When I first got into craft beer, it was due to my initial love affair with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. That was almost 15 years ago, well before breweries began popping up in the Mid Hudson Valley of upstate New York. I became quickly hooked on many west coast brewers, mainly Anchor and Sierra Nevada. There was no locally brewed option back then, and there weren't many regionally produced beers either.
10 years ago Keegan Ales was born in Kingston, NY. They quickly became a "go to" spot for local, fresh, handcrafted ales and lagers. Besides Hyde Park Brewing Company, Keegan was one of the first breweries in the Dutchess/Ulster county area to offer good food, great atmosphere, and a solid line of beers for the populace to indulge in. I recently stopped in there (it had been about a year since my last visit) to see what's new with Tommy Keegan and his crew. Let me just say, I was impressed yet again with how timeless this place really is. The atmosphere always stays the same, their mainstay beers stay the same as well, but they always offer you something new and different on the tap lines and in the kitchen. Here's a review of how our visit went.
My father and I pulled into the parking lot at around 12:30 pm on a Saturday afternoon in early February. As we pulled into our parking space, I gazed across the parking lot at an adjacent building and saw a sign that read "Keegan Home Brew and Mercantile Exchange". Holy sh#t! Keegan Ales now has a home brew and merchandise store right next door to the brewery. The staff in the shop are very knowledgeable (the guy I spoke to for 45 minutes brews during the week at the brewery). The shop is also staffed by home brewers who know what they're talking about. They have malt extract as well as grain malt for you to choose from. This makes the transition from extract, to partial grain, to all grain brewing possible. The people staffing the store will walk you through what you need, and can answer any questions you might have about home brewing. The store offers any kind of grain malt you could think of, including roasted, pale , and rye malts to name a few. Whatever you are looking to brew, theses guys have you covered! The store also offers Keegan Ale merchandise such as beer, t shirts, hats and other nick-nacks. They are also offering home brew classes for just $20, and home brew starter kits for just $85! A conveniently located shop for those of us that get inspired having a pint in the tap room next door! I plan on taking some classes there, and buying my home brew kit from them soon.
After out 45 minute nerd out session at the home brew shop, my Dad and I sauntered back across the parking lot to get some lunch and brews at the brewery tap room/pub. The first thing that strikes you when you walk in is the glass wall to the right that gives you a full, panoramic view of the actual brewery. You can gaze out, while sipping your beer and see where it was produced. It's really a great idea, and like everything else at Keegan, it's clearly designed to get people interested in the art of brewing.
The second thing you notice walking in is the non-posh, working class feeling you get from the tap room/pub. If there's one thing I hate while enjoying a beer (especially with the elite catching on to the craft beer craze) is pretentious assholes lurking around while I am trying to enjoy my beer. Beer is a working class drink, and I don't want to hear some douchey day trader spouting off about how much he made in the market this past week. I would rather hear people vent about shitty bosses, callused hands, and trying to make ends meet. This place is exactly that. You can tell Tommy Keegan and crew bust their asses to bring you their labor of love, and they clearly want to share it with people that bust their asses as well.
Then, of course, there's the beer on tap! That day I had the barley wine ale called "Super Kitty" (12%abv), "Black Eye" black IPA (6.5%), and the "Swarmin' Hive" honey vanilla porter. The Super Kitty was strong, very strong. I could really taste the alcohol, and it had an almost barrel aged flavor to it (like whiskey). However, it was quite delicious and very dangerous indeed. The Black Eye was my favorite, combining strong floral hop characters with roasted malts. This created some complex flavor profiles, with the aroma hops hitting you up front and fading into a dark chocolate/roasted coffee character, and finishing with a lingering hop bitterness. The Swarmin Hive was also quite delicious, with neither the vanilla nor the honey being too overpowering, and there's a great balance between the roasted malt sweetness and hop characters as well.
The food is also killer! My dad and I ordered the Nachos, Carrot Ginger soup, and soft pretzels. Everything was fantastic, and the Carrot Ginger soup was to die for. It was sweet, with a nice amount of spice from the ginger. An excellent soup for the winter doldrums, and it paired well with the Super Kitty barleywine ale which complimented the bold flavors of the soup well.
If you haven't been to Keegan, I don't know what the hell you are waiting for. Go check out their website at www.keeganales.com to see their menu, and what they currently have on tap! Organize a group of friends, and head on up (or down) to Kingston for an overall amazing time, with a brewery that promotes local business as well as the DIY (do it yourself) ethic of craft brewing! Cheers!