Charlie Benedetti did not always work at a brewery. Two years ago, after a 34-year stint on Wall Street, Charlie’s firm asked him to become a partner. A week later Charlie quit to become a founding member of Newburgh Brewing Company, which first opened its doors in April 2011. Now their beer is served at choice establishments throughout the five boroughs (also right here in Bushwick) and around the greater state of New York. Their on-site taproom, which opened in June 2012, consists of a 6,000 square foot Bavarian beer garden with up to 18 beers on tap at any given time – 4 constants, 2 rotating, and a mix of seasonals and one-offs – and a full, and delicious, food menu. When asked if he regrets leaving Wall Street, Charlie confesses he misses the money, but not the lifestyle. And if they continue brewing at their current rate and quality his investment in Newburgh should pay off. Charlie has done his homework and while Newburgh Brewing is not turning a strong profit yet, they are at least breaking even, a rarity among upstart breweries.
Back in 2009 Newburgh Brewing Company was just a pipe dream bantered about while Charlie shared a few pints with his nephew, Paul Halayko, and Paul’s best friend, Chris Basso. They had a unique collection of talents, but a shared love of good craft brew. In 2009, Paul was a Forensic Accountant at JP Morgan and Chase doing stints in Germany investigating a high-profile fraud case. At the same time, Chris was working as a brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery, a position he held for 6.5 years after training at the French Culinary Institute and butchering at The Meat Hook in Williamsburg. Gradually their pipe dream took on a more tangible form and two years later, in January 2011, they bought the old steel mill in Newburgh that would house their brewery.
I had the pleasure of checking out the brewery myself this Saturday. Fueled by a late-summer outdoorsy itch, my friend Ashleen and I roused ourselves at the unforgiving hour of 8:30am and caught the Metro North Hudson Line to Beacon. After a 5-hour hike with stellar views of the Hudson River Valley (we unwittingly climbed Mount Beacon, see below if you’d like directions to do the same) we’d sweated most of the beer we’d consumed at Zablonski’s the night before and decided to replenish our stomachs at the brewery’s taproom, which is located directly across the Hudson River from Beacon. An $11 cab ride later, we climbed the stairs to the fourth floor of the brewery, jaws dropping as we emerged in the expansive taproom with high ceilings, exposed brick and rafters, a massive mahogany bar from Cork, Ireland, and stunning views of the Hudson River.
Beelining it to the bar, we took advantage of their sizable selection of session ales – beers with under 6% alcohol so that multiple can be enjoyed over a long “session” with your friends – so that we didn’t topple over before we got some food in our stomachs. Ashleen ordered the Brown Ale, a 4.2%-er with a husky malty aroma that smelled as if the grain were actually being mashed at that very moment, and a toasted, nutty chocolate flavor. In a hoppy mood, I ordered the Paper Box Pale Ale (which I later learned is Charlie’s favorite). At 4.5% alcohol, the Pale Ale is brewed with only American hops that gave it a piney, citrusy aroma and a crisp hoppy flavor, delivering on its promise of being the closest a session beer can get to an IPA. We were equally impressed by our food, particularly the Moules Frites served in a Saison Beer sauce, so delicious that we broke out the overly-hard baguette leftover from our hike to sop up every last bit, served with deliciously greasy, flavorful fries.
After dinner, we were introduced to Charlie, who gave us a grand tour of the facilities as we sampled other brews like the Hop Drop Double IPA with its heavily hoppy, floral aroma and wonderfully bitter bite, the Roggensauer, a German-style sour infused with a homemade plum sauce, and the C.A.F.É. Sour made with Ethiopian coffee beans roasted in Hillburn, NY, lending it a strong coffee aroma that made sour taste somewhat surprising. Along the way Charlie gave us the down and dirty on their production space, like how the three owners tore half of the floorboards out of the second story cutting, sanding and planing the boards themselves so that they could be repurposed into the taproom’s large family-style tables, shelves, and the floor of the new entryway. He showed us the refrigerator where they cure their own meats and elaborated on the beers in the works for the Fall, including the Squashtober Ale, brewed with 1,000 pounds of local pumpkin and butternut squash roasted on premise. After our tour we enjoyed some live music upstairs in the taproom. All in all this day was one of the highlights of my summer.
You can find Newburgh Beers on the tap rotations at The Bodega, Dear Bushwick, and The Sampler in Bushwick, but we recommend you trek out to Beacon to experience the joys of the taproom for yourself. Grab a brew and a tub of mussels and listen to the live music if you’re there on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, or stop by for their monthly cornhole tournament. Plan ahead to get there before 5 on a Saturday and you can request a tour in advance. If you’re lucky Charlie may even be your tour guide – you can recognize him by his peppery horseshoe mustache. Autumn should turn the valley even more lovely, so venture out for some of their fall brews. The experience won’t disappoint.
Newburgh Brewing Company gets 5/5 stars – 1 for the quality of their delicious brews, 1 for the innovative breadth of styles and experimentation in their tap selection, 1 for the addition of local ingredients to their beer whenever possible, 1 for yummy food accompaniments they serve, and 1 for the marvelous space they’ve restored, a grand addition to the revitalization of the city of Newburgh.
Newburgh Brewing Company is located at 88 South Colden Street, Newburgh, New York 12550 and is open Wed 4pm-9pm, Thurs 4pm-11pm, Fri 4pm-12am, Sat 1pm-11pm and Sun 12pm-5pm. Tours on Sat before 5pm by request, call 845-569-2337. Their beers are $5 a pint and the Moules Frites will set you back $15. To get there take the Metro North, Hudson Line from Grand Central Station to Beacon, NY, roundtrip $30. At the station call Yellow Cab of Newburgh, 845-561-8330, for an $11 cab to the brewery.
If you want to make a full day of it, we recommend the Mount Beacon Hike. It’s a couple of miles to walk to the trailhead from the train, but it’s fun to explore the town of Beacon en route.
Bushwick Brews is a weekly column dedicated to the exploration of Bushwick’s finest beers written and curated by brewista Erin Wicks.