Thursday, March 17, 2016

Couple's Plan for Farm Brewery Works Out Bee-eautifully

Empire Farm & Dairy


Emily and Evan Watson embraced the farm brewery concept at just the right time.

They bought a 1-acre farm in Fishkill nearly three years ago with the idea of growing virtually everything they would need to create and market their own brands of beer. Last year, they moved to a 25-acre farm in Poughkeepsie to expand their growing business.

New York state has for several years offered farm brewery licenses. The program requires that a certain percentage of items used to create beer must come from farms in the state, an aspect that benefits the agricultural industry. And brewers take advantage of financial incentives, which boosts their business prospects.

The Watsons’ Plan A for making a living was based on Evan’s successful music career, which he launched from New York City. But the frequent traveling got in the way of other dreams they had, like starting a family.

So they adopted a Plan B, operating a farm brewery. And since they cultivate their yeast from their honeycomb, they’ve come to call their new lifestyle their Plan Bee.

As in Plan Bee Farm Brewery, They grow many of their own ingredients and import the rest from local farms. Several beer-related publications have written about their successful business.

During an interview with Empire Farm & Dairy, Emily Watson spoke about her farming background, how she and her husband found themselves in a growing niche industry and what they’re doing to move their enterprise forward. Some of her responses have been edited for brevity.

Q What is your background in farming?
A I’m originally from Ohio, and my father is a farmer. So I grew up in a farming community. Evan grew up in Indiana but not on a farm.

Q What is the history of your farm brewery?
A Plan Bee Farm Brewery started in Fishkill in 2013. We had a 1-acre farm there, and we had a one-barrel brew house system. In May 2015, we closed on a 25-acre farm in Poughkeepsie, and we moved into a 10-barrel brewhouse. 

On our 25-acre farm, we have more than 100 wild apple trees, which we do harvest for making a cider/ale blend out of the fruits that we’ve gotten off of the farm. But our plan this spring is to plant hops, herbs and flowers, different additives that we put into the beer to increase the amount of types of fruit trees that we have. We also hope to start our own grain production here eventually.

Q How did you decide to become farm brewers?
A I was working for a nonprofit, Riverkeeper. I was going up and down the Hudson Valley, working closely with the community and talking about the environment. I really fell in love with the Hudson Valley and said I really want to stay here, and I wanted to do something closely tied to the environment.

I have a degree in geology, and I really enjoy working outdoors. My husband, working at (beer brewery) Captain Lawrence, said he really enjoys brewing beer. My husband and I were home brewers, and he said maybe we can marry these two ideas. And between my background and his background, we’d be able to come up with a decent plan on how to make that economically feasible.

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