German tradition, you owe it to yourself to visit the New Paltz Brewing Company, where the Giesberg brothers are setting standards for quality that you’ll be pleased with.

New Paltz Brewing Company
7174 Rte 209
Wawarsing. NY

Website:  http://www.newpaltzbrewing.com/
IG:  pfalzerbrau

“Vini. Vidi. Bibi.”

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Brewers, Tuns & Money: An Afternoon At Hudson Ale Works

April 2, 2017

If we closely examine our daily activities, we sometimes (or maybe often) find that a negative circumstance is the gateway to something positive. And such was the case on Sunday, April 2nd as I sought out a visit to a craft establishment in the New Paltz area after participating in a 14-mile group run in Mohonk Preserve.

Sweaty, tired, and already feeling a bit sore after romping around for 3+ hours in “one of Earth’s last great places”, I needed a fresh glass of craft beer in the worst possible way. So as I pulled out of the Spring Farm trail head parking lot at about 2:00pm, I set my GPS for the address of Yard Owl Brewery in Gardiner. About 20 minutes away, my device told me. I could certainly be patient for that long.

But patience turned to disappointment as I arrived at Yard Owl’s small, industrial location on a remote back street of Gardiner. It was 2:23pm, and the sign on the door iIMG_1965ndicated that they were open from 3:00pm – 7:00pm.  Not wanting to wait around for nearly 40 minutes, I decided to do something active rather than passive, and I pursued ‘plan B’. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Fourteen miles and 25 minutes later, I found myself arriving at my destination, Hudson Ale Works in Highland, NY. In all of my bull sessions with fellow Hudson Valley beer lovers, this brewery had never come up in conversation, so maybe I would be the one to experience it first, I thought to myself, and then report back to friends. In any case, unlike my previous stop, Hudson Ale Works was open for business, and I was glad to finally be close to that first heavenly taste of malt and hops.

The building itself has a fairly crisp look from the outside, and to my delight, the inside was equal in presentation to the exterior, with caged lanterns hanging above a sleek stone-topped bar, and multicolored wood panels providing an eye pleasing backdrop.

Being that this was a Sunday afternoon, the placeIMG_1968 wasn’t too crowded, and I was able to get seated and review the tap list right away.  What I found was a great variety in their tap offerings, and wanting to try them all and still be able to safely drive home, I started with a flight (which at $8 for four 6 oz glasses is a total bargain).  Although customers can choose any four beers, I went with the first four on their list.  My comments about these are as follows:

Coconut Vanilla Stout
Super smooth and very easy to drink, the low hop rate allows the creamy flavor to remain at the forefront. Coconut flavor is evident, but does not overpower.  5.5% ABV

Gose, the Imposa
A great sour, whose name is possibly inspired by the historical Romanian figure Vlad the Impaler. This is a serious sour that leaves its mark. And at 4.2% ABV, on a warm summer day this one could keep your palate satisfied for hours on end.

Monkhe See, Monkhe Do
With a deep amber color and very strong malt profile, this Belgian dubbel (thus the word ‘monk’ in its name) could just as easily pass for a Strong Ale.  8% ABV

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The Huell hops in this aptly named session IPA immediately impart a notable flavor that lasts on the tongue from start to finish. Coming in at 4.5%, this great beer has a full bitterness profile that is appropriate for the style. Perfect for the everyday IPA lover.

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As I worked my way through the flight, I engaged with my server, who I immediately learned was Adam Trapani, one of the three principals at Hudson Ale Works. Adam explained to me that although the brewhouse itself has been in operation since 2013 (with setup costs of likely over $1 million), it was only after a long and expensive renovation that they opened their taproom space in August of 2016.  He went on to explain that in addition to their spacious taproom

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Neil Trapani in their brew house

(which is actually two rooms), they will be building a 600 square foot patio in the front that he said he hopes to have complete in time for summer.

The interesting thing about Hudson Ale Works is the owner/labor structure. Along with Josh Zimmerman and Neil Trapani (presumably Adam’s brother, although I admittedly didn’t ask), Adam and his partners all identify themselves as both “owner” and “brewer” in addition to the many other hats that they must certainly wear.

After declaring my identity (a beer snob should never hide behind his beer glass, after all), I was given a friendly peek at the brew house, where I was shown the small but active 3 bbl system they use to push out product not only to their tap room, but to their dozens of retail accounts, which are all delivered to by way of a two-tone grey Honda Element (seen in the picture above).

I concluded my session (and visit) with a glass of the brewery’s Maple Strong Ale offering, which they call Supdafied.  At 9% ABV and full of body and flavor, it didn’t disappoint, and is one that I hope will find its way into a can at some point so I can enjoy it at home as well.

All in all, Hudson Ale Works is a great brewery, and I am very confident they will have a bright future here in the Hudson Valley. Pay them a visit when you get a chance.

Hudson Ale Works
17 Milton Ave
Highland, NY

Website:  http://www.hudsonaleworks.com/
IG:  hudsonaleworks

And for those who caught the Warren Zevon reference in the title of this post, bravo to you!

