Marc Rubenstein remembers the early days of Middle Ages, the brewery he founded with his wife, Mary, in 1994. At that time, he essentially went door-to-door trying to get bars to carry his traditional English-style ales.
“If they had Sam (Adams) on tap, we knew we’ve got a shot,” Marc says. And before the craft beer boom of the 1990s, that was about all you could get. Part of Marc’s uphill battle was convincing Central New York publicans that brew from their own backyard was, well … good.
“There was this perception that ‘If it’s brewed here, how good can it be?’” he says.
It ended up being better than good, actually, as more and more pubs started carrying tap handles with medieval-inspired titles like Grail, Wizard’s Winter and Beast Bitter ales.
Early on, he formed a key partnership with Syracuse dining landmark Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. Now boasting seven locations in three states, Dino offers the Middle Ages-crafted house ale dubbed Ape Hanger.
Today Middle Ages Brewing Co. enjoys an envious following of dedicated fans and touts itself as one of the largest suppliers of casks in New York state.
The brewery uses a 160-year-old strain of Ringwood yeast from Yorkshire, England, and employs an old-school open fermentation process. Everything is done by hand, automation-free.
It’s just the way Marc intended. The former home-brewer and Syracuse native left behind the scrap metal business to craft beers he loves for the city and region he’s so fond of.
Marc got his professional start in Portland, Maine, under the tutelage of famed craft brewer Alan Pugsley, a biochemist who came to the States in 1986. He brought with him the Ringwood yeast so important to Marc’s process.
To this day, Marc uses Pugsley’s trailblazing direct-fire, brick-sheathed brew kettle system. Besides the yeast and brewing equipment, Syracuse water gives Middle Ages beers a unique flavor profile, Marc says. The thick walls of the brewery – a former ice cream factory – allow his fermenters and casks to age well year round with little temperature control.
In the tasting room, it’s all about education. Marc is happy share knowledge about his beer and talk about others with visitors. The philosophy for Marc and so many others in Brew Central is simple: “We’re trying to get people to drink better beer.”
Stop by Middle Ages for tastings and growler fills 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.
For the past several years, Middle Ages has invited the community and fans to celebrate its anniversary in August with music, food and drink in the neighborhood park across the street from the brewery.