Sherburne, New York, is a one-stoplight town. But, that red circle isn’t the only reason for pause.
It’s not unusual for drivers to make a U-turn when they see the large sign that reads “BEER” on the side of Bullthistle Brewing Co. And those otherwise passers-through are rewarded for their efforts.
There’s nothing trendy about the craft beer Charlie Anderson makes here or the creative dishes Co-Owner Brad Taft creates. It’s simply food and beverage for the people served in a welcoming atmosphere.
“We set the place up to be homie, comfortable, pub-y,” Taft says. “We try to do beers that are approachable. If you come in and you [like] beer, there’s something here you’ll drink.
“We’re a small, community-based brewery,” he says. “We just wanted a place where the neighborhood could come, have a beer, relax, be comfortable and have a good time.”
The core beers were developed for the everyman palate, Anderson says. Bullthistle tends to stay away from the hop-heavy ales. The flagship “Beer 30” is a traditional lager meant to impress someone stepping outside their mass-produced comfort zone.
At the same time, Anderson and Taft have been known to push their own boundaries.
“The different flavor combination you can put together … the different recipes, the different ingredients you can use. I love that,” says Anderson.
His skill combined with Taft’s culinary background have produced some pretty interesting stuff like their lemongrass and basil sour or ginger peach wheat.
Sometimes inspiration comes from their own – or a neighbor’s – backyard. When the fellow next door started tapping his maple trees, Anderson started devising how it could be used in his beer.
Bullthistle is fiercely local like that, sourcing hops and malt from as nearby as possible.
“Staying local is important,” says Anderson. “I was born and raised here and I want them to evolve with us.”
Bullthistle is Sherburne’s first brewery and rural Chenango County’s first in a very long time. Appropriately, the idea to establish it came over a couple beers.
Taft and Anderson had been homebrewing (a lot) for a few years. Family member and now-business partner Amy Jeffery had been dreaming of opening a brewery or restaurant.
“One night we just decided to go for it,” says Taft, whose culinary career included stops in Nashville and New Orleans before settling in Chenango some 20 years ago.
At Bullthistle, he focuses on the food.
“I like simple dishes with a twist, taking something basic that everybody knows and doing a little something different with it,” he says.
The philosophy has worked for both the eats and pints in this bucolic, blue-collar community. And it fits perfectly in the tight-knit family of brewers in Central New York.
“It’s cool that you can go to every brewery around here and not find the same beers on tap,” Anderson says. “And there are so many breweries in this area. It’s incredible you can do that.”