Rochester’s own Rohrbach Brewing Company
For beer lovers, Rochester’s microbrew scene has had its ups and downs. Over the past decade, a host of brewpubs have come and gone, leaving beer geeks like us unsure where to find our next growler. However, Rochester’s original microbrewery, the Rohrbach Brewing Company, has managed to flourish where others could not.
Owner John Urlaub attributes this success to unwavering vision, careful capitalization, and a do-it-yourself ethic. He founded the business after moving back from Rohrbach, Germany, where he fell in love with the beer. Taking an early retirement from Eastman Kodak, he poured his first hose-made pint in 1992. After solidifying business at the original Gregory Street location, Urlaub opened the current restaurant and brewery out on Buffalo Road.
Not only is Rohrbach still around fifteen years after founding, but the business is in an unprecedented growth phase, providing beer for up to 100 external accounts (including Frontier Field) and, more excitingly, building a 20-barrel production facility near the Public Market.
The expansion room afforded by the new building will allow brewer Jim McDermott who handles Rohrbach standards like Scotch Ale, Highland Amber and BlueBeary Ale, to breathe a bit easier when meeting ever-increasing demand.
“We will have the capacity to be 30% bigger,” Urlaub says of his new brewery. “We look at the space that exists as being able to double.”
The two-story former warehouse looms over Railroad Street, and certainly dwarfs most other microbreweries in sheer physical space. Over time, Urlaub plans to make full use of the interior acreage at his disposal, including the addition of a tasting room, sales area for beer and merchandise, and brewery tours.
The new brewery’s location, almost adjacent to the Rochester Public Market, should prove conducive to walk-in traffic. “Whenever the Public Market’s gates are open, our doors will be open,” Urlaub says. “We want people to come in and tour, see the production, sample some of our products and do retail.”
This shift of mainline production will not leave the Buffalo Road brewpub high and dry. Rohrbach is reassembling the brewing system from the former Gregory Street location. The Ogden brewery will handle specialty ales under the skilled hand of Bruce Lish, a Great American Beer Fest medalist and co-author of this column.
The current restaurant will expand as well, providing a desperately-needed increase in seating. In addition, the bar will be going from 8 taps to 12. “This is what I’m almost most excited about. The restaurant is what I envisioned it to be,” says Urlaub.
Hopefully, the increased seating capacity will provide more attendance space for Rohrbach’s beer and food events, which tend to sell out rather handily. Both of their planned Oktoberfest sessions are booked solid, although space is still available for November’s Harvest Celebration.
Not only is Rohrbach’s expansion good for Urlaub and his business, but it’s good for beer lovers regionwide. Rohrbach’s expanding production capacity and ability to brew a greater variety of beer styles benefits beer lovers in obvious ways, and is a key component in what can only be described as a Rochester beer renaissance.
In other beers:
Garrett Oliver, Author and Brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery (and essentially the Mick Jagger of the American craft beer scene) was at The Old Toad last Wednesday to conduct a tasting of Hopfen-weizen, actually two experimental hoppy wheat beers brewed in collaboration with Munich’s Schneider Weisse brewery.
The beers explored the possibly offered by using European and American hops for fragrance and flavor in a beer style that shies away from those hop essences.
Oh yeah, beer-steamed mussels and cheese were served. Thanks to Cellar Manager Jules Suplicki, who obviously knew we were coming.
Bruce is a certified beer judge and commercial brewer. Mark owns a laptop and likes beer. For more on beer, check out the beercraft blog, updated regularly, at https://beercraft.wordpress.com. Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to email@example.com.