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Tapping into local New York State libations

What's brewing in upstate NY

By Will Foster Beer columnist
On April 17, 2012

As spring looks like it's finally settled on staying, many people are looking to their carbonated companions to celebrate the warm weather.

There's nothing quite like a crisp, refreshing beer to bring people together, and 2012 looks like it's going to be a big year for the beverage. And not just for the consumers; there are big craft beer plans brewing in New York.

The biggest news deals with Rochester's longest running brewery, Genesee Brewing Company. This classic brand has been serving college kids cheap beer since before the days of Animal House.

In recent years, it's been working toward rebounding from the lull that left it stuck at the cheaper end of spectrum, competing with value brands like Pabst Blue Ribbon and Coors.

With this renewed vigor comes big plans to capitalize on this dynamic market with a new addition of a local brew house and visitor center to their facilities.

The brewery was slated for a May debut, but unfortunately plans have since stalled.

Locals are raising concern about the construction, because even though the brew house will be located in a historic packaging facility, the company is trying to demolish two other historic buildings in the process.

Despite the protests, Genesee's plan was approved earlier this month and we can hope for an opening in August.

And while we wait for the Rochester icon's new addition, why not try its new spring heritage collection? It's a variety pack that celebrates the brewery's roots by bringing three of their former beers out of retirement, complete with classic glass bottle.

Unfortunately, the introduction of this pack means the end of Genesee's Bock Beer season.

These beers don't offer much in the way of flavor - there are three varying and mildly palatable lagers - but they provide a nice replacement to whatever your weapon of choice is for cheap beer.

Also expanding beer culture in Rochester are the brilliant minds that brought you the Tap and Mallet, a pub boasting a 30-tap lineup.

The pub has been a cornerstone in the craft beer boom, and now they're expanding their operations and opening a new pub in Corn Hill slated for a June debut. They've assured their many fans that this new venue, coined the Tap and Table, will match the prowess of its partner.

And for true craft beer aficionados, there's the TAP New York Festival at Hunter Mountain in the Catskills on April 28 and 29. This festival is the longest running craft beer and food event in New York State, and this year's is looking to be its biggest yet, with more than 70 breweries showcasing more than 200 beers.

With an emphasis on going local, this festival is a great opportunity to sample many of smaller breweries from across the state. And it's not just great beer, but great food too. Though this fest is only for hardcore beer fans, with ticket prices a steep $64 for Saturday and $105 for the weekend.

This is just the beginning of something big, as more and more breweries flow back to the once beer-centric city. Fairport Brewing Company is mostly through all the red tape surrounding opening a brewery and is now onto scouting for locations for where it will make its mark.

Residents in the Finger Lakes recently organized a Finger Lakes Beer Trail to help rally support for the industry and compete with their viticulture counterpart.

Even politicians are behind the movement, including Senator Chuck Schumer who repellently launched his "I Love N.Y. Brew" campaign, geared toward getting more local beers in local establishments.

So why not hop on the bandwagon, crack a beer and watch the summer roll in?


Beer of the Week

Oaked Arrogant Bastard

Price: $17.99 for a 6-pack

ABV: 7.2 percent

Type: American Strong Ale

Usually names are just gimmicks to reel people in, but I've got to say, this beer really is an arrogant bastard. It has the right to be. Even from the start it pours a cock-of-the-walk ruby amber with a bold khaki head. The aroma is a complex blend of vanilla, citrus and cherry notes, all coated in smooth oaky overtones. But the sip is where this beer really takes off. It's nothing like I've ever had before and can only be described as savory. There's the obvious blast of hops in the beginning, following more of a well-beaten citrus path, but the malt flavor veers off road to some uniquely bitter and earth notes brought on by the oak barrel. It's a very earthy flavor, but it's the best earth I've ever tasted. The whole sip is wrapped together by the woody flavor, which makes it feel more like you're eating this beer than drinking it.


Oaked Arrogant isn't for the weak hearted. It's a complex brew, and with such a high price tag, it's not to be taken lightly. But those with tastes for great beer should not pass this one up. This beer is an experience. From the pour to the sip, it's classy and it knows it.  It's best drank in an old study full of leather-bound books on shelves of rich mahogany.

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