Beer Tourism Getting a Lift in Central New York

Everyone knows about the wineries of the Finger Lakes; now there’s a big push to make their neighbors to the East famous for breweries. An initiative called Brew Central has mounted an aggressive campaign to highlight breweries, cideries, distilleries and even hop farms in the rolling hills Madison, Onondaga, Broome, Schoharie, Otsego and Oneida counties

Using NY’s farm brewery license, ushered into law last year by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as a springboard, the campaign aims to bulk up agritourism in the area, even to reinstate the hop industry in Madison and Oneida counties, once the nation’s largest hop growing area.

Since the legislation passed last year, close to 50 farm brewery licenses have been granted.

Farm Brewers

Good-Nature-05Good Nature Farm Brewery & Tap Room in Hamilton was one of the first to take advantage of the new license. Founded two years ago by the energetic young couple, Matt Whalen and Carrie Blackmore, Good Nature is moving fast. They went from a 2-bbl system to 7-bbl, then opened a taproom in Hamilton’s townsquare across from the Colgate Inn (a great place for dinner if you’re visiting, with a more than decent tap list). Now they have plans on the drawing board for a brand new brewery with a 20-bbl brewhouse to be built on the edge of town. As their name suggests, Good Nature plans to be as green as possible.

The use of locally grown hops and grains, as required by the farm brewery license, is right up their alley.

Justin Behan at Green Wolf Brewing Co. in Middleburgh, in Schoharie County is brand new — just now opening his doors. Justin had plans to go into organic farming, but fell in love with brewing. With the farm brewery license he can combine both his passions on his 3-bbl system.

Not so new are Larry and Kate Fisher at Foothill Farms in Munnsville. They’ve been dabbling in hop growing for several years and now have six acres devoted to a dozen hop varieties. Hands on is an understatement for Foothill: Larry, who runs an electrical business, built his own 20-ft-tall hop harvesting machine; Kate, a technical coordinator in the local school system, makes all kinds of hop related goodies on sale in their farm/homebrew shop: beer glazed almonds and walnuts (Good Nature beer brewed with Foothills hops); hop infused shampoo; and various hop jellies and jams.

critz3Critz Farms is no stranger to agritourism. Matthew Critz, a former civil chemical engineer, bought his Cazenovia farm 20 years ago. Along with his wife, Juanita, he began growing Christmas trees as a cash crop; then he harvested pumpkins and pick your own apples; then maple trees and syrup. Don’t forget a restaurant to cater to visitors, and a corn maze.

When he installed a heavy-duty cider press, things began to get really interesting. Now he produces a range of award-winning hard ciders using both imported European cider apples as well as his own, under the Harvest Moon label; visitors to his farm/tasting room reach 5,000 a day during harvest season.

The well-established orchards at Beak and Skiff in neighboring Lafayette took notice. They now produce their own ciders as well as vodka and gin distilled from their own apples that have been grown commercially for generations. A brand-new visitor center sits on their hilltop property selling all kinds of craft beverage related products.

Cazenovia is sort of a poster town for Brew Central. In addition to Critz, the town hosts a winery (Owera Vineyards) and an about-to-open distillery (Life of Reilly) — and as Madison County tourism Exec. Director Scott Flaherty says, Empire Farmstead will become the fourth leg of Cazenovia’s craft beverage stool.

A “natural” outgrowth of the 20-year-old Empire Brewpub in Syracuse, owner David Katleski, has plans for one of the largest farm breweries in NY State so far: A 60-bbl JVNW brewhouse with an estimated 60,000-bbl annual production; eight of the farm’s 22 acres devoted to barley, rye and wheat crops and six to hops; as well as a 32,000 sq ft visitor center.

Katleski, who co-founded the New York State Brewers Association, and was instrumental in the passage of the farm brewery license, expects to break ground on the Cazenovia location this month (Aug).

saranacinset2Utica Some breweries may never be able to take advantage of the farm brewery license, which currently requires 20% state-grown ingredients, and as much as 90% after 2023 — they are simply too large. In central New York, one brewery spreads its wing like an eagle over the surrounding territory — the venerable FX Matt Brewing Co.

