Something new is going on at Pantano’s Wine Grapes and Home Brew — a club. In the evening hours, beer enthusiasts from around the area head to the old farm market on Route 32 South to learn the tricks of the trade.
Next week, the Mohonk Brewers Association — the home brewing club — prepares to make its first field trip to the Keegan Ales brewery in Kingston. Typically, the group of roughly 30 members meets once a month from 7 until about 10 p.m. at Pantano’s.
It’s easy enough to brew beer at home from a kit, but for the members of the club the draw has to do with a shared base of information.
“Number one, we offer knowledge,” said Jerry Pantano, the owner of the wine-making and beer-making supply shop. “We have speakers that come in and speak to the members.”
Outside of the seminars, the new thing for the club — as previously mentioned — has been outings. For people who are slaving away at making their own dark stouts, creamy ales and rich golden lagers, checking out a fully established brewery in a behind-the-scenes, all-access way is a pretty big thrill.
Mohonk Brewers club members also get a forum to swap recipes. Good beers, like great foods, often have tricky secret ingredients or funky production methods for achieving certain tastes. Even experienced brewers can learn something new from the approach of their peers.
“Everybody’s beer has a different taste to it,” Pantano said.
Club meetings usually also involve sampling and giving notes on the beers brewed by the members. Each brew is graded and discussed.
Back last summer, the home brewing club got off the group with a first meeting. However, the idea had been around for a while, simmering on the backburner.
“My customers, they had said to me, ‘Jerry, you’ve got to start a home brew club,” he said. Open for just more than two years, the wine and beer supply shop has had a history of listening to customer demands. At first, Pantano’s started with just wine grapes and wine-making kits. From there it moved into beer brewing equipment, and then bags of grains and hops. But eventually, even some of the seemingly off-topic ideas became staples. Pantano’s added a room devoted to canning, filled with glass mason jars and heat-seal lids. They also sell imported Italian olive oil and canned tomatoes.
Around the warehouse floor in the old farm market are stainless steel hoppers and big copper brewing kettles with curled piping, bags of corks, chestnut barrels and slews of untouched wine bottles, labels and giant pipe cleaners. Pantano’s holds a treasure trove of equipment that would make a do-it-yourselfer’s eyes gleam with daydreams of future mischief.
“It’s a nice place to come and meet,” the supply store owner said.
One advantage of meeting at the store is that the moment a person learns they might need a new ingredient, they can walk over to the shelf or grain room and bring it to the register right then and there. “We have all the ingredients.”
Pantano’s Wine Grapes and Home Brew first got started as an idea in late 2008. The store officially opened in 2009 after the beloved Robin’s Market went under.
For more information about Pantano’s Wine Grapes and Home Brew, call 255-5201, visit their Facebook page or head there in person at 249 Route 32 in New Paltz. To become a member of the home brew club, one must inquire at the shop. Dues for club membership are $40 a year. ++