This New Paltz brewery is eschewing gimmicks and hype to focus on the beer, and it’s working.
Last week, we looked at how modern craft brewers are using the element of surprise – releasing beers on an irregular schedule – to build excitement around their products, specifically using Brooklyn, New York’s acclaimed Grimm Ales as an example. But some brewers are going even further than that: Why not create a buzz by leaving everything shrouded in mystery? If we turn our attention less than 100 miles north to New Paltz, New York, we can find a burgeoning new brewery doing exactly that, Foreign Objects Beer.
While most businesses use their website as mean to provide information about their company – things like the people behind it or even, you know, where it’s located – Foreign Objects avoids these basics, instead preferring to wax poetic in a manner that is almost as abstract colorful as their beautiful hand-painted can art. “Foreign Objects is the coalescence of a years-long ritual in evolution, philosophical self-definition, absurdist vision, and the unrelenting effort to improve our sensory experience of life,” the brand begins.
But though the brewery’s description might be a bit ambiguous, the pedigree of the people behind it is not. Foreign Objects is a reunion of sorts, formed when two co-founders of Seattle’s Urban Family Brewing, Sean Bowman and Tim Czarnetzki, returned to their East Coast roots to once again team up with Steve D’Eva, who formerly earned acclaim during a stint as Urban Family’s head brewer. Meanwhile, D’Eva’s already had experience working for a beloved East Coast brewery: He started his beer career as an executive chef at Pennsylvania’s Tired Hands Brewing.
Credentials like these would seem to be an obvious jumping off point for promoting a new venture, but Foreign Objects decided to take the opposite approach. “We’ve really wanted to keep the attention on the beer and the artistic vision behind everything we do, from the ingredients to the packaging,” explains Czarnetzki. “This is a crazy time to be making beer. We really wanted to focus on a few styles we love and keep everything simple and harmonious.”
D’Eva agreed. “What seems mysterious is really just us not plastering our vanity and egos all over everything we do,” he told us. “I think a beautiful piece of abstract art leaves a much better impression and costs us far less of a psychic price.”
That beer-focused approach appears to be working. Since launching this past November, not only are drinkers finding Foreign Objects’ beers, they’re really digging them as well. On the beer rating app Untappd, eight of the brands 12 beers having ratings better than four out of five, an impressive task. And the brewery’s beer Mind/Body/Light/Sound is currently ranked as the 18th best New England IPA in the world. Meanwhile, this past week, the brand’s Wet Gravity IPA saw a tenfold increase in the number of bars that stock it according to data from BeerMenus.
But though Foreign Objects is thriving with mystery, some of these ambiguities are actually by necessity. For instance, the brand doesn’t really have a permanent home. So far, they’ve been operating as a “gypsy brewery,” producing its beers on equipment at Shmaltz Brewing in Clifton Park, New York. But that’s about the change. What’s happening next, well, unsurprisingly, Czarnetzki said they’ll keep that under wraps for now.
However, there was one point that D’Eva wanted to make abundantly clear. “It's very important to us as a contract business that people know this is owned by actual brewers who spent many years squeegeeing floors and cleaning out mash tuns,” he says. But to the people who love the beers, though that’s something that was previously unsaid, it was probably never really a mystery.