PEARL RIVER, NEW YORK
Twenty miles North of Manhattan in a historic industrial warehouse across railroad station lies Pearl River sanctuary, DEFIANT BREWING. Brewer Neill Acer (formerly of defunct Ramapo Valley Brewery and West End Brewery) serves beers straight from large brew tanks behind right side bar.
During November ’06 visit, initially tried mellow Stephano’s Stout, a light-bodied changeup placing raw chocolate-cocoa sedation atop dried raisin-fig-date serenity and sedate hop-roasted cereal-oats. Next up, dewy amber-hazed English pale ale, Little Thumper, caressed satiny yellow-fruited subtlety with raw-honeyed mineral-grained herbal hops, cannabis-like grassy twig earthiness, and vegetal wildflower-barnyard-horsehide dryness.
Best bet: dazzling Christmas Ale, a slow sipping barleywine-like winter celebrator bringing anise abundance to chewy chocolate-molasses creaminess, seasonal nutmeg-allspice tingle, raspberry puree linger, raisin-grape upsurge, and coarse walnut-hazelnut respite seeping through rum-brandy warmth.
December ’07 stopover, brought mildly piney citric-embittered herbal-tinged straw-hay-horsehide-dried Farmhouse Ale and twiggy soft-watered dry-hopped cocoa-powdered walnut-pecan-fig-savored Nut Brown Ale. 2007’s Christmas Ale bettered previous version as up-front burgundy-bourbon theme overlaid funky dried fruiting, candied red apple-grape souring, and bruised cherry-banana tartness. Also tried metallic brimstone-wafted pink-headed magenta-bodied Raspberry Wheat, a Belgian yeast-styled peculiarity with sour-candied oaken cherry tartness, sparkling champagne flow, and unripe peach-raspberry tease.
March ’08, tried brown chocolate-fronted dry-hopped wood-charred coffee-quipped maple-sapped walnut-fig-rye-backed Porter and smooth coffee-milked espresso-surged chocolate-malted hop-roasted nut-singed Dry Irish Stout. Sun-dried fig-soured grape-parched oaken-cherry hop-sharp cider-like Abbey Single stayed clandestinely alcoholic.
Two months hence, during May ’08 stop-by, tried robust Defiant Stout Of War, a lactic dry-bodied bitter merging hop-charred coffee ground souring with powdered cocoa-chocolate malts, hickory-smoked peat-whiskey, plus tertiary bruised cherry, raisin, fig, and anise illusions. Upon visit, bought growler of Defiant Golden Nugget, a lemony grapefruit-centered, woody hop-embittered, wheat-husked, barnyard-wafted medium body.
During one-hour August ’09 afternoon visit, quaffed mildly creamy cereal-grained spice-hopped moderate body, Defiant Muddy Creek Lager, with its bittersweet red-orange-fruited simmer, tobacco leaf twinge, and biscuit-y spine. Afterwards, enjoyed Da Oaty Oatmeal Stout, a creamy dark chocolate-y medium body placing coffee bean bittering atop anise-smitten Belgian candi-sugar sweetness and maple-sapped fig-soured vegetal-tinged oats char.
Late September ’09, my wife and I hung out with Acer and Jeff (the bartender) while quaffing moderate-bodied Baron Von Weizen. Its seltzer-like peppery-hopped orange-tangerine tang and ethereal lemon-dropped banana-clove imprint rose above soft white-breaded wheat spine.
Celebrated Octoberfest ’09 with two uniquely different autumnal seasonals. Mild medium-bodied Headless Horseman Pumpkin Ale anchored creamy caramel-malted cocoa subtlety and teasing vegetal whim to opulent cinnamon-spiced pumpkin pie theme. Fruit-spiced grassy-hopped Oktoberfest retained champagne-like fizz, mild orange-tangerine tartness, spare red apple souring, and lime-y brimstone chalking to biscuit-y wheat spine.
