A little over a week ago, a few of my beer-loving friends planned a trip to the Hudson Valley to visit some of the many breweries in the area. Our initial list was really impossibly long. We quickly figured out that we would have to make the list shorter—something like four breweries—to make the trip feasible.
I should point out a few notes:
- I had almost nothing to do with the planning of the trip. The discussion was all done on What’s App, and I (in)famously don’t use this app. It’s for the best, I’m sure, since I either adopt early or not at all.
- We did this whole trip by automobile. While in years past, I would have written about this trip because I bicycled there, this was not one of those trips. I really haven’t been on the bike as much as I’d like.
- Hudson Valley Brewing in Beacon might be the best regarded of the breweries in the Hudson Valley, and we have all had the pleasure of going multiple times. We didn’t go on this trip, but it’s definitely one of the best… and easily the most crowded.
Plan Bee Farm Brewery
Our first stop was at Plan Bee Farm Brewery in Poughkeepsie. The brewery is located just a few miles east of downtown on a buculoic farm.
The tap room is decorated with many hexagons, evoking the shape of a honeycomb throughout the space. They have a bottle rack with hexagons and even the tile on the bathroom floor is a hexagonal mosiac. I feel like a fool for not having snapped any photos of the decorative motif.
Plan Bee says that their beers are all cultivated from ingredients sourced in the community. The yeast itself is cultivated in the honeycombs on the property. The beers were mostly wild ales, which I am happy to report gave them a very unique quality.
One beer that my friends ordered and let me try was a pickle beer. One person commented that tasted like the bagged pickle that you get with a sandwich from the diner. It wasn’t my favorite.
The brewery has a really big outdoor space with tables for seating, a stage inside of a gazebo, and a basketball hoop and a cornhole setup. The latter two pieces were instrumental in a video I shot of my friend Jackie shooting a basket—it became the basis of a wonderful song.
Suarez Family Brewery
The taproom at Suarez Family Brewery is open for only a few hours on three days a week.
The taproom offers only small pours: four-ounce pours that allow you to taste most of their beers and still to find your way back to the car.
One thing I really like was how the label on the bottles depicts parts of the taproom.
Of the four brewery taprooms we visited on this day, Suarez Family was my overall favorite. Look for me to return on a bike after second winter passes us in in mid-May.
Sloop Brewing at The Factory
Sloop Brewing has become one of the largest breweries in the region. You can even find their beers at some Trader Joe’s stores in the city.
However, their scale doesn’t take away from the quality of their beers. Sloop had a taproom in Elizaville, which they called The Barn. Since then, they have moved to a much larger space in an industrial park campus—once used by IBM—in East Fishkill, known as The Factory.
The place is enormous and the taproom is one of the largest I can ever remember visiting. It is also really well lit.
Clearly, this is the place where a lot of their beer gets brewed and packaged for distribution.
Of all the breweries on this trip, this was the only one with a full service restaurant.
A favorite aspect of this brewery was how they sought to appease both younger drinkers and old timers like me. For example, there was an Instagram-ready photo booth—a “Selfie Station”—in one corner of the taproom.
And then directly opposite the photo booth was a flatscreen playing recorded episodes of MTV’s 120 Minutes, an early 1990s music video program on Sunday nights that more or less informed my musical tastes for the rest of the decade.
Speaking of the full-service food menu, the folks at Sloop went to great pains to pair every one of their food offerings with a beer from the menu. There were some appropriate pairings, such chasing down The Sloop Burger with their flagship Juice Bomb IPA. But there were other pairings that didn’t compute: I didn’t note them so I can’t describe them here.
Note: Equilibrium Brewing has opened a large taproom that wasn’t yet opened during our visit in November 2019.
A couple of years ago, I tried to visit Equilibrium with some friends but there was no taproom, and the Equilibrium restaurant that is attached to the brewery didn’t let us stash our bikes inside. Instead, we rode to nearby Clemson Brothers, ordered food, and debated the impending tax bill. Good times.
Since then, the brewery opened a small taproom and has since opened a much larger space in central Middletown, next to the old passenger rail station that is sadly many miles from the current Middletown station on NJ Transit’s Port Jervis line.
The smaller taproom is really nice and certainly deserved a visit due to the intimacy. By the time we arrived at this fourth brewery, it was late and the beertender was extra surly: he’d rather go home than serve us after sampling three other breweries. Also, I swear that some of the other patrons were drunk-crying.
If Suarez Family was the nicest taproom to visit, the best beer was at Equilibrium. It was so good that a few of us stocked up on cans to take back home.
As I said earlier, I didn’t have anything to do with planning this trip. It was all my friends Ian and Steve who plotted everything. I just had to show up and pay my share. In the event any of you read this site, thanks for handling it all, guys. It was a worthwhile escape from the city.