Rochester, On the map

 

by Mark Tichenor

A few years ago, I was sitting at The Old Toad, polishing off a couple pints with British beer writer Pete Brown (author of Hops and Glory, and several other awesome beer-focused books). He mentioned his travels around the US in pursuit of great beer, and kind of offhandedly said Rochester wouldn’t be on that map as a beer destination.

Were Pete to visit today, he’d likely change his mind, especially if he were to come during Rochester Beer Week.

We just woozily put the 5th annual Rochester Real Beer week to bed. We just experienced a joyous seven days of beer festivals, tap takeovers, tastings, keg tossery, and enjoying the world’s most social beverage on a citywide scale. Looking back, it’s amazing that we’re all still alive. No, wait, I mean it’s amazing how far craft beer has come in this City, both in terms of its appreciation by consumers, and production by brewers. Since Rochester Real Beer Week 2014, four new breweries have opened in Monroe County, with more on the way. Meanwhile, our existing breweries have been expanding, adding larger brewing and fermenting facilities and canning lines.

Facilitating all this is the willingness of local retailers to, in many case belatedly, embrace the craft beer revolution. Rochester has long enjoyed pioneering beer outlets like Beers of the World, MacGregor’s, and The Old Toad, and a growing cadre of gastropubs spearheaded by The Tap and Mallet. But now more conservative, old guard bars are coming around to the fact that their patrons, the ones who’ve been coming there for years, have fallen in love with craft beer. They realize that the increased cost of artisan brew turns into profit in the end, and sets their establishments apart as worthy destinations for a new influx of thirsty, discerning people.

And that’s really what it comes down to. None of this would be possible for anyone without the public having found yet another thing about our mid-sized city that makes it eminently cosmopolitan and liveable. On any given day, it’s possible to choose from over a hundred beers made in or around Monroe County, some of which could stand toe to toe with anything coming out of Portland, San Diego or Philadelphia.

And here’s the best part: things are going to get even better. New breweries are ramping up, area brewers are improving in skill, and your neighbors show no sign of slaking their thirst. It’s exciting to think about what will be on tap for Rochester Real Beer Week 2016.

I think I might give Pete Brown an email, and invite him to come find out for himself. If he doesn’t remember exactly how to get here no problem. When it comes to beer, Rochester is now on the map.

In other beers:

If you happen to be driving down Atlantic Ave on the way to work, or Anderson Ave on the way to, well, wherever you spend your free time, you might notice the big empty lot full of construction equipment and port-a-johns. That’s a crew commencing construction on the new Three Heads Brewery.

Currently, Three heads’ recipes are brewed at CB Craft Brewery of Honeoye falls, and the guys have been pining for a brewery of their own. Slow and steady wins the race, and their new brewery is rising in the Neighborhood of the Arts.

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.

Fusion is brewing at Ithaca Beer Company

by Mark Tichenor

Beer and HopFormed in 1997, after owner Dan Mitchell finally found an adequate brewing system in a defunct Texas brewery and shipped it north, Ithaca Beer Company Grew steadily on its reputation of solid beers and innovative ingredients, and the brewery is now redoubling their commitment to creativity in brewing, without losing sight of the cornucopia of raw materials that surrounds them.

Today, Ithaca Beer can be purchased in 18 states, and new Head Brewer Andy Hausmann is poised to add his own creative spark.

Hausmann learned craft brewing the grassroots way, starting as a homebrewer and working various craft beer jobs until he landed at the F.X. Matt brewery in Utica NY, where he brewed Saranac. “For my grad school work, I focused on the beer business and learning everything about making beer,” Hausmann says. “I was taught by four individuals that were, at the time, 25 year masters in the beer industry.”

Hausmann’s time to shine begins now, in a collaboration with major New York City area beverage Distributor Manhattan Beer. The company asked Ithaca to come up with a special limited-release series. The result: Ithaca Manhattan Project.

Manhattan Project is all about using the creativity afforded by Ithaca’s pilot brewing system, which allows Hausmann and his fellow brewers to experiment on a smaller scale, to get a little crazy without having to risk an entire production batch of beer.

