Hoppy Waters: How to Brew an IPA on the Hudson River
Have you heard about the new beer in town? It’s made from rolling waves, rocking boats and river water. If that sounds more questionable than appetizing, then it’s time for a history lesson.
“It’s long been told that the IPA [India Pale Ale] was born out of English mercantilism and English trade routes,” said Jamie Bishop, brewmaster at The Mill House Brewing Company in Poughkeepsie. Bishop drew inspiration for his latest endeavor from the depths of beer-making history, which involved arduous journeys across the Atlantic that only the toughest of ales could survive.
Mill House’s new brew, designed in collaboration with Riverkeeper, an organization that advocates for clean water in New York, is the result of Bishop’s long held ideals and a chance meeting with the right people.
“I brought together some small businesses that rely on clean water in some way to start a conversation on how we can work together,” said Dan Shapley, water program coordinator at Riverkeeper. At the meeting, Shapley chanced to have Bishop on one side of him and Captain Mary Pat Driscoll of the Trinity Cruise Company in Peekskill on the other. When Bishop mentioned his dream of brewing an IPA on the river, as an ode to beer-making tradition, Shapley asked Captain Driscoll if she would lend her boat for the test batch. She agreed, and the trio set their first barrels of beer onto the river.
The two 13-gallon barrels that made a temporary home aboard the Evening Star, Captain Driscoll’s tour boat, underwent a natural hopping process as they rocked along the waves and coped with temperature fluctuations. The resulting beer, aptly named Ship Rock IPA, debuted on June 21 to a small party aboard the boat. Not only was the event a chance to sample the beer for the first time, but it was also an opportunity to bring awareness to the significance of the Hudson River in the community.
“Some people didn’t know that the Hudson was a source of drinking water,” said Shapley in regard to the taste testers’ reactions. “It’s been treated. It’s not raw water from the Hudson.”
On the contrary, according to Shapley and Riverkeeper, the Hudson River is the source of drinking water for more than 100,000 people living in the Hudson Valley. By extension, it is also the water source for the area’s craft breweries. The issue of clean drinking water has come to prominence recently, thanks in large part to the $2.5 billion Clean Water Infrastructure Act, which designates over $100 million specifically for the protection of New York’s drinking water sources. Through the collaboration, both Mill House and Riverkeeper hope to highlight the need to protect this drinking—and brewing—water and advocate for investments in clean water maintenance.
“Not only are we using Hudson River water in the beer, but we are also brewing [the beer] on the river,” Bishop enthused. Although his test batch was gulped down during the celebration, he and the Riverkeeper team plan to meet early this fall to discuss a collaboration on a larger scale. To highlight the significance of the mission behind the beer, Bishop and Mill House plan to donate 100% of the next round of Ship Rock IPA to raise awareness for the Hudson River.
All they need now? Boat space. Bishop and Shapley are currently on the hunt for both a location and a boat suitable to brew the beer. Bishop envisions a seven-barrel batch for the next round, before potentially expanding to a 20-barrel system. While nothing is set in stone yet, the men would love to have a brew hopped up by next spring or summer. Until then, we’ll all be thirsty for more.