The high ceilings of 74 Vineyard Avenue in Highland makes the hamlet’s new beer and coffee shop feel spacious, counterbalancing the gleaming, dark finish of the floor, walls and bar. Outside, a cluster of boys suck down their hot chocolates around the table, while inside, the vibe is calm with a sense of cheery bustle. While much of the recent election had to do with how the Town of Lloyd and its hamlet of Highland be developed, Erin and Jeremy Intonti were quietly opening just the kind of business any elected official could be proud to have in their community. Underground Coffee & Ales is a space which welcomes all kinds: those searching for a pick-me-up or mellow in their cup, the old and the young, night owls and early birds. Its location is accessible to pedestrians and drivers alike, and its fare is a draw to both locals and beer tourists, because that’s definitely a thing.
The pair might still be putting the finishing touches on their location, but for a decision to have a “spontaneous opening” in time for Harvest Fest, in response to “many local requests,” according to Jeremy. Since then, they’ve been gradually expanding their offerings, focusing on quality rather than speed, and have yet to schedule an official grand opening. Given the number of people who come in sometime during the long hours it’s open — 9-9 weekdays, and until at least 11 p.m. weekends — the notion that Underground hasn’t been through that rite of passage might seem amusing. If they don’t feel like they’re fully operational, it’s understandable; they aren’t even sure how to categorize the venture, although Erin is partial to “coffee pub.”
What could be a match made in heaven — ten rotating taps of locally-made beers together with coffee roasted in Tarrytown — is a reflection of its owners. Jeremy wanted to serve beer and Erin gravitated towards coffee, but neither of them liked the idea of owning a bar. They have a five-year-old child themselves, “but you don’t bring a kid to a bar,” said Erin. They instead focused on a family-friendly establishment, where live music is offered from time to time, and customers can choose a latte, pint, glass of port, or perhaps a soda made from hops, as suits their fancy, except liquor.
The crowd covers the gamut, it seems. “We’ve got college students doing homework, people in their 60s and 70s who come in for their coffee daily, any age group, all really mature people enjoying their drinks and their conversation.” Talk is cheap, and the Intontis keep it that way: customers are never made to feel like they’ve lingered too long, which contributes to the fact that local folks are using it as a meeting place. But that’s not all: thanks to the mobile app Untappd, Underground Coffee & Ales is on the beer aficionados’ map. With Untappd, it’s possible to chase down that rare brew you’ve never gotten a chance to try, and customers have come from several counties away to sample what’s on tap. Those taps are in heavy rotation: a keg lasts anywhere from one to four days, and then it’s on to the next brew. And there’s none of that stale-beer smell which is the first signal that the tap lines aren’t kept clean.
Jeremy does the work of selecting the local beers and ciders, while Erin is grateful for Tarrytown-based Coffee Labs Roasters, which works directly with coffee farmers to ensure they get paid a fair price for their crops. The research into new beers is more work, particularly since Jeremy is interested in seasonal and micro batches.
Being so close to the Walkway Over the Hudson has helped the new place get a leg up, too. The Intontis report that the sidewalk out front sometimes has bicycles locked to every available tree and mailbox. The fact that it’s just a two-minute walk is no accident, they said.
Beyond the many beverages and deliberately simple menu (the kitchen is “smaller than a food truck”), the couple has lots of other ideas to encourage people through the doors. They’ve already had live music, and given the positive reception they’re hoping to do that up to two or three times a month, envisioning acts that play things like alternative rock, jazz, reggae and folk. There might also be trivia nights on the horizon, or perhaps a movie night with beer and popcorn. If you missed out on buying a t-shirt, that’s because they sold out before the doors ever opened. However, the shirts and maybe even coffee mugs featuring the logo may be available soon.
In the meantime, curious new customers should be aware that the Intontis strive to make just about everything available for take-out that they serve at the bar, including flights of beer and free samples to help people decide what to pick. However, the one thing that they won’t be able to send home is the atmosphere, which is all smiles.