New York State was the beer capital of the country in the 1800s, thanks in large part to fruitful hop farms just north of Manhattan. But Prohibition and the spread of a mold that wiped out crops brought the New York beer industry to a halt in the 1900s. Recent state legislation, however, has created incentives for small breweries and paved the way for the Hudson Valley Beer Trail. Bus tour companies are already springing up, bringing Manhattanites north, but you can tour the route on your own for only the cost of gas, a few pints, and a bribe for your designated driver. Here are some key stops along the way...
1. Defiant Brewery, Pearl River
Defiant’s beers all follow the same basic recipe - one malt, one hop. This doesn't mean that the beers are boring; their signature Muddy Creek Lager is perfectly malty and nutty, and more experimental brews like the Orange Cream (which tastes like a Creamsicle) are also on tap. If visiting on a Friday or Saturday night, order some of their house-smoked brisket, ribs, or beef jerky.
2. The Peekskill Brewery, Peekskill
Upstairs is a swanky restaurant, downstairs is a brewpub complete with a sleek bar and hanging Edison bulbs. Their Higher Standard IPA won this year’s TAP NY Governor’s Cup for Best Craft Beer in New York State. Order a side of lemon Parmesan fries to go with your pint, rest your glass on the over-sized barrels by the windows, and look out over the Hudson River.
3. Rushing Duck, Chester
Their flagship Naysayer Pale Ale (brewed with two pounds of hops per barrel) was named after all the skeptics that were proven wrong after their first successful year in business. My personal favorite is the Beanhead, an intense coffee porter brewed using local beans from the Java Love Coffee Roasting Company in Bethel. While this no-frills brewery doesn't serve food, it makes up for it with exciting, flavorful beers.
4. Newburgh Brewing Company, Newburgh
Come for the beer, stay for the views. The Newburgh Brewing Company looks out over the Hudson River from the top floor of a renovated box factory. I recommend ordering a $5 pint of Irish Red, which is brewed in partnership with Dutchess County’s Crown Maple Syrup. A portion of the Red’s proceeds go to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, so you can toast to a good cause.
5. Captain Lawrence Brewing Company, Elmsford
We've heard that Captain Lawrence’s Imperial IPA is "ridiculously good," from our in-the-know friends. It’s hoppy and citrusy, perfect for sipping on the outdoor patio while playing a game of bocce. Though ranked as the 25th fastest-growing craft brewer by The New Yorker, the brewery itself still has a neighborhood vibe. Tours are given by the owner’s father, Vincent, and locals flock to weekly Thursday-night trivia.