An Interview with Paul Halayko: Mets Fan and COO of Newburgh Brewing

newb3Last month, Newburgh Brewing made headlines by date coding the bottom of their latest batch of cans with “Go Mets!” Never one to miss an opportunity to take a closer look at the intersection of the Mets and beer, I reached out to the man from the can, President and COO of Newburgh Brewing, Paul Halayko. He was kind enough to talk Mets and beer with me for a bit!

You’re a Mets fan, this much we know from the bottom of the can printing decision. What’s your favorite Mets memory?

2 things stand out:

1) My all-time favorite Mets team is the 1999 Mets (my favorite Met of all-time is John Olerud).  So seeing the September 1999 Sports Illustrated cover that showed Robin Ventura, Edgardo Alfonso, Rey Ordonez, and John Olerud and touting them as “The Best Infield Ever?” on the stands at the local grocery store really stands out for me

2) The Endy Chavez catch in Game 7 of the NLCS… even though the game ended horribly, that moment really sticks out for me.  And then probably my worst Mets memory happened less than an hour later, when Beltran was frozen on that absolutely nasty pitch from Wainwright (unhittable pitch…poor Beltran)

newbUgh. A tough, bittersweet memory for most Mets fans. Any thoughts on taking it to the next level and asking [Brewmaster] Christopher Basso to give a new brew’s title a Mets slant? Perhaps a Shea Schwarzbier? A Thor’s Hammer Sahti? I’m available if you want to add me to payroll…

Haha, that’s fairly unlikely – Christopher isn’t much of a baseball fan (he’s a huge hockey fan though). Though we are canning today, and this time we put “Ya Gotta Believe” on the bottom of the cans.

Yes! Well, at least Mets fans continue to get a little real estate on the bottom of the can. So peeking into your bio, you mention returning from a year working in Germany, “with a new and improved palette, no longer content to drink unoriginal and uninspired beer.” Obviously the Germans have a rich history of making a delicious beer – that goes without saying. Was the culture of the Reinheitsgebot (Germany Purity Law) still pretty prevalent over there at the time? I’d imagine it would be a pretty radical change from Marzens and Hefeweizens to Chile Lime Stouts and Chocolate Goses.

I was in Germany from 2007-2008, and while the beer being made by local German breweries was outstanding, they generally didn’t deviate from their traditional German styles – as you mentioned, ones that adhere to the Reinheitsgebot.  With that being said, there’s few things better than drinking a Kolsch in Cologne or a Berliner Weisse in Berlin.  While traditional Germany breweries may not be overly creative, the styles they do make they make to perfection.

They’ve certainly had the time and devotion to get it right. Newburgh Brewing’s stable of beers looks amazing – I’m a sucker for breweries that stray from the standard Lager/IPA/Wheat/Brown/Stout lineup, and you guys certainly run the full gamut of styles and interesting twists.

Thanks!  Our Brewmaster, Christopher, takes a great deal of pride in taking a style and sort of turning it on its head.  For instance – most coffee beers are porters or stouts or brown ales… so when we made a coffee beer, we decided to make a coffee sour:  “CAFE Sour,” a sour beer that is brewed with teff (a staple Ethiopian grain) and has cold-brewed with Yirgicheffe coffee.  Similar to that idea was Chocolate Fruition Gose – we were given cocoa nibs by Fruition Chocolate Works (a local chocolate maker), and instead of making a standard chocolate beer (similar to coffee, they tend to be darker beers), we decided to make a Gose.

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Those sound amazing! If I were to walk into the tasting room, I don’t think I’d even know where to start (okay I lied, I’d have to start with Spruce Mousse). Which of your beers are your favorites?

I do get asked that question a lot, and this might sound like a cop out answer, but I really do love all of our beers.  There are certainly some that I love more than others, but I’m really proud of each and every beer we’ve brewed here.  With that being said – it honestly depends on the situation and my mood.  If I’ve just gotten back from a run, or if I’m really thirsty and want something to quench my thirst – then I’d have to say Checkpoint Charlie Berliner Weisse.  If I’m going to sip and slowly enjoy, I would go with our Brown Ale.  If I’m in the mood for something on the hoppier side, I’ll settle in with MegaBoss IPA.

That’s a great point. One’s favorite beer is often completely dependent on the circumstances. Which are the “flagship” fan favorites?

