Head brewer Micheal Coons at the Copper Turret, a teaching brewery at Morrisville State College.
By Don Cazentre
The brewery boom continues in Upstate New York, with new ones opening, it seems, every week. Yet there are also occasional closings. This fall brought several examples. The brewery boom continues in Upstate New York, with new ones opening, it seems, every week. Yet there are also occasional closings. This fall brought several examples.
Nedloh Brewing Co. in Bloomfield, south of Rochester, announced in October it would close at the end of the month. Owners Nate and Josie Holden “have decided to exit the brewing business following a personal decision to refocus the next chapter of their lives and careers,” according to a statement released through a public relations firm. The statement indicated the Holden’s “are considering options” for the brewery and tasting room, which opened in 2014 in a 3,500-sq ft facility near the intersection of Routes 5 & 20 and Whalen Road in the town of Bloomfield. The options could include a sale to someone who continue to operate it as a brewery.
In Cazenovia, east of Syracuse, Henneberg Brewing Co. was scheduled to hold its farewell/closing party Oct. 28. Owners John and Maria Henneberg opened the brewery in 2013. Henneberg was one of three breweries on that Route 13 corridor, joining Empire Farm Brewery and Critz Farms Brewery. Henneberg Brewing originally was affiliated with Henneberg Tavern in the village of Cazenovia, also owned by John and Maria Henneberg. The tavern closed in 2014. “This has been a very tough decision to make, but we will be closing Henneberg Brewing Co. very soon. For good,” John Henneberg posted on Facebook. “We’ve had the brewery for four years now and it’s gotten to be too much. My wife and I both work full time jobs and we have two young children.”
Meanwhile, another brewery that talked of closing may instead find a buyer. Birdland Brewing Co. in Horseheads just outside of Elmira, announced via Facebook last week that it would close soon “due to unforeseen health issues,” but owner Dennis Edwards later said he is hoping to negotiate a sale to a potential new owner. Birdland opened in November 2015. He said it’s possible he will continue to operate the brewery through Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving), which would be the fifth anniversary of its opening.
And now to our regular roster of Upstate brewery openings:
If Nedloh Brewing doesn’t remain open in Bloomfield, its loss will be offset by the arrival of Irish Mafia Brewing Co. Yes, that’s the name of a new brewery coming this fall to the town of Bloomfield in the Finger Lakes, just west of Canandaigua and south of Rochester. Irish Mafia Brewing Co., operated by Mark Mansfield, plans to open its tasting room at the intersection of Whalen Road and Routes 5 & 20 in Bloomfield – across from Nedloh. Irish Mafia will start out with four core beers: Mighty Ego IPA; Devoted Double IPA; Impetuous Irish Red Ale and Irish Loyalty Stout. At first, those four will be brewed and packaged in cans at the War Horse Brewing Co. located in Three Brothers Wineries & Estates near Geneva. Three Brothers/War Horse is co-owned by Mark’s brother, Dave Mansfield. (Mark Mansfield got the idea to start by contracting beer from his brother, since War Horse used CB Craft Brewers in Honeoye Falls for years before opening its own on-site brewery.) Irish Mafia will have its own small-scale equipment to test out recipes and produce small batches. Eventually, it will build its own large brewhouse and bring production to Bloomfield.
A new brewery opened in October in Morrisville, NY, and it’s a little unusual. On one hand, it’s a pretty standard 3.5-bbl brewhouse attached to a restaurant called the Copper Turret. What sets it apart is that it is a teaching brewery operated by Morrisville State College, part of the State University of New York. The brewery is running now under the direction of head brewer Micheal Coons, who has about a dozen beers on tap (ranging from an IPA to Belgian tripel and wit and oatmeal coffee stout). In the fall of 2018, it will enroll its first class of students head toward a four-year degree in brewing science. (There are at least seven schools teaching brewing across Upstate, but this will be the first in the SUNY system to offer a bachelor’s degree.) The Copper Turret restaurant also serves as a teaching kitchen for Morrisville State’s culinary programs.
The spot in downtown Syracuse most recently occupied by Clark’s Ale House is set to house a brewery in the near future. Sahm Brewing Co. is taking over the location at the corner of South Salina and Washington streets, and has already installed its equipment. The opening date is uncertain. Owner Ryan Sahm had operated his brewery earlier this year in a different location on the city’s West Side, alongside another small craft brewer, Stout Beard Brewing Co. Sahm has produced beers like an Irish Stout, Belgian Dark Strong, Black IPA, British Golden, German Altbier and Scotch Wee Heavy.
Lucky Hare Brewing Co. opened in the summer of 2016 in a beautiful spot overlooking Seneca Lake in the heart of the Finger Lakes. Its growth has been strong, and now it’s moving its beer production into a new craft beverage manufacturing facility in Watkins Glen. Its tasting room and restaurant will stay in the original site in Hector, off Route 414, about 15 miles north of Watkins Glen. The move should take place in 2018. “We’ve been growing pretty quickly, so we really need to increase our brewing capacity to stay viable,” said Richard Thiel, a partner in Lucky Hare with Ian Conboy, who is also the brewmaster. The new production facility is part of the FLX Gateway project, in an industrial park off Route 414 in Watkins Glen. It is envisioned as a home for several craft beverage makers: breweries, wineries and/or distilleries. Lucky Hare’s expansion is likely to cost about $1 million, and the brewery is seeking a $200,000 grant from the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council. But Thiel said the expansion will happen with or without the grant. Thiel estimates the new brewing location could triple Lucky Hare’s annual production. Its distribution is currently limited to the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier, but he and Conboy envision boosting its market to New York City and perhaps even Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. Its beers include Falcon Punch IPA, Cezanne (a saison), Milk Milk (a stout) and London Gentleman (an ESB), plus seasonals and specials.
The Genesee Brewery in Rochester used its annual Tap It Forward festival this year to reach deep into its past for a new beer with an historic name. Reisky & Spies Bourbon Barrel-aged Old Ale – brewed in a small batch by the pilot Genesee Brew House – is dark and strong, at 10.3, and aged for nine months in Kentucky bourbon barrels. “It’s a sipping beer with rich and complex malt notes of dark chocolate and subtle fruit intertwined with flavors of bourbon, vanilla and oak from the barrel aging,” the Genesee tasting notes say. The Genesee Brew House, where the fest took place and where the big brewery operates its pilot brewery and taproom, is located in a former packaging warehouse. Before that, starting in 1874, the site was the home of the Reisky & Spies Brewery. In 1878, Reisky & Spies was purchased and renamed Genesee, making it the oldest still-operating brewery in New York state. Another noteworthy point about the Reisky & Spies Old Ale: It’s in cans. Although the big Genesee Brewery packages lots of beer in cans, this is the first time the smaller pilot brewery brought in a mobile canning line for what it calls its “Pilot Batch” series. The pilot brewery only made 60 barrels of the Reisky & Spies Old Ale, and it was a hot commodity in early fall in western New York.