The farm-to-table movement has thrived in the Hudson Valley for years—long enough that we hungry residents have probably been a bit spoiled by the availability of grass-fed beef, farm-fresh vegetables, foraged wild edibles, and other artfully plated in-season ingredients. So, of course it was just a matter of time before brewers got in the game. The farm-to-table movement now has a drinking buddy. Call it farm-to-pint.
As the number of craft breweries in the valley and Catskills has steadily increased, many have opened shop in revitalized industrial spaces, such as Kingston’s Keegan Ales, Albany’s C. H. Evans Brewing, Newburgh Brewing, Blue Collar Brewing in Poughkeepsie, and Hudson Valley Brewery in Beacon—all renowned brewers with devoted followings. Although reincarnating former factories and firehouses has done wonders for both the industry and its respective communities, a slew of craft breweries have set roots on local working farms. By associating with farms, breweries are no longer simply brewing—they’re growing and harvesting their own ingredients, feeding leftover mash to resident livestock, and inviting guests to a pastoral environment in which to enjoy a glass or flight.
Arrowood Farm Brewery, for instance, is a brewpub located on a 10-acre farm in Accord with a commitment to sustainable practices. Cofounder and managing partner Blake Arrowood’s farming experience began while he was overseas in the Marshall Islands; he worked on the region’s first community garden. Years later, Arrowood’s travels brought him to sleepy Accord, where he met Jacob Meglio, who became cofounder and managing partner. “Jacob started off as our head brewer after he had been home brewing for almost a decade,” Arrowood explains. (Current head brewer Justin Markham worked previously as a distiller at Tuthilltown Spirits in Gardiner.) “After meeting our landowner and now partner, we came up with the idea to create a farm brewery, incentivized by the New York State Farm Brewery legislation.”
The Farm Brewing Law, passed in 2013, was designed to increase demand for locally grown products and aid the development of businesses in the brewing ecosystem. An array of tax incentives and grants have been made available to participants of the legislation, which follows the format of the 1976 Farm Winery Act, which stimulated the growth of wine production through more than 250 farm wineries. “Farming is difficult with anything you’re growing,” Arrowood says. “We knew pretty early on that we needed added value if we were going to make it.” This led to the creation of the farm brewery.
Approaching Arrowood, visitors can’t ignore the rows of sky-reaching poles with lines for hops bines to climb. Six varieties of certified-organic hops are grown on more than an acre; Arrowood anticipates an approximate yield this year of around 1,000 pounds when fully mature. The hops are fertilized by organic-raised chickens, and kept free from pests and disease by grazing, pastured sheep. Heritage-breed pigs are fed spent grain from the brewing process, later to become pork sold in their market; while bees raised on the property produce honey used in beers such as the Bees honey porter—a smooth, dark brew with a hint of smoky sweetness.
“Our Mohonk IPA has been a real hit all around,” Arrowood explains. “The Villager, our Kolsch, is an extremely popular beer. Our Black Sheep Brown Ale has been on since day one.” This season, look for their first-ever bottle release—a smooth copper ale named Four Green Fields, in addition to an Oktoberfest and a vanilla coffee stout made with Madagascar-harvested vanilla beans and locally roasted coffee.
Arrowood Farms’ exterior offers welcoming country views, bistro tables on a stone patio, and a new wooden pavilion for events (their first wedding was held this past summer). At night, you’re treated to a country sky dappled with constellations unspoiled by light pollution. Inside, however, the brewery-feel returns, with a laid-back atmosphere, visible brewing equipment, and communal seating or intimate round steel tables.
The relationship between farmer and brewer is not new, but the benefit of combining the two industries has seen steady support on both sides. Although not a farm brewery, Glenmere Brewing Co. in Warwick relies heavily on partnering with local farmers to incorporate regional ingredients into their offerings. “The relationship works really well: Brewers are always looking for interesting things to use in brews that a lot of local farms already grow,” says Michael Sandor, president and head brewer. “There has been a big uptake in farms shifting to grow grains and hops to meet the demand of growing breweries, and New York State has pushed incentives to help develop these two industries. You now have farms growing and malting their own barley.” In addition to supporting communities, farm brewers are finding new flavors that you wouldn’t get from hops harvested from other popular growing regions, such as the Pacific Northwest. “Ingredients grown in different regions will have subtle difference in flavor profiles,” Sandor explains. “This is the fun part. When we wanted to use 100-percent Pennings Farm hops in a beer, the first thing we did was open it up and take a smell, and then built a beer around the hops flavors.”
On the east side of the Hudson, you’ll find other breweries hidden in plain sight, including Plan Bee Farm Brewery in Poughkeepsie, From the Ground Brewery in Red Hook, and Sloop Brewing Co. in Elizaville.
