Nine Pin Cider Works shows off new look

One view of the redesigned tasting room.
One view of the new tasting room
The renovated and redesigned Nine Pin Cider Works unveiled its new look at Friday party, the culmination of a $500,000 project.

The project was made possible through funding by Empire State Development via the Capital Region Regional Economic Development Council. In addition to the esthetic improvements, it included the installation of seven 6,000-gallon fermentation tanks.

Alejandro del Peral, co-founder and cider maker, reports that Nine Pin products now are served in more than 1,000 bars, restaurants, and retail locations in New York and Massachusetts.

The state's first farm cidery, which will mark its third anniversary in February, is located at 949 Broadway in Albany's Warehouse District near the Nipper building. Go here for more images of the new look.


'Day of the Dead' dinner at Boca Bistro

In Mexico, November 1 is "The Day of the Dead," a time for celebration, cemetery visits, costumes, parades and, for some people, the intake of copious amounts of beer and tequila. This year, at least in Saratoga Springs, we're talking beer and vodka as part of a Death Wish Coffee Beer & Vodka Dinner.

Boca Bistro is collaborating with Deathwish Coffee, Olde Saratoga Brewing Co., and Albany Distillery to create the 6:30 p.m. dinner that will feature four beers brewed by Olde Saratoga Brewing Co. and Albany Distillery's Deathwish Vodka, all created using what is billed as the world's strongest coffee.

Go here to see the menu for the four-course dinner. Reservations, which are required, are $65 plus tax and tip and may be made online or by calling the restaurant at 682-2800.

Boca Bistro is located at 384 Broadway in Saratoga Springs.


North Albany Oktoberfest set for Saturday

screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-12-54-25-pmAs I was driving down Broadway in Albany's Warehouse District this morning, it occurred to me that simple task would be impossible on Saturday.

That's when Wolff's Biergarten will be hosting its annual North Albany Oktoberfest block party. As in the past, the city will block off Broadway to vehicular traffic between Ferry and Thatcher streets. That stretch will be turned over to food vendors, keg bowlers, dachshund racers and other partyers. Plus, there always is the Oktoberfest 5K run.

Tickets, available online, are $15 in advance, $20 the day of the event. A $50 VIP ticket covers a free souvenir 1-liter stein, hors d'oeuvres, a wine selection, and private rest rooms. The festival will run from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.


Merger creates gigantic beer company

Screen shot 2016-09-29 at 3.26.01 PMIt will be interesting to see how long it takes for consumers to be affected, but for now it's enough to know that the newest international corporate mega-merger is creating a company that will sell more than a quarter of all the beers sold worldwide and will be the fifth-largest consumer goods company on the globe.

The latest hurdle was cleared on Wednesday when shareholders of SABMiller overwhelmingly backed the brewer’s $100 billion-plus takeover by Anheuser-Busch InBev. For the latter, it provides entry into Africa and large, fast-growing Latin American markets such as Colombia and Peru.

A-B InBev’s $103 billion bid was approved in a brief meeting in London. Seventy-five percent of the vote was needed to approve, but 95.5% of SABMiller share value was received.

In an earlier meeting in Brussels, A-B InBev CEO Carlos Brito said the new entity would continue to be called Anheuser-Busch InBev, eliminating any corporate reference to SABMiller, the 120-years-old company founded in South Africa. The brewer had changed its name after transformative deals in the past, such as InBev’s 2008 takeover of St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch.

“They can call it what they wish. That’s the way life works and that’s fine,” du Plessis told reporters after the meeting.

Several joint ventures will be terminated to satisfy anti-trust rules, and such brands as Pironi will be divested. However, the new company still will have such brands as Budweiser, Miller, Corona, Busch, Stella Artois, Rolling Rock, Redd's, Shock Top, Beck's, Kirin, Landshark, Goose Island, O'Doul's, Bass, Beck's ... and on and on.


Red Robin to debut a burger-inspired ale

Going into this year, the folks at headquarters decided to make a subtle but meaningful change in the restaurant group's name to Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews. Now, as part of ongoing modifications to its bar program, Red Robin is about to release its first-ever burger-inspired beer, in collaboration with New Belgium Brewing.

It's called Grilled Pineapple Golden Ale, inspired by Red Robin's Banzai Burger, and will make its debut in Denver at the Great American Beer Festival on October 6-8. The burger recipe features a fresh, fire-grilled patty glazed in teriyaki, topped with grilled pineapple, Cheddar, lettuce, tomatoes and mayo on a sesame seed bun.