“Vini. Vidi. Bibi.”

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Josh Zimmerman enjoying time with Hudson Ale Works patrons

The Little Craft Pub That Could

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March 30, 2017

As vital as we know the various breweries and brewpubs are to the burgeoning Hudson Valley beer scene, the one immutable fact is – they can’t do it all by thIMG_1931emselves.  These great brewers need other voices out there, other channels for showcasing the great products they’re putting in front of discerning craft beer drinkers across the region.

Craft pubs are that secondary channel. And although these specialty business establishments have been around for longer than the local beer scene itself, they now have an all-new raison de etre; to be a main outlet for the numerous Hudson Valley brewers who are doing all of these fantastic things with malt and hops.

Due to their specialty niche and the corresponding crowd that goes with it (let’s face it, most beer drinkers still favor “Big Beer”), craft pubs tend to be small, and tucked into out-of-the-way nooks and crannies of the business neighborhoods they inhabit.  One such establishment opened a mere seven months ago in Sloatsburg, NY, but has very quickly solidified itself as perhaps the go-to craft pub in the lower Hudson Valley.

Seven Lakes Station thrust open its front door to customers for the first time on September 17, 2016, and has been gaining public favor and creating a certain “legend” for itself ever since.  Go in, grab yourself one of the 7 or 8 stools along their sleek bar, have a conversation with co-owner Martijn Mollet (first name pronounced Mar-TAYN),

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SLS bedecked for Christmas

and you’ll be regaled with a plethora of knowledge about beer brands and styles as never before.

Although small, as many craft pubs are, the notion of Seven Lakes Station’s space being cramped or limited disappears into the bar-side conversation that seems to take place almost organically between owners, staff, and customers.  Hang out there for just a short while, and before you know it, you know everybody’s name at the bar, where they live, and what their favorite beer style is.

In fact, the culture of Seven Lakes Station is so mellow and so inclusive that you shouldn’t be surprised if a regular walks in while you’re there, pops open a can or two of a latest specialty offering, and shares samples with you and everyone else at the bar.  This is the beauty that Martijn and his partner Jamie Lovelace have quickly and effortlessly built along Sloatsburg’s main business thoroughfare.

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The tap list, which constantly rotates.

The pub’s 14-beer rotation of tap offerings are divided into two main categories – a collection of local craft beers, and a set of specialty brews, the latter of which most often features 2 or 3 Belgian beers, as perhaps a tribute to Martijn’s place of birth. All the beer on their board is available for growler fills, but besides just that, a walk down the hall toward the rest room reveals several coolers with a vast collection of specialty cans and bottles, all available for takeout as one-offs, or as a build-your-own six pack.

14354876_1075995319144277_253467033282903535_nOn Friday and Saturday evenings, you’ll often be treated to live music from local musicians as you quaff your beer, with musical styles that run the gamut from blues to folk to reggae.  And in addition to the beer and music, if you’re feeling a little peckish, they’ve got a small but tasty collection of foodstuffs available (including pretzels, cheese and charcuterie) that will really hit the spot and set up the palate nicely for your next pour.

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Martijn & Jamie serve a great selection of craft beers

Always smiling and positive, Martijn and Jamie create a special and memorable experience for customers, taking the time to get to know you, and fostering a sense of family among the regulars and non-regulars alike. It’s not hard to see that SLS will be around for a long time to come, doing its part in promoting all the amazing things that are going on out there in craft beer land.

Drop in on them the next time you get a chance. And if you haven’t been there before, tell them the Beer Snob sent you.

Seven Lakes Station
80 Orange Turnpike
Sloatsburg, NY
IG: sevenlakesny
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/sevenlakesny

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The Beer Snob, celebrating Christmas “La Chouffe-style” with SLS patrons.

“Vini. Vidi. Bibi.”

Long Awaited, But Awaited No More – Opening of Equilibrium Brewery

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March 25, 2017

It’s not that the opening of a new brewery is a rare event these days. If you follow the beer scene, you’re aware that breweries have been popping up like Spring bulbs all over the country, and the Hudson Valley is no exception. But as common an event (relatively IMG_1917speaking) as it’s become, it is always exciting when a new establishment opens, and you have the privilege to be among the first beer lovers to pass through the doors of a top-rate brewing operation.

After months of chatter and anticipation, Equilibrium Brewery opened its grille and taproom to the public at 11:30am today, setting the table for what many believe will be a long and successful relationship with the local and regional beer community.

The brewery has actually been in operation since late 2016, kegging and distributing many of its products to local retail accounts, so the buzz has been building – and sounding louder and louder, in fact – leading up to today’s soft opening.  But judging by the public turnout today, “soft” is perhaps the last word I might have used the describe it.

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The taproom, as seen from Equilibrium Grille

As you arrive via the brewery’s main public doorway, you’re presented with the option of going either straight up a set of stairs to the Equilibrium Grille (where there is still plenty of beer in addition to food), or a turn to the right where you’ll enter their industrial, yet airy taproom.  Most patrons today appeared to have chosen to visit the grille, where many found booths from which they could order food and nosh while they enjoyed the beer offerings, and which afforded a terrific loft view of the taproom down below.

