Over the past 5 to 10 years the craft beer scene has exploded in the US, and the Hudson Valley seems to be at the center of it with what feels like a new brewery opening up every day.
One of those new breweries, New Paltz Brewing Company, opened about a year ago filling a niche by specializing in traditional European Lagers. The brewery which was founded by Jeffrey and Heiko Geisberg, two brothers born and raised in the Hudson Valley and passionate about their German heritage and in the art of craft beer making.
Whereas America is just in it’s infancy of marking their territory on the global market of producing beer, European countries beer history dates back centuries. At New Paltz Brewing Company the Geisberg brothers are using old traditional European recipes, full of history and full of flavor, to make authentic German style beer. “We are doing it like they did it years and years ago,” say Giesberg. “We make our
traditional beers strictly old-style German. There is nothing automated about it. If it is an 800-year-old recipe, we brew it the way it was brewed 800 years ago.” And in their case, that even means buying and importing the exact grains from the same farms in Germany that the beers were made from 800 years ago so that the end product is as close as possible to a perfect recreation of the beer originally made from the recipe.
Jeffrey and Heiko began homebrewing beer in their garage in 2008, truly a garage beer. They then began touring the world meeting with numerous brewers, researching, studying and learning the history of the beers and decided that they wanted to focus on crafting old lost styles of beers.
“We are a small craft beer brewery and we handcraft all of our work,” says Jeffrey Geisberg.
Small is right, the beer travels a total of 12 feet from where it is brewed to their taps. “Think of someone stirring a giant pot - think of that only a little bigger. It is ultra fresh.” Geisberg gloats.
Perhaps the most important factor in the taste of the beer they are producing lies with the grains they use. The grains are imported from Germany where they have been grown by the same family for hundreds of years, from the same farms and same soil. German beer is all about consistency, and to continually make the same beer there are a lot of pieces of the puzzle. “It is not just about sticking to a recipe. In order to get perfect beer, you need to have the perfect barley. To get perfect barley you need to have perfect soil and ph. That part is all up to the farmer,” explains Ginsberg. “We take it from there.”
Why you ask is New Paltz Brewing Company located in over the mountain in Wawarsing and not New Paltz? Just like their beer the name goes back to a time in history. The name stems from a region in the southwestern area of Germany, Pfalz. The Huguenots, who founded New Paltz in 1678, had taken refuge in Pfalz, Germany for a time, prior to coming to America. Hence the name Pfälzerbräu; “Brew from the Pfalz.”
Brendon Corcoran, head of Sales and Promotions for the company, tells me, “We are allowing people to discover traditional old-style beer that hasn’t been made in a long time and is so hard to find. We are revitalizing these beers and want to stay true to their history and not take any creative liberties with them. We want to give our customers the real deal.”
Heiko goes on to say, “it is the combination of this passion, authentic grains, age-old recipes and the New York Appalachian Mountain water that makes their beers so full of flavor.”
At present, they are brewing 4 traditional German lagers as well as several other more modern beers made with US and local New York ingredients. These more modern renditions have ingredients such as rye and and oats, which are considered “outlawed” in respects to traditional German Purity Law.
The day of my interview with the New Paltz Brewing team, I tried the following:
Kellerbier “Cellar Beer”: A unique type of European beer which is not clarified or pasteurized and rarely found these days at all. ABV 5.7% (alcohol by volume)
Rauchbier (Smoked Beer): The most distinctive beer they make, with a mild smokiness that comes from using barley dried over an open flame. ABV 5.1%
Roggenbier (Rye Beer): A very bold, sessionable, unfiltered, specialty ale that stands out among other beer styles. ABV 4.7%
Hefeweizen: A traditionally prepared, top fermented, unfiltered, amber wheat ale with pronounced tastes of clove and banana. ABV 5.6%
The tasting room at the brewery opened just over a year ago and also offers light snack such as a brie platter, charcuterie ( meats from Catskill Smokehouse) hummus and hot chocolate chip cookies, which incidentally I hear goes amazingly with their Rauchbier Lager. There are tables, couches and even a foosball table to make you feel at home. You will also find at least one of the brothers there to warmly greet you eager to tell you their story and that of the beer - instantly adding flavor to each beer they pour.
Right now you can find their beers at Beer World in Kingston and an increasing amount of local restaurants in Ulster, such as the 1850 House, Butterfields, Aroma Thyme and Liquid Mercantile.
At New Paltz Brewing Company, the Giesbergs have taken the art of craft beer making to its roots and have created beers full of history, tradition and flavor and it is definitely worth a try.
New Paltz Brewing Company
7174 Route 209 Wawarsing NY
Tap room hours: Thursday & Friday 3-8 pm, Saturday 12- 8 pm, Sunday 1-6 pm