Take the long driveway at the north end of Wright’s Farm market on Route 208 in Gardiner and you’ll come to the top of a hill, where a picturesque red barn has sat for more than a century. Once used for dairy farm operations at the site, it’s now home to the brewing tanks and tap room for the Gardiner Brewing Company, a new venture run by the youngest generation of the family that founded the 453-acre farm in 1904.
Siblings Colin, Samantha and Mackenzie Boylan are enthusiastic about the new direction they’re taking the family business. Each continues to contribute to the farm operations as a whole in addition to taking on the new craft beer enterprise. Fall has always been the season that brings the most visitors to Wright’s Farm, notes Colin, but they’re open year-round, and the challenge in running a business with feast-or-famine cycles is working through the intensely busy times followed by periods of relative down time.
The new tap room is likely to change that. On a recent visit, it was only their third time open, but the place was a beehive of activity. With the driveway unmarked, how do so many people know this is happening? one wonders; word-of-mouth is clearly at work here.
A few visitors spilled out of the barn to walk the grounds, accompanied by their dogs, while many more were inside or on the patio, enjoying live music on a sunny afternoon. The Boylan sisters were behind the bar inside the tap room, filling pint glasses as fast as people could place their orders, with Colin outside rounding up another umbrella for the spacious patio.
Inside the renovated barn’s tap room, the bar seats 12 — or a few more, if you’re friendly, says Colin — with bar stools situated around three sides of a square configuration. The bar top is made from long planks of cherry wood the Boylans’ great-grandfather, Ted Wright, Sr., had saved for years thinking it might be made into a mantle, says Samantha. [Given the work ethic of farmers and the longevity of this family’s business in particular, one can imagine Ted Sr. would appreciate seeing his family making good use of the wood.]
The interior is spacious, with room for a number of tables that fill the rest of the room, with a comfy-looking leather couch against one wall. Beams in the attractively rustic space also feature shelf-like tables made from the same saved cherry wood, just large enough surrounding each beam to set a drink on. Two steps up from the bar room is a space that Samantha says may be turned into a kitchen at some point, although plans for serving food are far from settled. Beyond that is another room, with more tables, cornhole games and a pinball machine, and the beer-brewing tanks off to the side.
Visitors can purchase snacks that include pretzels with cheese, homemade salsa and chips and beef jerky from Karl Family Farms in Modena a few miles down the road. But Colin says the plan is to “not bite off more than we can chew,” and to get the tap room up and running before deciding what direction they want to eventually move toward in terms of anything else. With this being the very busy “u-pick” apple-picking time on the farm, the plan is to just take in feedback from customers and see what people are looking for. In November and December when things quiet down, the siblings will then have a chance to think things through.
Colin says he has been getting requests for a dark beer, and if the ingredients to make that become available locally, he will. But with a philosophy of “beer from here,” using locally produced grains and hops grown on Wright’s Farm, he doesn’t have access at this time to products to make dark beer from. “I’m a big believer in doing what you can with what you have,” he adds.
In addition to his work on the farm, Colin has been brewing beer on the side for six years or so, now, selling the end product packaged in cans at the Kingston Farmers Market on Saturdays and at a few other locations. And he’s been selling the hops grown at Wright’s Farm to James Walsh and Kristop Brown of the local brewery Yard Owl, who make a beer called “12525” — the Gardiner zip code — using the hops.
But with the tap room now open Saturdays and Sundays from 3-7 p.m., the brewing is going to another level. Three or four different Wright’s Farm-produced beers will always be on tap, with the options changing from week to week, depending on availability of ingredients. On the recent visit, options included a Sumac Shandy made with sumac grown in the farm’s orchard. (The spice often used in Middle Eastern cooking is made by crushing the dried fruits of the sumac bush.) Low in alcohol and on the sweet side, the shandy is reminiscent of lemonade, says Colin.
Other choices included the Wet Hop Session Ale, 4.8 percent alcohol, made with fresh hops during harvest time rather than dried hops as is the general practice, and the Muffler Bearing Pale Ale with a 5.1 percent alcohol-by-volume.
Visitors to the barn will also find hard cider in cans from Highland’s Bad Seed Cider and wine from Gardiner’s Whitecliff Vineyard.
Gardiner Brewing Company at Wright’s Farm is located at 699 State Route 208 in Gardiner. For more information, visit https://www.gardinerbrewingcompany.com/. Updates will be posted on Instagram and Facebook.