From opera house to craft brew house: Crossroads Brewing in Athens, New York

Crossroads Brewery, Athens, NY

Sounds of brews being tapped are where once sounds of arias resounded in the air. Crossroads Brewing is a microbrewery and brew-pub under the roof of what was formerly the Brooks Opera House in the village of Athens, New York. Nestled on the Hudson River just north of Catskill, Crossroads was opened in 2009 by owners Ken Landin and Janine Bennett after a year of renovations to the 1893 historic building. What started as a seven-barrel brew house and small tasting room is now a micro-brewery with an adjoining pub/restaurant that serves farm fresh food locally-sourced from the Hudson Valley.

Head Brewer Hutch Kugeman oversees the micro-brewery, which produces awarding-winning craft beers that make up the pub’s 10 rotating taps. There are five brews that are always on tap and five that are seasonal. The five regulars are: Outrage India Pale Ale (Crossroads most popular ale) that has an assertive hop flavor with aromatics of citrus, spice and earthiness; Black Rock Stout, a balance of roasted barley and chocolate malt; Brady’s Bay Cream Ale, a creamy ale with a touch of sweetness and slight fruitiness; Brick Row Red Ale has rich malt flavors with notes of nuttiness, caramel, biscuit and breadiness and Lighthouse American Wheat, a light-bodied beer with a crisp finish.

Some ales that will be coming in the spring/summer season are: Belgian Whit with hints of orange, coriander and chamomile; Maggie’s Farm Saison, a bright tropical ale brewed with Belgian yeast (Bronze medal winner at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival and National Competition), and a session IPA ale that is lighter and has a lower alcohol content. As the village of Athens celebrates its Bicentennial this summer, Hutch will create a Bicentennial golden ale.

Hutch uses many different varieties of hops in his brewing from all around the globe – Czechoslovakia, Australia, Germany, and Belgium. Ever since prohibition and given the Northeast’s cold climate, growing hops in New York State has been virtually non-existent. However, Cornell University has been experimenting with growing hops anticipating that hops will be grown once again in New York in the future.

Hutch Kugeman got into brewing the way many head brewers do, by starting as a home brewer. After graduating from the University of Virginia, he headed west landing in Portland, Oregon. It was in Portland, where Hutch began his professional career in brewing, working under the esteemed Brewmaster Darron Welch at The Pelican Pub & Brewery. After gaining brewing experience in Portland, he moved back East to work at Great Adirondack Brewing in Lake Placid where he became Head Brewer in 2004. During his tenure at the brewery, Hutch wanted to understand the science behind brewing so he enrolled in the American Brewer’s Guild program to study Brewing Science and Engineering.

Longing to get back into the brew-pub atmosphere, he started his search and joined Crossroads in 2010 as its founding brewer. After only a few months, Hutch’s beers began to win awards. When the pub evolved into a full restaurant with a talented chef, Paul Parillo, the two teamed up to offer the best classic American pub fare using the freshest locally-sourced ingredients paired with and complemented by Hutch’s creative brews. Down the road, Hutch says he’d like to see more beer tasting dinners where several courses can be paired with his beers. The Kugeman/Parillo team does a weekly pairing special on the restaurant’s seasonal menu, which changes every three months. From the restaurant, diners can view the seven brewing tanks, any action that is taking place and the brewhouse that holds the vessels used for the brewing.

Currently, Crossroads beers are only distributed in drafts from Albany to Poughkeepsie, so a stop in the village of Athens is a “must” for anyone visiting the Hudson Valley.

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Margaret was public relations director for two luxury New York City hotels, where she did extensive research into America's culinary heritage. She is a founding member of The James Beard Foundation; formerly, owner of a Jersey Shore inn and restaurant, The Pelican Bistro, recognized as one of the 10 Best New Restaurants in NJ by New Jersey Monthly, and a PR consultant to restaurateurs. For the past several years she has been a contributing writer about food, drink and restaurant news for many publications. She is a passionate cook and wine lover who moved to the Hudson Valley and is in awe of the immense wealth of agricultural, artisanal and culinary talent in the area. Connect with her at www.TastefulLiving.net, Hudson Valley Wine & Restaurant Examiner and Shore Region Food & Restaurant Examiner. She can be reached at mmorgan531@gmail.com.

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