Ever since New York State’s new Farm Brewery enabling legislation took effect in 2013, overturning decades of restrictions on domestic alcoholic beverage production that dated back to the days of Prohibition, it seems like we have at least one new microbrewery, craft distillery or cidery in the mid-Hudson Valley to write about every month. It’s all good news, helping to establish our region as a terroir for more than just wines and boosting the local economy with additional excuses for tourists to pay a visit and leave some dollars behind.
But Arrowood Farms, based in Accord, is more than just another craft brewery startup. It’s a holistic enterprise that aims to integrate all aspects of farm production into an essentially self-sustaining, cyclical system. “We’re closing the loop. One product’s output is another product’s input,” says brewmaster Jake Meglio. “Our goal is to have all our products somehow returned to the beer.”
The project began three years ago, when Meglio’s business partner Blake Arrowood began growing hops on the site on Lower Whitfield Road now known as Arrowood Farms. Formerly owned by the Kelder family, the spread now belongs to Let Lee, who wanted to farm the property but needed someone to manage it. A North Carolina native who got into farming by starting the first community garden on one of the Marshall Islands while working in the WorldTeach program, Arrowood came to the Hudson Valley to do an internship with the Hudson Valley Seed Library and fell in love with the region. Seeking out a place to start his own farm, he investigated Lee’s property and quickly concluded that, with its stony soil, “Vegetables were not the way to go.” But with the passage of the Farm Brewery legislation, he thought that the time was ripe to begin restoring New York to its onetime status as the nation’s largest producer of hops.
It wasn’t long before Arrowood was initiating the Farms’ “first symbiotic relationship” by establishing a flock of ducks. “I got to thinking about hop plants, how much they love nitrogen,” he says. And composted duck manure is a terrific high-nitrogen fertilizer. The ducks — representing eleven heritage breeds — get to run around the 18-foot-high hop trellis and the ten-acre rye field, eating bugs and fertilizing as they go. Then, two years ago, Arrowood offered to provide pasture for a neighbor’s flock of Border Cheviot sheep. Once the hop vines reach eight feet in height — “They grow a foot a day,” he says — the sheep are allowed to graze around their bases. “They eat the weeds and the lower foliage, which improves airflow and mitigates disease. We’re getting the land and soil as healthy as possible.”
In fact, so healthy, clean and sustainable is the biodynamic system that Arrowood has set up that he “just heard from NOFA-NY that our hops and grain have received organic certification,” he says. “We’re the first farm brewery in New York State growing our own hops and grain to be certified organic. That’s pretty exciting for us!” He harvested about 300 pounds of hops last year, and under “ideal conditions,” expects to be able to produce 2,000 pounds within another two years.
Arrowood also invited beekeepers Tim and Laura Reynolds of Stone Ridge to set up and maintain an apiary of 21 beehives on the property, and planted native wildflower meadows to supply pollinator plants to keep the bees busy. His latest acquisition consists of five piglets, who will be fed all the spent grain from the brewing, then “harvested” in late fall to be processed into such specialty meat products as prosciutto, capicollo, salami and speck. Eventually these will be sold, along with organic duck eggs, honey, cheese and other farm products, as meals and snacks in the tasting room.
Shortly after moving to the area, Arrowood became friends with Meglio, a “passionate homebrewer,” and brought him on board to run the brewing side of the operation about six months ago. “We broke ground last spring on the building,” Arrowood notes; but although brand-new, the brewery, tasting room and kitchen have the rustic, handcrafted look and feel of a converted barn. Meglio proudly shows off his “domain, designed around brewing,” with many of its components repurposed from industrial castoffs like decommissioned shipping containers. The building’s south-facing roofs are covered with solar collectors that power the brewery. And the brewing water, trucked in from the Widow Jane Mine in Rosendale, is “similar to Rhine water,” he says. “It has a specific ion concentration that promotes yeast health.”
The Arrowood Farms tasting room had its “soft open” on April 30, with more than 300 microbrew fans in attendance; the official Grand Opening is scheduled for July 23. Seven varieties of brews are already available: Villager Kölsch, Farmhouse Pale Ale, an IPA, Spring Märzen, Ugly Duckling Brown Ale, Black Sheep Brown Ale and Stout Pig Stout, with room at the taps available for three more. They’re available only by the glass or the keg at present; bottling and/or canning facilities are part of the long-term plan.
Meglio speaks eagerly of “cultivating community” with other brewing entities in the region via such measures as “tap swaps” to help raise awareness of the burgeoning Hudson Valley craft beverage industry, “creating camaraderie instead of competition…. As a brewer, that’s what gets me excited: making beer that showcases the agricultural products of this region — sourcing as many ingredients as possible within New York State.” In fact, it looks like Arrowood Farms is well on its way to sourcing most of its ingredients on-site.
Arrowood Farms is located at 236 Lower Whitfield Road in Accord, just off Mettacahonts Road and right next door to Westwind Orchard and Hollenbeck Farms. The tasting room is open from noon to 8 p.m. on Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call (845) 253-0389 or visit www.arrowoodfarms.com or www.facebook.com/arrowoodfarms.