Alfred University News

Hop Notch is top notch: award-winning brewery owned by alumnus Jeff Klossner ’19

A brewery opened a little more than a year ago by Alfred University alumnus Jeff Klossner ’19 is already earning recognition in the Watkins Glen-area business community. Klossner owns Hop Notch Brewing Company in Montour Falls, NY, which opened in September 2022 and was honored with the “Best New Business Award” by the Watkins Glen Chamber of Commerce.

Klossner’s journey from Alfred University—where the Waverly, NY, native earned a bachelor’s degree in renewable energy engineering—to serving up craft beers from a taproom in a renovated dairy barn, has been unique, to say the least. And it’s safe to say that Klossner developed a penchant for running a successful business while an undergraduate at Alfred University.

As a sophomore in 2017, Klossner bought a trailer and converted it into a food truck. The first event for his fledgling business—Trailer Trash, LLC—was Hot Dog Day 2017, where he served up a menu which included burgers, fries, and, of course, hot dogs. “The food was mainly Americana – burgers, hot dogs, fries — but we created the menu according to the venue, customizing it to fit the event’s location and clientele,” he says.

The business grew throughout Klossner’s time at Alfred University; he owned three trucks and employed 10 by the time he graduated in Spring 2019. Klossner, who played football and rugby at Alfred, worked the business whenever he could: evenings, weekends, between classes, and during breaks.

“Sometimes I’d get done working my co-op and head to (an event location) and work. There were times I slept in the truck,” he recalls. “This was the start of my experience as an entrepreneur. It was extremely critical to helping me develop time management skills.”

After graduation, Klossner sold the food truck business and moved to Pittsburgh where he began working at the refractories company HarbisonWalker International (HWI), providing Lean Six Sigma training at the company’s various plants, advising workers on how to be most efficient and economical. After six months he moved into a sales position which eventually evolved into a supervisory role.

COVID-19 hit in spring 2020 and by the latter part of the year Klossner was furloughed. With no income, he moved in with a friend in Sayre, PA, near his hometown of Waverly. “My friend’s father owned a couple rental units, which I helped manage and turn over. I eventually got into purchasing and flipping houses.”

Klossner would eventually acquire several rental properties of his own, primarily in Florida and Pennsylvania, which today provide his main source of income. He has sold his real estate in Florida and while he is still involved in running his properties, he has hired someone to manage the day-to-day operations.

“The rental business had become self-sustaining, so I really didn’t have to do a lot,” Klossner said. With a lot of free time, he asked himself what he wanted to do next. “I knew I loved business, the process of building businesses.”

A friend suggested he look into purchasing the vacant former “Heavily” brewery in Montour Falls. Located in a renovated dairy barn, the brewery was open from 2014 to 2018. Klossner purchased the facility in November 2021, but knew he would need help getting the business up and running, as his beer-making experience was limited to having once brewed a five-gallon bucket in his family’s garage.

“I really had no background, but I’m willing to learn anything,” he says. “I know how to run a business. You don’t need to do everything; you need to find the right puzzle pieces to help it succeed.”

In this case the right puzzle piece was Taylor Trenchard, an experienced beer maker who had worked at other breweries in the area. “I knew him, and I liked his products. I said, ‘Why don’t you come in and help me.’”

Trenchard came on board and began making beer in 2022 and Hop Notch Brewery opened to the public in September of that year. The brewery, Klossner says, is in a “fun transition period” and is primed to expand from a two-barrel brewing system to a 15-barrel system. “That’s just a crazy jump.”

Expansion is planned not only for the volume and varieties of beer, but in the venue itself. “We plan to use it for weddings and other bigger events,” he says. “We hope to develop an off-site tap room. I see us in five years having multiple locations and having our beer in stores.”

Is Klossner, just 26 years old, having fun with his new gig?

“Brewing beer is very competitive, so you’re always having to push the envelope,” he says. “Is it fun? What other job can you have where you’re sitting behind a bar all day, BS’ing with the customers, constantly trying new things. I’m very blessed. I don’t work a day where I’m not loving what I’m doing.”

While Klossner is certainly intent on making his business profitable, it’s not his sole priority. “My mission is the business needs to be community oriented,” he said.

To that end Hop Notch sponsors youth sports teams in the area as well as other programs aimed at helping disadvantaged kids.  Klossner’s golden retriever, Brewski, is a constant presence at Hop Notch, which has hosted events supporting the SPCA of Schuyler County, including a pet adoption clinic. The brewery collects donations for veterans organizations and throughout the week offers discounts to workers in industry and in the health care, emergency services, and law enforcement professions.