From Empire Farm & Dairy magazine:
By DEBRA J. GROOM
Empire Farm & Dairy
Craft brewing has been a phenomenon for years in New York state and its momentum isn’t waning at all.
More and more craft breweries are opening across the state.
Statistics from the New York State Brewers Association show that in 2013-14, the craft brewing industry brought in more than $4 billion. There are about 240 craft breweries in the state now with about 50 more in planning.
The craft brewing industry boasts $450 million in tourism and brought in 3.66 million visits to breweries in the state. There also are 11,368 full-time jobs related to the craft brewing industry.
Like hard cideries, craft breweries have expanded their reach due to relaxed regulation and new laws passed in New York state.
One of the most important was the Farm Brewery License bill, that created a “Farm Brewery” license to allow craft brewers that use products grown in New York state to operate in a similar fashion to the state’s farm wineries.
State officials said this would lead to increased demand for locally grown farm products as well as expanded economic development and tourism.
This law allowed the farm breweries to run much the same as the farm wineries, which offer tours and have tasting rooms where visitors can sample the products and then buy the products.
“Craft breweries are a significant sector in our agricultural and tourism industries, and when they do well, our economy does well. I encourage New Yorkers to sample all of what our craft brewers have to offer,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a 2012 speech.
One of the newest craft breweries is Woodland Hop Farm and Fermentation, which opened just this year in Marcy, north of Utica. It is the first farm brewery in Oneida County.
Co-owner A.J. Spado said he and his co-owners are making 40 barrels of beer a month that is sold at their farm business on Trenton Road, not far from the SUNY Polytechnic Institute.
They bought their hops from another New York farmer this year, but this spring, they will plant 1 to 2 acres of hops at their site and increase that every year until they have from 6 to 10 acres.
“We try to use as many New York state ingredients as possible,” Spado said. “As of now, the hop varieties grown in New York state don’t allow hop forward beers to be completely brewed with local hops. Also, New York state maltsters are just getting into some of the specialty malts, so beers like stouts, IPAs, etc. still aren’t 100 percent NYS for us, yet.”
While Spado and his partners Keith Redhead and Nick Natishak are selling their beer out of their taproom now, they plan to eventually distribute their beer in the Syracuse/Utica/Albany areas.
The Great South Bay Brewing Co., located in Bay Shore on the south shore of Long Island, makes 29 beers -- three available all year and 26 seasonal brews.
Co-owner Rick Sobotka says the brewery began in 2010 and uses the highest quality malts and hops from New York state. They also have spent hours tinkering with recipes to come up with some extremely different tastes.
“When it comes to Bay brews, it’s not about how much we can make; it’s about how much better we can make it,” according to a writeup on its website. “It’s not about how fast we can turn it out, but about how fast the smile appears on your face when you taste it.”
Sobotka, a trained and licensed anesthesiologist, had always dreamed of opening a brewery. He began Great South Bay in a one barrel brewhouse of 1,400 square feet but soon grew into a 40,000-square-foot site and now makes 500 to 600 barrels (there are 31 gallons in a barrel) a month.
Great South Bay’s beers are available in half barrels and 1/6 barrel kegs (some beers are available in six-packs. The company distributes and sells throughout New York state.
“Two of our beers won gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival in Colorado,” Sobotka said. Those were: Specialty Beer category, 59 entries, winner was Hog Cabin; Pro-Am Competition, 91 entries, winner was Muscat Love.
To find out where to get Great South Bay’s beers, go to http://greatsouthbaybrewery.com/Bayfinder.php and put your zip code into the beer finder.
Anyone familiar with Central New York most likely knows Empire Brewing Co., with a brewpub and restaurant in the Armory Square section of downtown Syracuse.
This company has been brewing all types of craft beers since 1994 and prides itself on the buy local mantra -- meaning obtaining its ingredients from as close by as possible.
In fact, go to its website empirebrew.com and click on sustainability and there is a huge list of all the local companies Empire Brewing turns to for local ingredients for its beers and its food.
Probably the biggest endeavor for Empire in the coming months is the Empire Farmstead Brewery, which is supposed to open in the spring. According to its website, the “site will be developed for educational and beer production purposes. The property will also grow hops, lavender, vegetables, herbs and fruits for use in the brewing process and to support the needs of Empire’s brewpub located in Syracuse.”
“The 28,000-square-foot building will be situated on a 22-acre property on Route 13 in Cazenovia,” the website states. “The objective of the Empire Farmstead Brewery is to expand the existing brewing facility and agricultural component of Empire Brewing Company to a stand-alone manufacturing and agritourism facility.”