Something different is brewing at Bacchus, and it’s not their soup specials.
The restaurant and bar just marked their sixth month of having homemade beer on the menu, brewed just feet away from customers by brewmasters Michael Renganeschi and Jason Synan.
Since late August, the pair have brewed twice a week, creating one new beer a week. There are four styles they follow — a double IPA, a farmhouse ale, an imperial stout and a porter — but every single beer tastes at least slightly different from the last batch and takes a week to sell.
Each beer is crafted in a similar style with comparable base ingredients, but differences occur throughout the brewing process, according to Renganeschi.
“That’s what we are trying to do, have people expect a certain wholesale idea that keeps them on their toes also,” Renganeschi said.
Each beer takes about a week to sell and the brewing process can take three weeks to three months, though they can choose to age beers for up to a few years.
The process starts off with 80 to 100 gallons of water at 170 degrees and 250 to 300 lbs. of grain. Renganeschi and Synan use six fermenting tanks to ferment the liquid, and then move some concoctions to six wooden barrels, which are specific to the different kinds of alcohol their flavoring should be influenced by — wine barrels, whiskey barrels, rum barrels and others.
“The idea is that each will take a little bit of character of the spirit that was in there beforehand,” Renganeschi said.
Essentially, the porter beer you drink last week may not be exactly the same as the one you drink this week.
Synan and Renganeschi started selling their brewed beer legally and commercially at Bacchus in August, but their history with brewing goes back much further.
Renganeschi brewed throughout his college years, and shared his techniques with Synan after the two became friends while playing in a band three or four years ago, Synan said.
Even if they weren’t selling their brewed creations at Bacchus, they would still be brewing the way they started: with a single barrel, on Renganeschi’s front patio.
Before becoming the official brewers of Bacchus, Renganeschi had worked at Bacchus as a waiter before, while Synan was co-manager of the bar, a position he still holds.
The pair had been casually brewing together for about a year before Synan got the green light from Bacchus’ bar owner to create their own brews while in a staff meeting, something he previously viewed as being “mostly in the realm of fantasy” because it’s typically such an expensive endeavor.
The good news arrived around the same time Renganeschi was set to move to Spain, leaving Synan with the task of convincing him to stay — a worthwhile decision, said Renganeschi.
Renganeschi and Synan brew with locally produced products, sometimes serving beer to the very same people they purchased the grapes from earlier that week. This “farm-to-table” practice, described by Renganeschi, really caters to the environmentally-conscious crowd of the Hudson Valley.
In addition, the brewers think another telling characteristic of their consumers is a willingness to try new flavors, also indicative of the age of some of their clientele, according to Synan.
“I think it’s an aspect of the Pokemon, ‘gotta catch ‘em all’ generation,” Synan said of his age demographic’s attitude toward beer. “That [our generation] is comfortable with variation, we are comfortable with not having a standby beer that we order, like Budweiser, when we walk into a bar.”
Synan said when older customers ask for Guinness on tap and Synan reveals they don’t carry that, “you see their minds break, in a way, that I think is sometimes hard for them to understand we don’t carry Guinness on tap.”
Though Bacchus carries Guinness by the can, Synan said it underscores his point that being comfortable with trying new things might be an aspect of the younger generation of beer consumers, which comprises much of their fanbase.
“Our philosophy as brewers is that we don’t want to make anything that’s already been made — we want to make something new and exciting and interesting every single time,” Renganeschi said. “We’re lucky in the fact that we can do that with our clientele.”
Synan said throughout the course of the project, Bacchus was compared to New Paltz restaurant Gilded Otter.
“They have a much larger brewing system. They don’t feature other people’s beer on tap. Because of that, their brewing schedule, they are required to continue to produce beer,” Synan said. “We don’t have such an intensive brewing schedule, we offer one new beer at a time, maybe two. It allows us the freedom to be more creative.”
Gilded Otter has been brewing since November of 1998, and features six to eight beers on tap. Throughout the 16 years they’ve been open, brewmaster Darren Currier has brewed close to 2000 batches and around 100 different styles of beer. For him, another brewery in town means more opportunity than it does competition.
“I’m glad Bacchus is brewing. The fact that the town has another brewery is good for business for both of us,” Currier, Gilded Otter’s brewer since 2000, said. “Craft beer enthusiasts travel to brewery destinations. The more breweries in one area the better. It brings more beer fans to the area, which in turn means more business for all of us.”