If you went to Fools Day Farm just three years ago you wouldn’t see much at all, just some grass and weeds growing a mile high, overtaking the once proud dairy farm and orchard. But, that all changed when Barry Labendz, Headbrewer Derek Dellinger, and David Birnbaum took over the farm and have since put in a ton of hard work to make it what it is today: Camps Road Farm. Starting with the orchard, they had planted hundreds of trees whose fruit will soon be used to make Neversink Spirits brandy. And three years ago, in the main farm area, they planted an impressive hops garden that has now grown to a total of 2,800 vines. In fact, it’s gotten so huge that last year, even before they were officially a brewery, they had to recruit friends and family to help with the hop harvest, which will take place again this year (complete with a BBQ and beers to enjoy) on September 5.
Because we wanted to help spread the word of all the great things they have going on, Barry was kind enough to take us on a tour of the farm and farmhouse brewery. He took us row by row, through the hops garden, past the Willamette, the Centennials, the Chinooks, the Cascades, the Brewer’s Gold, and the Northern Brewer, and shared several other awesome things. Here are some highlights:
Chicks Love Kent Falls Brewing
Yeah, chicks dig Kent Falls Brewing. And, during our visit we saw hundreds of them, chirping and cheeping. Some of those little guys will help to lay some eggs and some of the other ones (sorry) will be sold for meat. When they’re there, they are treated well and are actually allowed to roam the farm. We saw a flock of chickens hanging out by a excavator that the neighbor is looking to buy. But, because they are out on a large plot of land, there are plenty of unwanted guests. Some hungry bobcats made off with chickens and Hawks have tried to wrap their talons around Kent Falls’ feathery friends. Barry mentioned how there was a fight between a rooster and a hawk. So, the hawk took off with the chicken right? Wrong! The rooster pecked the hell out of it and it flew away with its tail between its talons.
Getting back to tractors, Kent Falls Farmhouse has chicken tractors. Chicken Tractors? Chicken Tractors! Basically, chickens are put in a wooden, wire mesh “tractor” for a bit and they feed off of and eat the grass there. When the grass has been “mowed” and picked away, the Kent Falls crew moves the tractor down a bit so they can eat new grass and help mow that spot. It’s incredibly brilliant and helps to highlight their thought, care, and responsible farming techniques. And, speaking of techniques . . .
With a nice grant, Kent Falls Brewing had a solar powered roof installed on a little water storage shack off to the side of the brewhouse. As the panels capture light, energy is captured to heat up the water. That water is then sent right to the brewhouse for brewing. In addition, after each brew cycle, they are able to put their spent grains right back on the farm for the sheep and pigs that they care for, too.
Farmhouse Fresh and Seasonal Beers
We know that saisons have seen a huge upswing in the beer market over the past few years, but a saison that stays the same, year after year might not actually be fitting into the true definition. Saisons first began as lighter and refreshing beers made for farmhouse workers to help cool them down. And, a major part of saisons is that they were all made with what was available at the farm or nearby seasonally. So, theoretically, a saison in Kent could be quite different than one made in a farm in Maryland or even at a farm that is just an hour away.
Well, Kent Falls is keeping it local and seasonal . . . and refreshing, yes. So, let’s take you through three of the beers that were at the brewery that day during our visit.
1) Table Beer
While this is the lighter of the beers (it comes in at 3.8%), it is still full of flavor. To add more complexity, Derek added rye instead of oats. The result is a wheatiness and a good contrast and punch from the rye. For future iterations, they will be making a version with some Brettanomyces.
2) Waymaker Brett IPA
Barry was feeling a little adventurous with us, so he let us try the Waymaker that hadn’t been dry hopped yet and was just two weeks old. It was dry, easy to drink, and had a cloudy appearance. Then, we were able to try the finished Waymaker Brett IPA that had tropical, citrusy, grapefruity notes. It was nice, refreshing, and very complex due to the Brett adding some sourness. The color was light. Sidenote: they created a version of this for Prime 16 called Juicemaker that was refermented on dry mangoes. We had some at the Ninety 9 Bottles Beer Festival and it was our favorite beer of the day.
3) Field Beer with Spelt Grain
Made with malts from Valley Malts in the Hudson Valley, this is a bright and juicy beer. Like their other brews, this one is plenty refreshing and has nice, rich undertones.
Although Kent Falls Brewing is only a production brewery at this point, Barry and Derek have plans to open it to the public. “We want people to come by and experience the brewery and taste our beer, but we also live here. We need to find a good balance because we don’t want the town to become overly congested.” The plans, as of now, are to keep making killer brews and maybe open in about a year. To get there, they need to fix up a side room in the brewery, get a fully functioning bathroom in, as well as get approvals and a slew of permits.
Barry also shared that he would love to also give people tours of the farm or even give them a chance to explore themselves. Also, it is just an idea at this point, but they would love to be able to have dinners on the farm.
In terms of beer, look for more spins on their three classic beers with ingredients from the farm or other nearby farms. They also have some nice bourbon barrels ready for some lovin’ and also have three special barrels that are resting. In those barrels is beer that is spontaneously fermenting with wild yeast with varying reactions (see pics above). Barry says they will most likely turn out sour, but he’s excited to see what happens. Also in the room with the barrels is a series of experiments and special solutions that you’d die to check out.
And last, but not least, Barry shared his excitement about the bill that now allows him and other breweries to sell their beer right at farmers’ markets so you’ll soon be able to get some eggs, some chicken breasts, and a few bottles of Waymaker to take home with you.
It’s extremely exciting to see a farmhouse brewery open up in Connecticut, but it’s even more exciting to see the immediate success of Kent Falls throughout the state. Whether you’re getting their beer at a farmers’ market, your local packie, or on tap, you get a piece of the farm in every sip. And, while they started off strong, we’re even more excited to see what they have in store for Connecticut and the surrounding states as they expand their offerings.