LITCHFIELD – Enjoying a unique craft brew in an unassuming setting is closer than one might think. After a short, five minute drive south of Ilion, beer enthusiasts will discover Crazy Williez – A new microbrewery on Silver Street in the town of Litchfield.
Housed in the former sugar shack of a working dairy farm, Crazy Williez opened two months ago to offer beer connoisseurs and novices alike a taste of Valley-made beer from Valley-grown hops.
It all came about when friends Grant Gasstrom and Matt Keyser attended Brewfest at the Landmark Theater in Syracuse three years ago.
“We were talking and thought we should start growing hops,” recalled Keyser. “Honestly, my first thought was just to
sell them and use them as a way to drink beer for free in the future.”
But when they harvested their first 1-acre crop in 2015, friends and family encouraged them to start making their own beer.
“Everyone said we should start our own brewery and we said, ‘Yea why not?’” Keyser said.
With Keyser’s experience as a brewery insurance salesman out of Duanesburg, Gasstrom’s available land and a name thought up by Keyser’s wife, the two went into business as Crazy Williez and introduced their first craft brews in October. Gasstrom drew up the brewery’s mascot, Hillbillie Willie and Keyser pushed the motto “Life’s crazy – Drink simple.”
“I’m all about keeping things simple,” Keyser said. “As soon as something gets a little complicated or looks like it might be in a gray area, I don’t want anything to do with it. Nope. Keep it simple.”
To that end, the duo built and decorated their brewery almost entirely with things found on the farm, including tables made from a giant, old ash tree that fell on the property.
“People think we’re trying to be chic but really we’re just trying to be cheap,” Keyser laughed.
And the pair have modest aspirations as well.
“I always say, ‘We didn’t get into this to buy a yacht and sail to Aruba,’” Keyser joked. “We’re not doing this to get rich.”
“That’s why we still have ‘real’ jobs,” Gasstrom said. “But the brewing community is a really awesome community to be a part of.”
While in the process of setting up equipment to brew onsite, currently Crazy Williez is having their beer brewed for them off-site. The two hope to be up and running completely on their own in early 2018.
In addition to their own two (soon to be five) brews on tap, Crazy Williez offers a handful of other Central New York beers including one from Critz Farms in Cazenovia and another from Woodland Farm Brewery in Utica. And for non-beer drinkers, there are a few local wines and exactly three mixed drink options.
“Like I said, we don’t do complicated,” Keyser said of the beverage options. “We’re keeping it simple.”
And as family men themselves, Gasstrom and Keyser have plans to expand their small brewery into a family-friendly destination in the near future.
“We want to get into a Critz Farm atmosphere for families with activities like outdoor concerts and corn mazes,”
“Obviously it’s taboo to bring kids to a bar, but we’re not a bar. We’re a brewery,” Keyser added. “People who come here aren’t coming to get drunk. They come by to taste, have a few drinks, listen to music and have some conversation in a laidback atmosphere.”
Currently on tap are an IPA and Hefeweizen of their own making, with a milk stout and orange pale ale coming this week.
“The inspiration for our new pale ale is that show “Orange is the New Black,” Keyser noted. “The show takes place in Litchfield, NY, and there’s a character on it called Crazy Eyes. Well we’re here in Litchfield and called Crazy Williez and making an orange pale ale. We’re calling it ‘Orange is the New Beer.’”
Beginning this week, Crazy Williez will be open Thursday and Friday 5 to 10 p.m., Saturday noon to 10 p.m. and Sunday noon to 6 p.m. Check the brewery’s Facebook page (facebook.com/crazywilliezbrewery) for a live entertainment schedule.
Located at 546 Silver St., Ilion, the brewery is also across the street from an Ilion Snowdrifters trail.