By Don Cazentre
Young Lion Brewing Co. opened in July in the new Pinnacle North development on Canandaigua Lake, and immediately became one of the largest new breweries in the Rochester/Western Finger Lakes area. It plans to be a destination for locals and tourists alike. Young Lion has a 30-bbl brewhouse and plans to triple batch, making 90 barrels at a time. “We did a lot of research and what I heard again and again is that the biggest problem brewers had is they reached their capacity very quickly,” said Jen Newman, the CEO of Young Lion and one of five partners in the brewery. “They couldn’t keep up with demand. So we decided to go as large as we could.” Newman and her partners – Alicia Wolk, and Kevin, Todd and Robyn Morgan, also chose to open in Pinnacle North, a modern mixed-use commercial and residential complex on the lake’s northern tip. After a nationwide search for a head brewer, Young Lion hired Phil Platz, who worked many years learning his trade at a Miller plant in North Carolina before entering the craft beer sector at Alabama’s Trim Tab Brewing. Platz and the Young Lion partners share an approach to operating a craft brewery: They’ll mix popular beer styles, like an array of IPAs and a Czech-style pilsner. The tasting room has 14 taps, and will always offer guest beers as well as those from Young Lion itself. The taproom will have space for fellow local brewers and notable beers from elsewhere. Food currently includes large European-style pretzels, charcuterie plates and mixed nuts, but will expand, Newman said. The brewery is set up to fill 32-oz crowlers and will start packaging beers in 16-oz cans, at first with a mobile canning line and, by the fall, with its own in-house canning system.
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Jason and Courtney Bowers, owners of The Excelsior Pub in Albany, N.Y., toast the Genesee Brewery beer tanks on the Erie Canal at Lock 6 in Waterford, Saratoga County on May 21.
It was a grand spectacle: A set of giant beer tanks making their way down the Erie Canal, across Upstate New York from Albany to Rochester, with thousands of cheering fans coming out to see them – and many raising a toast along the way. The dozen 20-foot by 60-foot fermentation tanks, too big to travel by truck, arrived in early June at the Genesee Brewing Co. in Rochester as part of a $49 million renovation and modernization project. The modernization project will take about five years to complete. Meanwhile, Genesee Brewing Co.’s parent, North American Breweries, has dropped its line of Dundee Ales & Lagers – except for J.W. Dundee’s Honey Brown, which it had previously spun off into a separate brand. The Dundee lineup started with Honey Brown and included beers like Michael Shea’s Irish Amber and several named for traditional beer styles such as Dundee IPA, Porter, Nut Brown Ale etc. In the 1990s, it was Genesee Brewing Co.’s attempt to get into the craft segment of the beer market. More recently, in 2012, the company opened the Genesee Brewhouse in a building adjacent to its big brewery on St. Paul Street in Rochester. The success of the Genesee Brewhouse Pilot Batch Series beers – like its Salted Caramel Chocolate Porter, Scotch Ale and the recent Helles Bock and Orange Honey Cream Ale – contributed to the decision to discontinue Dundee, said brewery spokeswoman Mary Beth Popp. Likewise, the continued interest in what Genesee calls its “German heritage” specialty beers, like Genesee Bock and Genesee Octoberfest.
In the Rochester suburb of Webster, a big new bottle shop/bar/brewery opened in early July. WhichCraft Brews sells beer by the 4- and 6-pack, case and crowler and has 55 taps serving local, national and international beers. The bar also serves wine and spirits from New York State, in addition to an “indoor” food truck. By the end of July, WhichCraft hopes to begin offering its own beers, made on a 3-bbl system. The brewery should open by the beginning of August, co-owner Chris Prince told Rochester City Paper in mid-July. Beers will include a hopped kolsch; a stout, a Scotch ale, a hefeweizen, and an East Coast-style IPA.
In Rochester, Rohrbach Brewing Co. celebrated the summer with three new beers: Kettle Ridge Maple Wheat Ale (6.4%) is an unfiltered wheat ale made with maple syrup produced locally by Kettle Ridge Farms; F in IPA is an IPA made with Falconer’s Flight hops (the “F” in the IPA); and Matt’s Brown Ale (4.3%), an American-hopped version, which is the first small-barrel batch released at the newly-renovated Railroad Street location. Don’t miss the Flour City Brewers Fest, Aug. 18 at the newly renovated and expanded Rochester Public Market, just down the block from Rohrbach’s Railroad Street location.
Typically, a beer from Rochester’s Roc Brewing Co. is never distributed outside of western and central New York State. That changes at the end of July when a Roc beer receives national exposure, via its inclusion in the new Sam Adams Brewing the American Dream 12-pack. “You’re literally taking a tiny brewery and blowing them up nationally,” said Chris Spinelli, who co-founded Roc in downtown Rochester in 2011. In the 12-pack, Roc’s ThreeNinety Bock joins an IPA from Bosque Brewing of Albuquerque, NM; a porter from ChuckAlek Independent Brewers of Ramona, CA; a saison from Woods Beer Co. of San Francisco; and a stout from Brewery Rickoli of Wheat Ridge, CO (the pack is rounded out with two bottles of Sam Adams’ own Boston Lager). Brewing the American Dream is part of a continuing effort by Sam Adams founder Jim Koch to promote and assist smaller brewers. Roc’s relationship with Sam Adams began in 2011, when Spinelli’s brewery became the first admitted to Koch’s mentorship program (and received a $10,000 start-up loan).