On tap, May 2010, Defiant Maibock countered honeycombed orange-bruised apple-pied frontage, creamy Scotch malt sugaring, and biscuit-y bottom with mild grassy-hopped lemony grapefruit bitterness, slightly astringent alcohol burn, and cooked veggie nuance.
My longtime friend, Dennis Flubacher, bought four growlers for our consumption, June 2010. We quaffed these brews at our domiciles while watching Yankees games. Creamy caramel malts and tangy apple-apricot-nectarine sweetness linger above piney-hopped juniper-embittered alcohol astringency of Defiant Medusa IPA. Bittersweet cherry-pureed prune-dried black chocolate creaminess offsets hop-charred cocoa-dusted dark coffee roast and dewy peat backdrop consuming soft-watered Defiant Chocolate Porter.
Lighter in texture and hue than brewers’ less pungent same-styled Muddy Creek Lager, grassy-hopped grapefruit-yellowed lemon rind-embittered Defiant Prohibition Lager guarded earthen mineral-grained corn-dried vegetal musk with herbal Cilantro-sage dusting. Sturdy American Pale Ale placed IPA-like piney orange-peeled grapefruit rind bittering over earthen oats-roasted maize-dried graining in medium-bodied template.
Tried spice-hopped mineral-grained clean-watered San Francisco Lager, with its vegetal fungi earthiness and back-throated orange-peeled grapefruit bittering, July ’10. A week later, buttery Chardonnay-like citric-lacquered white-peppered crystal-malted Defiant Summer Ale brought floral-wafted rosemary-herbed lavender-accented coriander-clove-spicing to lemony orange fruiting.
To celebrate the dawn of October, ’10, Flubacher and I split a growler of thoroughly enjoyable Defiant Headless Horseman Pumpkin Ale. Though most of its flavor sits at the backend, rich pumpkin pie spicing receives resounding apple-spiced cinnamon-maple sugaring and tingly cardamom-nutmeg-allspice seasoning usurped by even better fig-sugared date-candied black cherry plentitude.
On January 2011 stopover with wife, tried bottled version of effervescently creamy Belgian Spring Ale, a peppery dry-hopped orange-spiced strong ale with champagne-fizzed gin-soaked alcohol whir pleating sugary grapefruit, orange marmalade, and cherry illusions over funky barnyard parch.
As nightfall came, had fine chocolate dessert treat, Long Shadow Stout, a well-rounded medium-to-full body with black chocolate-roasted hop-charred coffee bean incentive, ashen charcoal bittering, walnut sharpness, and teasing anise quip contrasting vanilla-hazelnut sweetness to black cherry recess.
On a sunny September ’11 afternoon, I sampled smoked gouda, asiago, and aged cheddar alongside Defiant’s homemade Original Beef Jerky while quaffing one of the best seasonal pumpkin beers marketed. Headless Horseman #3 Pumpkin Ale brought lively pumpkin-pecan pie theme to soft fuggle-hopped fizz, allowing dazzling gingerbread, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice vigor to burst forth.
During three hour stopover, February 2012, I interviewed Acer and tried two more contrasting Defiant brews. Firstly, 750-mm bottle of Resolution #4 Belgian Strong Ale brought vinous white wine yeast to heavily carbolic mix of sparkling champagne, hard cider, citric musk and buttery Chardonnay illusions.
After cleansing the palate, Defiant Chocolate Stout proved to be a rich mocha-bound full body with a prominent coffee roast entry getting dark chocolate milking over soft watering. Tar-like anise bittering thickened its rugged toasted oats spine.
At Andy’s Corner Bar in Bogota, New Jersey, March 2012, tried cask version of Defiant Milk Stout, a soft-toned spin-off pleating chalky cocoa-dried chocolate malting with mild coffee ground bittering.
At Twisted Elm in Elmwood Park, March 2012, got to throw back a pint of smooth Defiant O’Defiant Stout, an extremely mellow dry-bodied dark ale with mild dark chocolate creaming, soy-milked nuttiness and watery black coffee sedation.
