Coolships in New York

March 31st, 2017 • by Brendan Palfreyman
Brendan Palfreyman

Brendan Palfreyman

Brendan Palfreyman is a craft beer attorney with Harris Beach PLLC in Syracuse, NY and a member of the NYS Brewers Association. He also created and runs the brewery trademark resource website: A major focus of Mr. Palfreyman’s practice is representing and counseling craft breweries in New York State with regard to trademarks, corporate issues, real estate, and contracts. Brendan is an award winning homebrewer and has appeared as a guest on podcasts like Steal This Beer and Beer Sessions Radio. He is a dedicated and award winning homebrewer and filed the trademark for the folks at Milk the Funk. He even had a beer named after him by a grateful client – Palafrenero from Casita Cerverceria. bpalfreyman [at] harrisbeach [dot] com.

While by trade I’m a lawyer and most of my articles for the New York State Brewers Association relate to legal issues for craft brewers, from time to time I like to just write about aspects of the craft beer industry I love. Well over two years ago I wrote an article for the New York State Brewers Association about the State of Sour Beer in New York, cataloguing every sour beer I could find up that had ever been made in New York – 104 at the time.  If I wrote that article again today it would probably be three times as long, if not longer.  Today my focus is on coolships in New York.  What is a coolship you ask?  A coolship (or koelschip) is a traditional brewing vessel, typically made of copper or steel, rectangular in shape and open on the top.  After the boil, the hot wort is pumped into the shallow coolship where the large surface to volume ratio cools the wort.  Coolships are commonly used for spontaneous fermentation, which begins as ambient yeast and other microflora in the air inoculate the wort as it cools.  The inoculated wort is then typically transferred into oak. As anyone who has had coolship beers from Allagash, Cantillon, Jester King, and their ilk can attest, the complexity one can get from sour and funky beer made in this manner is hard to attain any other way.

So how is New York doing when it comes to coolships?  By my count there are just four:

  1. LIC Beer Project, Long Island City – the only coolship in New York City
  2. Peekskill Brewery, Peekskill – installed by the one and only Chief O’Neill, formerly of Flower Power fame at Ithaca Brewing Company and currently of Industrial Arts
  3. Plan Bee Farm Brewery, Poughkeepsie – Evan Watson is making wild and wonderful 100% NYS beers with local microflora, including yeast isolated from his onsite honey combs
  4. Common Roots Brewing Company, South Glens Falls – Christian and his dad Bert are making delicate, beautiful coolship and foudre fermented sours, and their coolship was built locally in New York by Fronhofer Tool.

As you can see, there is not one commercial coolship west of the Hudson River, which comprises the vast majority of the state.  We can do better!  Think of the amazing ambient yeast floating around the vineyards of the Finger Lakes, the apple orchards of Dutchess County, the wild blueberries and blackberries of the Adirondacks, and everywhere else from Buffalo to Montauk. Coolships are typically used when the outdoor temperature is around 30 degrees, and as a resident of Syracuse I can confidently state that we have an abundance of 30 degree days.  Homebrewers can do their part too, improvising coolships using their brew kettles.  I highly recommend checking out Bootleg Biology’s Back Yard Yeast Wrangling Kit, which will have you well on your way to capturing and isolating wild yeast and bacteria.  I myself plan on doing a little yeast wrangling myself this year up at Lake George, that will eventually be used to inoculate a beer brewed with water straight from the Lake.

And of course if I’m missing any commercial breweries in New York that have a coolship or in the process of putting in a coolship let me know and I’ll update the article.  Here’s to more coolships and spontaneously fermented beer in New York!

This blog is intended to provide general information on a wide range of issues, including legal issues, affecting the brewing industry.  It is not intended to provide specific legal advice and no legal advice is given.  You understand that merely using this blog does not create an attorney client relationship between you and Harris Beach PLLC or Brendan Palfreyman. The blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state