Parabolic, Between Two Points, Permanent Midnight, Rhetoric, and Entropy are the heady names of the five beers, brewed on-site, that appeared on the taproom chalkboard at Woodstock Brewing on opening day, January 5. Despite its name, the microbrewery is located just east of Phoenicia on Route 28 at the Phoenicia Plaza, which is finally filled up after a fire damaged the stores two years ago.
Brewery proprietors Rick Shobin and Scott Shimomura made their first homebrew eight years ago at Shobin’s house in Woodstock, when they were both living in Manhattan. “It was a Belgian-style Tripel that took a couple weeks to brew,” said Shobin. “We had to go back down to work, so we left it with Frederick at the Cub Market in Bearsville to look after it.”
Shimomura’s attraction to brewing comes from his roots in the Pacific Northwest, where he had gone to high school with the girl who became Shobin’s wife. When Shimomura went home to visit, he’d enjoy a drink at the many craft breweries that had been cropping up in the region since the 1970s. Then he went on a craft beer retreat with some buddies, who were sampling each other’s homebrews. “They tasted so much better than the ones I’d been drinking at the breweries,” Shimomura recalled. “I decided to try making beer myself. I wanted to learn it with Rick because he’s the best cook I know. We still have a bottle from that first batch.”
When the pair began brewing, there were few craft breweries in the Catskills, aside from Keegan Ales, which opened in Kingston in 2003. Now there are microbreweries in Saugerties, Catskill, and West Kill. “Look at the food industry 30 years ago,” said Shobin. “It used to be all the expensive restaurants were French. Now there are innovative farm-to-table chefs who are taking risks, experimenting, providing good, enjoyable products. The brewing industry is about at the same point.”
Four years ago, Shobin left his job in finance, and Shimomura quit the fashion retail business to devote themselves to developing a microbrewery. Their dream became a nightmare as they struggled to find the right location — since Woodstock didn’t have the right kind of affordable space — and then put together the brewing equipment. “There are so many moving parts,” said Shobin. “The boiler shut down when we were starting to brew. A cooling valve broke, setting us back a good month. But we learned how to circumvent the issues. All the contractors have been great, and the landlord’s been great. Even though we’re not from here, the town’s been really supportive.”
In the far back of the brewing room are stacks of sacks printed with names and contents: Bamberg Germany pale ale maltz, William Crisp coloured malt, Riceland unground rice husk from Scottsdale AZ, Hudson Valley Malt from Germantown. Malt, explained Shimomura, is a grain that is soaked until it begins to germinate, producing sugars, then dried to halt the germination.
To start the brewing process, the malt is crushed in a mill and then soaked in a mash tun. The remaining steps of heating, fermentation, and cooling — to vastly simplify the process — take place in a series of enormous stainless steel vessels, with variations according to what kind of beer is being brewed.
The first beers on offer are ones that don’t take long to produce — simple, hoppy ales — but more complex brews will be available later. Shimomura was preparing to pour a 15 percent barley wine into bourbon barrels, where it will age for a year.
The bar features 16 taps that will rotate beers, with glasses including tasting size, 10-ounce, and a full pint. Growlers to go are either 32-ounce or 64-ounce. The beer is already being sold locally at Sylvia’s, Reynolds & Reynolds, and Station Bar, all in Woodstock, and the Red Onion in West Saugerties. Other outlets will follow.
For now, the only foods available are pretzels and beer nuts, but there will be a menu of small plates once the kitchen is ready and a chef has been hired.
Beer types include IPAs, lagers, Belgian, farmhouse. “The two of us have different palates,” noted Shimomura. “It takes a long time to understand someone’s perception and establish what you’re talking about, especially when it’s something you taste with your mouth. Plus there’s the taste up front and then the finish. Basically, we’re making what we like to drink — good beer.”
Woodstock Brewing is the latest addition to the assortment of businesses at the Phoenicia Plaza. John Blydenburgh’s Resort Ridge Pizza was the only previous tenant to return after the fire. Grace Ann Louis moved her pre-school, Woodland Playhouse, to the plaza last year, enabling her to expand her play-based program to children formerly on a waiting list.
Bite Me Bakery, started in Shokan by Jill Johnson, once manager of Mama’s Boy Café in Phoenicia, moved in last July. Johnson said she’s doing better at the new location, offering baked goods, breakfast, lunch, a juice bar, and gift items.
Most recently, Lynn and Alan Fliegel opened up RiverArts, the latest in a series of shops they’ve had in Phoenicia and Woodstock. They’re selling their Babytoes children’s clothing line and hand-painted adult clothes, as well as original paintings, computer art, kids’ books, and books on Eastern philosophy.
Woodstock Brewing is located in the Phoenicia Plaza at 5581 Route 28, Phoenicia. For now, it’s open Thursdays 2-8 p.m., Fridays 2-10 p.m., Saturdays noon-10 p.m., and Sundays noon-8 p.m. For updates, visit https://www.facebook.com/woodstockbrewing.