A visit to one of the many breweries in the Hudson Valley offers the ideal way to enhance the experience of enjoying a handcrafted brew. Sampling and sipping in the location where the beer was produced while in the company of like-minded individuals adds to the pleasure. But the breweries are scattered across the region, making it difficult to visit more than one at a time, and even conservative sampling of the product while there doesn’t go hand-in-hand with driving home afterward.
Enter the newly launched Hudson Valley Craft Beer Tours. Business partners and craft-beer devotees Ray Hannon and Dann Gavaletz came up with the idea to share their passion for the craft-beer experience by providing tours to local breweries. “Wouldn’t it be great,” they thought, “to have a bus that would shuttle a small group of people safely to and from several locations in one day to enjoy some craft brews and conversation while taking in a bit of Hudson Valley scenery?” “Doing something you love is always good,” says Hannon. “And we both love people, and enjoy seeing people smile and have a good time.”
Their Department of Transportation-certified shuttle bus has a 13-person capacity and large windows from which to take in the scenery. The tours depart from and return to the Poughkeepsie train station for the most part, with some variation for special tours. Hannon and Gavaletz plan to accompany most of the groups, with one of them driving and the other offering passengers some light commentary on the region and the breweries of the day. Trips will be organized so that at least one brewer will be available for tourgoers to meet. “And the tours are not about getting drunk,” Hannon says (there’s no drinking on the bus), but instead a way to sample brews at three different breweries per trip, enjoy the camaraderie and have a safe ride home.
Most of the tours are planned for Saturday afternoons, with a Friday-night tour in the mix. “The Dutch” goes out on Friday nights to North River Hops and Brewing, the Blue Collar Brewery and the Mill House Brewing Company. “Saturday Black Dirt” goes to Pine Island Brewing, the Rushing Duck Brewing Company and Westtown Brew Works. The “Saturday across the Bridge” tour goes to the Newburgh Brewing Company, 2 Way Brewing Company and Yard Owl Craft Brewery, and the “Saturday up the River” visits the Sloop Brewing Company, Crossroads Brewing Company and Keegan Ales. The “Saturday Gunks” tour makes stops at the Rough Cut Brewing Company, Pull Brewing Company and the brewery at Bacchus restaurant. The cost is $75 and includes samples of craft beers produced at the breweries. If tourgoers want to buy a pint or a growler to take home with them, they can stow it during the trip in one of two big coolers with which the bus is equipped.
Then there’s the seasonal “Cider Sunday” tour that will go to Angry Orchard, the Kettleborough Cider House and Bad Seed Cider; and trips to wineries are not out of the question down the road. In addition, several Dutchess County retailers are partnering with the guys to offer special Sunday craft-beer tours that pick up and depart from their locations. The Grand Cru Beer & Cheese Market in Rhinebeck is sponsoring a Sunday-afternoon tour to breweries of its selection, and the Barley, Hops & Grapes homebrewing and winemaking supply shop in Red Hook is doing the same. The cost for those is to be determined.
Hannon and Gavaletz are longtime friends who both hold day jobs in Dutchess County: Hannon as an electrician at a waste-management plant and Gavaletz for an IBM contractor. They became friends through their wives’ meeting at a mother-and-daughter activity class after giving birth to daughters a few weeks apart. The women got to comparing notes about their lives during the class, and decided that their husbands would get along, too. They were right, and now the two craft-beer enthusiasts are optimistic about their new business venture.
“It’s such a growing industry, and there are so many people out there who don’t get the chance to try these kind of beers because of the driving part,” Hannon says. “We just want people to be able to enjoy themselves, knowing that they can see all these beautiful breweries and not have to drive.” Based in Hyde Park, Hannon grew up in the Hudson Valley and knows a lot about all the local history, he says, and enjoys talking to people about it and about the craft-brewing world and all the different beers. “We [he and Gavaletz] are the easiest-going people you’ll ever meet,” he says. Hannon holds a commercial driver’s license and a passenger endorsement license.
Staatsburg-based Gavaletz got the craft-beer brewing bug after his wife gave him a homebrewing kit in 2004. Since then, he has won numerous awards at beer competitions throughout the country. He is also a certified beer judge.
Tours are booked online at www.hudsonvalleycraftbeertours.com.