Top-Secret Beer Hideout: Honey Hollow Brewing Co.
If the snug, industrial Other Half tap room had an eccentric Italian uncle in the Catskills, it might look something like the tasting shed at Honey Hollow Brewing Co. We spent a Friday afternoon at this Earlton, NY clubhouse and chatted with brewmaster Matty Taormina and his regulars about smoking squirrel meat, the powers of turmeric in healing elixirs, and of course, beer-making. But before I get into the details, let me show you around:
Behind the handmade Honey Hollow Brewing Co. sign at 376 East Honey Hollow Road, you'll find a private home with a large driveway. Behind the house, there's an epic garden and what appears to be a pair of large, conjoined sheds.
It feels like you're walking through someones backyard to crash a party because basically, that's exactly what you're doing.
You'll walk through Matty's wife's majestic vegetable garden, and if you get there early (hours are 4-7pm on Fridays and 12-6pm on Saturdays) another handmade sign may tell you that the place is closed.
We went in anyway, and found brewmaster Matty tinkering around. The cozy bar, unfinished walls, and 3-cornered hats decorating the plywood made the room feel more like a clubhouse than place of business. And as Matty's friends began to arrive, one of them wearing a Honey Hollow Brewing t-shirt and all of them toting growlers marked with the brewery's logo, it felt as though we'd be inducted into a secret society simply because we found our way in.
As the guy in the stool beside me took his first sip, he said, "Matty, it's your best batch yet." The comradery lit up the room, and I loved being part of this farm-to-glass brotherhood, if only for an hour or so.
He was drinking a Smash Orange, an IPA-style beer brewed with orange zest, a touch of Grand Marnier and a 7.6 ABV. Though it sounds like the kind of brew that could be a cloying, cough-syrupy mess, this pint was really refreshing and there was some magic in the way the hops played off the citrus. The flavor was light and orange-focused, but it had a lot more nuance than, say, a Blue Moon. Though it wasn't overly sweet, it was boozy enough to bring back memories of drinking St. Ides in high school (which also, incidentally, reminded me of Snoop Dogg's ad campaign).
Anyway, Pete liked the Smash Orange best, though he usually prefers potently hoppy beers or mouth-puckering sours. Personally, I preferred the smooth and easy-drinking Oatmeal Stout.
Honey Hollow has a Farm Brewery license, which means that at least 20% of their hops and 20% of all their other ingredients must be grown in New York State. Some of the hops are grown in the garden just outside the tasting room, and Matty mentioned that he now has a beehive and is hoping to harvest some honey to add to future brews.
Honey Hollow Brewing will host their Fall Open House on Sunday, October 2, 2016 from 12-6pm. Their events page promises food, music, and of course, plenty of beer.