Saturday June 15, 2013

ANDREW ROITER

Arts Editor

STEPHENTOWN, N.Y. -- Jonathan Post of Stephentown, N.Y., traveled to Burkina Faso in Western Africa several years ago. There, he met the Dagara people living in the town of Dano. Years prior, he had wandered into a homebrew store, which sparked his love affair with making beer. And here he found himself in Western Africa, trading Western brewing techniques for the tradition Dagara brewing techniques. It was there that he was awarded the title of "beer diviner."

Post took the techniques he learned there to literally divine recipes for his beers using Dagara divination. He plans to sell his beer at his taproom and market, The Beer Diviner.

Post began building up a small foundation on his property to turn into a nano-brewery, a beer brewery that uses fewer than four barrels. When Post’s position as an English professor at SUNY Albany was cut a few years ago, he decided to go into the brewing business full-time; he already had the building and enough equipment to make 10 to 12 gallons of beer.

It’s been a year since Post began selling his beer out of his property, and now he’s looking to expand through a Kickstarter page which runs through the end of the month.

"Last year (the New York State legislature) passed the farm brewery bill; it’s really a great bill. The idea is to clear out some of the bureaucracy Š and to help small startup breweries," he said.


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At least 20 percent of Post’s ingredients come from local farms, including local honey, malt, grain and his own hop plants. The use of local ingredients is one of the reasons Post believes that the quality of his beer is so high, even if the small growers’ grain has variations. These variations in the barley make it undesirable to large breweries who strive for consistent taste, which doesn’t concern Post as long as the final product tastes great.

"It’s basically the same beer but it might taste a little different because of the barely," he said. The barley in this region, in his opinion, is of superior quality.

Post plans to open his new building, which would be half tasting room/market and half game room, near the junction of Routes 22 and 43 in Stephentown.

"I’ve always conceived of it as a community place," he said. "Kind of a rough-cut place."

He described it as less of a bar where you would go to drink and watch TV and more of a place to try the beers you were interested in and then go home with the bottle (but you can buy a pint to drink there if you like). In addition to his own brews, Post is going to sell local wine, beer and spirits, as well as local pork and grass-fed beef from Climbing Tree Farm in New Lebanon, N.Y.

"My feeling is: Keep it local, have little breweries, use local ingredients," Post said. "To me it’s the essential idea of craft brewing Š You know, I’m really hoping that this will sort of put us on the map here."

While speaking to the Banner, Post was in the middle of bottling his Very! Brown Ale. One of his most popular recipes is the Ancient Gruit Ale, which is based on pre-hop recipes from before the 16th century. It’s a brew made with wormwood harvested from his own plant, yarrow he picked himself, grains of paradise, and local honey.

"It’s definitely an unusual beer," he said. "It has a very different effect than hops Š hops put you to sleep Š these (herbs) wake you up."

This is the first of five outlets that Post hopes to open across the region. His operation is so small he envisions becoming a moving operation: going from store to store filling up the fermenters and moving onto the next one. But right now the Beer Diviner is a one-man operation.

"Once the outlet opens I’m hoping it will start making money and I can start hiring people," he said.

While he was in Burkina Faso, Post agreed to build a western-style brewery there to provide the popular but difficult to acquire styles to the region, but he requires more capital which he hopes to earn through the local taprooms.

"I made a promise, and it’ll happen," he said.

To learn more about the Beer Diviner visit www.thebeerdiviner.com, or support his project on Kickstarter.