As we drove underneath the graying winter sky, I'm fairly certain that we hit every single red light on the Poughkeepsie arterial highway. But luckily we didn't have to go far to get to Plan Bee Brewery, which can be located by navigating the winding backroads on the outskirts of Poughkeepsie. Owners Emily and Evan Watson’s have been making waves in the community ever since they started selling their brew-tiful (bear with me) creations at local Farmers Markets. Their beer is made with 100% New York State ingredients, if not from the Watson’s own farm. “From the yeast we cultivate from our honeycomb, to the grain and hops in our fields, if it isn’t in our community it doesn’t enter our beer.” - Plan Bee.
We were unsure that we were going the right way as we pulled onto Underhill; the beginning of the street has a few modular houses planted on the right side with a yellow dead-end sign in between them. But we kept our faith in Google Maps and continued down the road as it changed from pavement to dirt– and we’re glad that we did. We came to a rusty steel sign that read “Plan Bee Farm Brewery” with a honey bee cut into it that marked the entrance of the brewery. Finally! Time to try this beer that’s been popping up all over the Hudson Valley.
We drove up the bucolic thoroughfare and came to a grand gray barn with yellow trim. It featured a small outdoor patio complete with lawn games and string lights that makes one wish it was summer. Inside the building, a small lively crowd huddled around the wooden bar top while a Wurlitzer multi-selector radio slung old records from the two stuffed milk crates on the floor next to it. Dim industrial barn lights hung down from the exposed beam ceiling and illuminated the rustic space to ensure that you don’t forget you’re on a farm (just in case you missed the bleating of goats on the way in). Before the sun set over the horizon, we were able to catch a glimpse of a small community of beehives through the three large windows facing the East side of their 25-acre farm. Behind the bar is an assortment of their unique bottled beers; capped and sealed with jazzy multicolored beeswax to coincide with the hue of the label on the bottle. Nice touch.
Brewmaster and writer extraordinaire Derek Dellinger (author of The Fermented Man and 50 Hikes in the Catskills) manned the bar this particular Sunday evening. It wasn’t long before Derek was pouring us a flight of the eight beers from their tap, which was decorated with a tiled honeycomb backsplash. Their snifters are fashionably emblazoned with their logo, a honeybee, in gold. Time to taste through!
BARN BEER - (5.5%)
This farmhouse ale dances between fruity/funky and lemon/pine with little to no hop presence in the taste. It's slightly tart, soft and lemony. It's one of Plan Bee’s most popular brews and begs to be paired with cheese or a charcuterie board.
KING BEE - (5.3%)
A collaboration with Peekskill Brewing. An artfully crafted clean and crisp unfiltered lager.
FUTSU - (7.6%)
A collaboration with the Culinary Institute of America. Hints of roasted Futsu pumpkins, toasted sunflower seeds, maple syrup, caramelized squash, and fruity spice with a velvet finish. It owns a light red/caramel color and smells vaguely of chocolate.
Stock Ale - (8.7%)
This lightly carbonated ale is aged in Hillock single malt whiskey barrels with flavors of caramel, a smooth sour finish, and a deep amber color.
BARTLETT - (5%)
A wild ale with juicy Bartlett pears aged in oak. It is cider-like and citrusy with notes of wood and pears (as one might suspect).
ZONE 6 - (6%)
A wild ale with quince from Glorie Farms and black currant from CurrantC Farms with juicy, tropical, and citrus notes. It has a red color similar to that of a lighter red wine due to the black currant.
ROSE HILL - (6.5%)
Another wild ale with peach and plums from Rose Hill Farms with subtle complexity. It is refreshing and very crushable. On the nose, it smells like mild-bodied tobacco.
PEPPER - (4.5%)
On the menu it warms “HOT”, and they aren’t kidding. Hot peppers from their raised beds include jalapeno, habaneros, Thai ghost, cayenne, tabasco, Caribbean hot, and scotch bonnet. They’ve added each pepper at a different time in the boil so you can pick out each one in the flavor profile! Personally one of our favorites, which Derek points out is the talk of the brewery right now. It’s truly unique and just plain fun– every spice lover needs this in their life.
To polish things off, we ended the night with a bottle of their Bloody Wild Ale. We cracked the red beeswax cap that matched the crisp scarlet label on the bottle (also emblazoned with a golden honey bee) and filled up our glasses. Think bloody mary, because it sure tastes like it. This brunch style sour ale is brewed in a pickle barrel with their homegrown heirloom tomatoes, tabasco peppers, celery, horseradish, lemon basil, lime basil, beets, and a touch of Amagansett sea salt. This beer is downright delicious and one of a kind, just like the rest of their brews.
Plan Bee Brewery is paving the way for fun new styles of beers that will undoubtedly give patrons an experience they haven’t had before. They’re open every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from noon to 7:00 pm! They have a small selection of well-curated merchandise that includes books (from Derek Dellinger himself, no less), their signature beer glasses, and Plan Bee apparel. All, of course, made locally. Clear some space in your calendar this weekend, so you can check out these craft beer rockstars.
P.S. They are now selling 20L kegs of Barn Beer for $175 a pop.
Pictures taken by Sabrina Eberhard and Plan Bee Brewery.