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 craftbeer.com, beeradvocate.com and beerconnoisseur.com 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.”

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.”


Good Nature Brewing Celebrates 2nd Anniversary

With live music and plenty of homemade beer flowing, Good Nature Brewing celebrated their second anniversary on Jan. 11 with a festive event that brought out hundreds of well-wishers.

The party at their tap room in Hamilton brought out many supporters, said Good Nature’s owner/general manager Carrie Blackmore, as the live musicians all donated their time and nearby businesses helped make it a success with their own contributions. Oliveri’s Pizzeria donated tomato pies for hungry party-goers, while the Hamilton Eatery made a batch of extra-jumbo chocolate chip cookies for the party.

“I just can’t say thank you to everyone enough times,” Blackmore said. “This was truly a community event.”

Live music included emcee Zachary Collins plus local singer-songwriter favorites Edwin Vollmer, Blaine Holcomb, Tommy Hoe, Todd Rogers, Brendan O’Connor, Lauren Mettler, Joe Mettler, Nate Gross, and Brian Murphy.

“Good Nature Brewing is a warm, comfortable, authentic place where all can feel welcome and part of the family,” Mettler said. “Matt [Whalen, Good Nature’s master brewer] and Carrie are obviously devoted to not only the quality of their product, but having open arms and bringing people of the community together.”

“This place is awesome,” Rogers added. “It’s a great community spot and a fun place to play.

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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.

Local Brewery Named Among the Best

Good Nature Brewing, located in Hamilton, was recently named one of 10 “awesome farm-to-pint breweries” by FarmFlavor.com, a national website that highlights the best in recipes, cooking tips, farmers’ guides and more that follow food’s journey from the farm to the kitchen.

For the inaugural list of some of the best farm-to-pint breweries across the United States, FarmFlavor.com editors looked at breweries with a commitment to source the best local ingredients for their beers while also supporting their local agriculture industry.

“You won’t get very far in today’s agriculture world without hearing the term ‘farm-to-fork’ because eating local has become an important part of both the local restaurant scene as well as the local economy,” says Rachel Bertone, FarmFlavor.com spokesman. “We took this concept a step further by looking at breweries and eateries that encourage patrons to ‘drink local’ as well.”

Sourcing locally has been part of the Good Nature Brewing business plan since its founding in 2011.


Governor Cuomo Welcomes 14 Licensed Farm Breweries in New York State

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo today welcomed 14 newly-licensed local farm breweries that have opened as a result of legislation signed by the Governor that took effect in January 2013. The “Farm Brewery” license allows craft brewers that use products grown in New York State to operate in a similar fashion to the state’s farm wineries, leading to increased demand for locally grown farm products as well as expanded economic development and tourism.

Additionally, the Governor announced nearly a 100 percent increase in microbreweries across the state over the past two-plus years. In the first quarter of 2011, there were 51 licensed microbreweries across New York State; today, there are 93.

With the opening of 14 farm breweries since January and a nearly 100 percent increase in our microbreweries, it is clear that New York’s craft beer industry is booming – and this is just the beginning,” Governor Cuomo said. “The State is committed to promoting New York’s exceptional food and beverage producers through our Taste NY initiative and investments in research and development to further grow the industry. Not only do these efforts benefit New York’s craft breweries, but they also help our agricultural sector to flourish. We want New Yorkers and visitors alike to ‘buy local’ and keep coming back for more.”

In July 2012, Governor Cuomo signed legislation to support and strengthen New York’s craft breweries. Under the new law, in order to receive a Farm Brewery license in New York State, the beer must be made primarily from locally grown farm products. Until the end of 2018, at least 20% of the hops and 20% of all other ingredients must be grown or produced in New York State. From January 1, 2018 to December 31, 2023, no less than 60% of the hops and 60% of all other ingredients must be grown or produced in New York State. After January 1, 2024, no less than 90% of the hops and 90% of all other ingredients must be grown or produced in New York State. The beer manufactured under these guidelines would be designated as “New York State labeled beer.” The legislation was modeled after the 1976 “Farm Winery Act,” which spurred the growth of wine production in this state, including the creation of 261 farm wineries and tripling the number of wineries.

