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.

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New Farm Brewery Coming to Cazenovia

What started as a passion for home-brewing beer seven years ago is taking shape as the first farm brewery to be created in the Cazenovia area this year.

John and Maria Henneberg, owners of the Henneberg Tavern on Albany Street, are in the process of creating a micro-brewery called Henneberg Brewing Co. on their 97-acre farm in New Woodstock. The new brewing enterprise will be one with a smaller, more local scale of production versus the upcoming Empire Brewing Company farmstead brewery on Route 13 — and one less likely to cause controversy.

The Hennebergs will not only brew their beer at the new farm brewery, but they are already growing and processing hops and grains on their farm with an ultimate goal of growing 100 percent of their raw brewing materials within eight-to-10 years.

“This has always been a dream, but I never thought it was a real dream,” said John Henneberg, whose home brews were so well-made that he had a waiting list of family and friends wanting his product. About five years ago he began pushing himself to make better brews and see if his beer could be produced and sold on a bigger scale. With the opening of the Henneberg Tavern in Cazenovia last year, the idea to make and sell on tap Henneberg Brewing Co. beers at the tavern seemed even more possible.

Henneberg currently has a few acres of hops and barley planted and growing on his New Woodstock farm, which will continue to “fill out” for another four to five years, and ultimately he plans to change about 30 acres currently planted with alfalfa to barley fields, he said.

“I hope to be the only brewery in the area to grow and brew our own beer — actually I think we’ll be in the only one in New York state. As of last year, there were none,” Henneberg said.

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