Understanding New York’s Most-Hyped Brewery

In 2010, just days before Shaun Hill opened the now-famous Hill Farmstead Brewery, Dan Suarez, an aspiring brewer working at Sixpoint Brewery in Brooklyn, made the trip to Greensboro Bend, Vermont. Suarez knew Hill through a mutual friend and had reached out to ask if he could come see what Hill was working on.

“At that point, Shaun was brewing on a ten-hectoliter system, all cobbled together with used equipment,” Suarez said. “I just sent him an email and then went up there for three days.”

Though brief, the visit proved seminal — not just for Suarez, but the craft community as a whole: on his last day in Greensboro Bend, Suarez helped keg Hill Farmstead Brewery’s first batch of Edward, the American pale ale that would go on to become one of the brewery’s most beloved flagship beers.

“I was blown away,” Suarez said of his visit. Six months later, he was living in Vermont, working for Hill as his assistant brewer. During Suarez’s three years there, Hill Farmstead Brewery rose to become one of the most celebrated breweries on the planet. In 2013, it was named “Best Brewer in the World” by RateBeer.com, the largest beer-rating website on the internet. (The brewery has won the title the past three years.)

“The goal is to make low-ABV beers that don’t come across as watery or hollow.”

It’s not difficult, then, to imagine the hype in the craft beer community when Suarez left Hill Farmstead Brewery to announce he would be starting his own brewery in the Hudson Valley, along with his wife, Taylor, under the name Suarez Family Brewery. “We knew we wanted to start our brewery and we were fairly sure we wanted to start in New York State,” Suarez said. “We wanted to self-distribute to New York City, which is only just starting to develop a reputation for having a handful of awesome breweries.”

Contrary to the aggressively hopped, high-ABV IPAs put out by many of today’s craft brewers — a category he described as “impression beers” — Suarez’s offerings are an exercise in restraint. His focus, since the brewery opened this past summer, has been on “beers with lots of complexity, but also beers that are quaffable,” he said. Nearly all of them fall into three categories: mixed-culture farmhouse ales; a rotating collage of low-ABV pale ales he named Crispy Littles; and several pilsners, both filtered and unfiltered.

“The goal is to make low-ABV beers that don’t come across as watery or hollow,” Suarez said. “They should hit your palate with a lot of grace and texture. For every sip of every beer I make, I want you to take it and say, ‘ah.’”

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Report by Jack Seemer for Gear Patrol