Plan Bee prides itself on crafting beers strictly from local resources on their 25-acre farm or within New York State. Their farm-grown ingredients include hops, grains, wild cultivated yeasts, locally grown oak tanks, fruits, herbs, flowers, and others. Water used during the process comes from the farm’s well. All of this makes each small-batch brew’s availability limited to season and vintage, based on the local agriculture. Similarly, From the Ground Brewery, located on Migliorelli Farm’s 100-acre orchard, uses barley grown onsite and ages select brews with fruits grown at the orchard, including apples, pears, peaches, plums, and cherries.
Sloop Brewing Co.’s tasting room is in an early 19th-century barn on Vosburgh Orchard in Elizaville. Although the brewery is set upon undulating acres of fields and fruit trees, Sloop offers more of a punk-meets-pastoral approach with its bootstrap history and bold selection of IPAs and sours. College buddies-turned-business partners Adam Watson and Justin Taylor founded Sloop as a licensed, garage-based nanobrewery in 2011, but it grew quickly over the years and needed more space. “We were looking for a place to move the brewery and fell in love with the orchard and its barn,” says Watson, cofounder and head of sales. “We grow some of our own hops, and the farmer down the road takes all our spent grain for his livestock.”
Sloop is known for their no-frills beer; don’t ask if they “do pumpkin” because the answer’s in their short, satirical video promoting their fall brew release: the NO Pumpkin IPA. According to Watson, “We just never got into the entire pumpkin beer thing. The anti-pumpkin sentiment has been growing for a while in the industry, so we just made a joke about it and people seem to think it’s funny.”
What draws visitors from near and far to the intimate brewery is top-seller Juice Bomb, a Northeastern unfiltered IPA with citrusy hops, a slight bitterness, and tropical aroma. Confliction, a dry-hopped sour ale, won gold medal in the American-style Sour Ale category in the 2016 World Beer Cup competition. Its name comes from the conflicting taste of citrus hops, a tart base, and a grapefruit-flavored finish.
While self-proclaimed beer snobs might argue that it’s not about the building, it’s about the beer—and brick and steel continue to be the industrial-chic norm for brewpubs—the mutual benefit that regional farms and homegrown breweries share from the booming craft beer business has helped both industries continue to thrive.
Farm breweries aren’t the only craft beverage makers taking advantage of the region’s fertile growing seasons. Hard-cider fermenting has taken on a new life in the Hudson Valley, as fermenters associate directly with decades- or centuries-old orchards to perfect their ideal infusion. Whereas the cider industry was most commonly known to be stomachache-sweet and mass-produced, here in the valley fermenters are, for the most part, taking to making smaller batches of pure, chemical- and additive-free drinks made with local ingredients. Many are dry, hoppy, barrel-aged—anything but syrupy. And of course, the cideries located on working orchards are proud to feature heritage apples and other farm produce, from raspberries to honey.
Bad Seed Cider, for instance, is located on Wilklow Orchards in Highland. “We’re a small craft cidery producing modern American ciders with a base of old-world cider making,” says Devin Britton, co-owner and cidermaker. He and close friend Albert Wilklow, a sixth-generation apple farmer, began fermenting small batches of cider for friends and family merely as a hobby in a basement apartment seven years ago. But, as word got out, demand grew quickly and they needed a place to set up shop. “We are separate businesses working closely together,” Britton says of Bad Seed and its 60-acre homebase, Wilklow.
Bad Seed uses apples right from the orchard and produces ciders that are known to be Champagne-dry. The Original Dry, for instance, is similar to a brute apple Champagne. The Raspberry Cider is tart-yet-dry, while the IPC (India Pale Cider) is made with cascade hops.
While many cideries in this region are fermenting award-winning beverages, there’s one thing visitors can’t deny about farm and orchard brewers: There’s beauty in enjoying the bucolic views of the region you’re sipping.
Additional Orchard-based Cideries:
Aaron Burr Cidery in Wurtsboro, on a small farm dating back to the 19th century, is committed to making cider from wild heritage cider apple trees, recreating pre-Prohibition cider. Aaronburrcider.com
Orchard Hill Cider Mill crafts small-batch, artisanal hard cider, and is located at Soons Orchard in New Hampton. Orchardhillnyc.com
Naked Flock hard apple ciders are fermented from fresh apples at Applewood Winery and Orchard in Warwick—the oldest working farm in Orange County. Applewoodwinery.com
Stone Bridge Cider, produced at Stone Bridge Farm’s 175 acres in Hudson, focuses on dry, barrel-aged ciders. Stonebridgecider.com
Kettleborough Cider House, at Dressel Farms’ 450-acre apple farm in New Paltz, creates very small-batch cider. Kettleboroughciderhouse.com