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

Happy Birthday to Brew!

Brew Central launched one year ago, when it set out on its mission to tell the “Stories on Tap in Central New York” with profiles of the area’s breweries, pubs, cideries, distilleries and wineries.

Tapping into the ever-growing national craft beer market and burgeoning craft spirit scene, Brew Central highlights the one-time hop capital of the country. That rich history and current growth make us “America’s Craft Brew Destination.”

Brew Central boasts more than 50 partners and continues to grow in 2014. As our followers and fans know, Brew Central is about more than tastings. We focus on the people, their histories in brewing and their personalities. Visitors can actually meet and talk with brewers, distillers and craft pub proprietors when they travel to Brew Central.

To date, Brew Central has visited a dozen partners for photo shoots and this year adds video to the mix. Look for featured profiles under each category on this website.

The site launched in June 2013, when the first digital ads appeared on national sites like, and as well as the Ad Network. Draft and Brew Your Own magazines promoted Brew Central to their readerships via e-communications. We’ve also earned some great coverage from the press.

Print ads were produced and placed in national publications, including Beer Advocate, All About Beer, Beer Connoisseur and Zymurgy, the official publication of the American Homebrewers Association. We’ve expanded this exposure with placement in the Ale Street News, Great Lakes Brewing News and Yankee Brew News. Regional magazines in the Finger Lakes and Capital Region also ran ads.

The series focused on the “Stories on Tap” earned national recognition with Communicator Awards of Distinction in four categories last month. Images focused on the people in Brew Central with strong imagery and teased their stories with short copy in the ads.

The website has done extremely well thanks to our readership and the number of fans and followers on Facebook and Twitter continues to swell.

What else is on tap in Central New York? Well, we’re on the road once again, so keep an eye out for new photos and video as we continue to tell the “Stories on Tap in Central New York.”

F.X. Matt Brewing Co. Hopes to Expand, Increase Capacity

F.X. Matt Brewing Co. is looking to expand.

The local brewery recently purchased several properties, on Edward Street, in West Utica with the aim to set up tanks to expand its capacity, Matt’s Chairman and CEO Nick Matt said.

“We’re planning to add on Edward Street tanks — fermenting and aging tanks — and a small building that would be used to monitor and run all that,” he said of the purchased buildings from 808-830 Edward St.
The property is in close proximity to the brewery located at the corner of Varick and Court streets.

F.X. Matt Brewing Co. currently brews about 350,000 barrels of beer a year, Matt said.

“As we get to the real peaks (like the fall season), we really are tight on capacity,” he said. “It really is consistent with what’s happening in craft brewing. Consumers are more and more interested in craft brews.”

The expansion could increase capacity between 100,000 to 150,000 barrels, Matt said


Saranac Wins Awards at New York International Beer Competition

The New York International Beer Competition is a unique competition because of its judges, who are retailers, distributors and beer buyers. Therefore, we’re very proud to share the following results:

  • Saranac Legacy IPA won silver for “American Style India Pale Ale”
  • Saranac Black Forest won bronze for “German Style Schwarzbier”
  • “New York Brewery of the Year”

We consider this a major accomplishment especially in this competition, where the judges are individuals who buy and sell beer for a living. What a great feeling to have this audience tell us our beers are among the best beers in the world.

F.X. Matt Brewing Co. Celebrates 125 Years in Business

Back in the late ‘50s and ‘60s, talking beer stein characters Schultz and Dooley promoted the mellow taste and naturalness of Utica Club lager in TV commercials. At the time, the brand was a strong regional competitor produced in Utica, N.Y., by West End Brewing Co., which is known today as F.X. Matt Brewing Co.

If those mugs could talk today, they’d have 125 years’ worth of new stories to tell as well as a new flagship brand to tout: Saranac. Although the family-owned brewery still sells Utica Club, albeit with very limited distribution, the Saranac brand family now makes up more than half of its sales throughout its distribution territories on the East Coast.

Last year, the brand paid homage to one of the brewery’s original beer recipes by launching Saranac Legacy IPA in celebration of the company’s 125th anniversary. F.X. Matt, grandfather of the company’s current Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Nick Matt and great-grandfather to its current President and Chief Operating Officer Fred Matt, originally founded the company on March 28, 1888.

“[Saranac Legacy IPA] comes off of my grandfather’s recipe from 1914 when he made an IPA,” Nick says. However, the brewers slightly adjusted the formula to keep up with the times.

“We did adjust the hops a little bit, so it’s a little bit hoppier because today’s IPAs tend to want to be a little hoppier in taste, but the malts we left the way they were,” he explains. “We used the traditional kinds of malts that he was using, so you end up with a lighter product in terms of color and also taste, and so that IPA is remarkably drinkable.”

