What started as three taps and a menu with a couple of sandwiches now boasts 69 offerings and a full kitchen.
The Blue Tusk has been bringing an impressive variety of popular and rare craft beers to Central New York since 1995, when Michael Yorton moved in across the street from his father’s sandwich shop.
The Blue Tusk, named one of All About Beer magazine’s “125 Places to Have a Beer Before You Die,” remains very much a family affair with Mike’s mom, Sandy, prepping eats behind the scenes with bread baked fresh on Syracuse’s Northside.
A well-traveled brew enthusiast, Mike made many personal connections with brewers coast to coast, later coaxing them to bring their brands to Syracuse.
Dogfish Head founder and well-known craft beer character/advocate Sam Calagione brought his beer from Delaware to the Blue Tusk himself in the early days. He remains pals with the heads of iconic West Coast breweries like Rogue Ales.
His long-running relationship with nearby Middle Ages Brewing Co. ensures they always have one of their casks on tap at the Tusk. His love of cask-conditioned ales explains why he’s always got two “on the engine.”
“It just drinks so smooth,” Mike says sampling some exclusive Stone beer from the cask he just tapped. “It’s alive!”
Blue Tusk featured Sierra Nevada, Newcastle stout and Labatt Blue. California, Britain and Canada were about as far as that selection would take you. Eventually, Mike would stock the shelves with some 250 bottles of mostly imports as the pub began to grow. Blue Tusk expanded with a bar dedicated to wine and Mike’s favorite, Belgian beer.
He’s made the pilgrimage to Belgium – and several other world destinations – many times to nurture his love of suds.
“It’s amazing to me. Back in the day, a majority of the beers here were European,” Mike says. “Now the Belgians are making American styles.”
It truly is a good time to be a craft beer fan in America and particularly in Brew Central, where local styles stand up to some of the world’s best.
Mike’s incredible tap collection is available 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday with special events happening throughout the year.