Tucked away in the trees off the main drag in the hamlet of Earlton, County Greene, Honey Hollow Brewing Company The quaint tasting room offers a plethora of beers made from locally grown hops, while providing a relaxed place for families and friends to gather. For longtime owner and brewer Matty Taormina, creating a welcoming environment was an essential part of Honey Hollow’s mission. “We wanted to support the local people, and that was a great way to do it,” says Taormina.
Taormina learns the fermentation process from an early age, helping her parents make wine. “Every year since I was 5, I crush the grapes and taste the new wine that comes out,” he says. “I have almost always been involved in fermentation. But Taormina did not immediately jump into professional brewing. He started making beers three decades ago as a hobby while working for the railroad. When the layoffs started, Taormina decided to find out more about hops. “The first time I got fired I bought a Charlie Papazian book and made our first batch of beer,” he says. “Since then we’ve gotten a little better and perfected every recipe we have, and 30 years later, here we are. ”
In 2013, Taormina and his wife, Donna, opened Honey Hollow in order to combine Taormina’s brewing chops with Donna’s gardening skills, growing some of the hops they brew with on-site. They became the first facility in Greene County to acquire an agricultural brewery license. To be eligible, a brewery must source at least 60 percent of its ingredients from farms in New York City. Since the couple cannot grow all the varieties of hops and all the grains needed to make their beers, they source their supplies from other farms as well, including Northern Hops in Shortsville and Chatham’s Kinderhook Creek Hop Park. The couple chose to pursue the license as a way to support the region’s farming community. “The reason we did it was really to keep everything local,” says Taormina.
Honey Hollow has humble origins. “We had a garden shed that we started in and I had a half-barrel brewery. We really didn’t think it was going to spread much, ”he said. “We were going to keep it local with a bunch of other farmers here, but all of a sudden it just took off.” As the business grew, Taormina and his nephew built a larger brewing station and tasting room just up the road from his home. Yet even with the expansion to a two-and-a-half-barrel system, Honey Hollow is considered a nano-brewery in every way, with Taormina only producing 120 gallons of beer per week.
Inside the tasting room, tables list the offerings. Honey Hollow offers nine beers on tap at all times. This year, eight of the beers were brewed on site and one is from Chatham Brewery. Next year he plans to resume his usual production. “I’m finally making up for it here,” he said. “So we’re going to go back to all of our beers. ”
Taormina still uses some of the recipes he created decades ago. Hurricane Pale Ale is a classic: it’s the first beer he brewed. “It’s a straight blond beer and it contains cascading hops. It’s a bit on the pine side, ”says Taormina. Ruby Red, what Taormina calls a “malted Irish red,” is a less bitter option. He also brews IPAs, including Alibi, made from a blend of century-old hops and mosaic. It’s one of two beers he makes with non-New York hops.
“There’s always someone walking through the door who can’t stand bitterness, so we have beers that will satisfy their palates too,” says Taormina. He has an oatmeal stout, as well as a honey beer made from honey from a neighboring apiary. “This beer is more malty, not really a real honey flavor.” he says. For non-beer drinkers, Honey Hollow also serves other New York State craft drinks, including Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from Seneca Lake area vineyards and Albany’s Cider. Nine pin.
Although beer is the focus of the establishment, the food supply is also limited. The revolving vendors sell cheese platters and other small bites. During the summer there are pizzas made in the outdoor wood-fired brick oven and live music from local blues and rock artists. Outside, tables under the tents can accommodate around 45 people, with more seats hidden under the trees.
Bring the whole family
Children are welcome at Honey Hollow, which has a corn pit, bonfires, and frequently used bocce court. “People play there pretty much every weekend,” says Taormina. For him, it is the friendly and convivial atmosphere of the establishment that sets Honey Hollow apart. Its brewing philosophy? Brew to share. “It’s a really friendly atmosphere here,” says Taormina. “We accept everyone. We want to keep it fresh and we want to keep it affordable for people to come here and have fun.
Honey Hollow Brewing Company is open for tastings on Fridays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from 1 to 8 p.m.
Honey Hollow Brewing Company
376 East Honey Hollow Road, Earlton