Aspire Brewing


Inside a mammoth freestanding 30,000 square-foot multifaceted facility in the Orange County city of Middletown (an hour outside Manhattan), ASPIRE BREWING opened its formidable doors at Crystal Run’s Galleria during June ’24. Head brewer Rick Hatch honed his skills at Denver Beer Company and Sparge Brewing in Colorado before heading east to New York’s Finger Lakes at Auburn’s Prison City. Now manning the tanks at Aspire, Hatch promises more barrel aged fare in the near future.

A veritable brewery-restaurant multiplex, Aspire’s epoxy-floored, pipe-exposed, high black ceilinged interior features a rectangular 40-draught Mosaic-tiled beer wall across the left side dining space. A full kitchen with elevated pub fare complements the beers emanating from massive windowed brewtanks servicing the expansive 25-seat right side bar.

There are several two-seat tables, metal-chaired community tables, middle lounge area, hanging basket seats and an overhead door (leading to a front patio). Adding to the eccentric sportsbar atmosphere are axe throwing competition, game room fodder, indoor corhhole court and golf simulation. My wife and I perused the jumbo pub on a crowded Saturday evening and quiet Friday at noon during late January ’24.

Let’s start with five German styled elixirs before moving on to the shitload of IPA’s, handful of heady dark ales and sundry remainders.

Crisp Bavarian-styled moderation, Widmen Pilsner, let musky lemon souring reach herbal hop astringency and muted floral spicing above musty pilsner malting.

Easygoing pinkish amber-cleared Keen Cranberry Kolsch snuck dry lemony cranberry souring into its pilsner-malted salted cracker base.

Lightly roasted caramel malting and muted spiced toffee contrast herbal Perle hop respite of Munich dunkel lager, Admire, leaving a gluey paper finish.

Oaken foeder aging provided musty cellared fungi to offbeat Rollick Doppelbock, permeating dry whiskey tones and black-purple-red grape tannins above distant pumpernickel breading.

Unassuming German-styled smoked lager, Flamme Rauchbier, lacked the cured meat resonance of better Bavarian imports (like fabulous Aecht Schlenkerla lineup), plying its delicate beechwood-smoked barley to mild cocoa tease, fatty bacon whim and soapy finish.

Maize-dried musk and mash tun-wafted sourdough breading guided lemon-twisted American lager, Striver, as celery-watered cucumber crisping reached its wet papered malt graining.

Pithy amber lager, Allay, countered caraway-seeded rye breading and caramelized cereal grain minerality with astringent hop herbage.

Sweet-Tart lemon-candied powdering, peachy cara cara orange tanginess and dry lime brining gathered for wheat-based Wallkill Summer Ale, a ‘smooth easygoer.’

Crisp caramel toasting and mild citrus spicing banked Noble hop herbage for Exult California Common, a lagered yeast-bound steam beer.

Tartly fruited sour, Fruticulture: Blood Orange Cranberry, plugged lightly acidic lemon-limed blood orange and cranberry adjuncts into dextrose white wheat starching.

Sessionable India Pale Ale, Kokua, gently serenaded spicy grapefruit-peeled orange rind bittering, tangy pineapple zesting and tart passionfruit whims with light herbage and mild pining over dry pale malts.

Highly engaging IPA, Aspirations V3, maintained sugary bubblegum waft for Citra-Mosaic-El Dorado-hopped fruit cocktail splendor, advancing yellow grapefruit, navel orange, mandarin orange, tangerine and peach tanginess atop light vanilla-creamed crystal/caramel malts.

Soft-toned Imperial IPA, Favor, placated New Zealand-based Riwaka hop tropicalia with dank pine resin and dry rye malting, unfurling peachy pineapple-candied orange peel tanginess and lemony yellow grapefruit rind bittering.

One more soft-toned Imperial IPA, Delight, delicately coalesced peachy pineapple tanginess, grapefruit-peeled orange pith bittering and redcurrant tartness, deferring its ascending vodka-licked 8.7 % ABV booziness.

Double dry-hopped Imperial IPA, Devote, merged spicily orange-peeled Citra hop zesting with pungent Simcoe hop pining, picking up subtle grapefruit, pineapple, peach and tangerine tanginess.

Dry bronzed West Coast-styled Imperial IPA, Exhilarate, rushed lemon-peeled yellow grapefruit Citra hop bittering, hard-candied El Dorado hop tartness and orange rind desiccation across wispy pine tones for vodka-whirred 9.8% ABV medium body.

Another West Coast Imperial IPA, Courage, let its zesty Citra-Cascade-hopped grapefruit, orange and lemon spicing graze woodsy pine-needled Centennial-Simcoe-hopped herbage and dark floral snips topping dry pale malts.

Staying on the ‘Left Coast,’ Appetition IPA retained ultra-dry lemony grapefruit-orange-pineapple tanginess for resinous pine dankness and light herbal notions contrasting mildly creamed caramel malting.

Dry New England-styled IPA, Enthusiasm, combined Huell Melon-hopped white grape, guava and melon tartness with Citra/Idaho 7-hopped grapefruit, tangerine and orange salting and Cashmere-hopped lemon liming over mild spelt- dried oats creaming.

Brisk Citra-hopped NEIPA, Envisage, lightly embittered its lemony grapefruit tanginess with musky coniferous juniper tips above mild oated wheat creaming.

Muskier NEIPA, Seek, let lightly pungent pine tones delve into mild guava, mango and passionfruit tropicalia and subtle floral spicing over oaty cereal graining.

