The Drowned Lands
251 State School Road
Just two years after it began pouring thoughtfully crafted beers in the Warwick Valley, The Drowned Lands was crowned best brewery in New York State.
The award, the F.X. Matt Cup, was one of three honors the still-young craft beverage spot brought back to Warwick from the TAP NY 2022 festival in May. Drowned Lands also won the Vassar Cup for the Best Brewery in the Hudson Valley. Its Gather House brew won the Gold Medal for wheat beers and its Deep Terra took silver in the Strong IPA category.
Not bad for a brewery named for the dirt it rises from. But what dirt it is. Drowned Lands draws the character and essence of its craft brews from the bounty of the spectacularly rich “black dirt” left in the region from an ancient glacial lake bottom and decades of flooding of the Wallkill River.
It is an ideal region for The Drowned Lands’ philosophy of terroir. That means that what fills the glasses there comes from the land and the area. Its website explains that The Drowned Lands was created “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 – to express the ‘is-ness’ of our land and share it with you.”
Owner Mike Kraai, a believer in tradition, ferments beers in large oak barrels known as foeders, the way it was done before stainless steel vats. In stainless steel, an ale can ferment in two weeks. Kraai’s beers in foeders take three months to two years or more. The oak adds character with hints of flavors such as vanilla, coconut and toffee.
“It’s a longer fermentation, and more work, but the end result is worth it,” Kraai says.
Matching that sense of tradition with innovation, Kraai blends in ingredients as wide ranging as his imagination, even when that means making exceptions to the terroir approach to incorporate everything from pineapple to Japanese rice flakes.
The Drowned Lands fills the space of a century-old former boys’ reform school administration building. The tap room is a pleasingly simple space, a touch rustic, a touch elegant, with an airy feel created by blond wood and an abundance of the color white. Outside, a spacious patio overlooks Wawayanda Creek.
“Our space is special,” Kraai says. “We see this as a destination brewery.”