Central New York complements its endless beer offerings with homegrown, handcrafted beverages of another variety. Savor a sip from some of New York’s finest cideries, distilleries and wineries in Brew Central.
Central New York complements its endless beer offerings with homegrown, handcrafted beverages of another variety. Savor a sip from some of New York’s finest cideries, distilleries and wineries in Brew Central.
Located on a ridge overlooking Butternut Creek, Pheasant Ridge Vineyards is dedicated to hand-making premium wines in the tradition of the small farm wineries of Alsace and the Rhine river valleys. Wines are specially crafted to be taken with food and good company.
The winery has grown out of many years of experience of making wines for family consumption. Both John Sustare and Kent Wells have produced grape and fruit wines over the past 30 years.
In 2005, Syracuse wine enthusiast Andy Watkins established Lakeland Winery as the first custom-winemaking facility in New York state.
Make your own wine at Lakeland during wine-making parties each weekday evening from 5 to 7 p.m. Spend an hour sampling many delicious wines, then make your own batch of 30 bottles in 15 minutes. Return in seven weeks to bottle, cork and label your own wine.
The story of Anyela’s Vineyards began three generations ago in eastern Europe and continues today on the hillside high above Skaneateles Lake. The Nocek family combines its viticultural experience with the cooler climate patterns and fertile soil to grow select grapes.
Stroll through the beautiful vineyards and enjoy the spectacular views. Sample Anyela’s award-winning wines and savor the experience. Reservations are available for winery tours as well.
Russell Scimeca quite literally went back to his roots when he decided to start a brewery. The Leatherstocking Home Brewers club he joined more than a decade ago used to meet in the building that is now the home to Roots Brewing Co.
Russell spent a good chunk of his 20s seasoning his palate with the help of publications like Yankee Brew News. Back in the day, he would rip out portions of the paper that contained breweries he wanted to visit throughout the Northeast.
After meeting co-founder Jason Parrish through a friend of his wife’s, business plans started brewing. A lover of Belgian ales and scientist by trade, Jason treats the brewery like a different type of lab where experimentation and intense precision produce exceptional beers.
Russell: “Roots for us is about grass roots. It’s about coming up out of the earth, coming up out of a place of not being in the industry, coming up and building this essentially from nothing. We’re all self-funded. We had to use every penny very wisely and put together the space that we knew we would want to come and hang out in with our family and friends, bringing in artists to come and decorate our walls, bringing in different colors. This bar, for example, was hewn from my father-in-law’s uncle’s property. We went out, reclaimed it, brought it to another sawmill, had it planned, and so we built this by hand. It took quite a while. I’ve got limited business experience. My partner’s got a bit of brewing experience. He’s a well-seasoned scientist.”
Jason: “I was in drug design. I wanted to get into drug delivery systems. We’re just going to narrow down the drug to alcohol, and we’re going to design the systems for it. Brewing is a lot like cooking. It’s like cooking soup, in a way. It’s a blend of flavors and being able to see what you want. A lot of people think science is very rigid and following a recipe, but it’s really more of an art. I think the most successful scientists are very creative,. I like to be creative, and express myself creatively. Brewing is perfect for that.” “We like to keep maybe three solid regular beers and then rotate the rest as needed. Inconceivable to straight Belgium triple. Like I said, Abbey style, no spices, all pale and Pils malts. We do add Belgium candy syrup to it. Another one of our cores is the bonafide black. That was a recipe … I think Russ spontaneously came up with it. Not spontaneously, you know, a little bit of research and stuff. We tweaked it a little bit, but it’s one of the customer favorites. So far the beer’s been really well received.”
Russell: “There’s two colleges. There’s a lot of professionals that want beer and want to come here to drink beer. We believe in supporting local main streets. Not interested in supporting sprawl. We really want to bring people together where they shop and buy historically storefront. Upstate New York’s downtowns are shriveling. We want to be a part of revitalizing that.”
In many ways, Critz Farms hard cider took more than a century to get here. Matthew and Juanita Critz use an antique apple press, name the ciders in tribute to their farm’s 200-year history and use hops with roots in the 1800s.
It’s all about taking time at Critz Farms Brewing & Cider Co. Matthew spent five years perfecting his award-winning ciders made from carefully selected and locally sourced apples – many from their own orchard at Critz Farms.
The evolution of Critz Farms in Cazenovia began 30 years ago, when Matthew and Juanita purchased the 325-acre former dairy operation and became farmers for the first time. For Matthew and Juanita, it’s about taste, tradition and the farm-to-table philosophy that drives their business.
Matthew Critz: We started with Christmas trees and then people started wondering, “Well, what are you doing to do in the Fall?” And so we started picking pumpkins, and once we started picking pumpkins then we started adding rides and a petting zoo and all this other stuff, and then everybody said, “Well, why don’t you have apples?” We said, “OK, we’ll have apples.” We planted the orchard and bought the cider press at the same time and we started pressing cider when we first started picking apples. It couldn’t have been the first week we were pressing cider and everybody started saying, “When are you doing to make hard cider?”
I start thinking about that and say, “Well, that’s not a bad idea. People are asking for it”, so we actually started trialing. We trialed for three or four years, different yeast, different apples plans and stuff, before Nita and I were confident that we had a quality product and one that we could duplicate. Then we took the big plunge and built a winery and here we are in the hard cider business.
Juanita Critz: We make nine ciders besides the seasonal ciders that we make, and the first one that we came up with is called Rippleton Original. This is a champagne style cider that does its secondary fermentation in the bottle. We do something sort of different; we use maple syrup as the charge in the cider to cause that secondary fermentation. Because we’re maple syrup producers and we make the syrup right here on the farm, we thought that was a nice touch, and we think it adds a complexity so the cider.
Next in the line is Blissful Moon, and Blissful Moon is named after Solomon Bliss, who was the original owner of the farm. He purchased the farm in 1793 for $1.50 an acre, or something amazing like that, so we wanted to salute Solomon. The next cider is what I guess we would consider our flag ship cider. It’s called Four Screw. We named this one after our four screw cider press, which is a 120 year old antique press that we press all the apples on, it’s a rack and cloth style press. Four Screw is real popular, it’s a crisp cider that has a lot of depth of character, I would say. It’s probably one of our most popular and widely distributed ciders.
Matthew Critz: Standing behind the counter and having a bunch of smiling people in front of you that are actually drinking a product that you’ve created is very, incredibly satisfying. Everybody’s on the patio and there are bands playing and everybody’s having a great time, it’s great. I have to tell you there’s a little more feedback. The feedback loop is much better than in the Christmas tree business.
Jordan Karp left behind his career as a political consultant in Boston and New York City to become Adirondack Distilling Co.’s master distiller. He joins Dr. Bruce Elwell and attorney Steve Cox, who all want to be a part of a movement brewing in Central New York – a growing need for people to reconnect with their food and drink.
“There’s a renaissance of the upstate culture and the demand for local products,” Jordan says. “That’s a big part this. The fact that it’s made with care by the people that live here says something.”
Adirondack spirits incorporate all-local ingredients from the upstate corn used to make them right down to the Herkimer diamonds – a rare mineral found only in the foothills of the Adirondack mountains – used to filter them.
“This is handcrafted from beginning to end,” says Bruce. “That’s something we can be proud of and it puts us in a unique place.”
Not to mention a unique space: The building housing Adirondack’s stills has deep roots in the area. The former bank was essentially built to handle the finances of 125-year-old F.X. Matt Brewing Co., just down the street. It later became a popular concert venue and much later, a rundown shadow of its former self.
“We brought this building back to life,” Jordan says. The three co-founders made a sizable investment in renovations and equipment.