Enjoyed updated version of Defiant Raspberry Wheat at Andy’s Corner Bar, August, 12. Its persistent raspberry tartness gained tenacity from plasticine-clayed wheat sugaring, syrupy woodruff and floral chrysanthemum.
At Garfield’s Three Wise Monks, April ’13, quaffed Defiant Highland Stout, a robust full body with peat-smoked rolled oats combating dark-roasted chocolate roasting and stove-burnt coffee bittering.
One month hence at Andy’s Corner Bar, quaffed sessionable summertime ale, Defiant Orange Creamsickle, which perfectly re-created the vanilla-sweet ice cream its dessert-like namesake invokes, layering luxurious cream soda sugaring with orange soda spritz and pasty orange-flavored baby aspirin niche.
Pre-Thanksgiving ’14 at Blue Ribbon Tavern, got pint of Defiant Dunkelweizen, a dryer-than-expected medium-bodied dark wheat bringing dewy peat moss to prune-soured green raisin, purple grape, burgundy and port notes as well as nutty nuances (and coarsened hop bittering).
By now, the majority of my Defiant beer entries are in separate Beer Index. Nevertheless, during February’16 at Pearl River’s Ambulance, quaffed soft-tongued one-off Defiant Old Fashioned Weapons Grade Double IPA (with cherries, orange peel and bitters) on cask. Its silken IPA citric fruiting picked up wispy orange-peeled cherry tartness to contrast blatant astringent ‘bitters.’
BEGINNING THE NEW YEAR WITH DEFIANT
After the Cubs finally won a World Series and a non-politician finally got elected prez in ’16, it felt good to start the new year back at local watering hole, Defiant Brewing. As I walked in at 4 PM on a slow Wednesday in January (’17), I was in for a pleasant surprise as veteran brewer Chris Sheehan (formerly of Chelsea Brewing, JJ Bitting and Gun Hill) had joined the fold and concocted some more enjoyable suds under the Defiant banner.
As I settle in at the back bar with Chris serving, there are five appealing ales I’d not yet tried. Each had its own original take on a specific style, whether it was cask conditioning a coconut-peppered IPA or cold lagering a German-styled Kellerbier or adding Equinox hops to the barleywine I began the afternoon imbibing.
Closer to a lighter fruit-spiced wheat wine despite its hefty 10.3% ABV, Magnus Pango Barleywine brought fig-dried orange peel tartness and orange vanilla sweetness to mildly bitter hops above subtle crystal-pale malting.
Sweet ‘n sour orange compote and lemony dried fig tartness engaged Marzen-like Trotziges Kellerfest, a pilsner malted moderation with mild brown tea licks.
Next, lively Equinox You Out Double IPA allowed tangy orange-peeled yellow grapefruit briskness and bittersweet lemon zest to ride above juniper-bitten Equinox hops, groaty oats and black tea resin.
Unique cask-conditioned Miss Mosh Habanero Coconut IPA let subtle habanero peppering positively affect cotton-candied coconut toasting over the astringently dry-hopped base of Defiant’s Medusa IPA.
Before heading out, silken grained dark ale, Cream Of Oat Stout, placed black chocolate and dark cocoa malts above dry oats-charred leathering. Its smooth milky creaminess lined the chalky Baker’s chocolate finish.
Caught up with brewmeister Neill Acer during May ’18 sojourn. Got to enjoy French oak-barreled Magnus Pango Barleywine, a candi-sugared, bourbon-sweetened delight showcasing piquant bruised orange tang and ancillary cherry-mango-grapefruit conflux as well as tannic grape esters.
Also, finally tried elusive dark-roasted full body, Solarvore Stout, where bittersweet cocoa-powdered black chocolate malting catapulted Blackstrap molasses-sapped cookie dough, star anise and espresso illusions above its sedate maple oats base.