By Mark Marnell
In August of 2012, the black dirt town of Chester NY got what every town in America needs, their own brewery. After spending a year as a Cellarman and two years as Lead Brewer at Weyerbacher in Easton, PA, Dan Hitchcock decided to blaze his own beer trail. He, Nikki Cavanaugh and his parents Les and Mary chose small town America and built a 7-bbl brewery that introduced Orange County to a new brand of tasty unfiltered hop forward suds. In the beginning, Naysayer Pale Ale and Kroovy Imperial Red Ale made their lasting marks, but it was perhaps the powerful and behemoth War Elephant DIPA, replete with a big barrage of balanced hops, that enabled Dan to march into the area like a Hudson Valley Hannibal to conquer the taste buds of many serious beer drinking locals. Adding award winning coffee-flavored Beanhead Porter, Ded Moroz Winter Imperial Stout and Dog Bollocks English barleywine to the arsenal, helped to turn this small brewery and its modest local digs into a regional powerhouse.
In its first year, Rushing Duck rolled out 500 barrels of ale and by the time their 5th anniversary comes around in August, they are expected to exceed 1,500. They have grown their brewhouse from 7 to 15 barrels, added additional 30-bbl fermenters and brite tanks and are once again on the brink of maximum capacity. With the popularity of beers like War Elephant reaching cult-like proportions, they are nonetheless resisting the urge to overproduction. RDB beer is purposefully produced in small batches to ensure quick sales of fresh beer for a higher quality beer experience. Their basic philosophy of staying, in large part, local has not changed and they limit distribution to the Hudson Valley corridor from NYC to Albany. When they can their beer monthly, it is only 300 cases at a time, and they limit large reserve bottles of imperial and barrel-aged beers to 600.
Hoppy beers, many using newer varietals, continue to top their ever evolving slate of beers, but their diverse beer style list continues to grow with each year they are open. They have recently started to make their own hard cider and lagers like 5% Dad Breath Helles, a favorite among the RDB employees, have also found themselves a place in their rotation. By the time you read this, RDB will have introduced an Hallertauer Blanc-hopped pale ale, the first in a new single hopped Super Pale Ale series and the their latest limited bottle release of Part V, a blend of individually bourbon barrel aged brews: 11.6% Quad, 11.2% Ded Moroz, 11% Imperial Nimtopsical and 13% Barleywine. Rushing Duck may be a regional phenomenon but they have also become a must stop on any serious beer trekker's NY voyage. It all started with the unleashing of a War Elephant – a big and bold elephant, that charged out of a brewery with authority, to successfully conquer and enslave a large army of beer drinkers.