Central New York Craft Brewers Tap into Local Crops

Central New York’s roots in brew run deep and its modern craft beverage makers want to carry on that homegrown tradition.

The nine counties that make up Brew Central were the epicenter of the U.S. hops industry at the turn of the 19th century. Not only are brewers tapping into the local hop revival, but other ingredients as well.

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“Sometimes it’s very spontaneous. We might come across an ingredient we haven’t used before and it’s like ‘Alright, let’s give this a shot,'” says Tim Butler, head brewer at Syracuse’s Empire Brewing Co. They’ve used everything from a local roaster’s coffee to Central New York beets.

“You can actually taste the [difference in the] ingredients from Central New York,” Empire Founder David Katleski says. “The hops tend to have a slightly different citrus flavor. The barley tends to be a little bolder.”

Woodland Hop Farm and Fermentation near Utica includes local maple syrup, honey and even dandelions in its brews, some which are aged in barrels made by a nearby cooper.

“We’re not just pumping out the same beers,” Co-Founder AJ Spado says. “We’re always trying new styles and using as many New York ingredients as possible.”

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The trend extends to Brew Central‘s small-batch distillers as well.

“Ninety-five percent of ingredients come from the state … and I’m getting my grains 20 miles north of here,” says Rory Gallagher of Cooperstown Distillery.

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Most Brew Central producers strive to get their ingredients from as close to home as possible.

“It’s exciting to see hops yards grow, expand and blossom around the state and around here,” Green Wolf Brewing Co. Founder Justin Behan says. “We’re trying to at some point to get to 100 percent or nearly 100 percent of our malt and hops grown locally.”