Saugerties’ venerable Dutch Ale House reopens with new owners
Last weekend, the Dutch Ale House on Main Street reopened grandly, offering customers something new in a familiar space. Dallas and Ted Gilpin, the fifth owners in a long line dating back to the end of Prohibition, have already enacted some of their visions for the storied site since they bought the establishment in February; they say they have no intention of stopping in the following months.
However, it is important to the couple, they said, to preserve those elements that have kept the establishment, in all its incarnations, a steadfast Saugerties landmark.
“People love the history of this place — we have a strong base of local customers — some tell us they came here at 15 and now they’re 80,” said Mrs. Gilpin. “We first fell in love with the history of Saugerties [when we moved here.]”
The new owners were initially regulars of the establishment for six years, visiting the pub on Fridays on their way back to their New York City home. They had purchased the Shale Hill Farm from Garlic Festival spearhead Pat Reppert in 2012 and “fell in love with the history of Saugerties.” Upon befriending the previous owners, the Paviches, they learned that the couple intended to leave Saugerties in favor of Queens; at the time, the Gilpins were considering the opposite, moving up here full time. The transplants had no intention of buying a restaurant, but the two have extensive backgrounds in finance and business and said they wanted to invest in the community that had captivated them so.
“This became our stop,” said Dallas Gilpin. “We loved the history of it, how cozy it was… We hadn’t planned to buy a restaurant, but when the opportunity presented itself, [we jumped at the chance].”
The site once went by the name “Colby’s Tavern,” and was owned by a Jack Peckovich; in 2000, previous town supervisor Greg Helsmoortel purchased it for his wife, Thomasine. According to lore, she had initially wanted to purchase a dress shop; instead, Helsmoortel got her a bar. The couple renamed the site “The Dutch Tavern” and introduced a kitchen to the alcohol-only operation. The mural over the bar was specially commissioned, and features Helsmoortel, his wife and previous regulars of the establishment.
“We were told that if we were going to do anything to the mural — which we aren’t — we’d have to return it to the Helsmoortels,” said Ted Gilpin.
The clogs and Dutch decorations adorning the walls of the site are the Helsmoortels addition to the storied building.
“My husband is Dutch, so everything is Dutch,” said Thomasine Helsmoortel. “When we bought it, before we took over, we went from here to Maine, went to every antique store and we had so many clogs. Everywhere we went we found the Dutch shoes.”
The Gilpins have replaced all of the refrigeration units and plumbing on site added in a new beer cooler and installed new compressors and lines for the 16 taps at the bar. They hope to transform an unused brewing room into a kitchen prep room and open up a new entrance in the back of the restaurant that can be accessed from the back parking lot.
“One complaint we’ve had is that our dining room isn’t very nice to sit in — we’re renovating it. It’s going to be the same feel on both sides,” said Ted Gilpin.
This “feel” will be maintained through exposed brick, a bar that wraps from the initial room to the dining room, oak floors and fixtures that are more “period-esque.”
The couple partnered with chef Jonathan Botta, who had the culinary expertise that they lacked; with his help, they have streamlined the menu and begun to produce more and more food on site, including soups, dressings, smoked meat and sausages.
“The biggest feedback we’ve received is not to get rid of the truffle fries — they’re very attached to the truffle fries. The things that are staying on the menu are getting an upgrade.”
The Gilpins are also keeping the “mug club” tradition. For $60 per year, locals and regulars can purchase their own numbered mug of the 86 that are hung behind the bar, getting four additional ounces of beer than one would find in a pint glass. Members get free beer on their birthdays; Dallas and Ted are brainstorming additional perks. If you’re interested, you may be waiting awhile — although some mug owners cannot be located, they are all spoken for and there is a waitlist. According to the Gilpins, there are people who have had mugs “since the beginning,” and they have been parsing through handwritten records in an attempt to free up forgotten mugs.
“I guess the bottom line is that we love the feel [and] we want people to feel comfortable somewhere they’ve always felt comfortable,” said Dallas Gilpin. “We’re trying to give people options. At the core of things we’ll always be a craft beer and gastro pub, but we’re putting an emphasis on the ‘gastro’ element.”