To misquote one famous baseball movie: If you brew it, they will come. Lucky for New Yorkers, the one-two punch of the 2012 Farm Brewery Law and then the Craft Act in 2014, both of which made craft brewing and the selling of such brews directly from the brewery more widely available to all, has effectively turned craft brewing into a creative and booming industry throughout the state.
No one understands this better than Nikki Cavanaugh and Dan Hitchcock, newlyweds and co-owners of Rushing Duck Brewing Company in Chester, just outside of Warwick. The two opened their brewery in August of 2012, after Hitchcock left his position as lead brewer at Weyerbacher Brewing in Pennsylvania, and Cavanaugh, who received her master’s degree in social work, took up a different line of social work—namely building and operating a small brewery.
Cavanaugh runs the front-of-the-house operations, which include the day-to-day business as well as staffing the small tasting room, which has morphed into more of a communal beer bar. Hitchcock is the self-professed “beer geek” who keeps the taps flowing with nearly a dozen varieties of beer, with enigmatic names like Ded Moroz, Naysayer and War Elephant, all of which provide about as much intrigue as they do drinking satisfaction.
Apart from selling direct from the brewery, Rushing Duck has a booming business selling wholesale to more than 250 accounts (restaurants and retailers) statewide. In addition, part of their business is finding collaborators. They worked with Brian’s Backyard BBQ in neighboring Middletown to create a smoked German beer, or rauchbier, using smoked malt, and more recently they experimented with a coffee porter called “Bean Head” in partnership with Java Love Roasting Co. in White Lake, which required them to pair a porter with a Guatemalan Antigua blend of coffee. Next on the menu is another melding of minds, this one involving the Hop in Beacon and the infusion of coconut into a beer, which Cavanaugh insists, if all goes right, will be evocative of the beloved Girl Scout favorite, the Samoa. —E. Steinman
Rushing Duck Brewing Company
1 Battiato Lane, Chester