When Lauren Van Pamelen sketched the logo for Tin Barn Brewing, the business that would mark her arrival in her family of entrepreneurs, it featured a particular style of barn where the middle section of the roof pops up higher than the rest. She was scouting locations, looking for the right piece of land to build it. Then she stumbled upon the very barn she’d imagined – a monitor barn with a tin roof – a mile and a half from her house.
“I love when people have been here before,” said Lauren, welcoming this visitor into the wide-open, 12,000-square-foot space in Chester, NY. William J. Jenack Estate Appraisers & Auctioneers, which was built in 2001 as an auction house, recently closed, and the Van Pamelen family took it over last spring. “This whole section was drop ceiling. To me, when you open it up it just changes the entire space,” said Lauren. “There were walls down the side. There were offices too.”
Lauren and her dad, Dale Van Pamelen, have been doing much of the manual labor themselves on the $2.7 million brewery, working side by side to turn the old auction house into a destination craft brewery, the kind they frequent themselves, where beer enthusiasts wait on line for hours to buy a case of the newest release. When I showed up in the middle of a weekday, Lauren, 31, and Dale, 62, greeted me in what looked like their uniform of dusty work boots and jeans. “He’s the entrepreneur. I’m the brewer,” said Lauren, who stands six-foot-one, nodding toward Dale, who’s maybe an inch taller.
Dale, whose past ventures include restaurants and a “doggy hotel” in the city, will run the restaurant portion of Tin Barn Brewing. Lauren, a graduate of the American Brewers Guild in Vermont, will brew the beer and run the tasting room. She plans to can beer on Fridays to sell on Saturdays, to maximize the freshness of the citrusy flavors and aromas. She’s a particular fan of New England IPA’s, big hoppy beers that tip the scale at seven to ten percent alcohol content. She also plans to brew sour beers that appeal to wine drinkers, an easy drinking “lawnmower beer” and a stout.
After all, it was a chocolate stout, so thick it looked like it had chocolate whipped cream on top of it, that got her started drinking beer at age 23.
“What is that?” she remembers asking her friend. That chocolate stout not only introduced her to good beer, but also inspired her to buy her own one-gallon home brewing kit and start experimenting, over her dad’s objections. The rest is history.
She hopes to be brewing by March, and open to the public by April or May. “I’m the last with a business of my own,” said Lauren, whose older sister owns a muay thai fitness gym in the city.
Dale compares the trajectory of the Hudson Valley’s microbrewery explosion to the dog hotel business, which took off after Dale opened the second one in the city in 1997. This type of young industry “mushroom clouds and collapses upon itself, and the strong survive,” said Dale.
The “success of this place,” said Dale, will be “people staying for a little while.” The place will be family- and dog-friendly, and they’ve built nine-foot-long pine tables as big as “bowling alleys,” as Dale puts it. The tables were inspired by a visit to Troegs, a microbrewery founded by a pair of brothers in Hershey, PA. Patrons were scattered here and there, the Van Pamelens noticed, but every single large table was taken, and they were even being squabbled over. “One table probably had four generations around it: there were baby carriages, 90-year-olds,” said Dale.
Not only are Lauren and Dale banging together their own massive tables, but they've also been milling the lumber themselves, using the sawmill that sits in the corner of the parking lot, which Dale bought for $10,000 from an Amish-type community in Missouri.
“We have to buy toys,” said Dale.
“I can’t play with a backhoe on a quarter acre,” agreed Lauren. The Van Pamelens hail from Long Island, where there wasn’t much opportunity to get their fill of “tractoring.”
Dale's favorite toy is the pizza oven that was trucked up from Texas, with a rotating stone slab that can cook 11 pies at once. (An informal focus group revealed that people like pizza, but don't appreciate waiting for it.) The 5,000-pound behemoth was so heavy that it tipped the forklift; Lauren and her boyfriend had to jump on the back to provide ballast. Then there's the 38-foot skyjack — a serious piece of construction equipment — he found for $2,000 on Facebook Marketplace; he zipped over to the seller's house in Long Island just as they were beginning to realize they'd made a mistake but before they could rescind the offer.
He's picked up a forklift, a vintage tractor for photo ops, antique arcade games and a 1952 Ford F-5 pickup, whose flatbed they built out into a raised deck, which they fitted with old pews from a convent. That's their go-to spot to have a beer at the end of a long night's work.
So who has the woodworking experience?
“Nobody has woodworking experience,” said Dale. “It’s not really hard. You turn it on, you level it, it runs through like butter,” he said of the sawmill.
“Now that we have it,” said Lauren, “we’ve gotta build everything. Gotta justify it,” she said.
“We don’t know what wood is what,” admitted Dale, but they’re learning: there’s the pine they shelled out for, and then there are the 15 black walnut logs that fell into their laps — a gift from the guy who put in their water and sewer lines, who also happens to be a material processor. “I paid a ton of money for the pine, then the best I got for free,” shrugged Dale. There’s the oak that was so dense they had to buy a new blade to cut through it. And they both still have all their fingers.
“We’ve been to Lowe’s so many times we’re starting to be like family to them,” said Dale.
On a recent trip to the home improvement store, the cashier said, “Oh, you’re the people who change their sign,” Lauren laughed. If you’ve driven by the future brewery on the Kings Highway Bypass, you know what he’s talking about. First, the sign said “Coming Fall 2019,” then “Fall” came off, then the “2019” changed to “2020.”
There have been the typical start-up snafus, like a miscue about whether they’d need a sprinkler system, that cost them time. The town has been nothing but supportive and enthusiastic, though, said Lauren.
Lauren’s favorite toy is the brewhouse, a stainless steel system whose ladder and catwalks she’ll clamber up to access her brewing tanks. Her 6,600-gallon capacity is a far cry from that one-gallon home brew kit that got all this started – but “I think this is easier than home brewing,” said Lauren. “Home brewers have a lot of sanitation to do. Not that we don’t, but we have equipment that makes that easier.”
There’s one more toy that Lauren and Dale have an eye on: a 1952 Massey Ferguson tractor, which they want to park up at the end of the driveway.
“I’m really excited to post that on Instagram,” said Lauren. “Hashtag turnatthetractor.”