by Mark Tichenor
It’s the night before Thanksgiving and the room is packed. The seats are all taken, the echoing conversation and laughter so loud it borders on uncomfortable. The beer is flowing from these taps for the first time, and it flows in a torrent. It’s the first day of business for the Lost Borough Brewery and there’s a line out the door.
Five years ago, Rochester was a three-brewery town. Genesee was the big brewing icon, while The Rohrbach Brewing Company and Custom Brewcrafters handled the small-batch side of things. That’s how it’s been since the early 1990s, and that was fine with Rochester.
It’s not fine anymore. Rochester is going brewery-crazy. Seriously, new breweries are sprouting up everywhere.
Naked Dove Brewing, Three Heads Brewing, and Roc Brewing jimmied the floodgates open a couple of years back, proving Rochester to be a thirsty town with a keen interest in supporting local. Now, a new batch of entrepreneurs- homebrewers and craft beer lovers alike- could follow their dreams and make a go of it in this city’s craft beer scene.
Lost Borough is the first of a new crop to successfully navigate the byzantine State, Federal and local licensing maze and open for business. Knucklehead Brewery, in the former Seitz’s Market in Webster, is hot on their heels, with a projected December 20th opening. Over on the river near the Ford Street Bridge, shiny new tanks are visible through the window of the soon-to-open Swiftwater Brewing.
This tally doesn’t even consider the breweries opening around the Region. Nedloh Brewing started up a couple of months ago, and The Stoneyard Pub is pumping brew out of a 2-barrel kettle in Brockport.
So we’re awash in small-batch, independent beer. What does that mean to you, the drinker?
In a sense, these are challenging times to get into the craft brewing business. Beer distribution companies have been busy bringing premium stuff to the area. West Coast craft heavyweights are opening huge new breweries on the Eastern Seaboard. Space on retail shelves is finite; there are only so many taps to go around. And our breweries’ beers need to coexist bottleneck-to-bottleneck with some of the finest from around the country and the world.
Gone are the days when “local” is enough; beer also has to be awesome. It is to be hoped that each of our new breweries share this opinion, learning from those that trod this path, helping each other find the right niche, and at the same time challenging every other producer in town to step their game up, scrutinize the beverages they produce, improve with each batch and commit, not just to being Rochester breweries, but to making Rochester the incredible craft beer town we all very much want it to become.
One thing that’s evident when you look around these new breweries, with their gleaming metal and meticulously-appointed decor: you see passion, and that bodes well for the beer and for the joy of discovering what’s next on tap.
The only way any of our new crop of brewery owners can make their dreams to come true is to do their best to follow them. And it’s up to us beer lovers to toast them every step of the way.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org