Beercraft print column: From the shadow of a giant


by Mark Tichenor

Rochester’s latest craft brewery is… Genesee? It feels weird just to type those words but it’s true. Over on Cataract Street, in the recently opened Genesee Brew House, ex-Wagner Valley brewer Dean Jones is making a line of Genesee craft beers for on-premise sales and consumption, and, for the most part, they’re pretty darn good.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Brew House, it’s the new visitors’ center, heritage museum and pub that opened up in a renovated Cataract Street facility early this Fall. The place is really slick; Genesee’s parent company spared no expense in installing a beautiful facility with the best view of High Falls you could imagine. Oh, and in the back they placed a killer 20-barrel brewery that lets Genesee go toe-to-toe with any craft brewery, on their own turf at least.

Brewing true small-batch craft beers is something many in the company wanted to do, but it was never feasable in their principal brewhouse, which is set up to produce hundreds of thousands of gallons at a time. The small pilot brewery allows Genesee brewers to tinker with recipes and ideas that can later scale up to national-level production, in addition to the new and ever-rotating craft beer line.

This is a brand new direction for a company that was built on not changing very much, so it’s unsurprising that the Genesee craft line interprets classic beer styles, like porter and English IPA, instead of striking out into the land of exotic ingredients and crazy style mashups. This may not sit well with among the hallowed pinnacles of beergeekery, but it’s in keeping with traditional artisan brewing and creates some lovely daily drinkers.

Genesee Scotch Ale is the most mouth-watering. Dark, heavy and sweet, it nails the style guidelines and still manages to refresh. The IPA impresses aa well, leading with a grassy noze and a hint of citrus from the hops, it’s overall hop profile being quite subdued in comparison with most American IPAs, this would be a great introduction for people just starting to explore beer. The porter is somewhat disappointing, very light for the style and more miniscnt of a brown ale. A winter warmer also just went on tap, and a North German Pils is happily lagering away for the near future.

Genesee deserves kudos for not wrapping these beers in a cutesy brand identity or giving them silly names for the sake of marketing. Consumer preferences have reverted to artisan level, and Genesee lets the beer stand naked, to be appreciated as a product that represents the venerable brewery.

Currently, the only place to get the Genesee craft line is at The Brew House itself, but that’s not a bad thing. Sitting in a cozy pub, with the waterfall cascading away in the background (and a damn good order of wings on the table) helps to give the drinker a sense of place-a connection to Rochester and its iconic brewery-for which generations of locals have thirsted. With that combination of place and beverage, The Genesee Brewery is bound to gain respect her at home.

Mark owns a laptop and likes beer. For more on beer, check out the beercraft blog, updated regularly, at beercraft.wordpress.com. Find him on Twitter @beercraft. Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to beercraft@rochester.rr.com.

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