The beer initially appeared last year on draft and in four-packs of 16-ounce cans as well as in a Brewer’s Dozen variety pack of 13 beers. Due to high demand, the brewery currently is rolling out Saranac Legacy IPA in six- and 12-packs of 12-ounce bottles.

Managing innovation

During its 125-year history, the company has faced Prohibition, two recessions, and a fire that wiped out its entire bottling operation. F.X. Matt Brewing Co. has literally “risen from the ashes” to become one of the top brewers in the United States. In fact, it ranked No. 8 on the Brewers Association’s list of the Top 50 U.S. craft brewing companies and No. 15 of overall U.S. brewers, based on 2012 beer sales volume. It attributes this success to its dedication to quality.


NFL Event, Online Poll Touting Local Beer

The F.X. Matt Brewing Co. is making a splash nationwide in a pre-Super Bowl event and rising in the ranks for a best craft brew poll.

Craft beer from Utica brewery will be one of the products showcased in a charity tasting party the day before the Super Bowl.

Saturday’s “Taste of the NFL Party with a Purpose” event in New York City will feature chefs and players representing the 32 teams of the league. An Associated Press story published Friday said, “New York will have food from city restaurants and craft beers from Utica, Syracuse and Brooklyn and distilled spirits from the Hudson Valley.”

A spokeswoman with Cuomo’s office confirmed Monday that the brewery is the only representation out of the Mohawk Valley for New York’s refreshments.

Also suds made from a century-old recipe for the brewery’s 125th anniversary named Saranac Legacy IPA is in the running to be the “Best Craft Beer of 2013” in a poll on popular beer website The Full Pint.


Saranac Releases New Spring Beers

Beat the cold and get ready to spring into warmer weather with Saranac’s “12 Beers A Springing” and their new spring seasonal, Prism.With Prism Ale, beer consumers are about to taste a mysteriously hazy beer with a bright citrusy and fruity flavor. The “Prism” name speaks to the interesting juxtaposition in this beer: a smooth white ale with a colorful finish.“When brewing our beers, it’s always fun to play with different ingredients to bring out characteristics already present in our yeast, malts and hops,” said President Fred Matt. “The refreshing flavor of Prism makes this a perfect beer to welcome the spring season, and in my opinion, it’s just down-right delicious.”In addition to Prism, several other seasonals are available in Saranac’s “12 Beers A Springing” pack. The pack includes Saranac Pale Ale, annual favorites, and a couple new innovative beers.

This year’s “12 Beers A Springing” includes:

Prism (NEW) – A new addition, this beer is a white ale with a hazy appearance and a bright, citrusy flavor. Pair it with full flavored, spicy Mediterranean foods and Roquefort or blue cheeses. (40 IBUs and 5.2% ABV)

Forbidden IPA (NEW)– Another new addition, this citrusy IPA has a distinctive fruity flavor complemented by a playful bitterness. Pair it with grilled seafood, fajitas or Indian foods, and jalapeno jack cheese. (42 IBUs and 5.0% ABV)

Red IPA – This is an IPA with a deep garnet color. Dark, English caramel malt adds a toasty, toffee note to the delicious hoppy finish. Pair it with Pad Thai, curry dishes, or spiced rice pudding, and blue cheeses.  (63 IBUs and 6.0% ABV)

Dry Hop Lager – Adding hops during aging gives this traditional German lager a very non-traditional hopped-up finish. Pair it with enchiladas, chili, fruit trifles or cobblers and white cheddar cheese. (30 IBUs and 6.0% ABV)

Irish Stout – This traditional Irish-style Stout may be black as night, but its creamy, roasty, deep flavor and smooth, refreshing finish will make your day. Pair it with raw oysters, Shepherd’s Pie or chocolate soufflé, and Dubliner cheddar cheese.  (30 IBUs and 5.5% ABV)

Pale Ale – A Saranac staple, this beer recently took gold in the pale ale category at the 2013 United States Open Beer Championship. This was the first competition Pale Ale was entered in after the brewery recently updated the brewing process for this classic favorite. Their new “Hop Infusion Process” maximizes beer to hop exposure for a fresher taste.  This well-balanced beer has a crisp finish. Pair it with burgers, bread pudding and cheddar cheese. (32 IBUs and 5.5% ABV)

Prism and “12 Beers A Springing” have been crafted with 125 years of brewing experience and are available for a limited time from the F.X. Matt Brewing Company, which is actively run by the third and fourth generations of the Matt family.

