Suarez Family Brewery has been in planning for years. Not many people know that, though; husband-and-wife duo Dan Suarez and Taylor Cocalis Suarez have pushed back the brewery’s opening date thanks to equipment mishaps, and it’s a select group of tapped-in people who would notice. (“That’s what happens when you have a brewery three years in the making. You’re sort of stringing people along,” Taylor says.) Now that the brewery finally and officially opened its doors to the public last Saturday, though, word should spread quickly given Dan’s background: stints at Brooklyn’s Greenpoint Beer Works (also a training ground for the Other Half crew) and Sixpoint, and most notably after that, three years at Vermont’s Hill Farmstead with founder Shaun Hill, this year named RateBeer’s best brewer in the world.
“Shaun’s obviously super gifted and also really diligent and militant in his obsession with quality. I think that was helpful because Dan was the same way,” Taylor says of Dan’s time at Hill Farmstead from its opening until 2013. “They’re two people you wouldn’t necessarily look at and think they would be so technically minded, but they jived really well. Shaun is such a motivation for what Suarez Brewery ended up being.”
Shaun and Dan’s trips to Belgium’s best breweries were another inspiration for Suarez’s relatively remote location in Livingston, New York, and for the brewery’s deliberately familial feel.
“Dan realized that they were much smaller operations than he had imagined, much less businesslike. A lot of them were just multigenerational family operations,” Taylor recalls. “We said, ‘Okay, how can this be a livelihood and something financially viable, but also how we’re going to spend all of our time? How can we shape this brewery so it’s what we want to spend our lives doing?’”
The Suarezes have a palpably bucolic view of their small town, Livingston, population 3,646 as of the 2010 census. (“There’s no real downtown besides the town hall and the post office and our friends who live in the former general store and run an illegitimate farmers market on weekends,” Taylor says, fondly.) Incredibly, there’s already another brewery, Sloop Brewing Co., in the same town, and farmhouse darling Plan Bee Farm Brewery is under an hour’s drive away. Both established breweries have come through in the clutch for Suarez, which “owes so much in karma” to them in repayment for advice, loaned pH meter probes and borrowed lactic acid as Suarez was in the process of opening.
They’ll have a chance to repay the goodwill as of this past weekend, when the doors finally opened to the public. Suarez Family Brewery is located about four hours straight up Route 9 from New York City; formerly called Albany Post Road, Route 9 begins at the tip of Manhattan and runs all the way up the state to Albany. The taproom, for now, will be open Friday and Saturdays noon to 7 p.m. and Wednesdays 4 to 7 p.m. and will offer half-pint draft pours and to-go bottles, though Taylor says they may add growler fills in the coming weeks if they can keep up with demand.
The Suarezes plan to brew three categories of beer. Half will be mixed-fermentation saison and farmhouse beers (half of that half will be fresher, draft forms that Dan might also bottle; the other half will be super-long, barrel-aged and intense fruited specialties that won’t be ready for months); a quarter of production will be relatively low-ABV aromatic ales, a series they’re calling Crispy Littles; and the last quarter of production will be comprised of unfiltered pilsners, Dan’s darlings. (“He’s so excited to the point where probably every day of the last week, he’s said ‘Maybe we don’t even have to do the hoppy pale ales,’” Taylor says. She reminded him that no, he should probably still brew the pale ales.)
While the lagers ferment and the barrel-aged farmhouse ales age, Suarez will mostly concentrate on those nimble, hoppy ales. The first, Suarez’s flagship of the Crispy Little series, will simply be called Crispy Little, a 5% ale brewed with a touch of wheat and both American and Old World hops; the second in the series will be Walk, Don’t Run, a blonde brewed with New Zealand hops. The Suarezes expect those to be easy sellers, but it’s evident they’re most excited about the lagers.
“You have the responsibility to make beers that are part of a specific point of view that you have,” Taylor recalls telling Dan. “The job of someone who’s really good at what they do is not always give people what they say they want.”
Time will tell, but Suarez Family Brewery probably shouldn’t underestimate the demand for flavorful lagers, farmhouse saisons and small, hoppy gems—especially those brewed by a Hill Farmstead alum.
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