When Dave Jordan and his son Brad began transforming an industrial space in Holbrook into the future home of SquareHead Brewing, Barack Obama was president and everyone was playing Candy Crush, eating cronuts and anxiously waiting to find out the fate of Walter White. If that sounds like a lifetime ago, it’s because they’ve been working towards their grand opening since 2013. Now, after five years of construction (much of which they did themselves), bureaucratic red tape and recipe development, they’re finally ready to open their doors—and taps—to the public.
Though the journey to opening a brewery officially began in 2013, the seed was originally planted when father and son were sharing an elderberry ale. “You know, if you really like this beer, we could make this,” said Dave, which was met with a healthy dose of skepticism from Brad. Dave and his father had brewed together years ago, starting when he was only sixteen, and he still had some of the old brewing equipment in the garage. That elderberry beer was the first they would ever brew together and now, 200+ batches later, they’re still making it. You can try Einar’s Elderberry, named for Dave’s brother, at the grand opening.
If you’re sensing a family theme here, you’re definitely onto something. When we showed up for a sneak peek of some beers that will soon be on tap, Lori—Brad’s mother and Dave’s wife who also belongs to a local brewing club—was sweeping the tasting room while her son and husband tended to the fermenters. The brewery is about a half a mile from the house Dave and Lori raised their children in, and where they still live today. Proudly on display is a vintage looking bottle capper—still operational and built by the Einar of Einar’s Elderberry fame.
With over ten taps to fill, Dave and Brad have been brewing almost non-stop in order to fill the board. Offerings range from an imperial stout to a pistachio pilsner. Talking Stranger, one of their staples, is a malty well-balanced IPA that is hoppy without being overly bitter. “It’s an easy drinking one,” says Brad while going on to add that it is 7.2% ABV, so it’s not exactly a session beer. The pine notes and malty sweetness offer a beer that is more reminiscent of west coast IPA’s than their east coast, citrus forward counterparts.
Additionally, three very limited-edition bottles will be released on Saturday. One silver lining of the time delay is that their beers have had plenty of time to develop. Not too many brand new breweries can serve barrel aged beer at their grand opening, but SquareHead is doing just that. Three bottles will be available for the first time: Hippies on the Yip, a saison, The Owl Whispers Winning Numbers, a Dubbel, and The Hudson River, a robust brown ale all spent months aging in whiskey barrels.
While each, of course, have different flavor profiles, all contain wonderful levels of carbonation leading to a fluffy, soft texture and mouthfeel. This is an area most breweries neglect and SquareHead nails, whether the beer is bottle conditioned or on draft. Each of the four beers we were lucky enough to sample was a joy to drink.
But what do they taste like? Einars Elderberry, the one that started it all, was dark and full with a dry finish showcasing notes of elderberry up front and at the end that were complimented by coffee and roasted accents.
Whiskey Barrel Aged Hippies on the Yip starts with a subtle tartness, some raspberry and floral bits that are ensconced in a rich maltiness and touches of whiskey and oak. This beer is highly complex and brings you back for multiple sips trying to pick out different flavors.
Whiskey Barrel Aged Hudson River is a full robust brown ale which reminds us of sharing a beer around a camp fire. It has some oak, whiskey, coffee and chocolate both on the nose and in the taste, all balancing off and complementing each other well. This beer would be perfect for the coming cooler evenings.
Lastly, Whiskey Barrel Aged The Owl Whispers Winning Numbers, a Belgian style Dubbel, was simply fantastic. This was the first beer we sampled and the one that stuck out the most. It’s well balanced, but this beer over the four others we sampled seemed the most harmonious. Rich yet delicate, full but soft, big yet subtle flavors this beer is impressive. Expect some whiskey and oak to be highlighting big fruit esters of dates mingling with mounds of malty goodness.
Whichever beer you end up trying at SquareHead you are going to be sipping happily. We suggest picking up a few of their barrel aged beers and sticking around for a few pours. Live music, food trucks, a photo booth and ample outdoor seating will accompany the wide variety of beers available at the grand opening of this family-run, New York State farm brewery. The celebration is Saturday, October 20 from 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. (bottle sales start at noon) with festivities spilling over to Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. What else would you expect from a party five years in the making?