- The Heathenous Hazy, a double IPA.
“Part of our name—Return—is making beers you want to return to again and again,” says Mikey Lenane, one of the four co-founders of Hudson’s latest craft beverage company, Return Brewing, which launched last month. The nascent company crafts its beers using a mixture of local ingredients and internationally sourced hops to craft a flavor profile that is new in the region. “We’re really going to try to push the boundaries and do some Eastern European-inspired stuff that just doesn’t exist in our area,” Lenane says.
For Lenane and two of his co-founders, brewer JD Linderman and head of creative Jack Liakas, Return Brewing was the logical next step in their combined two decades of brewing experience. They previously worked at Brooklyn’s Sixpoint Brewery, spearheading a small-batch brewing program that gave them experience in sourcing ingredients globally and crafting their own brews. When Lenane’s longtime friend Robert Wise, the fourth co-founder who handles Return’s finances and operations, moved back to the United States from London, Lenane felt like it was the perfect time to bring the team together in a place he loves. “I’ve always wanted to start a brewery upstate,” says the Coxsackie native. “That’s always been my dream.”
- The Return Brewing team.
Currently, Return Brewing is operating out of the Crossroads Brewing Company facility in Catskill, with a taproom and brewing facility in Hudson slated to open next year. The team also plans to showcase work from the town’s robust art community. “All we really wanted was a vibrant cultural scene,” says Lenane of the team’s location scouting, pointing out that Hudson’s robust downtown made it the perfect choice. “We wanted a nice local crowd, and we wanted walkability.”
The founders also were drawn to Columbia County for its agricultural bounty. While Return is sourcing hops internationally, the produce, honey, and grains they use will come from local farms. “When it comes to fruit, we’re looking to get hyperlocal because that’s one of the greatest strengths of the Hudson Valley,” Lenane says. “ There’s all these amazing fruits and herbs that grow in the region.” They decided to use globally-grown hops because of the broader flavor profiles that international sourcing provides. “We felt like those connections and being able to spotlight those farms globally and all the great terroir that you can get out of hops strains that are only available in New Zealand, and ones that grow best in Washington State, was too good of an opportunity,” explains Lenane.
Different Brewing Styles
When the taproom opens in mid-2022, Return will have a three-and-a-half-barrel brewhouse with seven-barrel tanks. They’ll make three categories of beers: garden and archive, which will be made in smaller, limited batches, and tavern beers, their debut style.
“The garden beers are all about beer set in a time and place,” says Lenane. “We’re situated in this incredibly fertile valley, so we really want to utilize the bounty of the Hudson Valley.” Their taproom has plans for a local fruit processing plant to brew with these goods in-house. While these beers are still in the works, they will be made in small batches and follow the timing and pattern of farming seasons. “They’ll be there and gone just like the harvests,” says Lenane.
The archive beers are also still in development, and will be custom brews made by using a barrel-aging fleet and experimental techniques. “The archive is all about creating this library of beers that are various blends,” says Lenane. “A lot of folks, they make a barrel-aged beer and they always have this end goal for where that one beer is going to go–it’s going to go into a barrel and then in a year we’re going to pack it. We like to think of it a little differently,” explains Lenane. The barrel-aged beers will act as a base and be combined with local ingredients to make what Lenane calls “bespoke small-batch formulations.”
Tavern beers are available now and focus on customer accessibility. They’re made in larger amounts, and can be purchased at grocery stores. Lenane explains that the types of beers are recognizable, including IPAs and lagers. “They’re going to be styles that people know and understand,” says Lenane. “We’re also going to put enough information on our can and website to really help people understand what they’re drinking and the whole process behind it.”
Looking to the Future
The company’s debut tavern brews launched in September. The Heathenous Hazy, a double IPA, is made with Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand's Hop Revolution Farm. “That hop has this big tropical note, but on top of it there’s a high note of white wine and gooseberry,” says Lenane. “It’s super aromatic, but actually brewed quite dry, and it’s also really soft and smooth, so it’s quite drinkable.” The Polished Pilsner is made with Tettnanger hops from Hopfengut Farm in Tettnang, Germany. Lenane says it has a “really beautiful floral aroma, and then a clipped, short, dry, moderately bitter finish.”
Both are available for purchase at regional retailers and bars, including select Beer World locations, DeCicco & Sons, and Hudson’s Governor’s Tavern and The Half Moon. They’re also available in New York City establishments, including 82 Stanton and Brooklyn’s Minnows Bar.
Beyond brewing, the co-founders want to make their business more accessible. They have a socially conscious mindset and are working from a multiple angles to prioritize inclusion. Some of the company's planned initiatives include working with local reentry programs designed to help the recently incarcerated, and focusing on building eco-friendly practices. “We’re listening and learning right now,” says Lenane, who’s been working with organizations including Greater Hudson Promise Neighborhood to develop ways that Return Brewing can make a difference locally. “We know we want to do good, and we’re going to let these organizations lead the way for us.”
In the meantime, Lenane wants to establish Return Brewing as a regional staple. “My main focus right now is becoming a really nice part of the local community,” says Lenane.
Return Brewing’s products are available at several retailers. A complete list of stockists can be found online.