Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The Helderberg Brewery: a new twist

   The Helderbergs are hilly country north of the Catskills, south of Albany in eastern New York, and a hundred years ago they were full of hop and barley farms supplying breweries up and down the Hudson River.  Prohibition brought an end to that, and by the time of Repeal, irrigation projects in the Northwest had kicked in and the hops and barley crops moved west.
   Now, the locavore movement has landed into the craft beer boom big-time,  The farmstead breweries, which I noted in the last post, are stepping up the demand for growers to plant hops and two-row.  Here in the Helderbergs I came across a brand-new 20-gallon nanobrewery opened as part

of an effort by a foundation to be a catalyst in the brewer-farmer connection.  Plows to Pints, they say here in Rensselaerville, NY, and the Carey Institute is hoping to jump-start the process.  The Institute has several substantial buildings besides this cottage housing the brewery and pub, and they had just put on a seminar on yeast management for interested brewers. The hundred acres of the Institute lie within a two-thousand acre Huyck nature preserve.
   Pints of wheat beer and Belgian blonde were on tap for the opening weekend of the pub.  "We will be working with brewing teachers at the
community college in Schenectady," said Rebecca Platel, the program manager.  "And it's not just two-row barley; we will brew with rye, wheat, spelt and oats when we can get them from in-state growers."  She indicated the bags of grains around the corner, all labeled to show compliance with the new Farmstead Brewery law.  This law was modeled on a Farmstead Winery category New York set up in the 70's--but while the state grows a lot of wine grapes, beer ingredients will be harder to source. "A typical hops operation will be five, ten acres," a grower said at the recent opening, "just a side operation now."  One report had three hundred acres of hops growing in the entire state, less than a single farm in the Yakima Valley.
Brewer Greg Postash was busy describing his operation during open hours that first weekend. He kegs in sixtels (five-gallon kegs) and will be supplying taps at the restaurant in the village as well as filling growlers here at the pub.

(Visited 03/13/16)

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