Driving high up into the Helderberg Mountains the roads got smaller and smaller, finally bringing me to a dirt driveway. A bright yellow sign announced I’d arrived at Honey Hollow Brewery. (www.honeyhollowbrewery.com, 376 Honey Hollow Rd, Earlton, NY.) I rolled down my window to take a picture. The sound of banjos echoed in the hills. I turned up the drive and rolled into a parking spot and trekked up to the brewery. A bigger addition to the brewery is quite evident. That’s the new tasting room, not quite finished.
Getting closer there’s a sign with “Taormina” on it. That’s for Matty Taomina, head brewer of Honey Hollow Brewery. He has the sign there so he remembers who he is after he finishes up an evening’s work. Entering the tasting room a spacious expanse shows itself. It’s 20’x24’ with a vaulted 17’ ceiling finished with pine boards. The bar and tables and such match the ceiling giving the room a warm feeling. Of course some of that comes from Matty heating up the place with a nice little stove in the corner with a fan blowing warm air. It’s a far cry from 4 years ago, in September, when Matty started.
We took a short tour. The brewery, until recently, made 20, maybe 22, gallons per batch. That space formerly also housed the tasting area and fermentation vats, as well as, other assorted equipment. Calling it cozy would be kind. It was crowded at times. Russ and I brewed there a couple of times and it could get pretty hot. It probably still gets hot, but it isn’t crowded. It now houses a 2 barrel system. Fermentation is now done in shiny new vats in a new room off the brewery.
2 BBL brewing system above and below.
Fermenting tanks below.
Matty Taormina above.
We finished our walk about and headed back to the tasting room where Matty poured a beer. There are five taps. I chose a Hellacious Honey Ale. Everything about this beer says honey, from the color to the nose to the taste. It’s very lightly hopped with a sweet honey taste. It’s easy to drink at 6%.
The honey used is local, from the Bee Bevy Happy Bee Farm, https://www.facebook.com/beebevyhappy/. The next selection was Arabella Nut Brown. One native Indian derivation of Arabella gives its meaning as beautiful lion. It’s a beautiful brown verging on dark amber. Low hop aroma, but caramel notes and a hint of chocolate comes out in the nose. There’s a round mouthfeel to it, some caramel taste, dry with a little hop bitterness. At 6.2% abv, it’s one of the light ones. I finished with Ruby Red. Red color, some hops nose. It’s full bodied with a creamy mouth feel and 7% abv. There’s also a stout and an IPA. Matty does a bit of experimenting with each beer, except the red and the stout. He says people like those so much he can’t change those two. Remember, when you visit, be careful, these are all fairly big beers.
I stepped outside to check out the facilities. It’s cold, everything brown and white. Big rocks are scattered about, reminding one of Stonehenge. But soon the garden will be brightenening the landscape, tended by Master Gardener Donna Taormina, Matty’s long suffering wife. More information about being a Master Gardener can be found at Cornell Cooperative Extension. Once the weather gets better there’ll be lots of out door work. Siding will go up. The outside patio area will soon have tables. A wood-fired pizza oven is planned. The porta-potty is to be replaced with friendlier facilities.
Back inside we finished our beer and chatted a bit more about beer and the meaning of life (42). We chuckle about how he’s retired, but working more now. “But,” he says, “I enjoy doing all this.” Finished, I wandered back to my car to find my way home, Matty going back to his retirement project.
There are lots of special events during the year so check the site for them. You might even get Matty to play a round of bocce. He’s not very good, so let him win once in a while. Keep tabs on their website, as well as ours, to track what’s happening. Besides trying some of Matty’s beer, don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers.