This issue's New York theme is the law! You all know by now that several NYC brew pubs were delayed by a new State Liquor Authority interpretation of the law. The authority decided that no one could own more than one brew pub. An interesting ruling since there are four brew pubs in the Rochester area that would not comply. Eventually the situation changed, but not before one of the pending NYC projects was shelved.
The rules are different now. Of course there will be a price to pay - a set of convoluted regulations, which offer tax relief to some operators, may cost others business by limiting the amount of off premise beer they can ship. In another New York moment Pearl Street Brewing (a new Buffalo brewpub) was forced to postpone their opening by a law that prevents more than two pool tables in any bar. Pearl Street had planned on legal relief - which one house of the state legislature provided, but the other did not. When that failed, a plan to keep alcohol out of the pool hall was proposed. This didn't satisfy New York's beer gods and the opening was delayed until all 14 tables were removed. These events, combined with the beer wholesaler's law passed earlier in the year, make New York less friendly to the interests of beer aficionados.
All this gloom and doom does not mean New York is totally unfriendly, however. We are well served by a large number of establishments opened for reasonable hours. Our brew pubs sell to other locations and our micros can sell directly to the public.
Openings & Closings
On the down side, both Shannon Pubs (Rochester and Buffalo) have stopped brewing operations. The ending of brewing in Rochester is especially disappointing as it came shortly after the pub made major improvements in its beer. In Buffalo, Your Father's Mustache closed without ever brewing.
Brewery Ommegang has announced plans to sell beer by late December. Ommegang is in the Coopestown area. It will be offering three Belgian style brews: Rare Vos, Hennepin and Ommegang. All three will be in standard crown-capped and larger cork-sealed bottles. Look for more details in my column in the next issue of Great Lakes Brewing News.
Hints of a new brewery still are in the air, but there are no signs of any construction, which leaves Custom Brewcrafters with the title of the area's newest brewery. Custom now has seven establishments with dedicated beers. For example. Jeremiah's (1104 Monroe Avenue, near Culver Road) offers Frog Grog Brown Ale. Custom makes each dedicated beer specifically for the named account. They offer tours and tastings at the Honeoye Falls brewery and sell growlers to go. Under the Custom name they are also offering a Wee Heavy for the holiday season. Interestingly, this dark and potent ale achieves it color while using a grist with 98% pale malt.
The Old Toad is about to launch a new menu. The new group of English exchange students has gained enough experience to begin that class project. The theme night program has been expanded, Mondays are still quiz night and Thursdays are still bite night (mixed cider and beer cocktails at reduced prices). Sundays are leisure night (all the English staff is off and anyone with a ticket stub gets a dollar off). Three real ales, Beast Bitter, Duke of Winship (a porter) and Winter Wizard (a strong ale), all from Middle Ages in Syracuse, are offered, along with a full complement of other draft and bottled beers.
Rohrbach's has instituted a happy hour at the Gregory Street location. Monday thru Thursday nights, from 4 to 7 PM, liter mugs of most house beers are $3.75. Hot snacks are also served. There is also a pint of the day at $2.
The Rose and Crown is Rochester's other real ale house. They, too, have three hand pumps. Red Hook and Wild Goose products have been recent features. As winter approaches they have also been offering more German beers, with Spaten Dark scheduled to be on tap soon. The menu has been redone and there are several lunch and dinner specials every day. Canadian travelers will now be able to enjoy a Rose and Crown as a second branch has open in London, Ontario (580 Talbot Street). They are also featuring real ales - Ontario products from Wellington and F&M.
The Distillery is the most sports bar-like of the area's brew pubs. It has a large menu and several rooms so non-sports bar fans can also feel at home. They produce a mixture of house beer styles from the extract plant. These beers are a supplement to the wide range of domestic and imported drafts.
McGregor's still leads the Rochester area in taps. All three locations offer daily draft and bottle beer specials. The two suburban locations are large enough to have significant no smoking areas. The city location (Gregory Street) doesn't offer this feature.
The oldest microbrewery in the area, Middle Ages Brewing Company, continues to expand its line of fine English style ales. Wizard Winter Ale is out again - earlier this year in response to popular demand - in bottles, on draft and as real ale. Also out this winter will be two Scotch ales, the returning 80 Schilling Scotch Ale and a new one a 90 Schilling called Ye Old Kilt Tilter. The sales room at Middle Ages offers all their bottled beers and growlers of most of the draft brews. They also give an excellent and informative tour. Since this is a working brewery with a small staff I suggest you call if planning on a tour.
Clark's Ale House, the English style pub in central New York, has a significant NYS selection (Neptune's U & 66, Cooperstown's Old Slugger Ale & Old Bloke Stout, Matt's Prior Double Dark and Breckenridge Oktoberfest). Of interest recently was a side by side comparison of the same beer, a hoppy ale, both in cask (hand pump) and keg (C02 driven) versions. A new, lunch time only, turkey sandwich has been added. Clark's has expanded hours and is now open 11 AM to 6 PM, Monday thru Saturday. Roast beef sandwiches are available until 11 PM Monday thru Thursday and until closing Friday and Saturday.
The Blue Tusk has the largest draft count in the area, with more than 60 taps. Of recent interest was Wild Goose Oatmeal Stout, Rodenbach (a Belgian red ale) and Boon Pertotale Ale (a faro). The last two are classic Belgian beers rarely seen outside of the largest coastal cities in the US! Expect to see at least 10 holiday beers on tap before December, along with the new Hempen Gold Cream Ale. The food menu is growing; more grilled sandwiches - including ham & cheese, club sandwiches and some hot food items are being added. The Tusk is open six days (closed Sundays) until 2 AM. Weekdays they open at 7:30 and Saturdays at 10:00 AM. This is primarily to serve the breakfast crowd, but the bar is available...
Empire Brewing Company, the town's biggest brewpub, has added Wood Chuck cider to its taps. Except for the cider all draft items are made on site. At this year's Great American Beer Festival, Empire's Skinny Atlas Light (1.046 OG) took a gold medal in the KÓlsch category! Empire is clearly the place for a meal or a brew if you are downtown on a Sunday - it' s one of the few Armory Square locations to open on Sundays.
Buckhout Brewing has survived another Harbor Festival, and offers a range of beers in the heart of Oswego. The Chapter House does the same near College Town in Ithaca. Both these brewpubs are college oriented and do significant business after 10 PM. Stop in earlier if you want to savor your beers. Buckhout is open by lunch; the Chapter House opens at 4 PM.
Sackets Harbor Brewing Company offers a range of house beers and menu of fine foods. Being in a summer resort community, the off season hours are limited. A stop is well worth the side trip of I-81, but a call before a long trip is advisable. Sacket Harbor's beers are offered at many bars in the Watertown area.
If you are headed into or out of the Adirondacks from the west side a stop at Adirondack Trail, a brew pub in Alder Creek, is in order. This is one of the smallest brew pubs in the area. It is the only "keg fermenting" system I have ever seen.
Also in the outer reaches, but not visited this month are Market Street Brewing Company (a brew pub in downtown Corning) and Wagner Valley Brewery (a micro on the east shore of Seneca Lake near Lodi).
The Retail Front
Beers of the World, clearly Upstate New York's leading beer retailer, has both of Matt's holiday products; the holiday amber brew and the twelve pack of mixed beers. In the twelve pack this year is a new IPA and the stout. It is also offering Clovis, a new Belgian beer named after the 5th century founder of the Frank monarchy and New Amsterdam's seasonal. By the time this gets printed I expect a full range of holiday beers will be in the store.
In Syracuse, Party Source is the place to shop for those wonderful Christmas season beers and more.