Under the farm brewery license, brewers do not need an additional permit to serve beer by the glass, which has the highest return for brewers in terms of sales. Farm brewers can also make cider and serve that cider by the glass. They are allowed to have five branch offices, where they can sell their products and other New York State labeled beer, wine, and liquor, in addition to having tasting rooms, retail shops and restaurants

There are currently 14 licensed farm breweries in New York State, which use 20 percent of local products in their blends, with more than a dozen more applications currently in the pipeline. These include:

  • Good Nature Brewing (Hamilton)
  • The Beer Diviner (Stephentown)
  • Rooster Fish Brewing (Watkins Glen)
  • Climbing Bines Hop Farm (Penn Yan)
  • Hopshire Farm and Brewery (Freeville)
  • Fairport Brewing Company (Fairport)
  • Brown’s Brewing Co. (Troy)
  • Abandon Brewing Company (Penn Yan)
  • Hamburg Brewing Company (Hamburg)
  • Erie Canal Brewing Company (Canastota)
  • Henneberg Brewing Company (Cazenovia)
  • Long Ireland Beer Company (Riverhead)
  • Honey Hollow Brewery (Earlton)

The farm brewery legislation is also helping to grow the state’s agricultural sector. This year’s hops acreage is currently at about 140, which is double the amount of last year’s number of acres. Growers have already invested more than $2 million in hops production over the last two years. When investments in tractors, buildings, harvesters and malt houses are factored in, this investment is much higher.

The current state budget includes $40,000 for the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva to establish an acre of disease-free certified hop varieties that are of particular interest to the New York hop industry. The hop varieties were certified as part of the USDA National Clean Plant Network Program. Research is being conducted at the Station to determine how well the hop varieties perform and what practices need to be implemented to control major diseases and pests that can threaten hop production in New York. The planting will provide opportunities for faculty and hop growers to interact in research that will be essential for the growth and prosperity of the industry.

In addition, more than $117,000 in Consolidated Funding Application dollars is helping New York Craft Malt in Batavia purchase equipment and machinery. New York Craft Malt will use locally-grown, malt grade barley at the facility.

Dean Norton, president of New York Farm Bureau, said, “New York Farm Bureau has always been a strong supporter of increasing opportunities for our farmer members. The opportunity created by the new farm category of licenses – either winery, distilleries, cideries or breweries – has created new possibilities for growth. I’ve seen firsthand the excitement of our farmers when their kids return to the farm and embrace the beverage sector, by planting relatively newer crops like hops, malting barley varieties, and of course, new varieties of grapes. We’re pleased to have worked with Governor Cuomo and the Legislature to create these new opportunities and look forward to tasting more New York products.”

Paul Leone, executive director of New York State Brewers Association, said, “With more hops and malted barley being planted every year, more and more breweries will have the opportunity to qualify for a farm brewery license and take advantage of this legislation signed by Governor Cuomo. The growth of our industry is huge – at the rate we’re going, we could possibly see over 200 breweries across New York State by the end of 2014. I thank the Governor and the state’s lawmakers for their continued support of our industry.”

Garry Sperrick, owner of Abandon Brewing Co. in Penn Yan, said, “We received our Farm Brewery license at the end of July and just opened our tap room on September 28. By late afternoon our parking lot was full. We’re already developing a loyal grassroots following. We’ve also been active in sampling under the ‘Taste NY’ initiative, which has helped our business get some great exposure outside of Penn Yan. In addition to hops, our farm grows grapes and apples, which we plan to convert into cider and beer flavors. The farm brewery license is great for our business and is helping local agriculture expand as well.”

Jonathan Post, owner of The Beer Diviner in Stephentown, said, “Our tap room has been open in Stephentown since early summer. I’ve been a one man operation since last year and thanks to the Farm Brewery license I plan to hire an additional worker to help me with bottling and distribution. The farm brewery license also helps me diversify my brews with home grown New York State products, which in turn tell their own story in every glass. My coffee oatmeal stout has won a bronze medal for best beer in the Hudson Valley and we have a number of other beers to choose from. I appreciate the state’s support for my business.”

Greg Stacy, vice president of sales and marketing for Brown’s Brewing Co. in Troy and Hoosick Falls, said, “Brown’s has been brewing its own hops and working with other hops farmers for a number of years now. The Farm Brewery License helps us be a visible participant in the ‘buy local’ movement. We are pleased to partner with the state on this initiative, which is still in its infancy. We’re a local New York company and we’re excited about the great promise that this industry has to offer.”

The Governor created an online “one stop shop” to provide New York’s wine, beer and spirits producers with a single point of government contact for assistance regarding regulations, licensing, state incentives and any other questions facing the industry.