To accurately capture the components of the burger, New Belgium developed the beer to complement the burger's teriyaki and pineapple flavor profile. Says the Red Robin announcement:

"New Belgium's brewmasters used ginger, brown sugar and black malt to build up the soy and umami notes, followed by a dose of pineapple chunks and a touch of applewood-smoked malt to give the beer a recognizable Banzai Burger finish."

There are more than 540 Red Robin restaurants across the U.S. and Canada. In the Capital Region, there are Red Robin restaurants at 880 Loudon Road in Latham at the Route 9 entrance to the Latham Farms shopping complex, and at 1 Crossing Boulevard in Halfmoon.


LI craft brewer creates a 'debate beer'

Screen shot 2016-09-21 at 6.32.41 PMNever let it be said that the American entrepreneurial spirit has gotten weak, no matter which major political party it favors.

Take the Blue Point Brewing Company, for example. The Long Island craft brewery, established in 1998, on Tuesday unveiled Colonial Ale, what it refers to as a "debate beer" based on a George Washington recipe. It will debut outside the Trump-Clinton presidential debate at Hofstra University on Monday.

According to an announcement by the brewer, located in Patchogue about 35 miles east of the Hofstra campus, Colonial Ale, is a modern take on a 1757 recipe belonging to Washington, then a 25-year-old colonel in the Virginia Regiment militia.

The recipe, which calls for era-appropriate ingredients such as corn, molasses and spruce tips in place of hops, comes from a notebook owned by Washington during the French and Indian War.


CIA hosting HV craft beverage conference

Screen shot 2016-09-20 at 4.26.34 PMRegistration is now open for the 4th annual Hudson Valley Beer, Wine, Spirits & Cider Summit, scheduled for October 4 at the Culinary Institute of America.

The event, intended for those working in the industry, will feature a lineup of discussions related to the craft beverage industry’s current climate, and future opportunities in the Hudson Valley region. Of course, participants will be able to sample a variety of beers, wines, spirits and ciders.

Charles Merinoff, principal founder and co-chairman of Breakthru Beverage Group and a 35-year veteran of the beverage distribution industry, will be the keynote speaker. The conference will begin at noon at the CIA's Marriott Pavilion. Seating is limited and advance registration, available online, is required.

The CIA is located at 1946 Campus Drive, Hyde Park, near Route 9.


Marcy farm brewery plans cask ale festival

Screen shot 2016-09-14 at 2.58.03 PMThe new Woodland Farm Brewery is going English for a day.

The Oneida County facility that opened in January will host its inaugural New York State Cask Ale Fest on Saturday, October 15.

A cask ale is a traditional way to serve beer in England, with unfiltered and unpasteurized beer conditioned (including secondary fermentation) and served from a cask without additional nitrogen or carbon dioxide pressure. Brewers claim such a style allows for more flavors and varieties.

In addition to offering samples of Woodland's efforts, the Cask Ale Fest also will feature specialty brews from Shmaltz, F.X. Matt, Good Nature, Binghamton, Lunkenheimer, and Fulton Chain Craft Brewing. Tickets are available online or at any participating brewery.

Incidentally, Woodland today released a new beer called Station 4, a slightly smoky red ale that brewer A.J. Spado says is a tribute to local firefighters.

Woodland, a hop farm as well as a farm brewery, is located at 6002 Trenton Road in Marcy, about midway between Utica and Rome. Phone: (315) 864-3051.

New law evens cideries' playing field

Inside the Nine Pin Ciderworks
Inside Nine Pin Ciderworks

"The Greeks and Romans mastered the art of cider making. When Romans invaded England around 55 B.C., they found that cider was already being enjoyed by the locals there. By that time, apple trees had long ago migrated from forests around Kazakhstan and were well established across Europe and Asia. It was in southern England, France, and Spain that the technique of fermenting -- and later distilling -- the fruit was perfected. Evidence of this ancient art can be found in the European countryside today, where large circular apple grinding stones used to crush the fruit are still half buried in the fields."
-- Amy Stewart, "The History of Cider Making"

Although in the early United States cider was a popular everyday beverage, over the years what we call "hard" cider to distinguish it from the non-alcoholic version virtually disappeared. However, in recent years it has made a strong comeback, in New York State helped immeasureably by changes in alcoholic beverage laws and the fact that the state is second only to Washington in apple growing.

But, enticing the public to visit cideries for tasting and purchasing has been a bit difficult. That should change because of a new piece of legislation signed into law on Tuesday by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. It allows farm cideries to serve not only cider but wine, beer and spirits by the glass. Before that move, farm cideries were required to apply for separate farm brewery, winery, or distillery licenses to be able to serve such beverages by the glass. Whereas a cidery could sell beer, wine, and spirits by the bottle for retail, a consumer could not consume by the glass.