Adirondack’s German stills produce the flagship vodka, gin, white whisky and Central New York’s first legal bourbon ever. Each bottle – every sip – gives the makers, their community and Central New York something to be proud of.
Tours are available Monday through Saturday by appointment. Adirondack products are available throughout Brew Central and New York state.
Kenneth Wortz taps into his family’s 300-year history of apple farming – and the nearly as old tradition of crafting spirits.
Today Ken and his wife, Lori, craft one-of-a-kind spirits, occasionally with family and friends who help them harvest and bottle at KyMar Farm Winery and Distillery … for free. The signature Mapple Jack liqueur, Schoharie Shine and uncommon apple brandy Eau De Vie De Pomme are just that good. KyMar also produces an un-oaked chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon.
“People love local and people love unique,” Lori says.
KyMar uses local products almost exclusively in its spirits and wines. It only makes sense that they harvest sorghum and apples born from the historic soils of Schoharie County, once known as the “Breadbasket of the American Revolution.”
Handmade copper kettles produce the handcrafted spirits, which are then carefully aged in oak barrels before they are blended and bottled on site.
Ken’s family farmed apples for generations in his native Pennsylvania. That farm has since been sold and KyMar – named after the Wortz’ children – in part preserves that tradition for Ken, his family and future generations.
Founded in 2011, the winery and distillery begins a new legacy as the first to be licensed in Schoharie County since Prohibition.
But there’s more to the KyMar story than that fascinating chapter. Ken and Lori recently moved their operation to a former book bindery just down the road from the quiet country farmland they live on in rural Charlotteville.
The renovated 20,000 square feet of the bindery will exponentially increase production, which is soon-to-include vodka. The space is also home to a tasting room that hosts pairing and other events.
Complimentary tours are offered every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 1 and 3 p.m. Visit and sample wines and spirits any Friday, Saturday and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m., Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day weekend. After Columbus Day weekend, KyMar is open Saturdays from noom to 6 p.m. through Dec. 31.
You don’t have to be into wine to enjoy your time at Owera Vineyards. You just have to be up for an experience, one that includes great food, amazing views and good conversation.
That’s the vision of the founding family that planted their vineyard outside the village of Cazenovia in 2008. It was an adventurous endeavor for Nancy and Peter Muserlian at the time.
While this is a lakeside community, it falls outside of New York’s famed Finger Lakes wine region. In fact, Owera was Madison County’s first winery ever.
But, using carefully selected varietals, the farm winery has grown in multiple ways over the years.
“This area does contain a different product [than the Finger Lakes] because of the topography. It can only house certain types of grapes,” Owera General Manager Dawn Schmidt says. “You have to get a cold, hearty variety in order to withstand the temperatures of this region.”
Owera – which translates to “wind and air” – appropriately describes the winter climate here. The grapes – imported from Minnesota with roots capable of withstanding temperatures as low as -40 degrees – have produced plenty of award winners and earned a faithful local following.
Frontenac Gris, LaCrescent and Frontenac vines populate a portion of the 57 scenic acres here. They are often blended with grapes from the Finger Lakes to produce true New York flavors.
“We do keep all of our grapes local from New York state and we’re able to produce a larger portfolio of wine based off that,” Schmidt says.
But, the bottles aren’t the only place you’ll find wine at Owera.
“We try to create our menu based off of our wine, so we use it in almost everything we do here,” Schmidt says. “Everything in our cafe has some sort of wine element that goes into it and we pair each one of our cafe items with actual wine here.”
There’s an overarching theme of broadening horizons not just among wine enthusiasts, but casual tasters as well. Owera is part of the Cazenovia Beverage Trail, a local collection that includes breweries and a hard cidery. It also overlaps with other trails in the area, allowing Owera to draw in visitors of all craft beverage preferences.
“It allows people to be able to come here, pick and choose their trail or essentially build their own depending on their own tastes – and experience all the wonderful things that Central New York has to offer.”
