Empire Farmstead Brewery: A long-awaited project breaks ground at last

(Syracuse.com)

CAZENOVIA, NY — It’s taken a little longer than expected, but the big spin-off of downtown Syracuse’s successful Empire Brewing Co. is about to take shape.

Friday is the long-awaited groundbreaking at the Empire Farmstead Brewery in Cazenovia.

It will be built on a 22-acre farm just off Route 13 (and just south of the Lorenzo State Historic site). It’s expected to open by the end of the year, said Empire owner David Katleski.

The project includes a 60-barrel brewhouse that will make it one of the largest craft breweries in the state. It will help Empire sell beer across New York and perhaps beyond. (For comparison, the brewhouse in Empire’s Armory Square brewpub is 7 barrels, and the Middle Ages Brewing Co. brewhouse is 30 barrels).

The new Empire brewery also includes a tasting room, restaurant, bottling line, beer cellar and offices. The farm will continue to supply some of the ingredients for both Empire’s beers and restaurant food. The Armory Square brewpub will remain open.

Although Katleski initially planned to keep the brewery restaurant’s menu simple, “people have high expectations for Empire (food), so it will be a full service restaurant.”

The Empire Farmstead Brewery is receiving tax breaks via the Start-Up NY program. Companies in Start-Up NY get 10 years free of income, business, corporate, sales and property taxes. They must be affiliated with colleges — in this case Morrisville State College. Empire promised to create 52 new jobs and invest $5.9 million, according to the state.

The new Empire also will be categorized as a farm brewery under a state law that took effect in January 2013. Katleski, who is also founder and president of the New York State Brewers Association, spearheaded the lobbying effort to get the farm brewery bill approved in 2012.

The farm brewery law provides incentives and benefits for brewers who agree to use New York-grown ingredients (they can grow their own, buy from other farmers or a combination). Through 2018, 20 percent of all the hops and 20 percent of other ingredients must be New York-grown. Those numbers increase in stages after that.

Benefits include the ability to have satellite tasting rooms and sell other New York products in their retail shops. Farm breweries also had the first opportunity to sell beer by the glass in their tasting rooms, though that has now been granted to other brewers.

Katleski first announced plans to open a full-scale production brewery in 2010. After the farm brewery law passed, there was a huge boom in the number of new breweries opening in New York — many of them farm breweries.

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