This Oktoberfest Season, Enjoy the Fruits of Hudson’s Newest Brewery

Beer-tender Rebecca Lutz has a glint in her eye as we ask which is better: Sapricot or Sapmango? (Both are 4.9 percent ABV S.A.P.s at Hudson’s year-old brewery, Hop & Barrel.) “I like the Sapricot,” she says, “because the apricot flavor is a bit stronger, and I like that.”
It’s a lazy Sunday afternoon—the kind perfect for casually sauntering into the newest brewery—and we’re trying to build a sampler flight, because we’d like to sample all the good beers.

My husband Scott has an affinity for India Pale Ales (IPA), which comes in handy considering the brewery’s focus is on hoppy ales (a main component in IPAs) and barrel-aged brews. Stuck again, we ask Lutz what her favorite brew is, and she references the Rule of Two’s Episode 2, a take on the single-malt and single-hop recipe that lets ingredients shine, doubled (two malts, two hops). Or try the Crooked Grin, she says. Scott is sold.

The 6.0 percent ABV West Coast–style IPA is made with Simcoe, Columbus, Amarillo and centennial hops, which gives it a nutty, piney flavor that has a citrus-like bite. With an International Bitterness Units (IBU) measurement of 54, at this brewery known as much for its heated patio space as it’s biting “hoppiness,” Crooked Grin is second only to the aforementioned Episode 2 (which comes in at a whopping 73 bitter units and 7.5 percent ABV).

Co-owners Justin Terbeest and Brian Priefer opened shop after a lot of planning and compromising with the city of Hudson to ensure zoning was appropriate in the downtown district. Recipes were in full development last fall, but the brewery first opened its doors in February. Terbeest, a lawyer by trade but a homebrewer by passion, says the growth has been intentional and incremental, adding only what he and Priefer can keep up with to ensure high-quality, imaginative beers. This includes the first 12 barrels of aged brew, which look a bit slight against the 20-foot ceilinged beer hall space—long picnic tables in the center of walls lined with games and activities—in a back room, out of sight of the traditional brewery high tops up front.

The process of taking traditional beer recipes and aging them in old whisky or bourbon barrels is certainly nothing new. In fact, aging a liquid in oak tends to take on the flavors of both wood and anything that has sat in said barrels before. (Word of caution: This can lead to an infusion of extra alcohol content as well, depending on how long it is ages.) And these are what I’ve been looking forward to, as my preference typically is a rowdy liquor drink, so the marriage with what often is a dark, sometimes-chocolate-coffee-or-vanilla-infused stout is right up my alley. The process makes for an exceptionally sweet beer—dessert!

But while the barrel-aged beer is still in the barrels, I opt for the next closest thing: The rest of that same beer’s batch that had to be left OOB (out of barrel, not a technical term): Stupendous Idiots, a hefty 8.5 percent ABV imperial stout, is thick, rich and chocolatey smooth.

Chatting with Lutz, aside from the beer, one of the biggest hits in the brewery’s youthful tenure is the significant number of regular events. From barbecue collaborations with Big Guys BBQ every first and third Sunday at noon, to weekly Trivia Mafia and cornhole competitions (called Bags of Fury), there’s a little something for everyone to do while sipping the suds. Terbeest was intent on creating a community space, and the events bring them one step closer. Lutz’s favorite? “The yoga is so popular, we fill the whole back room. It’s really nice to come in to work and zen-out for an hour,” she says, noting the yoga is hosted at 10 a.m. every second Sunday of the month.

We spend much of our time in the German beer hall-style back portion of the brewery. An epic version of Big Buck Hunter (along with foosball, ski ball and other arcade games) lends a welcome distraction for our three daughters while we finish our samples in a responsible, four-hour-long manner.

The great conversations had are a nod to the atmosphere Terbeest and Priefer have worked hard to cultivate—a familial one, full of levity and laughter—right in the midst of downtown Hudson.

Brewery tours run 2–2:45 p.m. Saturdays, and can host about 20 people (first-come, first-served). For $10, get a tour, a pint of your choice and a Hop & Barrel decal.

Round About Way

A stop by Somerset’s own Bass Lake Cheese Co. brings a surprising infusion of old-school recipes and new-century flavor combinations.

The cheese that’s handmade at Bass Lake Cheese Factory by owner Scott Erickson still uses the same base family recipes that have been in use since the company was established 100 years ago. When Erickson goes to work making cheese, the process often takes two days. The varieties offered include cows’ milk and goats’ milk, as well as specialty recipes that include infusions of cinnamon, green olives and chocolate, to name a few.
Like so many small cheese factories, it’s not just the cheese that brings guests to the barn. A combination of jerky, beef products and brittles can be ordered online at the company’s website. There’s also a grill menu with delish dishes to be eaten on-site or ordered in advance for special occasions. Deli sandwiches, burgers and, of course, grilled cheese and pizza make up much of the menu, ranging in price from $7.50 to $11. Deep-fried appetizers (think: curds!) also are popular choices.