Nick and Fred Matt returned to the family business two decades ago determined to put the century-old F.X. Matt brewery on the forefront of the craft movement with Saranac beers.
Today, a second member of the fourth generation – Nick’s son of the same name – joins the team amid a boutique beer boom led in large part by F.X. Matt.
The brewery and the award-winning craft beers produced here make it an upstate destination and landmark in the industry. Visitors enjoy a tour that’s part brewery and part museum. F.X. Matt proudly houses Victorian opulence and artifacts from many, many decades past in addition to its signature copper boil kettles and state-of-the-art bottling operation.
“Growing up in the family business, it was always my goal to come back and work here,” Fred says. “I think that being part of something that is yours and your family’s … it’s in your blood.”
Francis Xavier (F.X.) Matt arrived in Utica via Germany four generations ago and founded the West End Brewing Co. in 1888, although beer has been brewed on this site since 1853. Known for decades as makers of Utica Club – the first beer licensed for sale following Prohibition – the Saranac line of brews quietly debuted in the 1980s and took off after the Adirondack Lager earned gold at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival in 1991.
Nick (Chairman and CEO) and Fred (President and COO), the third and fourth generations of Matts, have since guided the F.X. Matt Brewery and Saranac to the forefront of the craft beer movement. Among Saranac’s contributions to the industry are variety packs that have grown from the original “Trail Mix” to seasonal offerings released four times each year.
Nationally known craft beer advocates, Nick and Fred are quick to point out that less than 50 breweries dotted the U.S. That number tops 3,000 today, giving the industry great strength and variety. The bar is consistently raised, they say. They’re happy with the competition and confident in their brewers.
Today, F.X. Matt a top 20 producer of beer in the U.S., known for its endless selection of styles and limited-release High Peaks Series. The dedicated band of Saranac brewers craft more than 65 different recipes in a year, including an IPA recently resurrected more than 100 years after the brewery’s founder last made a batch.
While far too large to regularly use local ingredients, the Matts remain dedicated to the Utica community and Central New York, hosting the after-party that follows the famous Boilermaker Road Race as well as weekly concerts dubbed “Saranac Thursdays.”
The experimental brews that come out of its lab are actually crafted using equipment purchased from Good Nature Farm Brewery & Tap Room, F.X. Matt’s nano-brew neighbors to the south, and for many years Saranac fans were tapped to help harvest hops from a local farm that went into a very-limited-release wet hop ale.
“We certainly as a family had had a tradition of making things that were unusual and having success with them,” Nick says, citing the IPA that his grandfather brewed in 1914 and numerous variations of Utica Club over the years as examples. “But, the quality of the product is absolutely the most important thing and I think that comes down from my grandfather.
“As a brewing philosophy, we have made beers that are distinctive, that are different, but they’re also very drinkable.”