Arrowood Farms Brewery and Tasting Room, located in the pastoral hills of Accord, is celebrating its recent certification as one of the few organic farm-breweries in the state. It is operated under the notion – the obsession, really – that beer is best “grown from the ground up.” To that end, farmers Blake Arrowood and Jessie Lotrecchiano and brewmaster Jacob Meglio grow an acre of hops and ten of Danko rye on-site.
The hopyard, which holds six different varieties, is situated right next to the tasting room, so visitors can relax on the patio and watch the neighboring sheep graze their way through the 20-foot-tall trellises, providing free weed and pest control. A large flock of heritage ducks splashes around a small pond. They have a job to do, too: They’re free to roam to “fertilize” the hopyard. In the distance, a row of beehives provides a home to busy pollinators. And a small herd of pigs resides under the canopy of a wooded area on another side of the property. They take care of the waste grain from the brewing process.
The scene is so bucolic and refreshing, you might forget that farming is hard work and risky. It has taken three years of sustained effort for Arrowood and his associates to realize their dream of producing handcrafted artisan beer – effort that includes constructing animal shelters and a state-of-the-art brewpub, building up the soil, cultivating hops and grain that never travel more than a few feet from field to tap and brewing in small batches with the freshest ingredients possible, truly representing local flavor.
Originally from North Carolina, Arrowood’s background was not in agriculture, unless you count his family’s home being backed up to a dairy farm. “Both my grandfather’s parents were farming families,” he says. “After college, I started out in advertising. Working on Planet Green on the Discovery Channel got me into the environmental world. I went overseas with WorldTeach to the Marshall Islands, where they get all their food shipped in; nobody grows food there – and I started their first community garden. Exploring different cultures and communities, you see people based around farms and foods and agriculture. The energy and liveliness of those communities was something I wanted to be part of. Moving here to the Rondout Valley and Accord was like heaven.”
He describes how the symbiotic relationship between animals and the land can be encouraged to the benefit of both. “We learned that ducks produce a high-nitrogen waste, and hops really love nitrogen. And it grew from there. We quickly realized that to make a viable farm, we needed to produce a value-added product. Jacob [who studied Biology in college and made homebrew for many years] came on full-time as head brewer; we got him off his med-school track. And we’ve been rolling with it since.
“We planted a lot of native pollinators: annuals and perennials. We’ll produce our own honey for the tasting room and to brew with. Having the sheep graze through the hopyard to keep down the bottom foliage opens up air flow and helps mitigate against pests and disease. We’re trying to involve the animals in all our systems and make it work for the end product, which is the beer – and the land. That’s the ultimate goal. When we talk about producing craft beer, we want to differentiate ourselves in establishing the farm for the brewery.”
Arrowood says that the land lay fallow for a decade. The next phase of development will be to plant fruit and nut trees. Feeding the five piglets a pail of mash, he says, “They will just root up everything, so we’ll let them all out into this fenced space in a couple of weeks. We wanted to start utilizing the wooded acreage on the farm. They don’t have a lot of hair, so they get really hot and sunburned. They like shade.”
Managing 48 acres of crops and woods with a slew of farm animals looks almost easy at Arrowood Farms. When asked if he considers himself an entrepreneur, he says, “We’re just figuring it out: the best way to make our farm successful and viable. And in that process, the entrepreneurial spirit has led us in that way of diversifying and figuring out how to make it work. For us, that is taking what we’re growing and making the best beer we can. And hopefully some prosciutto…”
Slow Food Hudson Valley will host a private opening of the Arrowood Farms Brewery and Tasting Room on Thursday, June 23. Come take a tour of the brewery and farm and enjoy a tasting flight of four four-ounce beer samples, plus a pint of your choice and an array of delectables: duck eggs, bread, cheese, olives. Your ticket includes a half-dozen pasture-raised duck eggs to take home. Founded in June of 2002, Slow Food Hudson Valley is one of 1,500 chapters worldwide that serve as regional resources to create community around delicious, nutritious and regenerative food systems.
Arrowood Farms/Slow Food Opening, Thursday, June 23, 6:30-8:30 p.m., $30, tasting hours, Saturdays, 12 noon-8 p.m., Sundays, 12 noon-6 p.m., Arrowood Farms, 236 Lower Whitfield Road, Accord; (845) 253-0389, www.arrowoodfarms.com, http://arrowoodtourtastesfhv.bpt.me.