Heart of New York Craft Beverage Trail
By Michele DeBella
The craft beverage business is soaring in New York State and nowhere is that more apparent than in the Mohawk Valley, where the number of craft beverage producers has more than doubled since 2012.
Central New York has always been devoted to beer. Utica Club was, after all, the first licensed beer sold after Prohibition. And now there’s Brew Central, a website dedicated to showcasing the region’s producers of craft beer, wine, hard cider, and spirits. Explore their site for the stories behind the brews, and when you’re ready to get a taste of what’s on tap in Oneida County, follow the Heart of New York Craft Beverage Trail to these destinations.
Brewing on-site since 2017, 16 Stone Brewpub is the newest addition to the trail. Since opening, they’ve cultivated a hip, coffee-house vibe and a reputation for crafting interesting IPAs and Belgian Ales, along with more than a dozen other signature brews. And if the décor takes you back in time, that’s because the pub sits inside what used to be the historic Butterfield House, and fixtures such as the hand-carved wooden bar have been restored to their original condition. Friendly bartenders, plus weekly events like Open Mic Night and the popular Weenie Wednesdays, featuring a gourmet hot dog bar, create a friendly, neighborhood feeling.
The first microbrewery in Rome since the days of Prohibition is getting a lot of buzz. Craftbeer.com readers voted them one of 2018’s Great American Beer Bars based on the good beer, friendly service, and overall atmosphere. All beers are brewed on the premises—in fact, the brewery is in clear view of the bar—and because they’re a farm brewery, barley and hops from New York State are important ingredients in every batch. Look for the beers named in honor of the city—try the Belgian-style Woods Valley Witte or Delta “Dayum!” II, a double IPA. Copper City also brings a great line-up of live music to Rome and hosts a variety of events.
On the Craft Beverage Trail, Nail Creek is a trailblazer. Opened in 2008, they were the Mohawk Valley’s first craft beer pub. Their selection of regional beers is one of the biggest in the area, with 12 on tap that change daily and about 100 bottled beers always available. Owner Chris Talgo was inspired by the communal culture of European pubs after studying in Norway, and he and his wife Tracy work hard to build a similar environment. The result is a friendly, relaxing space with lots of unique weekly events to bring people together. And if eating a good meal is part of your itinerary, Nail Creek is rumored to serve one of the best burgers around.
There’s no better place to sample New York State wines than in Oneida County’s scenic countryside. That’s where you’ll find Prospect Falls Winery, located near a beautiful 35-foot cascading waterfall. The Adirondack-themed winery opened in 2015, though vintner Nick Keblish has been making wine for more than 20 years. Together, Keblish and his wife and co-owner Margaret, run the first licensed winery in Oneida County. They host popular events including paint and sip nights and live music, and if there’s a wine-tasting event in the area, you’ll most likely find them there. All wines are made on-site and tastings are always available during opening hours.
This is the cornerstone of all the craft beverage producers in the county. German immigrant Francis Xavier Matt founded the West End Brewing Co. in 1888 and these days, the 130-year old brewery is well-known for its variety of Saranac beers. It’s now the 15th largest producer of beer in the nation. Brewery tours are available every day except Sunday. Now being run by the third and fourth generation of the Matt family, they still bring the community together with the hugely popular Boilermaker Road Race afterparty, and the weekly summer nights fondly known as “Saranac Thursdays.”
Good wine, great live music. A bistro. You might want to plan for a little extra time on your Craft Beverage Trail for this one. They offer 12 wines made on the premises and tastings are available Wednesday-Sunday. A variety of New York State craft beers are also available. The restaurant, known as The Bistro, serves local, farm-to-table dishes, and there is even a spa on-site where you can pamper yourself with a host of skin-care treatments.
Plan to spend some time here having good conversation about really great beer. New beers are brewed on-site every week to keep things exciting, but they’ll keep customer favorites on tap, too. In fact, they devoted an entire evening to the return of their popular country pale ale, Up All Night, when Paste Magazine ranked it #11 out of 151 pale ales in the nation. The rustic wood décor lends to its cozy vibe but it’s really the friendliness of the bartenders and their enthusiasm for their craft that leave a lasting impression. Their calendar is packed with fun events like free outdoor movie screenings, and their menu focuses on fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.