Drowned Lands, a bucolic brewery, opens at former Warwick prison site


Inside a refurbished chalet-roofed manor formerly housing a reform school administration, DROWNED LANDS BREWERY opened during 2020 and quickly became one of the area’s most renowned craft beer spots. Perched at the extremely fertile Black Dirt Wallkill region of Warwick, this large farmhouse suds factory’s rustic rural Appalachian-bound confines border Wawayanda Creek on a 700-acre park ninety miles past NYC.

With stiff competition from nearby Chester’s Rushing Duck, Tin Barn and Long Lot Farms to the East, Pine Island and Westtown to the West and  Florida’s Glenmere to the North, Drowned Lands’ solid varietal fare includes a host of recurring, seasonal and one-off farmhouse ales, hoppy IPA’s, sessionable ‘table’ beers and ‘malt forward’ strong ales.

Upon entrance, the high ceiling pub features several tables leading to the elongated wood top serving station and hanging vines line the elegant white walls. Glass-windowed brew tanks are to the right and an umbrella-lined loft deck provides a tree-lined view scape. Beyond the overhead back door lies a covered patio area and an expansive lawn with strewn plastic picnic tables.

Families, friends and travelin’ beer geeks assembled ’round noon on a breezy Saturday, April ’21. My wife, dog and I grab seats on a tilted lawn table to consume five wondrously unique treats (given beautiful pamphlet descriptions by brewmaster, Travis Lawrence, a creative writing professor).

Rangy witbier, Gather House, let its stylish orange-peeled coriander spicing gather cracked pepper herbage and mild gooseberry souring to contrast ancillary banana cream pie tartness.

Elegantly offbeat “table beer,” Flora Firma, stayed crisply clean as sunshiny lime-candied lemon zesting enlightened orange-peeled tangerine tanginess over moist earthen grained pilsner malting.

Described as a “white Sangria,” tropical fruited dry-hopped IPA, Ripe Yield, plied sugary oats-flaked pilsner malting to syrupy apricot brandy treacle, peachy pineapple-guava-passionfruit-lychee tartness and zestful lemon juicing.

Fruitily dry-hopped Imperial IPA, Nesh Terra, regaled peachy melon and cantaloupe tanginess, fleeting “zebra stripe gum” sugaring and spritzy orange spicing above piney hop dryness.

Creamy milk-sugared coffee stout, Fly Crop, crowded its cold-brew coffee roast with lactic brown chocolate richness, maple molasses oats sweetness and subtle peanut buttering.

Upon second visit two weeks hence, May ’21, my dog Roscoe and I walk the premises before settling down at the back patio to consume four more interesting suds. Brewer Travis Lancaster’s on site so I spend a few moments sharing thoughts and copping a few thoughtful flavor illusions.

Bustling foeder-fermented black lager, Soir, let its wattle-seeded barley roast, dewy compost soiling, chocolate Graham Cracker sugaring and black coffee snips secure its red rye-breaded pilsner malting.

Engaging Sour Double IPA, Esopus Kill, brought lemon meringue tartness, sloe gin fizz tanginess and apricot bellini champagne esters to the fore while mildly vinous oaken cherry, white wine and green apple cider dryness reached the leathery oats-straw base.

A more eccentric sour IPA, pink magenta-clouded Wawayanda Kill, retained limey salted blueberry puree tartness and Madagascar vanilla beaning above sweet Graham Cracker sugaring, leaving subtle cranberry, boysenberry and blackberry wisps on the citric Mosaic hop spot.

But the sourest curiosity available this afternoon was fruited sour IPA, Harvest Kill, a milk-sugared elixir with raspy blackberry-raspberry tartness gaining oceanic salinity to intensely contrast its advertised ameretto rum punch. Along the way, yogurt-curded guava, gooseberry and tangerine tartness received marshmallow-candied almond and vanilla sweetener.

Haunted Drowned Lands yet again on Fourth of July, 2022, imbibing six more diverse suds on the covered patio with wife and dog.

The lightest by far, ‘incredibly crisp’ beige-cleared rice lager, Water Elm, utilized mild Japanese flaked ricing to pleat plain white breaded doughiness and lightly peppered watercress zesting.

Sessionable translucent aluminum-hued foeder-fermented pilsner, Rare Earth, tried connecting roasted marshmallow sweetness with pithy lemon zest, wildflower honeyed mead-like astringency and fresh cut grassiness.

Crisply clean helles lager, Find Time, contrasted dry pilsner malts against sweet-breaded Vienna malts, leaving sourdough remnant upon salted lemony orange tingle.

Smooth foeder-aged IPA, Fern, allowed tropical fruited grapefruit, peach, mango and orange zesting plus lightly soured passionfruit-gooseberry snips to penetrate grassy hop dryness.

Ambrosia-wafted fruited sour IPA, Gynoecium, evoked a champagned Mimosa dipped in lime-juiced mango, pineapple and grapefruit then given a heavy dose of juicy orange concentrate.