For the past 18 years, Neill Acer has transformed Defiant Brewing Company from delicious dream to refreshing reality.
Though the Bronx-born founder once enjoyed a career working throughout the Hudson Valley and along the East coast, brewing professionally and installing set-ups for other beer enthusiasts, he had always longed for the creative freedom to run his own place. So when the opportunity arose in 2005 to start a one-stop bar and brewery in Pearl River, Acer jumped at the chance.
“I’d won some international medals and had been brokering and installing breweries, getting other people’s dreams running, so to speak,” Acer recalled. “I ended up with some extra pieces of equipment and thought that all the flying around, setting things up was getting tiring. And I thought, ‘It might be a nice time to start a family. Wouldn’t it be great if I could still make beer for the rest of my functioning life?’”
Acer’s then-newfound ability to make beer his way has since blossomed into a diverse beverage menu for Defiant Brewing Company—one, Acer emphasizes, that is always changing. Patrons can enjoy approximately 30 different styles of ales and lagers year-round with 10 to 15 variations available at any given time, rotated according to customer feedback, ingredient availability and Acer’s own mood.
While all the beer is brewed in-house, fresh with no preservatives or GMOs, the ingredients Acer uses are from all over the world. Barley—the main ingredient in beer—is purchased according to what flavor is best suited for a particular recipe, eventually making its way to the on-site mill where it is ground up and used fresh. Additional flavor is added by mixing in components like hops and orange peel, as well as different herbs and spices. All ingredients can be traced “from grain to glass.”
For a layman’s metaphor, Acer compares the process of brewing beer to the making of coffee.
“In the way that coffee is sort of liquid coffee bean juice, beer is pretty much liquid barley juice,” Acer explained. “It’s this ancient and beautiful way of preserving nature’s sunshine. Sun lands on the farm or pasture and these tall grasses produce seeds…Just like you would with coffee, you grind it up and run water over it. There’s other enzymatic reactions and complicated stuff that doesn’t take place in coffee, but it’s essentially the same.”
While beer is certainly Defiant Brewing Company’s specialty, the brewery also makes seltzers and serves basic wines and spirits. Still, Acer encourages customers to try what the company is known for—even if they don’t think beer is “their thing.”
“People will say things like, ‘I don’t like beer.’ I’ll say, ‘Well, have you had an ale? They’ll say, ‘I’ve never had one’…Then I’ll ask, ‘Do you drink coffee?’ They’ll say, ‘I love roasted espresso, I go to Starbucks all the time.’ So that person would be a good candidate for a Stout-Out, which is an ale, or a porter. When you get one that’s fresh and all natural, four feet away from the tank it was made in, it’s a magical thing. You owe it to yourself and your life to try it.”