Founded in Utica in 1888, Matt is into its fourth generation. The brewery has seen the seasons change — from its inception and days of rapid growth around the dawn of the 20th century, to weathering Prohibition, to struggling against national breweries as post-industrial Utica was turning into a backwater, and finally embracing the craft brewing revolution with their Saranac brands. The brewery has continually reinvented itself and with a view to the future is helping fuel a renaissance in Utica.

Their Thursday night summer concert series at the brewery has become legendary and turned Varick Street into a veritable nightlife hotspot. “We finish the concerts at 8 p.m. so you basically have a captive audience of 2,000 people who want to go out somewhere,” said President Nick Matt.

Chris Talgo, who opened his Nail Creek Pub next door to the brewery six years ago, said Matt has been a great neighbor. He also said that a fire that destroyed the brewery’s packaging room five years ago, might have had a silver lining. “I think it enabled them to upgrade a lot of their equipment,” he said.

Notably, Matt has invested a lot in lab equipment including a $100,000 spectrometer to study the beer aging process. One new toy in the brewhouse that Rich Michaels is particular proud of (his title is Quality Innovation Manager) is a horizontal decanter which strips liquid from hops making their whirlpool much more efficient. Another toy is a 2-bbl pilot brewery that Matt took on from Good Nature when they upgraded, although Michaels said, “they wouldn’t recognize it now.” New blood to the brewery comes in the person of Nick Matt Jr. who brings marketing savvy in his return to the family business with his father and uncle, Fred Matt, CEO.

Talgo has been part of the Varick Street renaissance. He says he bought the first part of his current operation for $2,000 seven years ago. While his 3-bbl brewhouse is currently on hiatus, he has found growing success in his increasingly locally-sourced menu. I can attest the chicken, cappicola, red pepper sandwich was fantastic and if you don’t want a side of fries or slaw, you can order a side of Utica Club beer.

ADK-Distilling-05At the other end of Varick Street, past the pubs and pizza places, is Adirondack Distilling Co. Jordan Karp, a former political advisor, has invested in high-end microdistilling of gin, vodka, bourbon and white whisky. His spirits are all distilled from corn, which he says is a “a little more expensive and a little more finicky.” But there are three main reasons why he does so: “One, it’s gluten free; two, the flavor — it makes a slightly sweeter spirit; three, there’s a good local source.”

He will be making a whiskey for Good Nature using their wort. Good Nature will sell it in their tap room.

Indeed, farmer brewers license holders are able to cross-promote selling each other’s beer, wine, ciders and spirits in their shops.

The Craft Act

There’s good news coming from Albany for non-farming craft brewers also. When Gov. Cuomo signs the Craft Act, as he is expected to do, all craft breweries will be able to sell by the pint at their breweries and tap rooms, not just serve samples.

While some are now questioning the advantages of now applying for the farm brewery license. NYBA Director Paul Leone says most who have applied for the license are in it for the opportunity to source locally, not just to sell beer by the pint.

Said Katleski, “Brewers used to be the ugly step-child of the wine industry.

Not any more.”

“This will provide an important revenue source for small breweries,” said Nick Matt. (The Governor’s) just trying to make it easier to do business in the state.”

And that’s a good thing.

– Tony Forder, Ale Street News


First CNY Bourbon Product of State’s Craft Distillery Initiatives

The bourbon being produced at a Utica distillery is being described as the first legal bourbon produced in Central New York. It’s proof that the craft liquor industry is growing in New York state.

The Adirondack Distilling Company started out by crafting vodka. Then they moved to gin and, most recently, white whiskey. Now, master distiller Jordan Karp says the company is moving on to that quintessential American drink.

“Bourbon is an American spirit made with at least 51 percent corn, and stored and aged in a charred, new, oak American barrel,” Karp explained.

The company will jump into the business of selling bottles of 601 bourbon later this month. The amber spirit is handcrafted in a former bank by four employees that do everything from pouring and distilling to tasting the product, which is aged in tiny barrels in the basement.

Karp admits somebody may have made some bourbon in a homemade still at one point in time when the Adirondacks was known as the land of 1,000 stills during prohibition.

He says his distillery has more plans for using the state’s pro-farm-to-table policies.

“We’re partnering with Good Nature Brewing in Hamilton, New York,” Karp said. “And we’re going to take their unfermented beer, their wort from barley, and we’re taking that and going to make a single malt whiskey. So it’s the first time that a farm brewery and a farm distillery in New York have teamed up to make a single malt whiskey.”

