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These riches are frequently enhanced by local ingredients. "Breweries tend to develop a strong sense of place with their home, which means they are always eager to support local whenever they can," Halayko says. "That sense of place comes from the local farms that we work with, in supplying them our spent grain, to the sense of local community that is created in our taprooms. What is also exciting is what's happening in the Hudson Valley when it comes to hops and malt. For us, we now use malt from Germantown Beer Farm in almost all of our beers. They call their malt 'Hudson Valley Malt.' It isn't the entirety of our grain bill for a beer, but it is present in almost every beer we brew. It's a high-quality product, and we love working with them. Both hops and malt produced in the Hudson Valley have the opportunity to put our region on the map."
Hudson Valley Cabernet Franc Coalition
- Paul Halayko, President & COO of Newburgh Brewing Co. According to Halayko, “Any discussion of the best beer-making region in the country has to include the Hudson Valley.”
In 2016, the Hudson Valley Cabernet Franc Coalition launched to showcase the high quality Cabernet Franc wine being produced here. Last fall, Empire Rye debuted as a style, formed by a coalition of distilleries across the state. The Empire Rye label is open to any New York distillery that makes a rye whiskey utilizing 75 percent New York-grown rye, along with other requirements.
"We are now branding the region as a specialist in Cabernet Franc, a grape that is very well suited to growth and wine production here in the Valley," says Yancey Migliore, who founded Whitecliff Vineyard & Winery in Gardiner with her husband, Michael Migliore, 20 years ago. "The Valley saw wine grape production as early as the seventeenth century with the French Huguenots, and in the nineteenth century we provided all the wine and table grapes for the East Coast—from Philadelphia to Boston. Government policies have had a huge influence on our agriculture: Prohibition resulted in a dramatic shift from wine grapes to apples; the New York State Farm Winery Act in 1981 brought the industry back by making it easier to create wineries on a small scale. Subsequent policies under Governor Cuomo have resulted in a literal geyser of new products."
Migliore adds, "For consumers, Hudson Valley wines offer an opportunity to discover a region whose wine quality has raced ahead of its reputation."
Her winery has helped bolster that reputation. The winery's 2009 Riesling earned the honor of Best White in Show at the San Francisco International Wine Competition, "where 45 judges tasting blind judged it better than 1,300 white wines from 27 countries and 28 states," Migliore says. "And in 2015 we brought the first ever New York State Grape Grower of the Year Award to the Hudson Valley, which for 30 years had always been awarded in the Finger Lakes and Long Island."
The inspiration behind Empire Rye was to restore New York's pre-Prohibition reputation as a rye producer, the same way Kentucky is associated with bourbon. "It is our way of stating in a very clear way that we're making a claim to rye that we're deliberately choosing to breathe life back into that category and make New York once again famous for its rye whiskeys," says Christopher Williams, chief distiller at Coppersea Distilling in New Paltz, who conceived the Empire Rye concept. "We deliberately made it a difficult thing to produce that whiskey. So that name has meaning that is very clear, very understandable in the market. Things like using a minimum 75 percent New York State grown rye. In a lot of ways that's more challenging than making Kentucky bourbon. Kentucky bourbon doesn't have to be made from Kentucky corn; it can and often is made from corn and other grains with no known provenance."