Pioneer Publican Bids "Adios"
by Jay Sheveck
KRUMVILLE, N.Y. -- Since 1974, owner/publican Larry Erenberg, 72, a former jewelry designer, has captained the Country Inn, a pub in the tiny hamlet of Krumville, N.Y. Located in the Catskill Mountain Game Preserve, the pub offers 500-plus beers.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]For 28 years, Erenberg and his wife prepared meals, poured pints and dispensed a seemingly inexhaustible knowledge of "all things beer" to every visitor. Erenberg and his Country Inn were pioneers in the development of the Hudson Valley's craft-beer landscape.
In a recent bittersweet development, Erenberg sold the Inn to retire at his winter home in Puerto Rico. The good news is that the beer-landmark pub will live on.
Erenberg's final day was celebrated on DecemberÊ30, the day he usually closes the Inn for its mid-winter hibernation. When the pub reopens in February, there will be a new face behind the bar, new owner Peter Rinaudo. Erenberg described Rinaudo as an enthusiastic newcomer to the beer scene who worked under his strict auspices for the final month. Terms of the sale stipulated that absolutely nothing change in the day-to-day operation of the Country Inn. The only exception was "food improvements."
"Beer-pairing dinners and a larger menu are what Peter intends to add," Erenberg said. "My terms are reasonable: no changes, no tablecloths, no TVs and absolutely no ferns. Peter accepted them enthusiastically. He's the right person." The takeover will be a huge undertaking because the Country Inn has an important local history and a worldwide guest list -- and Erenberg's humble persona and breadth of knowledge are simply irreplaceable.
"When I moved up here from New York City and opened the Inn in '74, all I could find was Genesee and Schaefer," Erenberg said. "I did a lot of missionary work to find different beers. I found 35 beers in the first year the Inn was open, more imports than domestics. Even Budweiser wasn't in the area, because it was considered a super-premium beer."
Then craft beers appeared in the area around 1979. "Our first microbrew was Anchor Steam," Erenberg said proudly. "We were the first place to get Anchor Steam in New York State. Then we got Newman's beers from Albany. I had all of them on draught until the brewery closed. -- Mr.ÊNewman was simply before his time."
Erenberg furthered the microbrew tradition. "We were the second draught account for Woodstock Brewing Company," he said, "because I knew [brewer/owner] Nat Collins before he opened the place up. Now we have Evans Ale on tap from the Albany Pump Station. So far, we are the only outlet serving it."
The Country Inn is solely a pub, so don't plan on an overnight stay. "Originally it was a hotel in the late 1800s," Erenberg said. "When I bought it, it was a bar that had been closed for about three years. Then I reopened it as a bar. It's an 'inn' because we used to take on boarders, but not anymore."
Erenberg developed an eclectic customer base over the years, ranging from the 1,500 local residents and two different homebrew clubs to Hollywood celebrities and worldwide respondents of a five-year-old Associated Press article (from as far away as Australia, Sweden, Canada, Great Britain and Japan).
"Our theme is beer," Erenberg said. "I serve beer without exclusion. I even serve Budweiser on tap, simply because you cannot change a Budweiser drinker, [smiling] no matter how hard you try. I accept everyone."
Erenberg refused to take credit for a list of beer cocktails he offers to visitors to expand their understanding of beer as food. Two recipes he shared: Mix 16 ounces of Brooklyn Brewery's Black Chocolate Stout with 1 ounce of Lindemans Framboise Lambic for a rich chocolate jelly-roll dessert effect. Use the same ratio with Paulaner Hefeweizen and Lindemans Framboise Lambic, respectively, for a totally different banana torte effect.
Thankfully, cherished traditions such as this won't end at the Country Inn after the transition. They should only get better, assured Erenberg repeatedly. "Peter will do just fine," Erenberg added. "I'll stay on as a consultant by phone, of course, because I am heading for a vacation in Puerto Rico. So, I guess it's 'adios' for now."
If you can find it, the Country Inn has one pool table, a jukebox with real 45s, over 500 brands of bottled beers, 11 taps, handmade pizzas and a full dinner menu. Future beer events will be announced at the pub.
The Country Inn
1380 County Road 2
Krumville, NY 12461
Jay Sheveck writes about craft beer events in Southern California. He frequently travels to the Northeast to visit family and taste beers. E-mail him at jay@BeerRevolution.com.
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