Woodstock brewery offers an “Emotional Support Beer”

Rick Shobin of Woodstock Brewing in Phoenicia (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

There are emotional support dogs. Emotional support cats. Even emotional support pigs. Though few would dispute the positive emotional effects of pet ownership, or take issue with seeing-eye dogs on planes and other public places, the recent proliferation of officially designated support animals has been the subject of gentle mocking for a few years now, seeming in some way, at least to the stiff upper lip crowd, to epitomize the increasing fragility of the modern American psyche. 

Last year, as the height of pandemic isolation measures, another strain of joke made light of the campaign to elevate staying home and watching television (and possibly drinking more than usual) to an act of courage. One went: “Me Drinking Home Alone 2019: Sad, Disturbing, Loser. Me Drinking Home Alone 2020: Citizen, Inspiration, Hero.”

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It was perhaps inevitable that these two strains of humor would join forces to bring something new and whimsical into the world. The place: Woodstock Brewing in Phoenicia. The product: Emotional Support Beer. 

During the pandemic, Floyd Hayes had to press pause on his creative design businesses. For extra work, he looked to Woodstock Brewing, where he became a part-time employee.

“We got to chatting and he told me he had, as a joke and gimmick, registered an emotional support beer as an emotional support animal,” said the brewery’s co-founder Rick Shobin. “We were talking and said maybe it’s a good idea if we can do it as a beer.”

The beer is a Citra IPA, which Shobin described as “refreshing and drinkable.” It has a 6.7 percent alcohol content, comes in a 16-ounce can, and includes tropical flavors of mango and passionfruit.

Just as emotional support can involve both kindness and frankness, this IPA mixes the sweet and sour.

“It would be described as juicy with a little bit of bitterness,” said Shobin. “People really like it. It’s one of the more popular beers we’ve produced I would say.”

The label, which Shobin designed himself, shows a myriad of colorful stick figures that simultaneously conveys a bright mood while evoking the type of imagery that accompanies emotional support brochures and animated shorts. 

“It just seems like a lot of people having fun,” said Shobin about the label.

Proceeds from the sale of Emotional Support Beer will go towards Operation at Ease, a nonprofit that “takes dogs from shelters [and] pairs them with deserving veterans and first responders.” The charitable aspect was a joint decision between Shobin and Hayes.

“Given how fortunate we’ve been as a business to be relatively unscathed during this pandemic, we thought it was a good idea to give back and try to help others in need,” said Shobin. “It just made sense.”

If you’re hoping to pick up a case, you’re out of luck… at least for the moment. The beer has been an unexpected success and quickly sold out. 

“We were going to do it once a year, and we will have it annually, but we are planning on making it available again in three to four weeks,” said Shobin. “We’re working on having someone help us make it available nationwide for any states that allow shipping.”

After this initial round, proceeds from future releases of the beer will be donated to a different charity each time, with possible recipients drawn from “a lot of different initiatives that are important to people at the brewery on a personal level and as a distributor.”

Woodstock Brewing is located at 5581 Route 28 in Phoenicia. It is open Thursday from 2 to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 12 to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 12 to 8 p.m. The brewery can be contacted at 845-688-0054.