To understand why The Drowned Lands farm brewery has that peculiar and epic name, you have to know a bit about Warwick history. The town’s (landlocked) hamlet of Pine Island was once indeed an island amid a vast glacial lake. But in 1835, General George Duncan Wickham ordered area farmers to dig a drainage canal by hand, and the black dirt of the Drowned Lands emerged. By the 1880s, the influx of Eastern European immigrants to the area had caught onto the now-legendary fertility of the soil and were producing tons of onions a year. Ever since, Warwick’s black dirt region has been famed for its produce.
When the Drowned Lands brewery in the fall of 2020, it adopted the historic moniker in homage to the region’s rich past as they look forward to the future of agriculture and industry. Theirs is an obsession with terroir. As their websites says, “We created the Drowned Lands to make exceptional craft beer that expresses the native mineral profile of our water, the seasonality of our local agriculture, the imparting taste of the local microbes in our house-mixed culture—the expres the ‘is-ness’ of our land and share it with you.”
The brewery, founded and run by brewmaster Mike Kraai, occupies a corner of the former campus of the Mid-Orange Correctional Facility. In 2013, the town of Warwick acquired the 733-acre property and set about preserving and parceling it out. Visitors can hike and kayak at the 400-acre Wickham Woodlands Park; more than 200 additional acres are dedicated to recreation and public use; and the rest of the property was sold to a range of private businesses including Hudson Sports Complex; Citiva and Green Thumb cannabis industries; a CBD extraction facility and testing lab; and the Drowned Lands.
The Drowned Lands’ $2.7 million renovation created a beautiful, modern 15,000-square foot brewery with a 3,000-square-foot patio, a 1,000-square-foot deck, and another event space. Between indoor and outdoor seating the brewery can seat over 500. Inside the whitewashed tasting room, seven massive foeders (oversized barrels) are on view behind a wall of glass. Aged in oak rather than sterile stainless steel vats for anywhere from six months to two years, the beer at Drowned Lands is a collaboration with the environment around it. The small-batch brewery has a 15-barrel system, with 16 brews on tap at any one time.
The Drowned Land’s grounds are across the road from the Wickham Lake and the sprawling park. This bucolic setting will be host to the brewery’s second annual Wild Acres Fest, on Saturday August 20. “A celebration of limited and thoughtfully brewed lagers and ales,” the festival will bring together dozens of hand-picked craft beer producers from the northeast, including local breweries Obercreek, Industrial Arts, Equilibrium. The ever-growing participant list includes Timber Ales, Charles Towne Fermentory, Brix City Brewing, Beer Tree Brew, Wild East Brewing Co., Marlowe Artisan Ales, Evil Twin Brewing, Mortalis Brewing Company, Finback Brewery, Human Robot Brewery, Magnify Brewing, Tribus Beer Co., Grimm Artisanal Ales, Other Half Brewing, Foam Brewers, Forest & Main Brewing Co., the Seed: A Living Beer Project, Talea Beer Co., Mindful Ales, the Rare Barrel, and Wild Arc Farm.
Wild Acres will take place on August 20 from 1 to 5pm. General admission is $75 a ticket and includes unlimited beer samples, while the VIP pass ($95) VIP access to Wild Acres Festival offers entry an hour early, plus a 750-milliliter bottle of Wild Acres barrel aged sour beer. Get your Wild Acres Festival tickets online.