A homegrown, upstart local nano-brewery has just opened up its doors (and ales) to the Hudson Valley and beyond. James Walsh, co-owner with his wife Michelle of the well-established local café/bistro the Mudd Puddle at the Water Street Market in downtown New Paltz, has launched Yard Owl Brewery, based in Gardiner, with his best friend Kristop Brown.
Although James has been working towards this end for years, pursuing his love of beer-making science and skill by taking courses with the world’s best brewers at the University of California at Santa Clara and around the country, he has been working with Brown for the past two years to build the Yard Owl Brewery, perfect three ales and acquire the necessary distributing and retail licensing before they set sail. And set sail they did, with several solid local businesses signing on to their homegrown ales, including Theresa Fall’s Jar’d at the Water Street Market, K & E Beverage in New Paltz, the Mountain Brauhaus and Rock and Rye at the New Paltz Golf Course on Huguenot Street.
“We’ve been selling out at these locations, which is a great and humbling sign,” said Walsh while working nonstop measuring hops, checking temperatures and engaging with his partner the entire time that he was being interviewed by the New Paltz Times. “We’re sticking to this core base right now, which has been so supportive of us. And we’re also now doing kegs and special orders, as we have a retail license,” he said, with the smell of hops in the air.
The partners played with and perfected their three signature ales before they went for the full-throttle licensing applications. Their signature products include Farm House Ale, Dubbel Ringer Ale and Fire Pit Golden Ale.
Brown, who is an established winemaker in the Hudson Valley with Glory Winery and Robibero Winery down the road, attempted to explain the various flavor signatures of their three ales: “The Fire Pit Golden Ale is a more simple, slightly hoppy ale, not bitter,” while Farm House Ale “has a little more wheat in it, including some Belgian wheat, which gives it a more fruitier taste than Fire Pit, a little more head to it,” he explained.
Dubbel Ringer is a darker ale and higher in alcohol content, according to Walsh. “It’s certainly not a stout or a porter, but it has more candy sugar in it, a toffee/cherry flavor.”
The two friends met 16 years ago when Walsh was looking for a ride to Mardi Gras and found Brown. They ended up returning to the Hudson Valley, marrying and having kids who now all play together. Michelle Walsh works at the Mudd Puddle and Brown’s wife Jade is a social worker.
“I couldn’t have done this without my wife Michelle’s support,” said Walsh. “She’s been there every step of the way!”
Beyond their family backing, the two were humbled by the local support that they have received. “Theresa Fall held an event at Jar’d to introduce Yard Owl, and it was sold out within a half-hour!” Walsh said. “We’re so happy with our core base right now. Local residents as well as tourists are looking for local products, and this is as locally grown as you can get. We purchase much of our hops from Taliaferro Farms; we get our bottles and kegs from Jerry Pantano of Pantano’s Wine Grapes in New Paltz off Route 32, where Robin’s used to be. He’s been such a huge help and support to us.”
“It’s so gratifying to have our ales sell out, and for people to tell us how much they enjoy it,” said Brown. “I think that people are really looking for something local, and there is a strong, vibrant, growing community of local wineries and breweries in the Hudson Valley that is exciting to be a part of.”
“We know it takes time,” said Walsh. “That’s why we spent two years perfecting our three ales. We continue to experiment and perfect. Sierra Nevada took ten years to establish themselves from a local brewery to a national/international market. We don’t want to be that! But we do want to grow, of course. This barn supports us now, but our dream is to expand enough to open up a traditional rustic brewery where we can produce, store and provide more of our product. But for now we’re thrilled with the reception.”
To get more info, or to order and pick up 22-ounce bottles, cases, kegs or casks, call Walsh at (845) 633-1325 to set up an appointment. “We have a retail license so we’re happy to provide people with our bottles, cases, kegs or casks. Just call us — as you can see, we work ‘round the clock!”