The first Manhattan project beer, Java Power, is the brewery’s flagship Flower Power IPA brewed with coffee from Gimme! Coffee Roasters, also from Ithaca NY, While it’s not uncommon to find coffee in stouts and porters, you don’t usually see it in hoppy IPAs.

Currently out is SaScotch, a rye scotch ale fermented with oak spirals. Upcoming beers in the series will include CranBretty, a Berliner Weisse that gets its characteristic tartness, not from the traditional German yeast, but from Brettanomyeces, a key agent in the flavor of classic Belgian styles like Gueuze and Flemish red ales. This tartness is tarted up even further by the addition of fresh cranberry juice. Also coming down the pipe is Golden Secret, a strong, Belgian-style golden ale brewed with lemon drop hops.

Later this season, pumpkin beer lovers can delight in an offering brewed with pumpkins grown on the brewery premises, and roasted in their own pizza oven, then aged in rum barrels.

Half of each Manhattan Project batch goes to New York City, with the other half divvied up across the rest of Ithaca Beer’s sales region. Central and Western New York get the largest of the remaining share.

The Manhattan Project series illustrates what’s possible when creative brewers take their inspiration from their surroundings. Sure, you can make innovative beers anywhere, but the sunny hills of their city, not to mention the free spirit of the people that live there, Inspire Hausmann and his team to their own vision: to create beers that might be destined for the Nation’s largest metropolis, but retain a character that’s distinctly Ithaca.

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.

 

Knucklehead brews up something good

 

by Mark Tichenor

 

Every homebrewer dreams, at some point or another, of going into business brewing their own beer, but most don’t have the capability to pull it off. In launching Knucklehead Brewing, longtime homebrewing buddies Len Dummer and George Cline show a rare affinity for both the business and brewing aspects of taking their hobby professional.

 

Dummer is outspoken about his beliefs, and refreshingly candid. “We have a passion for beer, a love of beer, but the number one reason we opened the brewery is to make money. We’re a family business, the Cline family and the Dummer family. Anyone behind the bar at any given time is family.” The brewhouse is as local as possible, sourcing furniture, fixtures and equipment from Webster, Monroe County, and the rest of the USA.

 

Originally planning for a 15 barrel brewhouse, Dummer and Cline made the decision to scale back after having difficulty finding backers, and wound up going with a 5 barrel system instead. It was a shrewd decision that ultimately enabled them to open for business free of the obligations or external stresses that come from having to please investors.“This place literally fell in our lap” Dummer says. We’re both Christian families, the Lord put it in front of us.”

 

That place would be the former Seitz’s Grocery Store on the corner of Ridge and Bay Roads, in Webster. The building has a colorful history, having served as a local general store, a restaurant, and, allegedly, a house of ill repute. After a thorough renovation, it’s now a brewhouse and expansive taproom, easily able to handle a crowd.

 

“We consciously opened the business wanting to be local,” Dummer continues.” I can tell you, everything in this building we purchased, except for a couple of iPods

 

Knucklehead primarily brews high alcohol ales, not shying away from intoxicative potential, but also not resorting to gimmick ingredients or novelty styles. They are simple, well-formulated brews that deliver balance and taste with no flaws or off-flavors. Out of their current range, there is not a single beer that should not be readily recommended.

 

“We don’t make light beers. We make the beers we like,” Dummer explains. “Will we ever make a rice beer? Probably not.”

 

Currently, Knucklehead is pouring Kick-It IPA, a chunky citrusy, resinous brew, 100% of the proceeds of which go to cancer research. “The Kick-It is my baby,” Dummer explains. “Both our families have been impacted by cancer, and we said, if we ever opened a microwbrewery, wouldn’t it be great to give it away?”

 

As new as the brewery is, Knucklehead is already pursuing growth. Their kegs are beginning to show up in area pubs, just a couple for now, but the opportunity is vast. “Our five-year plan is to go large. We’d like to have a large system, one that’s not so labor intensive. Brewing is a young man’s game.”

 

In other beers

The Rochester Taproom is no more. Owner Joe McBane sold the popular Corn Hill Landing spot and will focus on his principal pub, The Tap and Mallet. The space will reopen as The West Edge Restaurant and Lounge. It is to be hoped that the new ownership will respect her patrons’ love for craft beer, and keep it flowing in the new establishment.

 

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.