For my part, I was there alone, so chose the taproom, where I found two lines – one for people looking to fill a growler, and the other for those wishing to taste samples and order one of the six varieties that were on tap.

Although there was a brief issue with the brewery’s POS system, causing temporary delays with the taproom’s lines, the patrons were patient, and essentially just happy to be part of this excitement.

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MC ²

Although I held no real intention of ordering a full glass of it, my curiosity led me to sample the Mmm…Osa, a fairly low gravity pale ale, which I found to have a good mouthfeel and a tangy finish. I suspect that as the weather warms and the taproom opens its large garage door, this beer will be among Equilibrium’s most popular.

But for my first glass, I decided to go with the MC², an Imperial IPA (or what some might call a Double IPA), coming in at 8% ABV.  Served in a broad Belgian-style glass, this beer hit the spot for me. The Equilibrium website explains their commitment to creating beers with “massive flavor”, and this one is definitely powerful in that sense. So much so, in fact, that you don’t realize how much alcohol is in it. It’s flavor profile is direct and gets right to business, and I’m sure this one will also be a hit, not only during the summer months, but year-round as well.

After slooooooowwwly downing the MC², I got back in line, and this time went with their standard pale ale, called Photon. At 4.8%, this beer is extremely drinkable, and is what the brewery refers to as MC²’s “little brother”. Also full of flavor and color, just like its big brother, Photon should be a staple for Equilibrium fans for a long time to come.

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17498411_1373754386021503_2736015053733386808_nAs I enjoyed my glass of Photon, I had a brief conversation with head brewer Pete Oates, who although very busy greeting other patrons, took a few minutes to explain to me the concepts that are at the core of Equilibrium’s business and operations – science, research, and experimentation. As is evidenced by the names of a number of their beers – Fractal Citra, Photon, MC² and Fluctuation – science is clearly at the root of who they are and what they do.  Pete also explained to me that all of Equilibrium’s beers are “completely unfiltered”, which he says allows the full flavor of each beer to come through.

When you get a chance, come on out and enjoy the offerings of this superb brewery, located right in the heart of Orange County. I, for one, will definitely be back again soon.

Equilibrium Brewery
22 Henry Street
Middletown, NY
http://eqbrew.com

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“Vini. Vidi. Bibi.”

Post-St Paddy’s Day, Pine Island Style

March 19, 2017

With the skies sunny and blue, and lots of white stuff on the ground from this past week’s 2-foot snowfall, today seemed the perfect day to take a drive through the area’s famous Black Dirt region and drop in on our friends at Pine Island Brewing in Pine Island, NY.

It had been nearly 9 months since my last visit, which was just after the brewery’s Spring 2016 IMG_1898.JPGopening of its beer patio and garden in the back of the property.  But the tap room was clearly still in “winter mode” on today’s visit, with the front garage doors closed, and the interior space made roomier to accommodate the indoor season’s crowd.

Upon getting seated at the bar and taking stock of things, I noticed a couple of friends of mine in the back area near the dart board, and after dropping $25 on the bar to buy myself some beer tokens, I shuffled over to say a quick “hello”. Turns out my friends Larry and Karen, who live just down the road in Florida, were pub crawling today with another couple. As Larry told me, their next stop would be probably be Glenmere, and then they’d try to get to Rushing Duck in Chester before the 4:00pm “last call”.

Upon sitting back down, I started off with one of Pine Island’s staple offerings, their Oatmeal Creme Stout. This beer is not dominated by the higher alcohol content you’ll find in an Imperial stout, so goes down smoothly, and has a soft, creamy finish. At 5% ABV, I wouldn’t exactly classify it as a session beer, but it’s about as “sessionable” as beer is going to get from a Hudson Valley craft brewery.

After finishing the stout, I took a look at the chalk board, and noted something that appeared new, and was perhaps one of head brewer Mike Kraai’s specialty offerings – a Belgian style IPA called Bier de Melon. Wondering how “melony” the flavor was before ordering a whole glass, I asked tap room manager Cody Lynch for a sample first.  Knowing my general aversion to fruity beer, I expected to turn this one down after having the sample, but to my surprise, the melon essence was not overwhelming to the tongue. Although this beer comes in at 7.1%, the alcohol is well-hidden within its appealing flavor profile.

Inquiring with him about how Bier de Melon is made, Cody explained that there is actually no fruit in the beer at all, and that the fruit essence comes from a special German hop called Huell Melon. A German hop in a Belgian ale – imagine that. It is innovative to say the least, and leaves the tongue with a lasting satisfaction.

To end my afternoon session at Pine Island, I ordered their Scottish Ale, which is about 6.5% ABV, a beautiful dark amber in color, and nicely true-to-style for anyone who fancies themselves a fan of this category.

Check out their website at http://pineislandbeer.com, and pay this great brewery a visit when you get a chance. And depending on the season, you may even come home with a little bit of black dirt on your shoes as a memento. 😉

Pine Island Brewing Company
682 County Rte 1, Suite B
Pine Island, NY

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