New York State is the ‘Empire’ state, founded by businessmen where, on rare occasion, the legislative body that governs this large and diverse landscape gets something right (sort of). The Farm Brewery Law in 2013 was an excellent step in the right direction as far as economic development and tourism for New York’s smaller farming communities.
With the rise of agritourism (which is a new ‘it word’ and a real thing) folks are getting off the thruway and utilizing the back roads to wind their way through the state, around the breathtaking lakes, along the pastoral fields, and past endless farmlands to get to the small wineries, breweries, and distilleries. This is an exciting time for the Empire State; the Farm Brewery law provides opportunity and access to a liquor license as long as a certain percentage of the source materials come from New York State farms (90% by 2023). What’s also exciting is that this is continuing to be adjusted because the grain process is slow to catch up and new hop farms take a few years to build a crop. It’s a good time to be making spirits in New York State.
All this is to say, that not far from where we are currently staying there are a few farm breweries hard at work putting this new law to delicious and good use. I want to focus on one: the Argyle Brewing Company.
The Argyle Brewing Company was born from the Argyle Suds Society founders, Matt Stewart and Chris Castrio. Turns out that Matt is a friend of a friend of mine from a lifetime ago. Who knew that nearly 20 years later he would brew some of the more enjoyable craft beer I’d drink all summer? Julie and I stopped in on a rainy Wednesday evening for a tasting and a few pints, here’s how that went:
The tasting began with a shandy, and oh god how I loathe the thought of drinking something called a shandy, it makes me think only of fruity malt liquor and spring break woo-girls. I can still remember my Zima hangover from high school as I type this, but at Argyle, where quality is at the utmost, their shandy was the best I have ever had. It’s their blonde ale with a serious dose of sweet summertime lemonade.
According to Matt and Chris it was a happy accident. Their batch of blonde ale didn’t meet their standards so they quickly remedied matters by adding 40 gallons or so of lemonade. Speaking of the blonde ale, we tried it next and it was very smooth and easy to drink. The IPA is also excellent, hinting at the west coast hop bombs except finishing a lot cleaner. All of the beers at Argyle have session level ABVs nothing over 5.3%, which is very welcomed by me as a consumer driving home and it’s good for them as a retailer, because they want you to be able to stick around for a few pints.
Further along the tasting tour was the very well rounded Alt-Bier, awesome, certainly a delicious all year round brew that is close to a pale ale with a gentle near citrus noble hop balance. The Stumbler Brown is one of the best browns that has ever crossed my palate, while nodding its cap to Sierra Nevada’s autumn release, this brown is unique in its character. Argyle’s Oatmeal stout was good and balanced as was their Red ale.
There is a simple wisdom to the beer at Argyle Brewing, it’s really great craft beer and you can have five pints and not feel like you’ve gone on a brutal bender with your brother (or my brother).
I enjoyed their beers so much I asked if Julie and I could come back and film their brewing process. They, perhaps imprudently, agreed. So the following Sunday, we returned with camera and mics and made this fun video. I did my best not to dive into the bright beer tank and guzzle my way out or get too drunk and start doing my snarky Bourdain impersonation.
Here’s the video: