ROOTED: Crafting Community at Weiss Ferments: Where Old World Tradition Meets Hospitality

Erica & Brian of Weiss Ferments

Crafting Community at Weiss Ferments:

Where Old World Tradition Meets Hospitality

Nestled against the picturesque backdrop of the northern Catskill Mountains and the Gilboa Dam, among the expansive beauty of the Schoharie Valley, lies Weiss Ferments—an intimate, multi-acre outdoor brewery and biergarten. Here, amidst the tranquil embrace of nature, owners Erica and Brian Weiss weave a narrative of nostalgia and community, drawing award-winning inspiration from simpler times.

As SEEC sat down with Erica and Brian, it became clear that their journey was not just about crafting gold medal beer and healthy bread—it was about creating moments of connection and belonging. “It kind of feels like we’re hosting a huge dinner party for friends and family,” they shared, their eyes sparkling with warmth and sincerity. “We want people to feel that sense of comfort when they come here.”

Offering French, Belgian, German, and English influenced artisanal crafted brews, handcrafted cocktails, hand-made bread (as well as other homemade global street snack options), and several yards of intentional landscaping—Erica and Brian Weiss utilize their unmatched hospitality skills to run the entirety of their business from their own home backyard.

This year, Weiss Ferments received a Gold NYS Craft Beer Award for their porter, “Hold Fire” and their brews can be found in multiple bars in both upstate New York and Manhattan.

While extremely gracious to be awarded such a high achievement, Erica explained “I don’t do what I do for recognition.” She highlighted the limiting feeling of being placed into specific boxes or categories, noting that sacrificing her creative originality for the sake of an award is something she’s just not willing to do. In 2022, Erica had a similar reaction when asked to participate on SEEC’s Women Leading Business panel discussion. She rejected the notion that female brewers are an anomaly and assuredly reminded us all that women have been brewing beer for hundreds of years, likely the first to the craft.  Erica’s grounded decision and dedication to uniqueness has clearly paid off.

Today, Erica enjoys focusing on French and Belgian style brews from the comfort of her very own brew shed, built entirely by Brian himself (just one of many DIY projects they’ve completed since beginning their journey).

Brian has crafted the entire bread menu to cater to the richness of the local organic grains this region has to offer. When asked which loaf would best pair with their award-winning porter, Brian recommended their “Ale Loaf,” a spelt loaf with an oat porridge made with Erica’s brown ale, rather than water.

During our interview, he found himself daydreaming about NYS Rye and Einkorn flour. Brian made his case emphasizing the importance of quality, knowing where ingredients are coming from, and how there has become a surplus of processed grains in the typical American supermarket. Because he controls what goes into the process of hand crafting each loaf, Brian uses some of Earth’s most ancient grains, and people have an easier time digesting it. “It’s honestly just better for you. Gluten sensitivities have become so common nowadays, but our bread might be a better option for some of those people, and I think that’s great.”

Having a baker of Brian’s caliber, with a devotion to learning and applying knowledge, it was a no-brainer for Weiss Ferments to offer a full bread menu in addition to their beer options. Serving as an inclusive option for non-beer drinkers, it also stands firmly in their dedication to offering guests unique and memorable experiences; an attraction most definitely worth the visit. “Also, beer and bread is honestly how we’ve conquered the world, as humans,” he jokingly added.

Their vision and passion all stemmed from years of experience shared between Erica and Brian within world-class and Michelin star restaurants. Their attention to detail and standard for excellent quality had been brewing for years before they met in 2013, working at Maialino in NYC.

Prior to meeting, Brian had pivoted from a career in the entertainment industry in California, to the service industry. On a leap of faith decision, he picked up and moved to NYC seeking new opportunity, which had turned out to be Maialino. Working here, he found an intense passion for attention to detail, excellent hospitality, and conscious quality of ingredients when it comes to dining experiences—not to mention, his future wife and business partner.

Around the same time, Erica has been busy earning a mechanical engineering degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and soon began working in the energy sector. She spent a few years working professionally as an engineer, but it was not long before it dawned upon her that she had other dreams to fulfill. After a few years of working offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, she drove herself to California to study under two master sommeliers. Obtaining credentials through the Court of Master Sommeliers, she moved to Colorado and worked her way up at a Michelin-star restaurant, Frasca Food and Wine, in Boulder for three years.