F.X. Matt Brewing Co. Receives Conservation Award from Utica Zoo

The 12th annual John J. and Wilma B. Sinnott Conservation Award was presented to the F. X. Matt Brewing Co. to recognize its Anaerobic Digester Project. The award, given in memory of John and Wilma Sinnott, was established in conjunction with the Utica Zoological Society.

In early 2012, the Brewery launched the building of their Anaerobic Digester Project, which cleans up their wastewater and ultimately generates 30-40 percent of their total electricity. The digester takes the bio content in the Brewery’s wastewater, digests it into methane gas, pumps that methane gas into a generator, and that generator outputs electricity. Through this process the digester also cleans up the wastewater load about 80-90 percent, making it easier on the city sewer system.

This award recognizes local efforts that show dedication to the preservation of the Earth’s wildlife and natural resources. Andria Heath, executive director of the Zoo, said, “The Utica Zoo mission is centered around the importance of conservation and we are honored to partner with the Sinnott family in recognizing worthy honorees over the years.”

Brew Central’s Syracuse Hosts Debut Craft New York Beer Fest

Some 400 craft beer fans packed Syracuse’s Landmark Theatre Nov. 16 in a New York-exclusive event that featured 24 breweries – including five Brew Central partners – serving up some 48 samples.

Good Nature Brewmaster Matt Whalen chats with a fan.
Good Nature Brewmaster Matt Whalen chats with Ken Hebb, owner of St. Lawrence Brewing Co. in Canton, N.Y.

The New York State Brewers Association’s Craft New York Beer Fest hoped to create a tasty and educational experience for partakers.

“That’s our thing: All the brewers are here. You can meet them and talk to them,” brewers association Executive Director Paul Leone said.

The debut festival of the 10-year-old New York brewers collective keyed in on that interaction, said Tim Butler, brewmaster at Brew Central’s Empire Brewing Co.

“Our movement is just starting to gain steam here,” Butler said, comparing the New York’s beer scene to well-established brew communities in California, Oregon and Colorado. “We have to educate the consumer that our beers are just as good if not better than other parts of the country.

“We’re not competitors here. When we join forces like this, we’re one voice,” he said.

Breweries – a small sampling of the New York State Brewers Association’s 140-plus members – represented just about every part of the state, including Central New York. Likewise, the Craft New York Beer Fest drew brew fans from places near and far.

Ryan and Darcy Hampel of Ottawa, Ontario, were extremely pleased with the variety of beer – a majority of which they’d never tried – and the opportunity to talk brew with the men and women who make it.

“The U.S. has the reputation of being the place for craft beer,” Ryan Hampel said. “It’s very cool to see what the trends are down here.”

Brew Central partners Brewery Ommegang, Empire, F.X. Matt/Saranac, Good Nature and Middle Ages brewing companies proudly poured their popular samples. Syracuse craft brew pub Kitty Hoynes also served up food samples along with a number of other local vendors.

The New York State Brewers Association will use the Syracuse fest as a catalyst for future events hosted all across the state, Leone said. The association targeted Syracuse for the inaugural New York brew celebration because of the excellent beer culture here.

“We get great beer here – a lot of people are surprised,” Butler said. “We’re just as well-versed as any other big beer city.”

The Craft New York Beer Fest appropriately capped off the sixth annual Syracuse Beer Week, one of the longest running such events in the country.

Demand for 125th Anniversary Legacy IPA Grows, Beer Now Available in Four-Packs

After adamant demands from Saranac fans for more of the 125th anniversary celebration brew Legacy IPA, F.X. Matt Brewing Company has announced that pints will soon be sold in four-packs.

Originally only available on tap or as a free bonus pint in specially marked, limited time packages of award-winning Pale Ale, White IPA and Trail Mix, the new four-packs will be hitting store shelves in late November.

“We’ve been overwhelmed with requests for more ways to get Legacy IPA,” said company President Fred Matt. “Who are we to argue with the masses? Our customers know what they want so we’re going to give it to them.”

Legacy IPA was born of a recently rediscovered original IPA recipe by company founder F.X. Matt. That original IPA recipe used the most innovative ingredients available at the time, and inspired current brewers to adapt it in homage to the company’s history. The current Legacy IPA features a blend of historic, traditional and innovative hops for a heavenly aroma and full-bodied flavor.

“Who knew one of Saranac’s newest beers would be from a recipe so old,” said Saranac fan Donald Lindhuber of Liverpool, N.Y. “When I found the Legacy IPA in my 12-pack, I knew this was going to be good. The inviting aroma of hops with a taste to match … This beer needs a pack of its own!”

Filmmaker Concentrates on Area Hops Growers for Documentary

Leslie Von Pless believes social change is best captured on film.

