Growing up in nearby Washingtonville, Christopher Basso always thought Newburgh would be an ideal spot for some type of culinary-related business. "I always thought Newburgh would be a great place to do something. I went to culinary school, so I was thinking originally maybe a restaurant," he says. Basso's interests would soon take him out of the kitchen and into the carbonated world of beer. "I started home brewing when I was in culinary school. By the time I was done there, I sort of fell in love with beer," he recalls.
His love affair with beer would turn into a career. After graduating from the French Culinary Institute he worked at the Brooklyn Brewery—a powerhouse in the craft brewing industry—for six years. After leaving the Brooklyn Brewery he enlisted his childhood friend Paul Halayko as his business partner and together they founded The Newburgh Brewing Company.
Basso serves as the brewmaster and CEO of the company while Halayko—whose background is in accounting—serves as the brewery's president and chief operating officer. The brewery's beer hit the market in late April. Right now they are selling to 60 bars, restaurants, and liquor stores across the Hudson Valley. At the end of May they opened a 6,000-square-foot tap room at 88 South Colden Street. The tap room will be available for special events and open on weekends for tastings. Basso and Halayko hope to make the tap room a relaxed community hangout where people can come and stay as long as they want without thinking they have to keep buying beer. The brewing duo also hopes the brewery can help revitalize Newburgh. "One of the things that most intrigued us about the city of Newburgh is the fact that we as a company could play a role in the overall cultural and economic revitalization of the city of Newburgh," Halayko says. He adds, "We were all excited about that and in particular Chris was, having come from the Brooklyn Brewery and just seeing what the Brooklyn Brewery did for Williamsburg."
Right now, the brewery is offering four styles: a light Belgian-style saison beer, a cream ale, a brown ale, and a dry Irish stout. (For the sake of journalistic integrity, this reporter repeatedly sampled all four and will continue conducting long-term field research even after this story is published.)
All of Newburgh's initial beers are less than 4.5 percent alcohol, by volume (ABV). It's a type of beer that's described in the industry as "sessionable," which means they're brewed to be enjoyed with friends and not to get you wasted. "Those are what I like to drink," says Basso, who adds that if you're drinking for the flavor of the beer, the amount of alcohol should not matter.
Both Basso and Halayko are hoping their brewery will become a source of local pride. "Communities in this country and in Europe take a tremendous amount of pride in their local brewery and they're often times very loyal to it and they love the fact that they have a brewery, in their community," Halayko says. "We're excited to be part of the community here, both in the city of Newburgh and in Orange County and the Hudson Valley."