Cazenovia itself is a quaint lakeside community, one of many historic towns and villages planted among the rolling hills and natural beauty of Madison and surrounding counties.
“We are trying to expand the horizons of wine in general, so coming to Owera is not just to stop in,” Schmidt says. “We do try to create an experience from the moment you walk in the door, from the service you receive to the items that you drink to the food that you eat to the scenery that’s around you.
“We want it to be this wonderful experience with wine being the center focus of it all.”
Black Bear Winery produces some of the finest fruit wines and hard ciders available. The wines are made from New York-grown fruit picked at the peak of ripeness and handcrafted into flavors that are enjoyed by all wine enthusiasts. Try an extremely aromatic, fruity, light, dry strawberry; a semi-sweet, tongue-tingling hard cider; or a nice round, sweet blueberry.
Visit the winery for tastings, tours and an unbelievable view.
The unique characteristics of Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard stretch well beyond the 125-year-old, water-powered apple press it uses today. In addition to its beginnings brewing hard ciders, the mill also fueled the growing local beer market through the second half of the 19th century.
The Fly Creek waterway inspired development of other brewing-related industries during Central New York’s legendary hop boom that peaked around the turn of the 20th century. Manufacturers made everything from the rakes and buckets used to harvest the hops to the stoves needed to dry them.
The last of eight of those to stand, Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard produces lines of hard cider and apple wines today in homage to its prestigious past as a brew producer and integral role in the Central New York hop movement.
Bill: My dad was a carpenter, my mom was a high school art teacher, and they needed a home so they bought the whole facility for just the home up on the corner. The gentleman who sold them the mill still lived next door, so he would come over and get in my dad’s ear on how big the place used to be, and tell him about the big lines of people waiting to have their apples pressed. Well, that started my dad’s entrepreneurial bug and they started fixing it up. It just grew, slow, slow incremental growth, until eventually it became their full-time business. We’re a 32-inch press made in 1889 from the Boomer Mosher company in Syracuse, New York. It’s the traditional rack and cloth method. That means we lay your ground apples in cloths between plastic racks that used to be oak, but now they’re plastic. Our grinder is powered by a 1924 Waterloo Boy tractor engine. We’re almost completely off the grid when we’re making our product.
Making cider on the original equipment, showing people how things were done in the late 1800’s is what touches me in my heart. What we wanted to do with the farm winery license is reconnect with our roots, use our traditional equipment to make sweet cider and then ferment it. We really wanted to bring the process back, I guess you would say, to what it was historically, but with a new twist with our apple wines, our black currant apple wine. We have apple cherry, we have apple cranberry, also an apple and strawberry. It’s a realm of apple-based products that we can sell and serve here and expose customers to products that are new to them, but were common in the past.
Dave: We make the apple frost, and we make some experimental type small volume wines to see what direction we may want to go. The apple frost is what we spend most of our time on because that’s a very labor-intensive process. We start out with pressing the apples in the fall, and we through what’s referred to as a process of cryo-extraction. We freeze the juice, then thaw the juice, then freeze it, and thaw it for a couple months well into winter. It concentrates the flavors and the sugars. The yield on that is probably about 15 or 20%. It’s a very flavorful juice. It takes at least 6 months, if not closer to a year sometimes to be ready to bottle it.
Bill: We welcome about 150,000 visitors here annually. Coming in, they think of us as a historic attraction. Once they pass through the door, they actually see our other side which is a gourmet specialty foods, baked goods, dips, marinades. We offer more than 40 samples. They get a full flavor profile of all the products that we offer, and having a great family fun experience right in the heart of central New York.
Located on the Bennett family farm, owned and operated by the family for more than 50 years, Rustic Ridge Winery opened its doors to the public in late November 2010 and quickly proclaimed itself “Burlington’s Oldest Winery.”
