August 14, 2017
It’s most common that when I pay a visit to a new brewery, they’ve got a lively tap room with plenty of interesting offerings to tantalize my palate with. And thus it was quite unusual when I got into my car to make the two-hour drive up to Margaretville, NY, future site of the Faith American Brewing Company.
Yes, that’s right, this is a future site, which is where the unusual aspect of my visit comes in. My brewery tour was actually more of a property tour, which featured a first hand look at the large dairy barn – long since abandoned from use – that will one day house the brewery operations, as well as a tap room and restaurant.
Arriving at the farm location on a back road a few miles north of Margaretville, I was scratching my head as to which of their driveways to use and where to park my car. As with any such property, there were several buildings, each serving a different purpose. After stumbling toward what I quickly realized was a caretaker’s building, I did an about face and started walking toward a swimming pool, where an adult and several children were splashing playfully. As I neared it and said “hi”, I was greeted by the property owner himself, who graciously directed me to the main house, where I could announce myself and be welcomed by the rest of the family.
For some of you who know this writer, you’re aware that I’m a runner. Well, two of the ladies in the family here are runners as well, and I was invited to go on a short run with them before I began my formal meeting and tour.
Despite the fact that I was without any semblance of running gear, I accepted the invitation and put in a couple of miles with the ladies in my street clothes and Chuck Taylor hightops. The scenery on this marvelous country road was nothing short of spectacular.
Once we were back to the house and cooled off, I had a chance to sit down with Kelsey Grammer and Stuart Walsh, the two men who are the brain trust behind Faith American Brewing. As these kinds of meetings tend to go, we started off with a beer. In this case, a private tasting of their flagship offering, Faith American Ale. Lightly hopped and coming in at 5% ABV, this beer has just the right amount of malt to make a statement, yet won’t deliver a “one and done” message to your taste buds. Stuart served it to me in an 8 oz glass that was branded with Shmalz Brewing Company logos. Which makes sense given that for at least the short-term future, Shmalz will be contract brewing the Faith American Ale recipe.
Before I had a chance to get very far with my first pour, Kelsey waved me over to the all-terrain passenger vehicle that they use to traverse the property and said “let’s go take a ride”. He, Stuart and I piled in, as did three of their combined 5 children, which made for a more joyous journey. Note: I brought my beer with me, but had a difficult time drinking it due to the bumpiness of the ride. Lesson learned.
The ride to the dairy barn – which was on the far side of this expansive property – was a delight. Past a small apple orchard, up and down hills, beneath trees and thru meadows we rode before finally arriving at Ruff Rd, the barn’s address, at least for now.
Nearly 300 feet in length (as long as a football field), the barn is an imposing structure. With high, lofted ceilings and all the cement remains from where dozens and dozens of cows once stood and gave their milk, the place was a vision of yesteryear. And at this point, it is now a vision of the future in the eyes of the Faith American owners. Kelsey proudly described where the taproom and restaurant would be, where the mash tuns and fermenting vessels would one day stand, and where the shipping doors would be at the far end of the building. Alongside the barn are two tall grain silos, which Kelsey explained would be re-purposed in some way as part of either the building design, brewery operations, or perhaps both.
The plan with respect to opening Faith American will be to break ground on the construction in 2018 (architectural designs on the barn are still ongoing) and to open brewery operations in 2019. And in the interim, Jeremy Cowan and the folks at Shmalz will continue to execute on the production of Faith American Ale.
On our return trip to the main house, we rode a different route through a broad meadow that revealed perhaps the most sensational view on the whole property. In Fall, I have no doubt that the Delaware County colors make this farm a glorious place to frolic.
Sitting back down on the patio, we resumed with our tasting of Faith American Ale, and my gracious hosts continued to fill my empty glass for several more hours as we ate pizza and talked about beer, running, Classic Rock, our respective good old days living in Manhattan, and much more. Stuart is a filmmaker, and using his laptop, he showed me trailers of two of his films – one a horror spoof about the local “Calico Indians” (not real Indians, BTW), and the other a sort of running rave up. Each one featured members of the Grammer and Walsh families as actors, and they both were, in a word, fun!
As the sun set on the Catskills and the mosquitoes began making their presence known, I took my leave of this great group, but not before expressing my thanks and letting them all know that there will be more to follow, as part of our meeting was talk of creating a running event that will act as both a marketing tool for Faith American and a tourism boost for Margaretville.
So long for now, Faith American Brewing Company, but definitely not goodbye. See you again soon!
“Veni. Vidi. Bibi.”