And one of the faster growing issues she’s latched on to? Hops, and the people who grow them.

“What I think is most important is not only the types of hops and how it’s made, but how it’s contributing to the local economy,” the New York City resident said.

A Central New York transplant – she grew up in Liverpool – Von Pless saw the craft beer movement spreading across the country, but wanted to explore it from its natural roots in New York. She chose several Mohawk Valley farmers for her documentary “Hopped Upstate: Rise of Hop Farming in New York,” which was released at the end of September.

The 15-minute film mostly features Dave Pasick and his wife Kayla of Szaro Farms, who fell into hops growing when they discovered the flower-like cones used to bitter and flavor beer  creeping up the side of a barn on their Schuyler property.

Von Pless filmed the family starting up in the fledgling business of hops growing. In their first year, the Pasicks picked a “measly five pounds” of hops they were then able to send to the F. X. Matt Brewing Co. for part of its Wet Hop IPA.


Governor Cuomo Recognizes F.X. Matt Brewing Co. CEO for Advancing the Craft Beer Industry

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo recognized F.X. Matt Brewing Co. Chairman and CEO Nick Matt for his leadership in growing the craft beer industry at a special Oktoberfest Celebration Oct. 3 at Brooklyn Brewery. Nick was awarded the “Pioneer in Industry Award.” This is the first award of its kind given by the Governor.

The F.X. Matt Brewing Co., brewers of Saranac beer, was founded in 1888 in Utica, N.Y. Today, under the leadership of Nick and Fred Matt – the third and fourth generations of the Matt family – the brewery is celebrating 125 years of brewing.

“We appreciate that our role, not only as a craft brewer but also as a brewer helping others, has been recognized by the Governor,” said Nick Matt. “We’re gratified to have received an award honoring our historical importance to growing craft beer in New York State.”

The Governor’s office invited more than 20 craft breweries from across the state to showcase their Autumnal offerings at this private event. The goal of Thursday’s celebration was to educate and engage buyers from the hospitality and tourism industries on the quality, diversity and accessibility of New York State craft beer.

The F.X. Matt Brewery has long worked to support the New York State economy by partnering with other State-based companies, supporting local agriculture, giving back to local charities, and sourcing local ingredients whenever possible. The company is pleased that Governor Cuomo is taking an active role in trying to develop the craft beer business in the State. At the Governor’s Wine, Beer & Spirits Summit last October, Nick was very vocal about the lack of support for NYS Beers at the State Fair. At this year’s fair, as a result of Nick calling attention to this issue, several venues were created to highlight New York State products and several incentives were put into place. This helped increased F.X. Matt sales at the fair by 50 percent.

“New York State has so many wonderful, home-grown products,” Nick said. “We were very pleased to see the Governor’s office strongly advocate for the enhanced promotion of New York State products at the fair.”

Saranac continues to showcase the superior offerings NY has to offer, whenever possible. They currently offer two brews that feature New York State-sourced ingredients, Tramonay Vineyard Saison and Farm to Tap – Fresh Hop IPA.

Tramonay Vineyard Saison is the first in the recently re-staged High Peaks series. This unique brew features a full-flavored grape hybrid from Cornell University’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, highlighted by three distinctive hops (hallertau blanc, madarina bavaria, and huell melon), bred at the Hop Research Institute in Hull, Germany.

Farm to Tap – Fresh Hop IPA is a true testament to supporting local. This beer uses fresh heirloom hops picked by Saranac fans at local Wrobel Farms to boast an excellent aroma with a dry, citrusy taste and fresh leafy greenness brought on by the unique fresh-hop brewing process.

F.X. Matt Brings Innovation to Great American Beer Festival

What do you get when you cross the experience of a 125-year-old brewery with a drive to revolutionize the beer industry? Nothing short of 11 fantastic entries into the country’s largest and most-anticipated beer festival and competition.With innovation brewed into each of F.X. Matt Brewing Co.‘s entries into the 2013 Great American Beer Festival (GABF), Oct. 10-12 in Denver, Colo., everyone at the brewery is excited about their shot at a medal.

“Some may think it’s hard to stay fresh and relevant for a company that has been participating since the festival’s start in 1982,” said company President Fred Matt. “But we’ve been scheming up some pretty outstanding recipes in our new pilot brewery, and I think we’ve got more than a few knockout entries this year.”

So Fresh, So New

F.X. Matt Brewing Co. has pulled out all the stops to celebrate its 125th anniversary this year. That includes feverishly testing and developing new and innovative recipes.

