Ken Landin never meant to put his brewery in Athens.
The owner of Crossroads Brewing Company looked at about 100 other locations before he ever thought of what now seems obvious -- the town where he'd been vacationing for over 20 years.
The Greene County brewery is now producing some high quality brews, and it's creating an interest in Athens as a destination for beer-loving tourists.
Is it a little out of the way? Sure. But for beer lovers, it's worth the trip.
The happy accident came about when Landin came upon Athens' old opera house on 2nd Street, just a few blocks up from the Hudson River. Built in 1893, the building had been used as a gym, a playhouse and a bowling alley in the past, so it was a bit of a mess when he got to it. But by September 2010, Crossroads had brewed it first batch of beer -- Outrage IPA.
Landin had originally planned to open the brewery across the river in Columbia County -- but he and partner Janine Bennett realized that an Athens location would still allow them to tap into the markets they wanted: Massachusetts, Albany, the Hudson Valley and Manhattan.
In the last two years since, the brewery has taken off. Landin says they're now producing 650 barrels a year, and figures they're two or three years ahead of his original business plan.
Much like finding a location for Crossroads, Landin's decision to open a brewery wasn't exactly typical. It wasn't a life-long dream or something he knew he always wanted to do. He says he was just a contractor with a passion for beer. So he started helping out at craft breweries such as
Now he and head brewer Hutch Kugeman work to keep 10 unique and quality brews on the board each week, like their Black Rock Stout in which they use real espresso; Hopera House, a strong but balanced IPA; or White Dog Wit, a Belgian wheat with an orange and coriander finish. And coming this fall they will feature three different pumpkin ales. "I just give Hutch free reign in there and he does a great job," says Landin.
And they're making some high quality brews. And they've won awards -- including best craft brewery in the Hudson Valley and two other awards at TAP New York in 2011.
The expansive old opera house has allowed Crossroads to expand from a tasting room, to a full bar, to a bar and restaurant, and what Landin hopes someday will be a bar/restaurant/music venue.
Crossroads is trying to support the area by using as many local resources as possible, both in their beers and in the kitchen. Columbia County and Saugerties hops are both included in their brews and chef Paul Parillo works to make as many of his ingredients local as possible.
"We go local, trying to stay within 20 miles, as much as we can and Athens is a great area for this," says Landin. But he admits admit that their cheese comes from a farm farther away -- 30 miles.
And the brewery has been able to help the struggling town of Athens. "We're on the edge of a revival now," says Landin, "blazing the trail for the town and bringing in people far and wide. People are coming from Albany and they're coming from the city. People gravitate toward craft breweries."
Since they've opened, Ken says real estate values have grown, tourism has increased, and though a small operation, they've helped with job creation.
"The work is still stressful, yes we make beer, but at the end of the day it's still a small business," said Ken, "But I definitely think we're seeing a revitalization of this area."
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