HEAD TO HEAD
with Chatham Brewing’s Tom Crowell
In 2007, beer lovers Jake Cunningham and Tom Crowell (right) became beer brewers, founding Chatham Brewing LLC, with Matt Perry (left) joining as head brewer. The team’s passion for sustainability and making great beer was acknowledged with a 2012 Matthew Vassar Brewers’ Cup win for Best Craft Beer Brewery in the Hudson Valley. Tom shares their journey, and what’s brewing in Chatham Brewing’s future.
his passion and the inspiration behind Sloop Brewing.
HVW: There was strong competition among microbreweries when you started. What made go you ahead and form Chatham Brewing, and how did you select your location?
TOM: Both Jake and I had experience working in microbreweries. I was brewing in Brooklyn, and Jake was in the U.K., then Troy. So we wanted to test the market to see if there was room for another microbrewery in the Hudson Valley, which, on a per-capita basis, had very few breweries. When we started there was no one brewing between Kingston and Albany. We all live in Chatham – it’s a great community, and very supportive of local producers. It has one of the few Main Streets that is still functional, where all shops are independently owned.
HVW: What formed your decision, early on, to use local products and to utilize sustainable practices in your beer making?
TOM: The local route just makes sense! We want to supply local establishments and restaurants with beer, so why not source locally rather than shipping things from across the country. I’ve been involved with several environmental non-profits as well as the Columbia Land Conservancy during my career, so being sustainable just makes sense. We use Columbia County maple syrup in our Maple Amber; we use Hillrock Distillery’s empty bourbon barrels for our Bourbon Barrel-aged; we work with a local farmer to send them our spent grain to feed their pigs. It comes full circle when we are all selling our products at the same local farm market.
HVW: So what inspires your new brews?
TOM: We like to make beers that we like to drink, with a loosely-based British influence. Matt has a great palate and is very good at making balanced, drinkable beers that our customers also enjoy. Not everyone likes the hop-forward beers coming from the west coast these days, so we make some beers for those who are looking for an easy-drinking alternative to national brands, too.
HVW: What factors do you attribute to your brewery’s success, and to winning TAPSM New York’s coveted Best Craft Brewery award?
TOM: We focus on using top quality ingredients to make beer the way we feel it’s supposed to be made. It’s more expensive, but it makes for a better beer. We are also very committed to personal service. Our accounts know we stand behind our products, and we treat the customers who come to our tasting room the same way. We take the time to make sure they find the right beer for their taste.
HVW: What are some of the things you like best about brewing in the Hudson Valley?
TOM: The Hudson Valley is great place to be. There is a strong, local food movement, and it’s becoming known as a place that produces highquality foods and beverages. We are close to Albany, Saratoga, and the New York City markets.
HVW: You’re now bottling some of your premium styles, like the Bourbon Barrel-aged Brown, 8 Barrel Reserve, and the Belgian Tripel. Do you have plans to bottle other beers and/or for further expansion?
TOM: We expect to be bringing out the Maple Amber, Imperial IPA, and a Barrel-aged Imperial Stout. We currently bottle for some of our house accounts too, like Dive Bar Amber, a recipe we created for Manhattan’s Dive Bars. The bottles have been doing great at farmers markets.
HVW: Other than your tasting room in Chatham, where can folks find your beer?
TOM: We’ll be expanding to our new 20-barrel brew house soon, which will open up a lot of potential. Homeroom Design is working with us to create a green environment that will use solar power and capture heat loss from the beer production, so we’ll have more space to efficiently make more beer. Right now, you can find us at many restaurants between Hudson and Troy, and at the Saratoga, Rhinebeck, Kinderhook, Hudson, and Chapaqua farmers markets. And of course, the tasting room on weekends!
Chatham Brewing, LLC
59 Main St., Chatham, NY