Down Under hops (Nelson Sauvin/Galaxy/Strata) engaged dry NEIPA, Burgeon, providing floral-perfumed grapefruit peel and orange rind bittering as well as residual passionfruit-guava tartness to earthen bark-dried herbal musk.

A bright NEIPA collab with Newburgh Brewery, AspireBoss, brought Citra-Mosaic-hopped lemony orange sunshine to musky Simcoe-hopped pine bittering countering honeyed oats breading.

Dark-roast Brazilian coffee anchored robustly sumptuous Baltic Porter, Caturra, picking up creamy cappuccino, espresso and chocolate latte illusions alongside latent burgundy licks.

Velvety coca-nibbed dark chocolate creaming enriched fudgy pastry stout, Enchant, picking up hazelnut coffee, chocolate cake and vanilla cupcake illusions.

Even more decadent, Enchant – Cordial Cherry, allowed candied cherry cordial confection to penetrate creamy brown chocolate syruping, intense Madagascar vanilla caramelization and fudged toffee sugaring before snagging bruised cherry sweetness at the lovely mocha-drenched finish.



Image result for equilibrium grille


Just off the main drag of Middletown, in the red-bricked industrial foothills of rustic Orange County, EQUILIBRIUM Grille and Brewery opened in the spring of 2017. Owned in part by an experimental MIT engineer whose scientific principles and a passion for craft brewing led to the massively flavorful India Pale Ales and other fine beverages guiding this outwardly opulent signpost.

Yet despite the gargantuan Equilibrium trademark stretched across its ample pale green aluminum side, the white grain silo-enhanced garage housing the pub is actually quite modest.

An unfinished cement-floored tasting room (with open overhead door, exposed ducts and spinning wheel light fixtures) fronts a cozy mezzanine area where pub fare gets served alongside the well-balanced homemade ales and choice cocktails. Three two-stool tables, a few seated tables and one community table fill the tasting room as my wife and I head up to the Edison-lighted wood counter at the bar to sample all six draughts available this sunny Sunday afternoon.

Image result for equilibrium grille

A local band at the mezzanine plays Nirvana tunes while I quaff three worthy IPA’s, two stylishly ‘big’ pale ales and one resilient sour ale.

Smoothly ‘crushable’ flagship, Photon Pale Ale, lets politely enduring apricot, peach, tangerine, mango and pineapple juiciness gain mild piney hop resin and lemony orange tartness for a true ‘go-to-ale.’

‘Conditioned’ on lemon-limed grapefruit, tangerine and orange zest, hybridized Photon Citrus Pale Ale concentrates its original fruity base with citric hops, leaving sour lemon rot upon the earthen tea midst.

An undeniable favorite, resonant Fractal Citra/ Galaxy IPA allowed subtle passionfruit, guava and peach tones to illuminate the creamy crystal malting and contrast its resinous hop bittering.

Easygoing Hoptimization IPA retained a soft-tongued grapefruit and pineapple tang as well as a less distinct sour lemon splurge above herbal wood-toned hops. Meanwhile, juicier Hoptimization 2 IPA brought mellow floral spicing to pine-needled lemon, grapefruit, orange and mango tanginess.

For a complete changeup, There And Back Again Sour Ale loaded dry-hopped lactobacillus yeast on vinous green grape tartness and salty lemon-limed acidity while frisky grapefruit, pineapple and passionfruit undertones waver.

While sojourning to Middletown, don’t forget to complement your Equilibrium trip with a visit to nearby Clemson Bros. Brewery as well.



Image result for clemson bros brewery


Named after historic Middletown metalsmiths, William and George Clemson, CLEMSON BROS. BREWERY came into existence during October 2015. Inside a three-storied red brick factory with white window frames, its glass-encased brewtanks lead to the main room featuring an elongated right side bar, closed kitchen, several dining tables, local homemade beer and pub fare (burgers-pizza-appetizers).

During my 1-hour August ’17 stopover with wife, Karen, made ourselves comfortable at the roomy back deck beergarden. A comfy open area with separate 12-stooled covered bar, six umbrella-covered tables, slate-topped side counters and small stage area, the  pleasurable outdoor setting truly fits the sunny summertime atmosphere.

Refreshingly fruitful Sun-Kissed Mango Pilsner loaded sweet ‘n sour mango tanginess alongside grains of paradise, passionfruit and guava tropicalia for a crisply clean light-bodied delight.

Soft-toned Lola’s Blonde Ale relied on light mineral graining and tingly citrus spicing while hybridized Lola’s Raspberry Blonde Ale added raspberry powder tartness and floral accents to the mix.

Murky cherry tartness and white wheat wince could use deeper penetration for mildly creamed Jack Of All Trades Cherry Wheat.

Mild rye breading inundated Rye’s Above as dried fruiting and herbal hops merged with rustic milled graining.

Approachable Manhattan Project Double IPA plied grapefruit, pineapple and orange tanginess to mild piney hop bittering.

Just as easygoing, dry-hopped Brewer’s Mistress Session IPA brought mild reedy astringency to lemon-soured mango, grapefruit and pineapple tones.

Zestful Tower 22 Imperial IPA draped its lemony grapefruit, pineapple and orange tang with dry fungi-like musk and light spicing.

Chocolate-y peanut butter ensconced Porter’s Porter, a smoky medium body with dark-roasted coffee and cocoa tones above charred hop sedation.