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Adirondack Distilling Company Announces Central New York’s First Legal Bourbon

For the first time in history, central New York will have its own legal bourbon. On June 13, Adirondack Distilling Company is set to launch its 601 Bourbon … just one day before National Bourbon Day on June 14.

Coming off a string of international tasting awards for its ADK Vodka, ADK Gin and 1,000 Stills White Whisky, Adirondack Distilling Company is expanding its gluten-free line of spirits to include a 100% locally sourced corn-based bourbon. 601 Bourbon is double distilled and aged in charred virgin, White American Oak barrels.

The name of the bourbon is derived from the location of the distillery. 601 Varick Street lies at the intersection of history and heritage. Built in 1920 as a bank, the building’s heritage is a reminiscent of a time when artisan craftsman made quality products by hand – just as the distillery does now. This small batch bourbon is meticulously made with only two ingredients – local New York corn and water from the Adirondacks.

“As far as we can tell, this is Central New York’s first-ever legal bourbon.” Says Jordan Karp, Master Distiller, “It is further proof that anyone using local ingredients and resources from Utica and Central New York can produce an amazing product that can compete and succeed at an international level.”

Like most craft bourbons, 601 Bourbon is produced in limited small batches. The first batch of the bourbon will yield only 346 bottles.
“We had originally planned on 350 bottles” said distillery president Bruce Elwell “But due to evaporation over the aging process, known as the ‘angel’s share’, we lost a few. We want everyone to have a chance to try the first batch, but with so few available we hope that people will be patient. More will be coming when it is properly aged.”

The limited number of specially signed first batch bottles will be available Friday June 13th at the distillery starting from 11am-7pm and Saturday 11am-4pm. There will also be a limited number of bottles available at the Cazenovia Farmers’ Market and the CNY Regional Market in Syracuse on Saturday, June 14.

With National Bourbon Day on June 14, the launch of 601 Bourbon couldn’t have been timed better. If the success of the other Adirondack Distilling Spirits is any measure, then the 601 Bourbon is soon to be a local and national favorite.


ADK Vodka Takes Silver at World Vodka Awards

Utica’s Adirondack Distilling Co. added an international silver medal to its growing collection of awards for its outstanding ADK Vodka. After an extensive five-month judging process, the World Vodka Awards in London named its top three Vodkas in the world, giving ADK Vodka the silver.

“It really is an honor” says Jordan Karp, master distiller. “There were thousands of entries from over 25 different countries. Our focus is on quality before anything else and it is rewarding to see those efforts recognized.”

This is the fifth major award for ADK Vodka in the past 12 months. In addition, the Adirondacks-themed bottle design has also received accolades.

“From the very beginning, we focused on producing a great local product from great local resources,” says Bruce Elwell, president of the distillery. “This award and the others we’ve received is really a big deal not only for us, but for the whole community. Central New York now makes one of the finest vodkas in the world. That is something we can all be proud of. ”

With the craft distillery business boom in the United States firmly under way, Adirondack Distilling Co. is quickly putting Utica and Central New York on the map in the distillery world.

And judging by the awards, the world is noticing.


Adirondack Distilling Introduces White Whisky

With 6.1 million acres to hide from the law, bootleggers found refuge in the wilderness of the Adirondacks, known as the land of 1,000 stills.

Recipes of corn whisky were pased down from generation to generation and perfected through the years. Now, the Adirondack Distilling Co. brings to you an authentic piece of that heritage.

Using local corn and water from the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, we present to you a lightly oak-aged whisky, crafted by hand, refined by history, with hints of sweetness and depth and an amazingly smooth finish.

Coming soon in March 2014!


Adirondack Vodka Receives Top Honors at International Tasting Competitions

Adirondack Distilling Co. is creating quite the stir in the cocktail world. In just the last month, Central New York’s premier craft distillery received five awards in four different competitions nationwide for its handcrafted and gluten-free Adirondack Vodka.

DoubleGoldNYS fair[1]Adirondack Vodka won the highest possible awards in two separate competitions – a double gold medal from the American Wine & Spirits Society at the New York State Fair and a platinum medal at the SIP (Spirits International Prestige) International Spirits Competition – beating out competition from Poland, Italy, Finland, Sweden, Russia and other international distilleries.  Additionally, ADK Vodka won a bronze medal from the exclusive and grueling Washington Cup Spirits Competition.

