In about the time it takes to get from North Brooklyn to South Brooklyn, I was able to make it all the way to Peekskill, NY, yesterday, where I got to explore the vibrant beer scene that is happening north of the city. Of course, I’ve known all along that Peekskill Brewery was there, but for whatever reason, I never got up off my duff and headed up on Metro North. Then, I received an invite from the Malted Barley Appreciation Society to do a pub crawl through this quintessential Hudson River town, and I thought that was the perfect excuse to get out of town for the day.
Whether it was the weather (snow flurries most of the day) or the beer, the town was lovely and fairly easy to navigate (we had access to vehicles to get between the brewery and the restaurants, but on a nice day, I suspect walking would be the way to travel… it’s about 15 minutes on foot from the Metro North stop to town).
Getting to Peekskill Brewery is super easy. Just head left from the train, hang a right at the street corner, and then make a left before the overpass (maybe it was an overpass… it’s a two-minute walk). If you don’t have Google maps, just look for the bakery; the brewery is across the street on the right-hand side.
Although we were an impromptu gathering of roughly ten peeps, the folks at Peekskill were generous with their time, giving us a private tour (more on that in a moment). The real joy of going up to the brewery, however, is the beer! Peekskill has an interesting model, which brewer Ben Kulikowsky explained to us: They want to send just enough of their beers into the city to encourage us NYC residents to schlep up there for the “good stuff.” (That’s my phrasing, as it’s pretty much all good beer flowing out of Peekskill.) Thus, NYC will probably never get Amazeballs, but NYC peeps can hop on Metro North (I paid $23.50 r/t off-peak, not including any subway fare to get to Grand Central) and in roughly an hour be at the bar sipping from a dozen different brews (they also have “friends” on tap, but I don’t think anyone from NYC would be interested in Lagunitas that we can easily find in the city). No, the reward for your time is the unique beers that will never make it to NYC. (Re: money… the cost for beer and food is so much cheaper than your average craft beer bar in the city that you’ll probably break even on the train fare).
And the beers are only going to be more of a draw, moving forward. Ed Goldberg showed us the bottling machine on our tour, which will do some one-offs and limited brews only available at the pub or restaurant on the second floor (same menu in both places; pick your ambiance of choice). Ben explained that the brewery is taking a page from Captain Lawrence’s playbook and not offering bottles for sale that will end up on Ebay with extreme mark-ups. That said, they want to ensure that the trip is worthwhile, so they do hope the bottles will add even more value to drinkers who are commuting.
By far the coolest (pun intended) part of our tour was getting to see the famous coolship tank. Right now, the regular tour doesn’t offer access to the tanks (they hope to allow crowds into the third floor area at some point). We were able to get up close and personal with the tank where wort from every single beer made at Peekskill goes to cool. I had no idea that they were using coolshipping for all the beers; I figured it was a “special” process. The brewery is set up so that the wort is pumped up two floors to cool and generally after an hour or so, it goes back down into its proper fermenter or bright tank. While all of us on the MBAS have seen more than our fair share of breweries, I think each and every one of us was impressed by the coolship equipment. (Ed said Peekskill has one of 10 coolship systems in the country, but Wikipedia lists only seven, including the best known coolship operations at Allagash and Anchor Brewing).
After our Peekskill tour (I should mention, the food here was great), we headed over to Birdsall House. Although we had missed brunch, we did snack on huge portions of bar foods (I had pulled pork nachos, others ordered fries served for both Americans and Canadians – i.e. with ketchup and mayo). The bottle list here is impressive, and—again—makes the trip worthwhile. Peekskill also seems to be a bit ahead of the City with regards to distribution; both the brewery and Birdsall already have Bell’s on tap, for example (I had the Cherry Stout). Be sure to take time out to appreciate the mahogany bar; our bartender said it dates to the 1930s. I only heard some of the history lesson, but I’ll be seeking more of it on my next visit.
If it’s cocktails you’re craving, their sister pub, Gleason’s is the place to go. The beer there is lackluster, but the flatbreads are outstanding. The two pubs are within easy walking distance of one another, but it’s nice to linger in the town center and appreciate, well, the smallness of it all.
If you time it right, you can do the entire tour in under eight hours (I took the 11:46 a.m. up and got back on the 6:35 p.m., which turned out to be an Express, so I was back at Grand Central about 7:30). The Bitch is Ecstatic about Peekskill, and I cannot wait to go back again soon. For all my pictures, please check out (and like!) my Facebook page.