Pursuing The Great Life

November 17, 2017

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It’s fair to say that the opening of a new Hudson Valley brewery is – at least for me – one of the most exciting events there is.  And with a full 50+ breweries in the region now doing their thing, you’d think there wouldn’t be room for more. But each new opening proves that notion wrong, and the latest business to bring home to us the idea that “more is better” is Kingston, NY’s Great Life Brewing.

To clarify, Great Life is not exactly a new brewery. In fact, owner and head brewer Patrick Clancy began his brewing operations at their 75 Clarendon Avenue location in

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the Fall of 2015. But since that time they have been without a taproom to showcase their offerings. That is, until now.

The taproom had a soft opening two weeks ago, for which I was sent a private invite by assistant brewer and taproom manager Cody Lynch. But I couldn’t make it due to a family obligation, so I was not about to miss their formal opening, which brought well over 100 thirsty craft beer aficionados to their warehouse location on this chilly pre-Winter evening.

The taproom essentially shares its space with the brew house, and the interior of the building is fairly raw, with walls seemingly unpainted since Clancy took possession of the property 3 years ago. Besides the primary brewing vessels (which are 7 bbls in size), there is equipment scattered around – I spied a grain crusher and a chiller among them. There are even hoses hanging from hooks on the walls.

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But patrons didn’t seem to mind any of that in the least as they chatted and enthusiastically drank their beers. It’s a relaxed atmosphere, for sure, and so much so that it even features a couch for you to plop yourself down in if you’re so inclined.

Although Great Life has plans to experiment and create differentiated offerings (pretty much a must in the current craft beer climate), they presently have four standard styles on tap, all of which are of great quality and pleasing to the beer gourmandizer’s palate:

1855 Cream Ale
1758 Witbier
1829 IPA
1875 Milk Stout

IMG_3561Each style’s name includes a historic date that denotes a significant event in the history of brewing. Rather than spell them all out here, I encourage you to visit the brewery and ask your publican to expound directly on the basis for each name.

In addition to their own brews, there are also a couple of guest taps, which tonight included Rushing Duck‘s fabulous Brux IPA, and Applewood Orchard & Winery‘s well-regarded Naked Flock draft cider. And for those who don’t like beer or cider, there are red and white wines from Warwick’s Clearview Estates Winery.

During my visit, I had the pleasure to be seated next to a young craft beer fan named IMG_3557Lauren who, like myself, was a personal friend of Cody, and was there to show her support. Lauren and I talked breweries, Instagram, and the virtues of Hudson Valley living. In the end, we determined that we would no doubt share a beer again sometime in the near future.

I began my evening with a glass of the Witbier, then moved on to the Milk Stout, and ended the night with the Cream Ale. Not wanting to leave any stone unturned, I took home a growler of the IPA, which, for those who know this writer are well aware, will not last long in my refrigerator.

Please join me in welcoming this terrific new brewery to the Hudson Valley family, and pay them a visit when you get a chance.

Great Life Brewing
75 Clarendon Ave
Kingston, NY

website: www.greatlifebrewing.com
IG:   @great_life_brewing

“Veni. 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

WorksAllDay
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!

“Veni. Vidi. Bibi.”

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Josh Zimmerman enjoying time with Hudson Ale Works patrons