It’s not just the Vodka getting awards. Following the accolades received for outstanding product, Adirondack Distilling received a fold medal at the International Spirits Awards packaging design competition in San Francisco for its innovative bottle design and a silver medal for packaging from the International Spirits Competition.

ADK Vodka has received so much positive feedback that it has been picked up by distributors in upstate New York, New York City, Connecticut and California. In less than a year since opening its doors, Adirondack Vodka has become a national brand.

Following on the success of its ADK Vodka, Adirondack Distilling Company is releasing its newest offering, ADK Gin. The special first batch bottles, signed by the founders, were released last week and you can expect to find ADK Gin in local liquor stores this Friday.

If the success of ADK Vodka is any indication, then you can be assured that the gin will be another winner.


Recent Awards Highlight Growing Accomplishments for Adirondack Distillery

Just down the street from where FX Matt Brewing bottled success, the entrepreneurial spirit lives on with the Adirondack Distilling Co.

“We say a doctor, a lawyer and a political consultant walked into a bar, and the distillery was born,” said Adirondack Distillery co-founder Jordan Karp.

That was less than a year ago, when Karp was a political consultant. Karp, Steve Cox and Bruce Elwell are now making a splash in the vodka world.

According to Karp, it’s their careful process that’s getting them quick recognition.

“Well ours doesn’t taste like most vodka,” he said, “It’s definitely got a little bit of sweetness, it’s definitely got a nose to it. And it’s definitely smoother.”

They’ve won four awards in the last few weeks. Two of those awards were for taste. Karp said their process filters out impurities, resulting in less of a burn.

“This is built as a bank, so this is the old vault to the bank,” Karp said. “We pump our vodka through here for hours and hours and hours, so the spirit goes through the diamonds multiple times.”

Herkimer diamonds are supposed to add a smooth, local finish.

“People are straying away from big huge brands and finding more homegrown, local things, and I think that we’re just part of that movement,” Karp explained.

However, their growing reputation is set to launch them as a national brand. This week they are shipping batches to stores as far away as California.

The Adirondack Distillery is also branching out into other spirits. They are expected to release a new gin within the next few days.


Adirondack Distilling Co. Takes Part in Governor’s Farmers’ Market Initiative

Since Governor Cuomo signed a law last fall allowing distilleries to participate in farmers’ markets, Adirondack Distilling Company has enjoyed a brisk business at the local farmers markets in both Utica and Syracuse.

The markets, which have traditionally featured local fruit, produce, baked goods and dairy products, are now allowed to include products from local farm distilleries. Utica-based Adirondack Distilling Company is one of the first distilleries in Central New York to take part in this initiative.

“Farm distilleries and the agricultural sector play a major role in New York State’s economy,” Governor Cuomo said in a previous statement. “By easing restrictions on farm distilleries and permitting tastings and sales outside of their premises, we are giving these distilleries an equal chance to compete in the industry and a better opportunity to reach new customers and grow their businesses.”

At the Oneida County Public Market at Union Station and the CNY Regional Farmers Market in Syracuse, Adirondack Distilling Company has been selling their handcrafted Adirondack Vodka faster than anticipated.

“It’s as if people were waiting for us all along,” says Bruce Elwell, one of the founders of Adirondack Distilling. He feels that their vodka is a natural fit at the markets: “People coming to the markets are looking for fresh local products, made with fresh local ingredients. Our vodka is distilled in small batches from locally grown corn and then crystal filtered for purity using local Herkimer Diamonds. You can’t get more local than that”.

Jordan Karp, the master distiller also commented on another key factor of their success: “Many people in our area cannot tolerate gluten and are shopping for local gluten-free products. Our Adirondack Vodka is made with locally grown corn and is therefore naturally gluten free.”

With the season of farmers markets in full swing, you can expect the amount of produce, crafts and baked goods to keep increasing. Adirondack Distilling will be adding to their wares as well with the introduction of their new Adirondack Gin. Flavored with native Alpine Bilberries, Adirondack Gin will bring yet another taste of the Adirondacks to the farmers markets.

Adirondack Distilling Company is located at 601 Varick Street in Utica, N.Y. Throughout the summer, you can find them at the Union Station Farmers Market on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the Syracuse Farmers Market at the NYS Fairgrounds from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.