In terms of our portfolio, and what are the most popular beers:  we make 6 beers all year-round:  Cream Ale, Brown Ale, East Kolsch, Paper Box Pale Ale, MegaBoss IPA, and Hop Drop DIPA.  Our Cream Ale is the most popular beer – it was the first one we canned (the can itself won the CNBC Most Loved Beer Label Competition in 2015, and it won a similar competition run by USA Today this year), and it also won a Silver Medal at GABF this year.  It’s most popular in large part because it has cross-over appeal – craft drinkers who appreciate a well-made Cream Ale, or just something that is full of flavor but still sessionable (it’s only 4.2% ABV), love our Cream Ale; and for people who are new to craft or maybe interested in trying craft beer for the first time, it’s very approachable for them.  Our second most popular beer is MegaBoss IPA – we only released it in December 2015 (it took us almost 4 years to make a standard American IPA, so that’s certainly out of the norm for craft breweries today), but it’s quickly become a huge part of our business.  That’s why MegaBoss IPA is going to be released in 16 oz cans this summer.
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Newburgh Brewing’s tasting room features gorgeous views of the Hudson Highlands.

The Cream Ale sounds perfect for the ballpark. I’m sure Newburgh keeps you pretty busy. Have you been / are you planning on getting down to Citi for a few games this year?

We are actually doing an official Newburgh Brewing Bus Trip to CitiField on Sunday, July 10th (who knows, maybe it’ll be Wheeler’s first start!).  The bus sold out in less than a week – 45 die-hard Mets fans, all loading onto a luxury bus at 10am from the brewery and sitting in the Coca-Cola Corner.  It’s going to be great.

You should call yourselves the Hudson Line Army! What do you think about this 2016 team’s chances?

Love this team’s chances.  I went into this season with the highest expectations I’ve had for the Mets since probably 2000, and as a long-suffering Mets fan, that terrified me.  I think we’ve been conditioned to expect the worst, so when we do have optimism, it’s with a healthy dose of caution.

However, there’s so much to love about this team.  Of course, it all begins with the starting pitching.  It’s incredible that scouts can’t decide which of our 4 main guns (Syndergaard, deGrom, Matz, Harvey) is the best of the group.  I think Syndergaard and Matz have the highest ceilings, but that’s mainly because of their age.  The fact that Syndergaard is throwing a 92 mph slider this year is mind-boggling.  Harvey hasn’t been great, but they haven’t needed him to be great yet.  And if Wheeler can come back and be productive?  Lights out.

Shoring up the middle infield was key.  As someone who watched Daniel Murphy for his entire career, I knew what we were witnessing in last year’s playoffs was a total aberration.  I loved having Daniel Murphy, but I had no issue watching him leave.  I think the sure-handedness of Neil Walker is a significant improvement at 2B.  And the fact that Walker is hitting the way he’s hitting is just a bonus.

Conforto looks like he was put on this Earth to hit baseballs.  That’s what he does.  He just sprays the ball all over the field.  Maybe the most exciting hitting prospect the Mets have called up in my lifetime (I was born in 1982 so I don’t remember Strawberry coming up).

However, I would say my excitement is tempered not only by Harvey being off to a slow start, but also Wright and d’Arnaud.  Wright has looked better at the plate, but all the strikeouts worry me.  And – it’s clear he can’t get the ball to first base with the same strength that he used to.  A team built on pitching can’t have any weak links in the infield.  d’Arnaud just can’t stay healthy, and he also can’t throw out baserunners.  Which means they should consider moving him to 1B sooner rather than later, but I’m not sure where you put Duda (who has looked good, both at the plate and in the field).  1B could also be a landing spot for Wright.  That’s going to be tricky for Collins and Alderson to figure out.

Great analysis. Too true on optimism with a healthy dose of caution for us die-hards. But definitely plenty to be optimistic about with almost the first quarter of the season in the books!

Thanks again to Paul for talking to us and for goodness sake, support a fellow Mets fan and grab a pint from Newburgh Brewing, everyone!

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2 thoughts on “An Interview with Paul Halayko: Mets Fan and COO of Newburgh Brewing

  1. Excellent interview. I wish I could try that cafe sour. I’d love to know if the Yirgacheffe coffee they used was a light or dark roast. I’d assume light – lighter roasts tend to have more fruity and flowery tastes that would work well in a sour (vs. dark roast which are warming and bolder in taste and would work well in porters/stouts)

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  2. Pingback: Mets Series Preview | Brewers Bar

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