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Mill House Brews A Beer On The Hudson

For a limited time, a brewing company in Poughkeepsie is offering a beer not only made ­­with water from the Hudson River, but ­on the river. The process mirrored one from the 1700s and was revived following networking among a brewmaster, an environmentalist and a boat captain. WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne boarded the boat where it all took place.

Ship Rocked IPA is the brain brew and long-time secret passion of Jamie Bishop. He’s brewmaster at Mill House Brewing Company. Bishop says he has a longstanding connection with the river, having grown up alongside it, and his passion has been to brew beer using the river in the process, a lost element of the traditional IPA.

“So it’s the idea of taking this higher alcohol finished beer, ‘cause it would have been a finished beer to come across the ocean, so how do you really get that beer to survive that journey and the  natural elements of Mother Nature,” Bishop stays. “So like I was saying earlier, this beer was 96 degrees at one point. Twelve hours later it was 40 [degrees]. And those wood staves are breathing like a lung and sucking that beer in and pushing it out and imparting flavor and the idea of the motion of that hops in that barrel as well, it’s the idea that it’s just constantly stirring.

He says not only does the beer use the Hudson as much as possible, it helps raise awareness about protecting the river.

“Brewing isn’t the greenest activity. You’re going to find that it takes about seven gallons of water to make one gallon of beer,” says Driscoll.  “So the more responsible you can use your source water in the beer making process is something that I personally try to champion in my brewery.”

Mary Pat Driscoll is captain of Trinity Cruise’s Evening Star out of Peekskill. Heading south toward the Bear Mountain Bridge, she talks about her involvement in Ship Rocked IPA.

“Well, we were picked to rock it on the river. So, because the IPAs were originally brought from England to India, they spent time aboard a boat. So part of the flavor of it was probably developed by rocking on the water,” Driscoll says. “So we thought this would be a great thing to get involved in. It’s been fun working with Mill House and doing it. So we had them on board for a month and we talked it up on our cruises. People thought it was really interesting.”

It is a river, not the ocean, so from where came the motion?

“Usually the river’s pretty calm until another boat goes by. So we get tugs and barges that go by and other pleasure boats,” Driscoll says. “And so as we would get those waves, I would tell my passengers that this is what we’re doing this for. Today, we’re gonna rock those kegs.”

Riverkeeper is also involved. Here’s Water Quality Program Director Dan Shapley.

“We want to highlight and remind everyone all that time that 100,000 people get their drinking water from the Hudson River,” Shapley says. “So that’s Poughkeepsie, it’s Highland, it’s Hyde Park,  it’s Rhinebeck.”

Rhinebeck Mayor Gary Bassett has long been concerned about climate change and sea level rise and how that could impact Rhinebeck’s water treatment plant.

“This is bigger than just sea level rise. We’ve got to protect the water itself. And so we said, let’s form a group and let’s get together. And so now July 10 we’re having our first kickoff meeting where we’re going to get all the municipalities together and we’re going to talk about how we can protect the water for years to come,”  Bassett says.“And we’re going to use the Mill House Brewery as our meeting place, which is also key, apropos to here. And Dan’s going to be there, I’m going to be there, the town supervisor for Rhinebeck is going to be there, Hyde Park, Poughkeepsie, Lloyd, Esopus. We’re all going to get together and share our concerns about how we can work together collectively now.”

Riverkeeper’s Shapley says the Mill House beer project is a good way to raise awareness of source water quality and highlight the need for drinking water protection at its source.

“We don’t want to do this once. We want to have every brewer really focus on what their source water is. In Peekskill, it’s the reservoir in the Hudson Highlands. In Athens it’s the reservoir. It’s each of the breweries,” Shapley says. “And we’re being called the Napa of beer in the Hudson Valley because of all the wonderful craft breweries we have. And they’re all reliant on whatever their particular source of water is and that’s coming from the streams, that’s coming from the rivers of our landscape.”

Bishop would like his landscape to include more beer made on the Hudson River.

“This is a better beer, so how do we do this more often and make more of it, right? says Bishop.

“So are you? That’s the question,” says Dunne.

“So if we can find a way to get a lot of barrels on the river, if anybody’s out there and can listen, yes, we would love to make this beer every year. We’d love to make gobs of it,” says Bishop. “It’s a great story and it actually is a really tasty beer as well.”

Tasty meaning…

“For this beer, what I get is a nice lemon note, some citrus qualities, a really balanced drinkability,” says Bishop. “And it’s got this faint oak tannin that comes in at the end for me that gives it even a drier, crisper finish, a drier mouthfeel on the back of my tongue.”

Shapley approves.

“The beer is delicious.  It’s a great IPA. It’s not overwhelmingly…  It doesn’t knock you over like some IPAs do,” says Shapley. “And it just goes down very easily.”

Riverkeeper is holding a happy hour at Mill House Brewing Company in Poughkeepsie Thursday evening [June 29], where Ship Rocked IPA will be available. 

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