As Madison County’s Hop Fest Approaches, Area Finds Itself on the Leading Edge of a Brewery Boom

For years, the annual Madison County Hop Festival has celebrated the area’s rich history of hop-growing, and, by extension, beer brewing.

The present is finally catching up to the history.

When this year’s hop fest gets under way this weekend – Good Nature Brewing Co. in Hamilton – and two more in the planning stages that should open in 2014.

Those are Empire Brewery in Cazenovia, a standalone spin-off of Armory’s Square’s Empire Brewing Co., and Henneberg Brewing Co., which will be located in the town of Cazenovia near New Woodstock.

All three have, or will have, state licenses that let them operate as a “farm brewery,” a new designation that offers tax incentives and other benefits to brewers who use New York state-sourced ingredients, including barley and hops. The amount of New York ingredients required to keep the benefits increases over time.


Belgium Comes to Cooperstown at Brewery Ommegang

It’s finally time to put the bow on the annual extravaganza that is Belgium Comes To Cooperstown at Brewery Ommegang. Every year on the outskirts of the quaint and lovely throwback of a village called Cooperstown, the brewery puts on what has without much argument turned into a bucket-list type of beer festival.

You may have caught up with the pictures that I loaded immediately in the days after BCTC ’13. The words, though, have taken me longer to get around to. Remember how I’ve always boasted that the words come easier to me than the pictures? Hmm.

Bryan Kolesar | The Brew Lounge

Anyway, to get this all properly shared with you and to close out this 10th anniversary chapter of BCTC at Brewery Ommegang, I’ll again thank the brewery for their hospitality and get on with the sharing in abbreviated bullet format. Also, for the sneak peeks and tastes of new beers from Ommegang soon to be hitting retail shelves, look below for where I mention them.

Theme – Always the clever theme-setters at BCTC, the brewery played up the Seinfeld theme in ways big and small (and probably some I didn’t even notice) throughout the weekend. From the episodes being projected on the side of the building for late-night viewing entertainment, to VIP dinner menu and table decorations, to Costanza’s infamous Timeless Art of Seduction (see pictures for the full picture if you dare).

Weather – Other than a quick storm on Friday evening, Mother Nature offered up a nice respite from last year’s heat. If you’ve been to BCTC multiple times over the years or followed along with The Brew Lounge’s annual chronicle of the event, you know this is always a wild card element of the weekend given the wacky microclimates of the region.

Bryan Kolesar | The Brew Lounge

Organization – More than ever, the brewery has battened down the hatches and turned this festival into a well-run and organized event. Keeping the total attendance under 3,000 seems to have helped the brewery find its sweet spot in terms of optimal crowd control and event management. This year, that included expanded parking, the registration tent pushed out into the field, and golf cart transportation hospitality for campers arriving on Friday with all of their campsite gear. That last feature scored big points with many of the VIP guests, including me, who have asked in past years for a more accommodating option to set up campsites in lieu of being permitted to drive on to the property in order to drop off their cargo.

Hop Chef – I love this thing called Hop Chef that they coordinate around the country for a few months leading up to BCTC. The culinary competition, which involves beers from the Ommegang/Duvel family (natch), culminates with the finals during BCTC but I hesitate to say that it’s everything that it can/should be. The celebration of food and beer is played up big time in the regional showdowns and would seem to be deserving of a grander culmination. Whether it was the tasting tables running short of samples or the rather tepid gathering by the main stage for the winning chef announcement, there seem to be elements — and I’m not able to put a finger specifically what those one or two things are — missing that would make the Hop Chef competition finals a more wildly successful conclusion than it currently is.

Extracirriculars – Each year, BCTC offers up a little something new to add to the well-rounded nature of the weekend. This year, it was a bit larger than just a “little something.” A ferris wheel gave rides late into the evening and was quite popular with a seemingly never-ending line of eager riders. Our campsite neighbors even found their way up there for a memorable wedding proposal (and acceptance!). Congratulations to Jen and Jeff!! Adding to the extracirriculars, as well, was an ever-expanding vendor area that included everything from homebrew equipment to massage chairs to a phone-charging station. Food options plus plenty of free bottled water were readily available too. If you follow me closely enough around here, you know how big that last bit about abundantly available free/included water is to me.

Bryan Kolesar | The Brew Lounge

Brewery shoutouts – It’s easy to give props to the recurring great work on display from longtimers like Allagash, Brooklyn,Dogfish Head, and, of course, host Ommegang/Duvel.

