HALFMOON -- What started as a small hobby of brewing beer has, for two local entrepreneurs, become the large-scale operation of Hank Hudson Brewing Co. at the Fairways of Halfmoon Golf Course.
Darren Van Heusen and Chris Crounse, co-owners of the company, recently opened up shop in a new 1,600-square-foot space at the golf course.
The brewery, which is now open Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, will soon be open on Sundays. Eventually, Van Heusen and Crounse said, they will be open seven days a week during the golfing season.
But making the leap from basement brewing to a working in a commercial space has been a learning process for the two beer-makers.
In 2013, Van Heusen and Crounse were given a space to brew their beer in the basement of the golf course's clubhouse by fairways owner Bruce Tanski.
The output at that point was only one half of a barrel. With the expansion, it has now jumped up to 300 gallon brewing tanks with several beers on tap.
"We were really very amateur at brewing," Van Heusen said.
But with the expansion the dream has grown, as has the amount of beer the two are aiming to produce.
"Our goal is to have at least eight on tap, possibly as many as 12," Van Heusen said. He added that he would like to move toward having a guest beer from other local brewers on tap as well.
Van Heusen and Crounse sometimes put in 10-hour days to brew the beer. During the off-season, they've been brewing their beer once a week. The brewing, they said, will become more frequent once golf season returns.
Their beers are a mixture of lighter beers and English ales, and balancing the science of brewing with the creativity of making their beer unique was something they learned through talking to other local brewers, attending conferences, and going through the pilot brewing program at SUNY Schenectady County Community College.
"What was going to be a hobby is now real," Crounse said.
Just as important as the beer itself for the two brewers was the creation of the pub in which the drinks are served. Van Heusan and Crounse, who have both traveled to London many times, wanted to incorporate a communal feeling in the bar that they experienced while abroad.
To create that feeling, they built a space that makes use of long tables where many people can sit together and interact, along with enough space in the room to walk around.
There is a patio that overlooks the golf course, along with a row of seats placed right in front of the massive silver brewing tanks, that will allow customers to be near the brewing process as it goes on.
The pub was built using materials from a old barn located down the road.
Along their brewing journey, Van Heusen and Crounse have picked up some tricks of the trade.
One of those tricks was learning that people sometimes have a set reaction to certain beers that might be tough to change. An example, Van Heusen said, is people who see a dark beer and believe it is a heavy beer simply because of its color.
"People taste with their eyes," Van Heusen said.
Something Crounse and Van Heusen would like to incorporate into their business in the future is producing beer that complements the food served at the golf course.
But for now, the two brewers are bolstered by the fact that customers have reacted well to their beer. Their hope is that people will chose to keep coming back to the pub, even if they aren't members of the golf club.
"There's a genuine enjoyment," Crounse said. "We'd like the customer to control their visit."
Hank Hudson Brewing Co. will have a grand opening event in mid-October.