Given her extensive skill set and discerning and distinctive palate, she was later sought-out to expand an Italian wine program at Maialino—where she and Brian met, and fell in love. Erica later went on to help open a restaurant in the Flatiron District, and then continued on to land another opportunity at Eleven Madison Park—which, at the time was rated the #1 restaurant in the world—until early 2020. That’s when their world turned toward crafting community.

A gentle love story; not only did Erica and Brian share industry-related passions, but they also shared adventurous/outdoorsy down-to-earth personalities, strong values of simplicity and rejuvenation, and an old-word inspiration and style. After their wedding held in Coxsackie, they got the chance to drive around the area, finding themselves magnetically drawn to the scenic vistas offered by the Catskill Mountains and the vast acreage of green farmland, let alone its affordability.

Fast forward to 2019, Erica and Brian closed on what they thought would be their fix-up farmhouse escape from the bustling city—but would soon become their home, place of business, and one of their biggest DIY projects in Conesville, NY. Literally, they do everything themselves, from landscaping, to creating all of their food and beverage options, to actual operating service—being mostly self-funded and marketed primarily through word of mouth.

While tiring at times, they still expressed gratitude and the luxury they felt with having complete creative control of their community-focused and passion-inspired biergarten. Together, they’ve drawn from their vast experiences and refined their respective skill sets over the years into something they could pick and choose from—creating an entirely different “brewery” experience—reminding us, “We’re more than just beer, were a place of restoration and rejuvenation…. We’re really forcing people to slow down, disconnect, take it all in, and enjoy nature.” Emphasizing the importance of being present and making genuine connections between both humans and our natural environment. Dogs always welcome.

Erica and Brian perceived their initial success as a convergence of factors: their expertise in their respective fields, the strategic positioning of the region as a nexus between destinations, the unspoiled natural beauty of the landscape, the historical significance imbued within existing structures, and the overall shift in the rhythm of life. They went on to state how grateful they were for the bumps along the road because they served as important lessons-learned on how to relentlessly improve and move forward—for example, learning just how many upstate NYers crave a loaf [of bread] and a cold beer on Memorial Day & 4th of July weekends.

“There’s something lovely about working within a space of history and tradition. For me, it’s actually more freeing as a brewer.” Erica discussed. As she shared stories of her studies abroad in France, visiting an annual beer festival was a huge inspiration for her because she was exposed to types of beers that looked, smelled, felt, and tasted completely different. Since the beginning, she has incorporated Belgian, English, French, and German influences into her crafted beers as an ode to her experiences, expressing and sharing some of her most fond memories with each sip.

In their ever-shrinking spare time, Brian and Erica enjoy walks around the Gilboa Dam and Mine Kill State Park with their dog, glamping, visiting other breweries, hiking Vroman’s Nose, buying fresh produce from Barber’s Farm, scenic drives, days of fruit-picking at Bohringer’s Farm, and visiting other local eateries like The Mill Pond, The Cowboy’s Taqueria, and Greek Gyros.

At the time of our interview they’d been tirelessly prepping their property for opening day which was Friday, on the 26th of April. With unwavering determination, the dynamic entrepreneurial duo set their sights on keeping Weiss Ferments open throughout the seasons, from the vibrant blooms of spring to the crisp days of fall (closing Thanksgiving weekend, weather dependent).

Their menu, meticulously crafted to reflect the essence of each season, promises a delightful array of locally sourced delights. Springtime visitors can indulge in street-style delicacies like Cantonese BBQ pork, or savor the zesty tang of sun dried tomato hummus paired with spelt sourdough crackers. As for ambiance, the biergarten features an “eclectic mix” of music, ensuring there’s something to suit every taste. Families are encouraged to bring along their furry friends and little ones and immerse themselves in the welcoming ethereal backyard of Weiss Ferments.

As our interview closed and we bid farewell to Weiss Ferments, we’re left with a sense of gratitude and wonder. Gratitude for the abundance of nature and the richness of community that surrounds us, and wonder at the power of passion and creativity to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. In a world that often feels disconnected and frenetic, Weiss Ferments stands as a beacon of community and tranquility. Here, amidst the verdant landscapes and historic vistas, strangers become friends, and every visit feels like coming home to Schoharie County.

ROOTED
Interviewed and Authored by SEEC Associates, April 2024

RESOURCE BIN
Human  

Physical     

Intellectual/Industry    

Financial  

  • Self-funded with friends and family
  • Recipient Federal Home Loan Bank of New York grant via Sterling Insurance

Digital  

For more information contact marketing@seecny.org.
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