Working closely with a small, well-established winery and vineyard in the Finger Lakes region, Rustic Ridge offers a diverse selection of New York state-produced and bottled wines.
Rustic Ridge also has local Amish cheeses and jams, locally produced maple syrup, and handmade jewelry.
Bring a picnic lunch, grab a bottle of wine and enjoy the relaxed, rural, rustic country atmosphere and views overlooking the farmland and vineyard.
Part of the Cooperstown Beverage Trail … Learn More.
John Bleichert took his love of brewing from his kitchen to Germany and back to Binghamton.
Now crafting 217 gallons of European-style beers at a time, he still keeps the old home-brew kit behind the scenes to make the occasional small batch at Water Street Brewing Co.
John and his wife, Michele, started home-brewing in the early 2000s, often doing double batches on the weekend while decked out in self-made Bleichert Brewing aprons. In 2009, they decided to leave the corporate world behind and pursue their passions, hanging up those aprons and opening a brewery for real.
John studied brewing in Chicago and Germany before making the leap to a seven-barrel system. His specialties: British styles like the southern English ale he’s been making since the home-brew days and traditional German beers like Water Street-patron-favorite hefeweizen.
John describes looking at recipes on paper like staring at an algebra equation. The process takes that math and transforms it into something social and continuously stirs the Bleicherts knack for craft.
The Bleicherts share their love of beer both from the glass and on their tap board, where each style comes with annotations about OG, IBU and ABV. Don’t know what those mean? Flip to the backside of the menu for a crash course.
“One good thing about being a mom and pop is we’re always here,” Michele says. “You can always meet the brewers.”
Water Street serves up six beers of varying styles at a time from their tank-to-tap system that John, a former engineer, built himself.
“I love that I own the whole process, from the water to the grains to the taps,” John says. “It’s all mine.”
Of course, the Bleicherts are willing to share from 4 to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, noon to midnight Friday and Saturday, and noon to 7 p.m. Sundays.
Chris Talgo and his wife, Tracy, built a community around their taps, bottles and original brews in the spirit of European pub culture. The more than 100 beers served at Nail Creek Pub & Brewery are more than beer.
It’s conversation. It’s camaraderie. It’s a true brew experience.
Chris embraces this culture by hiring outgoing staff, utilizing an open floor plan, keeping a regular rotation of craft beers and brewing his own Belgian-style ales.
Nail Creek offers locally sourced dishes with international flair and hosts a wide variety of patrons from all walks of life: doctors, lawyers, metalheads and hippies all blend together here, Chris says.
Chris: When I was in college, I studied abroad in Norway where my family is from. I basically just lived in the pubs out there 5 or 6 days a week. The culture behind pubs in Europe is much different. It’s more just a fabric of life versus an evening out to get absolutely drunk. When we opened up this place the intent was to have as much of that European style feel as we could. I got started in brewing about 3 years before we opened up the pub here. I was an extreme hobbyist at the time and the original intent when I opened up the pub, was to get a brewery going. It took about 4 years after opening but eventually but eventually we did get the brewery open. We opened with the intent to sell as much craft beer as we could. We do not sell any of the major American yellow beers. We sell over 100 different bottled beers and we always have 12 drafts on tap and they’re always craft beer.
If anyone out there has a beer they want us to have, we will do whatever we can to find it for them. The Nail Creek is a creek that used to run through where the Brewing Company is right now. A really good friend actually said, “Hey, Chris there’s this thing called the Nail Creek, it used to be part of the brewing industry.” I heard the name and I said, that’s a great name, it has great history, this is going to be the Nail Creek Pub. About 6 months after opening, a local Irish culture group came to us and asked if we would be interested in hosting a traditional Irish Seisiún. I was of course all for it and we’ve been doing it for about 5 almost 6 years now. It’s the first Tuesday of every month and we pack the house every time. We usually get between 10 and 20 musicians and a whole lot of people enjoying the music.