Winemakers have a saying: “It takes a lot of beer to make good wine.” But no matter how many lagers and ales built upstate New York’s Finger Lakes wine industry, the region’s world-class rieslings have made it hard for its microbrews to receive much attention.
the tides seem to be turning, and the Finger Lakes’ brewpubs and breweries are
flourishing among the area’s picturesque, more-established vineyards and
chateaux. This spring, locals even went so far as to launch the Finger Lakes Beer Trail, a
guide to more than 40 breweries, brewpubs, tap houses and specialty beer stores
that competes with the area’s many wine trails. From classic small-town beer
bars to cutting-edge microbreweries that are dabbling in bold and unusual
styles, the Finger Lakes beer scene is good enough to leave any beer lover
satisfied — and maybe convert a few wine lovers, too.
among antique shops and craft stores in Watkins Glen, at the south end of
Seneca Lake, Roosterfish Brewing,
which released its first beer in 2004, is based out of the Wildflower
Café and its
neighbouring Crooked Rooster Brewpub, both owned by brewmaster Doug Thayer. Embrace
the classic pub vibe at the Crooked Rooster, where beers are kept in a vintage
wooden icebox behind the bar and live music is featured every weekend, or head
to the Wildflower Café for pizzas, soups, salads and sandwiches made with local
ingredients. There is also a full list of New York wines, mostly from the
vineyards around Seneca and Keuka Lake.
draw, though, is the beer itself. The light, slightly fruity Firehouse Blonde
and the malty English-style Dogtooth Pale Ale are sure to please, while the
spicy, high alcohol Belgian-style ale called Tripel Witch and the intense Hop
Warrior Imperial IPA are better suited for more adventurous drinkers. (The
latter’s tagline? “Watch out, the Warrior will get you.”) The best approach:
opt for a flight of four-ounce tasters, $1.75 each.
Two Goats Brewing
It is hard
to imagine a better Finger Lakes brewpub than Two
Goats. Just up the road from Roosterfish on the eastern shore of Seneca
Lake, the tiny one-room tavern sits on a hill that falls sharply toward the
water, an ideal place to laze on the porch and enjoy the view. Alongside an
impressive selection of brews from abroad and throughout the US, Two Goats
pours a handful of easy-to-drink beers, including a smooth cream ale, a rich
oatmeal stout and the Headbutt!, a blend of the two.
another attraction, too: the roast beef sandwich. The only dish Two Goats
serves is made from moist, hand-carved beef, piled on a roll from a local
bakery and topped with horseradish mayo. It is unusually good — a pleasant
reminder of the well-executed, rustic simplicity that is so characteristic of the
Finger Lakes region.
Wagner Valley Brewing Company
1997, Wagner Valley
Brewing is the beer-centric offshoot of Wagner Vineyards, one of the Finger
Lakes region’s oldest wineries. The two companies share a sprawling facility in
Lodi, complete with tasting rooms and retail areas, making this one of the few
spots where the area’s two premier beverages can be sampled under one roof. The
brewery also sets itself apart through its emphasis on European-style beers, many
of which adhere to the German Purity Law of 1516, which allows only high-quality
malts, hops, water and yeast to be used for brewing. Its line-up includes a
refreshing pilsner, an amber Vienna lager and a dark, syrupy doppelbock. Do not
miss the seasonal releases, such as the Sugar House Maple Porter.
Ithaca Beer Company
of the Finger Lakes” is the motto of Ithaca
Beer — an appropriate slogan for what is almost certainly the region’s most
acclaimed brewery, located in the college town of Ithaca, New York. (In recent
years, it has regularly medalled at the prestigious Great American Beer
Festival.) With its strip-mall-style architecture the brewery does not look
like much, but head inside for some of the most varied, flavourful beers the
region has to offer. Regular tours are followed by free tastes of the brewery’s
five year-round beers and a handful of limited releases.
with the Ithaca Beer’s bestseller, its mellow and fruity Apricot Wheat, before
progressing to stronger offerings like the Flower Power IPA, packed with tropical
fruit flavours. For a souvenir, pick up a big bottle or two of Ithaca’s
Excelsior series — its hard-to-find limited releases range from AlpHalpHa,
brewed with New York-grown hops and local honey, to Brute, a complex and funky
American sour ale.