Thursday, October 4, 2012

Visiting Rushing Duck Brewery - Chester, NY

Dan Hitchcock, brewmaster at Rushing Duck.

Rushing Duck Brewery
Where: 1 Battiato Lane, Chester, NY
Tours: Yes
Food: No

With at least three new Hudson Valley-area breweries opening in as many months during the summer of 2012, New York finally seems to be catching up to the rest of the country. (In 2011, we ranked 40th in breweries per capita, behind West Virginia and just ahead of Oklahoma. Seriously, New York?) Among the new-comers is Rushing Duck — and now that I've visited their taproom and gotten to try a few of their beers, I can officially give them the Bear Flavored Stamp of Approval.

Chester, NY is tiny and quiet, and I don't think it's an exaggeration to say "there's not much else there." Chester feels like many other out-of-the-way towns I've been to in New York — which is not meant to knock it, because they have a unique vibe that I think I enjoy. It seems like a nice area, and judging by the crowd at their taproom opening, I'm sure Rushing Duck will do healthy sales just with growler fills — but even so, they're going to have to distribute over a pretty big area to reach enough customers. Which is fine with me, since I live forty minutes away.

First and foremost and most-importantly: how is Rushing Duck's beer? There were four on tap for the grand opening (you can see the taplist in the slide show below), and the only one I didn't get to try was Rushing Duck's flagship, Naysayer Pale Ale. Being their flagship, I figured I'd get to try it at some local establishment at a later time. What first caught my eye was the "Funky Wit," a Belgian sour, which was delicious. Given the vague description on the whiteboard and Rushing Duck's very-recent opening date (most sours take up to a year or more to finish) I assumed it must be a Berliner Weisse. It was super tart and medium-sour, bright, refreshing and much more complex than I expected. I was immediately sad they didn't offer growler fills of that one. Later, brewmaster Dan informed me that it was only a 5 gallon homebrew batch he brewed back in February — a witbier that hadn't attenuated fully, so he pitched sour microbes to it. Regardless, it got me excited for whatever official sours Rushing Duck eventually does.

Beanhead Coffee Porter was the other standout, and from what I could gauge, will probably be the standout for most other people as well. Clean and smooth, less roasty than some, it was on the very-drinkable side of porters, with a creamy and pleasant coffee character. Overall a very enjoyable beer, and it received enthusiastic responses when I popped a growler of it at a party later that night.

War Elephant, Rushing Duck's imperial IPA, was a solid IPA with good aroma but a bit more caramel-malt sweetness than I prefer — not much different from a hundred other solid imperial IPAs out there, but certainly not disappointing either.

Coming up in the future is a barleywine, which resided in a fermenter at the time of my visit, but will soon be transferred to bourbon barrels for aging. Rushing Duck looks to have a solid, interesting and diverse lineup right out of the gate, which is impressive considering how few beers they can probably juggle at one time. Given that everything I tried was either "good" or "great," Rushing Duck already seems to have passed from "looks promising on paper" to "is definitely promising." Even better, Dan mentioned that they'll be releasing limited special beers in bottles, which is always nice. All these things point to a brewery that isn't going to fall back on a few safe, unadventurous styles in an attempt to appeal to the broadest base of beer drinkers.

And it doesn't look like Rushing Duck will struggle to win converts — because guess what, the 90's are over, people mostly get it now — even given their remote setting. As I mentioned, there was a substantial crowd in attendance, cycling back and forth in line for free samples at the improvised bar, and wandering into the back for the occasional tour. Like many breweries, Rushing Duck is in a fairly nondescript industrial building, and as a smaller brewery, there's not a whole lot to the place other than a couple tanks and a bunch of kegs. (Fascinating to me, maybe less so if you aren't a brewer.) Dan, the brewmaster, gave the tour, which was actually a bit more in-depth than many other brewery tours, considering the necessary shortness of it. On one hand, the small size of the brewery is definitely going to limit how many beers they can handle at one time; on the other, it will give them the freedom to change things up as much as they want.

You may be wondering what "Rushing Duck" means, if anything. Well, being the Intrepid Blogger that I am, I went ahead and did the research for you. Back in the days of yore, growlers were the only feasible way of bringing beer into the home to drink, and this task of beer-fetching was generally given to the children of the house (what else are they good for?) Early growlers were basically a bucket with a lid, designed to conceal the beer as the children hurried (or "rushed," in the terminology of the day) the precious cargo home. (Probably while wearing an onion on their belt, as was the style at the time.) Why were growlers called "ducks" in the first place? I have not found an answer to that, so I can only conclude that the growlers were also meant to transport ducks when not filled with beer. It's the only explanation that really makes sense. So "rushing the duck" was basically slang for "get your ass home with my beer, you lazy kid."

Read more about that whole wacky era of history and the history of growlers here. Then check out the slideshow from my visit to Rushing Duck below.

Rushing Duck brewery


  1. Very nice write-up! Makes me look forward to taking the trip up to NY to try their beers!

  2. What a lovely write up! Many of us in Chester are very excited to have such a great brewer right in our backyard (quite literally for one of my friends!)
    And thank YOU for getting the word out there!

  3. Great writeup about a great brewery! Can't wait to visit.

  4. beanhead coffee porter quickly made my top 5 of delicious porters tbh

    still wondering why the ipa is named war elephant though... couldn't you google that??


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