Indian Ladder Farms raises its first glass of beer

The Enterprise — Marcello Iaia

Hop lover: Dietrich Gehring, the New Scotland farmer behind the Indian Ladder Farms IPA, the first beer to be made from ingredients from a single New York State farm, sits in his home last year. He grew the ingredients right outside his door.

Photo by Dietrich Gehring

Helderberg hops: Mature hops grown by Dietrich Gehring hang in the sunlight on the New Scotland farm he and his wife, Laurie Ten Eyck. Indian Ladder Farms, owned by Peter Ten Eyck, is across the street, and hops like these were used to brew the new ILF IPA.

The Indian Ladder Farms IPA is pouring from a tap at the Albany Pump Station and it’s the first beer to be brewed using ingredients from one single New York State farm.

Growing hops and barley from behind his home in New Scotland for the last four years in the midst of a farm best known for its apples, Dietrich Gehring finally got it right. He sold 500 pounds of his Newdale two-row malted barley and 25 pounds of his hops — Nugget, Centennial, and the self-discovered Heritage Helderberg — to C. H. Evans Brewing Company for the first Indian Ladder Farms beer.

“It’s a big achievement,” said Gehring, who is in the middle of a licensing process for the Indian Ladder Farmstead Brewery and Cidery, which he hopes to open in March. “We can’t make any beer until then; we’re working with the Pump Station. We didn’t know what to expect, but I’m happy that people get to try it.”

The endeavor is a family enterprise, with his wife, Laurie Ten Eyck, writing a book about it.

Ryan Demler brewed the ILF IPA (India Pale Ale), which has a pineapple aroma coupled with a faint perfume smell, and a modest alcohol by volume of 5 percent. Gehring says that the brew reminds him of Ballast Point’s Sculpin, which is a very tasty IPA from the West Coast.

“It’s not as citrusy as we thought it would be, and it’s a little more bitter than we would have liked,” said Gehring of the ILF IPA. “We were after a big floral nose, too, but it doesn’t have that.”

Gehring’s standards may seem high, but that’s how beer connoisseurs are; they search for liquid gold. Plus, Gehring’s farming process has been difficult.

“Hops and barley are fussy, and I’ve been monkeying around with them for a while,” said Gehring. “All barley needs to be sampled and passed so that people don’t throw up when they drink the beer.”

Simply put, diseased barley cannot be used to make beer, and the plant is more susceptible to disease here in the Northeast. Gehring said that his first two crops of barley tested positive for Fusarium Head Blight, for which malters have zero tolerance.

The barley crop used for the ILF IPA was completely clean, which Gehring said it was due to the luck of weather and his improving management practices. “I’m just the farmer,” he said. He’s also a photographer well known for his Helderberg photographs.

Gehring plans to expand his barley crops from four acres to six, and his hops crops from a half-acre to a full as he awaits his own chance to brew beer and sell it. He has six kinds of beer and two varieties of cider in development, but has plenty of documents from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau and the State Liquor Authority to thumb through in the meantime.

“They want to know that you’re really serious about this stuff,” said Gehring. “I’ve always had an interest in beer and farming, and the laws opened the door for me to get involved.”

In 2012, a law was passed to help revive New York’s beer industry. The state currently has around 130 breweries and there’s a local movement underway to grow the raw materials needed to produce beer. The goal is to have 90 percent of the hops — New York was the hops capital of the world in the 1800s — and other ingredients grown within the state by 2024.


The Albany Pump Station, 19 Quackenbush Square, Albany, NY 12207, will celebrate ILF IPA at 5 p.m. today.

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