Old Glenham Brewery Brings Traditional English Cask Ales to Beacon | Craft Beverage Industry | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Old Glenham Brewery Brings Traditional English Cask Ales to Beacon 

Drawing on Tradition, Ian Hatton Brings the Beloved British Pint Stateside

Last Updated: 05/20/2022 2:38 pm
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What lengths would you go to for a taste of home? Old Glenham Brewery founder Ian Hatton went so far as to dig out his basement, just for the sweet, sweet taste of a hand-drawn pint of English cask ale.

Originally from the UK, Hatton first came to the US as a guitarist in the band Bonham. By 2002 he had relocated to Glenham, a neighborhood that is, both geographically and legally, simultaneously part of Beacon and Fishkill (the school is part of Beacon school district, but the afterschool programs are run by the Fishkill school district and...well it only gets more complicated from there.) He turned his house into a professional recording studio and transitioned from being a touring musician to scoring soundtracks for TV and movies from home.

But less time on the road, traveling the world meant less time to enjoy something that, for all the wonders of New York’s craft beer revolution, he still couldn’t find in America: A nice pint of a traditional English cask ale.

English cask ales are both brewed and served differently than American beers. For starters, there are no chemicals or additives; the only ingredients are water, hops, yeast, and grain. There’s no filtering or pasteurization, which kills off the live yeast cultures. And whereas standard beers are pumped into kegs with added CO2, English-style cask ales are casked live with no added carbonation. These brews are served slightly warmer than most American beers: Usually between 50 and 52 degrees, or what is traditionally referred to “cellar temperature.”

click to enlarge Ian Hatton of Old Glenham Brewery drawing a pint of Weavers Pale Ale at Dogwood in Beacon. - BRIAN PJ CRONIN
  • Brian PJ Cronin
  • Ian Hatton of Old Glenham Brewery drawing a pint of Weavers Pale Ale at Dogwood in Beacon.

The beers also have a much lower ABV than other beers, usually clocking in between 3.5% and 5.5%. This, says Hatton, is why English cask ales are an integral part of British pub culture. “Having a few pints” in England means getting loosened up just enough for a night of good conversation amongst friends and strangers, not getting completely smashed. The difference becomes clear when compared to American craft brewers pushing their IPAs into the 7% to 10% ABV territory. “You have two of those and you’re already half-cocked,” said Hatton.

Tired of searching for a pint in the Hudson Valley, Hatton realized he was going to have to figure out how to brew it himself. After extensive conversations and encouragement from his favorite brewers at the Bewdley Brewery back in England, and all the requisite permits and paperwork from the town of Fishkill, Hatton built Old Glenham Brewery out of what was the basement and first floor of his house, separating it from his recording studio and living space. He then spent the pandemic running up and down the stairs, making music for his day job and tinkering with his brews.

Cask ales are an art and a science: Nothing is computerized, Hatton works with handwritten notes and records only. Since the yeast stays alive through the whole process, the results can be unpredictable. But after months of experimentation, when Hatton had the owners of Beacon’s Dogwood bar over for a sample, their eyebrows shot up at the first sip and he knew he was onto something.

Getting Dogwood’s approval was key, and not only because Hatton considers the Beacon watering hole to be the closest thing to a sociable British pub in the entire Hudson Valley. Serving cask ales in an American bar takes a bit of an investment. Since they’re served at a warmer temperature, they need to be stored in a separate fridge. The live yeast means the lines need to be cleaned more often. And a beer engine has to be installed in order to draw the ale out of the cask and deal with the gasses being released by the live ale’s continued fermentation. “You’re literally pumping the beer up,” Hatton explains. Dogwood was enthusiastic enough about the ale that they were willing to install the extra fridge, and Hatton got an engine and pumps from England. His beers have been on tap exclusively at Dogwood for almost a year now.

Old Glenham Brewery’s main ale is called Weavers Pale Ale, in honor of Hatton’s father, who was a weaver. He then learned that there’s a few extra layers of local symbolism: Glenham was once a hotspot for textiles production, and of course any folk fan can tell you that the The Weavers was the group whose most famous member, Pete Seeger, went on to be a worldwide icon as well as a Beacon resident for over 50 years.

Also currently on tap at Dogwood is Hatton’s Best Bitter Cask Ale, which is brewed with more grain and comes out darker with a punchier flavor. Both beers are exceptionally smooth, refreshing, and flavorful enough to keep you eagerly coming back for more without trying to bowl you over with an overly aggressive flavor profile and a double-digit ABV. “It’s a very sociable, drinkable beer,” says Hatton.

Right now, Old Glenham Brewery’s cask ales can only be found at Dogwood, but the reception has been rapturous and Hatton is looking to expand. “I’m going to have to find another place like Dogwood, where they’re really into beer,” he said. “I know they’re out there.”

Location Details Dogwood
47 E Main St
Beacon, NY
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