It’s about a special place and a special beverage. Since the early ‘60s there has been an eatery with Mill House in its name at 289 Mill Street in Poughkeepsie: first the Mill House, then Mill House Panda for 25 years and now the Mill House Brewing Company, a brand-new brewpub featuring several house-crafted ales and an American menu to go with them. “We’re celebrating Hudson Valley food, farms and beer,” said Chris Crocco, general manager and a co-owner. “That’s our goal and focus.”
Prohibition killed off 800 of our breweries, and since then makers of good beer have had an uphill road, snuffed out by Big Business and its big marketing of flat, bland products. Aficionados of quality brews had to console themselves by making their own concoctions at home, and unless you were or knew a homebrewer, beers of character and refinement were hard to come by.
As recently as 1975, America had only one commercial craft brewery. But shortly thereafter, microbreweries started to pop up here and there, selling their anti-mainstream products and leading to a brewpub boom. Now there are more than 2,300 microbreweries in America, with 1,500 more in development as of June, and many aren’t so micro any more. Throughout this revolution against the beverage giants, more people have come to know how good a good brew can be.
The doors of the Mill House Brewing Company in Poughkeepsie will officially open this Wednesday, November 20. The Mill House Brewing Company will offer an assortment of six house-brewed ales, complemented by a creative menu served in an historic space. All ales will be offered only on tap, including some from other local brewers, and some cask-aged ales. “We have no bottle program,” says Crocco. The current six ales will eventually increase to ten, offered in rotation.
Brewmasters Larry Stock and Jamie Bishop are two of the establishment’s five operating partners, along with the Crocco brothers, plus Eric Baxter. Homebrewers for 25 years, this is Stock and Bishop’s first commercial venture, although on November 2 they won the People’s Choice Award at the Hudson Valley Craft Brew Festival at the Poughkeepsie Civic Center. The popular winning brew was their Velvet Panda Stout, which will be offered at the brewpub, a “roast forward” American stout with a balanced bitterness from American C hops and 6.1 percent alcohol by volume (ABV).
“They’re artists,” says Crocco. “They like to play with ingredients and new ideas.” He adds that the brewing system is handcrafted in the US by Portland Kettle Works especially for brewpubs. They have a SABCO seven-barrel system, plus a half-barrel one “for testing recipes and tweaking,” he says. Sunday is brewing day, and patrons can watch the process through glass as they enjoy its fruits.
Another of Mill House’s ales is Kilt Spinner, a Scottish-style, oak-aged “malt bomb.” There’s also the amber Alpha, with a complex hop profile and malt to back it up, and Köld One, a Kölsch-style hybrid with a German Pilsner base. On the way are PK 13, “the little brother” of its blonde IPA, a not-overhopped pale ale, and “very drinkable beer for the masses,” and Derailleur, a dark hoppy beer.
Another co-owner, Chris’s brother Dan, is the chef, offering meats smoked in-house, local cheeses and dishes infused with the flavors of their brews. “We have a brick oven and a smoker on-site,” says Chris, “So our sausage and charcuterie are house-made. We’ll also have steaks and pasta, sandwiches, appetizers that pair well with beer…it’s a pretty large menu.” Also look for seafood dishes, local clothbound cheddar, house-made frankfurters and bacon smoked on the premises.
Having the brewmasters Jamie and Larry on hand to help craft the menu is great, Chris adds, as Chef Dan uses their products in the cooking process – like in the barbecue sauce, for example. You’ll find the Alpha in the house-made bratwurst and Köld One brining chicken wings.
“We repurposed the interior,” Crocco says, explaining how Amanda Baxter took the original brick shell of the 1850s building and transformed it into an inviting, upscale-industrial brewpub full of wood and leather. The structure’s three stories are divided into rooms: a second-floor farm room with its own bar and a country Victorian room for private dining or large parties, plus an outdoor patio. Two hundred seats ensure plenty of space for hungry and thirsty patrons.
“Our open kitchen is in the middle of the action,” says Crocco, with an “artist’s room” that overlooks it. “We wanted to make a place that is special,” he adds, and word is, they have.
Mill House Brewing Company, 289 Mill Street in Poughkeepsie, (845) 485-2739, www.millhousebrewing.com. Read more about local cuisine and learn about new restaurants on Ulster Publishing’s www.DineHudsonValley.com or www.HudsonValleyAlmanacWeekly.com.