In Interlaken, between Seneca and Cayuga lakes in in the heart of the Finger Lakes, Bandwagon Brewery is slated to open its production brewery’s tasting room late this summer. Bandwagon started in 2009 as a brewpub near the Commons in downtown Ithaca. Last year it expanded, adding a larger production brewery in the village of Interlaken, north of Ithaca. The tasting room is expected to open in August, offering beer for sale by the pint. To start, there will be about a dozen draft taps. Eventually, co-owner Nick Antczak says, Bandwagon hopes to open a beer garden on the site and start serving Finger Lakes wine and spirits, too. Bandwagon’s beers include Commons Ale, a pre-Prohibition style amber; Hidden Rabbit, a Bavarian-style hefeweizen, Pirate Eye, an IPA; and Sully’s Irish Stout.
12 Gates Brewing Co., in the Buffalo suburb of Williamsville, welcomed Scott Shuler this summer as brewmaster and partner. Shuler, a former homebrewer, had joined 12 Gates as assistant brewer in 2016. At 12 Gates, Shuler runs a 30-bbl brewhouse that offers 12 rotating taps – a number that is soon expected to grow to 18. The 12 Gates flagship beer is West Coast Style IPA, and it also produces everything from Pilsner to Double Stout. It is distributed to bars and restaurants throughout Western New York and grocery stores and beer shops throughout Erie and Niagara County.
Two Goats Brewing Co., a brewpub overlooking Seneca Lake, is still working on a building extension that should open in the spring of 2018. The brewpub this summer released a New England-style, hazy IPA called Golden Crush. Also out is a collaboration with Bacchus Brewing Co. of nearby Dryden – a light-bodied rye IPA called I’m So Rye. Meanwhile, XIPA, Two Goat’s “experimental double IPA,” has become its best-selling IPA. “It’s big, malty and has a good bitter back to balance out the finish,” owner Jon Rodgers says.
Good Nature Brewing Co., which opened its big new brewery/tasting room/farm-to-table restaurant just south of Hamilton this spring, added a new packaged beer to the lineup this summer: Blight Buster, a “single” IPA. Among Good Nature’s packaged beers, it joins Good Natured Blonde and Non-Stop Hop Onslaught (a session IPA) in 6-packs, and Annie, an Imperial IPA, which is in 16-oz 4-packs. In September, look for Great Chocolate Wreck, a seasonal that commemorates “the day in September 1955 when a freight train carrying a load of Nestle chocolate derailed from the Ontario and Western Railroad in Hamilton.” Good Nature plans a celebration at the new taproom – details to come.
In Utica, F.X. Matt Brewing (Saranac) is delivering a full slate of German-influenced beers this summer and fall. It started this summer with Haus Lager, a throwback to the original lager style brewed by founder F.X. Matt, a native of Germany, back in the late 1800s. It’s 4.9%, and styled as a German Helles (light-colored) lager. Its light body and mildly sweet taste makes this style the predecessor of what came to be the standard American “yellow” beers. Haus Lager is sold in 6-packs of 16-oz cans. The Haus Lager will be joined by the return of an old Saranac favorite, Black Forest Lager, in the fall variety 12-pack called German Roots. The 12-pack also includes Saranac Octoberfest and Bavarian Pils. (There are three bottles of each beer in the 12-pack.) This is the second year that Saranac will release a German Roots pack. It also offered an Irish Roots pack in the spring.
Buffalo’s Flying Bison Brewing Co. released a new beer for the Erie County Fair, the largest fair in the state. The beer, a Baltic Porter, is based on a homebrew competition recipe won by local home brewer Sean Wall. It will be available at the fair – held Aug. 9-20 in Hamburg. Flying Bison is also re-releasing a new a batch of its first Erie County Fair beer, an American Pale Ale first made in 2015.
New from Ithaca Beer Co. in late summer and early fall: Hellish Lager (5.2%) is a German-style Helles released as a seasonal (or ‘Random Act’ in Ithaca’s parlance) in late August. Cayuga Sounder (5%) will be a special limited release “hop forward pale ale” in conjunction with the first Cayuga Sound Fest at Stewart Park. Ithaca also has a coming lineup of weekly small-batch releases from its 5-bbl pilot system, served in the taproom. Recent examples include Lens Flare, a citrus hefeweizen; Lawn Boy, a floral IPA and JulyPA, a big and fruity IPA (8.5%) and Iced Weisse, Baby an iced-tea Berliner weisse.
In the Adirondack community of Tupper Lake, Big Tupper Brewing Co. is celebrating its first year with plans to install a 10-bbl brewhouse (with three 10-bbl fermenters) by the fall. Big Tupper has been contracting its beers out at Adirondack Pub & Brewery in Lake George since it opened in 2016. Big Tupper co-owner Jim LaValley says Adirondack has “done a great job with our brewers recipes” but is looking forward to moving production in house. In the meantime, the brewery and taproom is open. Big Tupper beers include IPA ‘Eh’ Ale; TOUK (a dark winter ale); Summer Ale (with strawberry and rhubarb); and Green Tea Tree Ale. The line-up should expand when the brewer Rick LaFlamme starts working on his own equipment, LaValley said. Big Tupper also roasts its own coffee.
Four of the owners of the Young Lion Brewing Co. in Canandaigua, clockwise from bottom left: Todd Morgan, Jen Newman, Kevin Morgan and Alicia Wolk.