And then there are the ones not quite as old, but almost as familiar, like Captain Lawrence, Ithaca, Peekskill, Smuttynose and White Birch.

More interesting, still, every year to me is the emergence of the new guys on the scene. This year, I counted nine breweries that not only have I never had a beer of theirs, I’ve never heard of them. Notable amongst the ones I did have this year came from the likes of Good Nature (Hypocritte Witte — refreshing with chamomile), Hopshire Farm (Zingabeer — a Belgian pale with a zing of ginger), Port Jefferson (H3 Trippel — nicely balanced for a 10.1 percent), and Singlecut Beersmiths (Le Von La Saison D’Falle).

New beers from Ommegang – Brewery Ommegang plans to keep the hits coming with four new beers that will be hitting the market in coming months. I’m betting that they’ll be big hits. I was invited to take a quick sample of them with Innovation Manager, Mike McManus. First up, for you Game of Thrones junkies, Take the Black will be released throughout September as the second beer in the series with serious thematic ties to the HBO show. While the first Iron Throne was a pretty good Belgian ale, I’m liking this one even more as it strikes a very nice balance with licorice root and anise. These are two flavors, when in beer, I’d typically be cautious of. However, back to the word balance, the brewery has done such a nice job with a deft balancing of these flavors in a 7 percent imperial stout.

I’ve been high on Grisette this summer, particularly from Sly Fox, as perfect summer thirst-quencher. The Grisette presented by McManus from Ommegang was similarly refreshing, but with a bit more of a pepper spice kick, mostly likely thanks to the pink peppercorns used in the recipe.

Wild at Heart is the 100-percent Brettanomyces fermented beer due out by around Thanksgiving time in 750ml bottles. This was a “bonus beer” that McManus unveiled at the end of the “new beer” presentation and I could not have been more pleased. The beer was undergoing its house yeast conditioning and was exhibiting wonderful tropical and slightly tart fruit flavors without laying on too much Brett funk that you might expect to find when you hear the word Brettanomyces. The brewery employed two relatively new hops from New Zealand, Topaz and Motueka. You should find this beer to be quite the crowd pleaser, full of flavor and delivering plenty of thirst-quenching refreshment. A small taste of this has me looking forward to grab several bottles of this in November for both fresh drinking and a bit of storage.

Last, but certainly not least, while the retirement (or, at least, retirement from year-round production) of the BPA will come as sad news to many of you (myself included), the Hop House is shaping up to be a very fine replacement. Resplendent with a really nice hop flavor and aroma, the 6 percent dry-hopped pale ale should be entering the fold by end of 2013.

That’s all? To close with some nuggets from Larry Bennett, who graciously sat with me to discuss his ten years of involvement in both planning and executing the festival, ” … drinking really great beers with old friends that make up the ‘community’ is truly one of the high points of every year. Meeting new friends and meeting old brewer friends in ‘tent city’ is a fun part of the weekend.” I couldn’t agree more.

Bennett was one of the four original compatriots that conspired to put together this little beer festival on the brewery grounds on a shoestring budget of not even $10,000 and less than three months of planning in 2004 shortly after he joined the company. Tickets were $25 — sold over the phone and in person — and around 800 locals and people from around the region showed up to camp and drink great beer.

These days the health department and fire marshal complete thorough inspections for two days prior to the event and the total undertaking runs into the six digits and people travel from far and wide to attend with tickets that sell out with minutes (VIP) and hours (general). Now, a staff of three headed up by Tara Aitchison (who also oversees the store and café) begins planning around the winter holidays with the construction of an overall theme.

Having Duvel Moortgat USA President & CEO Simon Thorpe, previously a Stella exec, on board certainly doesn’t hurt given his enthusiastic support of the annual event as well as other events throughout the year like concerts (which can draw 3,000-5,000), family-oriented events, and old-time baseball games. Bennett says that Thorpe loves throwing events such as these, even if they barely break even, because they “bring people in, especially a more diverse group, including more women, than ever, to reach new audiences to experience new beer, but profitability is not the first goal in mind when event planning.”

I concurred on the point of introducing new people to new beer. If we still like the term “gateway beer”, I suggested that Wild At Heart (see above) will be a great gateway for all of Bennett’s and Ommegang’s new friends that visit the brewery.

With that, Larry went off to taste some Wild at Heart and I went off in search of the rest of the day’s events at one of the country’s best beer events/festivals.