Brew Skies Smiling at Me
Photo Credits: Lisa Kelsey
Just as I was recovering from getting lost trying to find a brewery that turned out to be in a strip mall (see Ales from the Dark Side, The Pawling Record, May 31), I found myself stopped at a barrier gate to an industrial park with a “push button to speak to security” sign. This would be the former IBM “campus” in East Fishkill. They can call it a “campus” if they want, but lots of nondescript grey buildings with huge tanks and pipe-y things all around kind of creep me out and make me think of nuclear reactors--and I had just watched the incredible (and terrifying) HBO miniseries “Chernobyl”. Just the idea of “speaking to security” made me nervous--I was ready to turn around, but my intrepid (and thirsty) son suggested, what’s the worst thing that could happen? I didn’t want to tell him the dark dystopian images that came to mind. I pushed the button. I asked the incongruously girlish voice coming from the intercom if there was “supposed to be a brewery somewhere around here.” “Oh, that’s the next gate down but I can open this one for you,” she said, and up the arm went.
A little ways down the road we found the parking lot for Sloop Brewing Co. We went up the metal scaffolding-like stairway (just like in Chernobyl, I thought) and entered a very long narrow hallway with windows on one side looking out onto a chain-link fence and the weirdly empty-looking “campus” beyond. On the other side the windows revealed the huge fermentation tanks and at least one display of medieval armour (no idea, don’t ask). At one point there was a huge screen projected on the wall with what looked like a head of cauliflower being zoomed into (no idea, don’t ask). At the end of the hallway we opened the door and entered a large open space filled with tables of cheerfully boisterous people. At the far end we saw an open kitchen and at the right, a long bar with a campy movie marquee-type sign listing the beers and a “not beer” section. As we passed by the tables of happy people hoisting glistening mugs of beer, all gloomy thoughts were banished.
The interior is accented with colorful graphic wall art and stripes of tangerine orange and the happy sky blue of a cloudless day in paradise. In fact, everything about Sloop Brewing Co. from the logo, to those trademark colors has a bright, breezy aspect. The 70s-vibe psychedelic design of the labels in particular will have you feeling nostalgic for Good Times--even if you weren’t a twinkle in your parent’s eye until well into the 1990s. This is not an accident. I reached out the creative director, Bob Davidson, who explained: “When I first started making art for Sloop five or six years ago, the beer world was still very awash in macho, aggressive imagery on labels. We decided we wanted to go in a very different direction.” The bright, positive and engaging design of the labels is meant to reflect the owners’ philosophy that beer is something to be shared and enjoyed with friends and family, ”something that should bring happiness.” Of the retro look, Bob says, “It’s not simply retro for retro’s sake. We want to capture some of the feeling of positivity and possibility of childhood; that feeling of freedom.” Considering Sloop owners Adam Watson and Justin Taylor were brewing their beer in a Poughkeepsie garage and selling at farmer’s markets just seven years ago, and they’re now capable of producing 28,000 barrels a year, believing anything is possible seems to have worked out well for them.
The menu at Sloop Brewing Co. also reflects a sense of fun--focusing on burgers, Neopolitan-style wood-fire oven pizza, and other international street fare. We started out with crispy Korean pork riblets. After our initial disappointment at not seeing the standard taphouse soft pretzel, we agreed that although not traditional, they were crunchy and salty-sweet and perfect with beer. Each menu listing comes with a suggested beer pairing, which we faithfully followed--we weren’t steered wrong. I went with the spicy Szechuan Dan Dan noodles and a Cashmere Bomb, my son had a fried chicken sandwich paired with a DoublePlusGood Citra Mosaic.
In a 2012 interview with the owners that I found on a blog called “Bear-flavored.com” (yes bear--not “beer”, that’s not a typo), they were asked to describe one of the most encouraging encounters they’d had introducing their beer to people. The reply went like this: “Me [Sloop owner]: What do you usually drink? Customer: Bud Light. Me: This is a European style pale ale. Customer: Holy sh*t. This is great. I didn’t know beer could taste like this.” May the good people at Sloop Brewing continue to enlighten the beer drinkers of Hudson Valley and beyond.
Sloop Brewing Co. @ The Factory is located at 755 East Drive in East Fishkill, NY. It’s easiest to approach from the south off of Lime Kiln Road and turn in on South Drive, making a right turn onto East Drive. Sloop is open on Thursday from 11:30 to 9 pm, Fridays from 11:30 to 10 pm, Saturday from 12 to 10 pm and Sunday from 12 to 8. Visit their website at www.sloopbrewing.com for more information. There is also a smaller tasting room, Sloop @ the Barn, located at 1065 County Rte 19 in Elizaville, NY. If you’d like to taste Sloop Brewing Co.’s beers without leaving Pawling, check out what’s on draft at The Tap House Tavern of Pawling this week. Or try a can of Juice Bomb so you can check out the groovy label.