When the Ale Wags the Dog

BreweryGame: Many local breweries offer

a more family friendly environment.

When I was a child growing up in Northern California, my parents would often take my brother and I with them on visits to wineries in Napa and Sonoma. Although there was something enticing about escaping the arid summer heat and following a tour guide through the dank, cement-floored wine cellar with its stone walls, rows of huge barrels and the musty whiff of wet wood hanging in the cool air, it was hardly a fun-filled adventure for us kids. All we had to look forward to after the seemingly interminable tour was a room-temperature glass of Welch’s grape juice. We sat quietly and listened to more talk we didn’t understand about something we weren’t allowed to taste, while our parents sipped elegantly from their glasses.

I find myself musing about those days as I watch a group of kids aiming bean bags at a wooden cornhole board in the taproom of Wappingers Falls’ Cousins Ale Works, a brewery specializing in earthy stouts. (158 RT 9, Wappingers Falls, www.cousinsales.com)

Unlike most wineries even today, most of the breweries I’ve visited in the Hudson Valley are family-friendly to at least some degree. They offer diversions from oversize jenga and shuffleboard, to foosball and even mechanical bulls (kids love the one at Bull & Barrel in Brewster). At the very least, a stack of board games is likely to be on hand.

Also welcome at more and more breweries these days are family members of the four-legged variety. My coworker Megan Dorazio feels places that allow dogs tend to have a more welcoming atmosphere in general. She likes taking her dog Maddie on excursions, often planning her day around a visit to a dog-friendly brewery: “I like to start with a hike and end with a refreshing pint.”

Although a crowded taproom with noisy patrons might not be the place for your pooch, breweries equipped with a patio or other outdoor space can indeed be a wonderful place to enjoy some quality time with your dog. Plan Bee Farm Brewery, tucked on a dead end road in the rural outskirts of Poughkeepsie is one such location (115 Underhill Road, Poughkeepsie, planbeefarmbrewery.com).

Plan Bee is situated on a 25-acre working farm and is a certified farm brewery, which in New York State means at least 60% of the hops and 60% of all other ingredients must be grown in New York State. In fact, owners Evan and Emily Watson use 100% NY State produced ingredients, many of which come right from their farm, including raw honey from which they extract the yeast used to ferment their interesting farmhouse and tart wild ales. Although Plan Bee encourages supervised children to “run around outside” and visit with their friendly goats and chickens, they do request that dogs be kept outside of the taproom due to its small size. On the day we visited, however, it wasn’t that crowded and we spotted a couple seated inside with an adorable (and very well-behaved) pup. No one seemed to mind.

On the other hand, sometimes people do mind. When I posted about this article on Facebook, Portland, Oregon-based illustrator Kim Murton lamented: “I have witnessed dogs barking and whining, overheated dogs, and dogs with their leashes wound around table legs.” She prefers to leave her own dog home, but admits if yours is very well-behaved “it’s nice to have the option of not leaving the dog in the car.” Bringing your dog to social gathering places like breweries can be a lot of fun. But dogs, kids, food and beer don’t always mix. Someone could get bitten (or even worse, their beer could spill) and you don’t want that, so it’s important to keep your pet under control at all times. Here are some tips to help ensure a pleasurable visit:

Always leash your dog (it’s the law anyway) and keep him close by. Dog trainers recommend a leash no longer than six feet and some even suggest putting your foot on the leash giving your dog just enough room to lie down comfortably but not to pace and fidget. This will make it easier for you to control him and will help train him to relax and be still.

Bring toys or treats to keep him occupied and bowl for water. Just like kids, dogs will behave better if they have something to do, so bring that hedgehog chew toy and a few of his favorite treats.

Be considerate of the other patrons. No one likes a barking or whining dog and some people just don’t like being near dogs at all. It’s important to remember that some people might even be afraid of your friendly dog, and that should be respected. If your dog starts getting antsy, take a break and walk around a bit with him. If he doesn’t calm down, take that as a sign he’s uncomfortable and it might be time to head home.

As with most things in life, a little common sense goes a long way when considering bringing your dog on a brewery visit. Not all dogs are a good fit for this type of outing. If your dog is skittish around crowds or loud noises, or is very excitable around strangers, it might be best to leave him home.

If you’re thinking of visiting a brewery with your dog, opt for one of the many that are situated on a farm or other rural setting as most of them will at least allow dogs in outside areas. If you’re not sure, give them a call or check the FAQ section of their website to find out their dog policy. Here are a few more on-the-record dog-friendly places to grab a brew:

The popular Hudson Valley Brewery in Beacon (7 East Main Street, Beacon, hudsonvalleybrewery.com) welcomes dogs to sit with their owners in their outdoor area. The patio is protected with shade sails, but it can still get plenty hot. Fortunately there’s an outdoor water tap so you can keep your buddy well-hydrated. You may bring your dog to the outdoor seating area at 2 Way Brewing, also in Beacon(18 W Main St, Beacon, 2waybrewingcompany.com)

The man behind the bar at Cousins Ale Works told me he often brings his own dog in and they even have hosted the occasional dog party. Nearby farm brewery Obercreek Brewing Company (59 Marlorville Rd. Wappingers Falls, obercreekbrewing.com) has a very small tasting room, but dogs are permitted outside in the large gravel lot which has plenty of seating.