Wayward Lane Brewing:
Fermenting Wild Dreams in the Valley
Wayward Lane Brewing taps into the unique quality and profile of the water that flows so easily in Schoharie County. Driving away, we heard ourselves saying, “We are incredibly lucky Andrew’s family passed down a 65-acre hobby farm, nestled amongst the rolling hills of our valley.”
Sitting down with the crew of Wayward Lane Brewing, on a recent snowy afternoon gave SEEC the chance to talk to Andrew Rowles, Farm Manger and Sales, Adam Rosenthal, Head Brewer, and Kyle Bergen, Head of Business Operations and Sales, about the unfolding story of their award-winning, three-year-old craft beverage venture rooted in New York’s Schoharie Valley. Unfortunately, Abbie Hanson, Taproom Manager and Events Coordinator, was the only member of the partnership unable to join us due to her “day” job.
Winding up the hill to their Bier Meadow overlooking snow-capped fruit trees wondering if the bees were still buzzing in the wooden “brood chambers” we met in the Taproom where Adam offered us a pint of a smoked Baltic porter made from all New York ingredients. The conversation turned easily from the roads they traveled to get here to the ingredients for their success. As Wayward describes itself, “we are a true farm brewery and taproom, occupying a restored 1800’s hop house. Brewing everything from aromatic IPAs to crisp lagers, coolship rested wild ales, and oak aged strong ales.” Their eyes are always on the horizon.
“We’re not from around here, everyday we’re finding new ways to tap into our community, meet locals, and get involved.”
Reigning from Massachusetts, New Jersey and Colorado, this fellowship met while attending Colorado University Boulder. Since, they have created a growing community of craft beer lovers 1,800 miles away in our bucolic upstate valley once known as the Breadbasket of the American Revolution, and later, believe it or not, the Hops Capital of the World! Schoharie is not a battleground today nor do the hops spread across the hillsides; rather, Abbie, Andrew, Adam, and Kyle saw Schoharie County as an opportunity. “This is the perfect place to take things to the next level. Access to land and options to own are remarkable and business costs seem far less than Colorado,” Kyle shared.
Today, the fellowship maintains 80 bee hives and 65 acres of fertile soil to grow their own ingredients. Our personal favorites – aronia, elderberry, currants, pawpaw, persimmon, apricots, and cherries! “Honey is used to sweeten the batch,” smiled Andrew. Passed down generations, the 1800’s Schoharie farmhouse was a summertime vacation destination for the Massachusetts native, Andrew, before becoming a “destination brewery” and recognized as the Best Craft Brewery in New York State. The house had been in Andrew’s family since the early 1960’s and after 2014 no one lived there, and it was slowly falling into more and more disrepair. “We were all home-brewing in Colorado, and I was following the changing legislation in New York,” remarked Andrew. “I knew I had to do something.”
They weren’t always pomologists and beekeepers crafting award winning brews in their “past lives” as well-stated by ex-digital machinist of 11 years, Kyle. Long time friends Adam and Kyle met back in 5th grade in Boulder where they later befriended Abbie, New Jersey native, and Andrew. In college, the four bonded over the mutual passion for hops home-brewing. Andrew eventually moved back east to tend to the family farm after college, while Abbie, Adam, and Kyle turned into hops garage-brewing hobbyists, endearingly, Abbie recalled the trial-and-error explosions. Although graduating with a geography degree, Adam followed his passion and dove into the professional brewing industry. Kyle and Abbie both worked day-jobs while constantly looking for spaces to expand the threesomes craft.
Then, came the day they all received the so-called “infamous email.” A ‘30 Reasons to Move to Schoharie County’ online blog article sent via Andrew and his newly founded Hop House Farm in the Schoharie Valley. Immediately stirred, the Colorado trio came the visit in 2017, the year Adam and Abbie married. With little convincing, the Colorado friends moved across the country to follow their wild dreams. “There is good energy in this part of rural Upstate New York,” Adam assured as he raved about the emerging and established crafters of the region.
“The area seemed untouched. There’s unbelievable potential and we can still enjoy the same hobbies here,” Abbie said as she also referenced the easy access to the Catskill and Adirondack Park recreation and central location to major cities.
In 2020, the fellowship founded “the flagship… the original location,” right here in Schoharie County, New York. Tributes have poured in after the prestigious New York State Brewery of the Year 2023 award was given to Wayward Lane and rightly so. The New York State Craft Beer Competition has become the largest state-level event in the country. Yes, the Country! The place where the craft beer community comes together to celebrate and honor the best. And in this case, the Hazy Pale Ale, Cultivar, English Style Wheatwine, Xylem, taking gold medals and Cloud Generator, a Hazy Double IPA, and Prizm, a Cold IPA taking silver. While Adam is the recipe wizard, Abbie loves to help out with flavor names — Kia Ora, a New Zealand Pilsner named after her family’s Jersey shore sailboat and common New Zealand greeting.