Even Saranac staples – such as Pale Ale, which was entered into competition Category 47: Classic English Style Pale Ale – are getting a fresh new spin. Saranac brewers updated this flagship beer by using their new “Hop Infusion Process,” which maximizes beer-to-hop exposure for an even more refreshing taste. The change hasn’t gone unnoticed: this 5.5% ABV Pale Ale took home a gold medal at the 2013 United States Open Beer Championship.

Some of the new brews entered into the 2013 GABF competition include:

  • Saranac West End IPA, Category 52: American Style IPA, 7.7% ABV – With a name that pays homage to the brewery’s history in the West side of Utica, N.Y., brewers tested countless individual hops in their new pilot brewery to achieve the sharpest, brightest flavor in this great West Coast Style IPA.
  • Tramonay Vineyard Saison, Category 69: French and Belgian Style Saison, 7.4% ABV – This aromatic beer is a brewing marvel featuring a full-flavored grape hybrid from Cornell University’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, highlighted by three distinctive hops (hallertau blanc, madarina bavaria, and huell melon) bred at the Hop Research Institute in Hull, Germany.
  • Farm to Tap – Fresh Hop IPA, Category 15: Fresh Hop Ale, 7.0% ABV – A true testament to supporting local, this beer uses fresh heirloom hops picked by Saranac fans at local Wrobel Farms to boast an excellent aroma with a dry, citrusy taste and fresh leafy greenness brought on by the unique fresh-hop brewing process.

F.X. Matt Brewing Company thinks these beers are also pretty fantastic – and hopes the judges at this year’s GABF competition do, too:

  • Saranac Pumpkin Ale – Category 5: Field or Pumpkin Beer – Subcategory B: Pumpkin Beer – 5.1% ABV
  • Saranac White IPA – Category 18: American Belgo Style Ale – Subcategory A: Pale American Belgo Style Ale – 6.0% ABV
  • Saranac Adirondack Lager – Category 36: German Style Marzen – 5.5% ABV
  • Saranac Black Forest – Category 39: American Style Dark Lager – 5.3% ABV
  • Saranac Legacy IPA – Category 51: American Style Strong Pale Ale – 6.5% ABV
  • Utica Club – Category 33 American Style Lager or Light Lager – Subcategory A: American Style Lager – 5.0% ABV
  • ProAm Entry: Panther Lake Gose – Category 85: ProAm & Category 65: German-Style Sour Ale – Subcategory B: Leipzig-Style Gose – 7.3%

Stop, Collaborate and Listen

Collaboration is also the name of the game for brewers these days.

In a unique pairing, F.X. Matt Brewing Company joined forces with home brewer Carl Woodward of Panther Lake, N.Y., who took home “Best in Show” in the 2013 New York State Fair Home Brewer’s Competition. F.X. Matt brewers worked with Woodward to develop his Gose recipe into an exceptional entry into GABF’s ProAm competition.

“Collaborations are unique because you get the advantage of having the knowledge and experience of both brewers,” said Rich Michaels, product development manager for F.X. Matt. “Each brewer has a style they love to brew or a technique specific to their brewery, so it’s fun to put our heads together and come up with something that will be really different. The result ends up being a really unique and exceptional beer, both in style and flavor.”

VIDEO: Hopped Upstate – The Rise of Hop Farming in New York

HOPPED UPSTATE: Rise of Hop Farming in New York from WAKE Multimedia on Vimeo.

Dave Pasick is starting a hops yard on his family farm in Utica, N.Y. Located right in the middle of the Mohawk Valley’s former hops belt, Dave found wild hops growing around the old barn and silo on his land.

After transplanting them to a homemade trellis, he was able to successfully grow new hops last summer. His first harvest was used to make a wet hop IPA for F.X. Matt Brewing Co./Saranac.

Craft beer is booming across the country. New York itself ranks in the top three states with the fastest growing craft beer industry. It’s been called a “bright spot” in the state’s economy and the rapid growth is welcomed in many areas of upstate New York.

In 2012, the state Legislature passed the Farm Brewery Act, which includes tax incentives and other benefits to give financial relief to burgeoning breweries. The legislation requires that 20 percent of ingredients used by breweries must come from New York state farms, and that will increase eventually to 90 percent.

Dave and other farmers are hoping that by incentivizing local hops and barley production, it will create a new market for the products needed by local craft breweries.

During the first year that the Farm Brewery Act is in effect, Dave plans to expand his hop yard in hopes for not only a larger harvest this season, but to be a part of a budding economic movement in his rural hometown.

Created by:
Leslie Von Pless

Vegabond Motel by Chris Molitor
Pay It Forward by Olive Musique
Room With A View by Jahzzar