A Variety of Local, Fine Flavors Available a HopHeads in High Falls
by Gregory Schoenfeld
The corner of Lucas Turnpike and Route 213 in High Falls boasts a new gathering place with a unique theme that may surprise some: beer. If that word calls to mind the stuff of college keg parties or Super Bowl gatherings, think again; owner Jane Simos’ new HopHeads Craft Beer Market and Tasting Bar offers an expansive new perspective on the standard. A heartier spin on the old wine-and-cheese tasting bar craze, Simos offers a constantly rotating plethora of “microbrews”—handcrafted and delicately designed recipes, as opposed to the widely known, assembly line products that may come to mind. The beer is paired with a menu made with locally grown and produced food, designed to enhance the tasting experience.
Simos brings a lifetime of experience as a craft beer connoisseur to her new venture, combined with an interest in appealing to the more adventurous nature of the community. “The sophistication of people’s palates here makes me confident that this will be a success,” offers Simos. Indeed, there is a seemingly unending list of appealing taste combinations waiting for the daring patron.
After graduating from SUNY New Paltz, Simos’ first foray into the world of craft beers was as a bar manager for a microbrewery in Boulder, Colorado. Her job brought her annually to the Great American Beer Festival, held each year in Denver, where the beer world showcases its newest concoctions. After five years in Boulder, Simos went to work as a trekking guide, leading adventure tours through the country’s national parks. While devising delicious meals for her charges in the wilderness inspired her to want to cook for people, Simos says, the job’s downtime allowed her to enrich her education of food and drink. Traveling extensively, both in North America and abroad, Simos sampled an enticing range of locally produced beers, and the meals that complemented them.
The radical economic changes that came with the tragedies of September 11, 2001 brought Simos back to this area, and eventually into the service industry. As with her previous efforts with coffeehouse Morning Brew, Simos looked to the trends of the western US—from San Francisco to Portland, Oregon—for inspiration in creating an inviting new addition to the local landscape. She points out that though classic, big-name beer sales are down almost 10 percent, the popularity of microbrews is steadily on the rise, leaving major breweries like Anheuser-Busch scrambling for a piece of the craft beer market. And, though a great portion of the finest brew choices continue to emerge from places like Belgium or Germany, Simos keeps a trained eye toward promoting the growing list of choices tendered by New York breweries.
A commitment to supporting local business goes hand-in-hand with the creation of the HopHeads menu. Simos features Hudson Valley products like fresh, organically grown bread from Dutchess County’s Wild Hive, cheeses from Pine Plains’ Amazing Real Life Food Company, and meats from Mountain Products Smokehouse in Lagrangeville, in combination with locally grown produce.
“It’s always been important to me to source locally,” asserts Simos. “This economy has taught us that we have to support our neighbors first. To love the Hudson Valley is to love our rolling farmland and fields, and if we don’t support them they’ll disappear.”
What awaits at HopHeads, then, is both a treat for the customer and a statement for the local economy. Simos describes the constantly evolving menu as instinctually complementary to the beer flavors that are offered. Classic European choices like smoked meats and cheeses are de rigueur, but be prepared for some other surprises as well. A hearty stout beer might be paired with a succulent beef stew or chili, while a lighter, fruitier white beer may go better with a trout dip, or even a peach cobbler.
HopHeads is open 11am to 9pm, Tuesday through Sunday. In addition to the tasting bar, there are also eight coolers filled with microbrew choices from both near and far. The only way to find out what your favorites are is to try them, of course—3 oz. samplers of tap beers are available for just $1 each, and a flight, or selection of tasters of each beer, is only $6. Patrons can follow the beers on tap, the dishes that accompany them, and a forthcoming events calendar at hopheadscafe.com.