In addition to Brewery of the Year, Wayward also received the SEEC 2023 Toast to the Town ASPIRE Award. The SEEC ASPIRE Award recognizes those that have ascended or transcended in their industry through best-practice efforts and inherent innovation. At the SEEC awards ceremony, SEEC Chairman Tom Putnam, founder of Fenimore Asset Management, cooed about Wayward’s success. “Seldom does a business receive the highest praise in any industry, especially a business who has been at their craft for less than three years. Impressive. We are most proud of your high achievements.” A true testament from a gentleman who founded his company 50 years ago, in the next town over, that has grown to manage more than $4 billion assets nationwide.
Looking around the Hop House, the fruits of their labor are everywhere.
From hand-crafted tables, lofty ceilings with exposed beams, natural wooden shelving housing games for the guests, the games also made of beautiful wood. Hand-drawn artistically colored labels adorn the taproom, illustrations of Merlin cats, bears and gnomes to black dogs, fireplaces and 4-wheel trucks made by a local artist stocked in the cooler. A large bar designed for easy gazing over the brew tanks. Eyes wandering toward the welcoming front windows placed with the fabulous view of free-range chickens and Schoharie County’s picturesque rolling hills, the intimate dream-woven passion and innovation from each founder is obvious.
Wayward has grown its unique community by sponsoring events such as Farmers Markets, Holiday Markets, music festivals, yoga, taproom takeovers, the 2nd Annual Tree Blaze, a ceremonial Christmas Tree burning, and the flying gourds of the Punkin Chunkin. As a destination brewery, often people travel from afar to indulge in Wayward Lanes craft brews and honey, and in doing so, people discover Schoharie County’s magic on the way.
“We’re proud of the hub we’ve built but we meet people who live five minutes away who have never heard of us!” A bit baffling to the crew. “Our main goal is learning the locals and making familiar faces…” the founders enthused. “I love our regulars, we have a strong network of supporters,” Abbie added, “Being behind the bar, I enjoy seeing the connections they make amongst themselves. Now, they show up together!”
When asked what sets them apart, the team mutually agreed they “created a unique space we envisioned ourselves hanging out… a space we personally want to be at.” We understand that to be a place to spend their days and evenings, a super-sized home-brewers paradise surrounded by animals, open land, entertainment and history. A good laugh erupted, as Kyle also jokingly defended himself from the team “I do love a good get-together!”
Aside from access to the family farm, the team noted they have taken advantage of multiple state and locally funded grants and are currently working on another with assistance from SEEC. “The grant process has significantly changed, it’s seamless and easier-to-do now,” remarked Andrew. Looking ahead, they mentioned they’d love to see more good food and accommodation in our county. Kyle teased again, “We have something in the works, we’re not quite ready to discuss it but expansion is on the horizon.” A long list emerges as the team discusses future plans and designs the ultimate guest experience.
“This is our flagship location. Our roots are here now. It’s the original. It will always be, the original Wayward Lane Brewing.”
There is a sense of peace here, in Wayward’s winter Bier Meadow, and a solidarity with the land’s gently sloping hills, great vistas, and old farmhouse. Another laugh laced with disbelief erupts all around when we all compare how people often think Schoharie County is much farther away. Just 35 minutes from Albany, New York’s Capitol Hill, and three hours away from the City That Never Sleeps, Wayward Lane Brewing is always buzzing. Adam perfects his craft in the brewery with home-grown ingredients while Abbie, on the frontline to the community, serves-up the latest flavors from the taproom. Andrew, when not crafting meads directly from the honeybees on-site, joins Kyle to drive more than 5,000 miles every two months on distribution routes to retailers deep into Brooklyn and state-wide.
Rooted in the rural hills of Schoharie, Wayward Lane Brewing, the unique destination brewery officially opened in 2021, floods with locals, and travelers alike each yearning for a sip of wild dreams built in Schoharie Valley. “Our roots are here now. No matter what the future holds, we have a home here, the farm is here.”
And yes, Andrew continued by assuring me that the bees are still “nesting” in their wooden condominium awake, noshing on their honey and preparing for another flavorful season.
A short journey up the winding road behind the Schoharie courthouse, you’ll find your way to Wayward Lane Brewing – cliche pun completely intended. For more information on business resources or funding information, contact SEEC. Better yet, stop in on your way to Schoharie County’s own, the #1 Craft Brewery in New York State, Wayward Lane Brewing.
Wayward Lane Brewing, Schoharie County, NY
Interviewed and Authored by SEEC Associates, January 2024
Photos by Mosaic Mountain Media
- Abbie Hanson, Adam Rosenthal, Andrew Rowles, & Kyle Bergen
- Wayward Lane Brewing at Hop House Farm
- 255 Ward Lane Schoharie, NY 12157
- Family Farm, 65 acres, Dutch Barn Tap Room, Bier Meadow, Metal Entertainment Shed
- NYS Craft Brewery of the Year, 2023
- SEEC ASPIRE Award, 2023
- New York Legislation Incentivizes Craft Brewing
- Personal Equity + Friends/Family Network
- Empire State Development Capital Grant
- CDBG Small Business Assistance Grant
- CDBG-CV Digital Marketing Grant
- NYS Craft Beverage Micro Grant
- IG: @waywardlanebrewing
- FB: Wayward Lane Brewing