The new law was pushed in the state Legislature by Senator George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, and Assembly Member Patricia Fahy, D-Albany.

"As New York's farm beverage industry continues to grow, it's important to do everything we can to encourage further expansion of this important piece of our economy," Amedore said. "Allowing farm cideries to offer other New York State-produced beers, wines, and spirits by the glass encourages cross promotion of all the great products New York State has to offer, and will help strengthen the growing craft beverage industry."

Alejandro Peral, founder and owner of Albany's Nine Pin Ciderworks, the state's first farm cidery, said, “This bill creates parity among the various farm based licensees and supports the growth of the value added products produced by them. We will now be able to serve other New York farm based beverages to our customers in our tasting room just as those farm wineries and breweries are able to serve cider to their customers.”

"As a coalition of craft beverage producers [we] thank Governor Cuomo, Senator Amedore, and Assembly Member Fahy for their leadership to make regulations easier for farm-based producers to promote New York-made beverages. As a distiller and small business owner myself, this continues the state's commitment to building the farm-based craft alcohol sector," said John Curtin of Albany Distilling Company and president of the Capital Craft Beverage Trail Association.


Barrel Saloon rebounds from smoker blaze

The scene of the mess
Scene of the mess
The Barrel Saloon & Texas BBQ opened today as planned, recovered from an outdoor Sunday fire.

Owner Chris Pratt reports "The smoker, the roof and the decking were all destroyed. No one was injured in any way. The building is brick so nothing happened at all in the building."

The Barrel Saloon staff got an extra day to clean up since the establishment is closed on Mondays. And, because there is a second smoker on the premises, food is being served as usual, and a check with the business at mid-day today said things are going smoothly.

The restaurant-pub is located at 942 Broadway, Albany. Phone: 694-0670. Curious about the extensive menu? Click here to see it.

Ex-Druthers chef moves to Olde English Pub

Sean Comiskey
Sean Comiskey
Sean Comiskey, the founding chef at Druthers Brewing in Saratoga Springs who left there three months ago, has landed a new gig -- executive chef at The Olde English Pub & Pantry in Albany.

Comiskey will introduce his first full menu sometime next month, as first reported by Steve Barnes in his Table Hopping blog. Given Comiskey's reputation for it, count on the inclusion of his version of mac-and-cheese.

Comiskey succeeds Ross Thompson, who recently resigned the post after three years and returned to his native Delaware. In turn, Comiskey was succeeded as the Druthers corporate head chef, supervising its brewpub locations in Saratoga and Albany, by Mike Spain, who had run the kitchen at Druthers-Albany since it opened last year.

Comiskey is a graduate of the Schenectady County Community College culinary program. He is a regular in local culinary competitions, scoring wins in such events as Saratoga Chowderfest, the Mac-n-Cheese Bowl, and Slider Slam. In 2013, he was a nominee in the annual Albany Wine and Dine for the Arts Festival's Rising Star Chefs category.

The Olde English Pub & Pantry is located on Quackenbush Square, 683 Broadway at the foot of Clinton Avenue. Phone: 434-6533.


'Eco-brewery district' part of Genesee expansion

Drawing of part of the project
Drawing shows part of project
Fans of the Genesee Brewery in Rochester -- and there must be many since it has been around for 138 years -- undoubtedly will like the company's announcement of a $49.1 million to expand the facility and to create an "Eco-Brewery District."

North American Breweries, owner of the state's oldest brewery and currently employer of 592 people there, and the office of Governor Andrew Cuomo jointly announced the project, which will be partially paid for by the state's taxpayers.

Specifically, the state's Empire State Development (ESD) arm will provide up to $4.5 million in performance-based "Excelsior Jobs Program" tax credits in return for the company’s commitment to create 128 jobs overall; through the "Upstate Revitalization Initiative" ESD will provide a $5 million capital grant; and, another $3 million of the capital grant is tied to the company hiring 64 persons deemed to have been impacted by poverty.

“The expansion of the Genesee Brewery is a symbol of the economic renaissance unfolding throughout the Finger Lakes and an important example of how we are leveraging the region’s resources to generate growth and opportunity,” Cuomo said.

The project includes installation of what is termed "one of the most advanced brewing systems in the world," expansion of the Genesee Brew House restaurant and tasting room; improvements and expansion for the pilot brewery, and a new event space, for a total expansion of 18,000 square feet.

The announcement says, "The multi-phase project will culminate in the creation of an 'Eco-Brewery District' that will provide a sustainable destination for brewing, tasting and learning about beer in Rochester. The designation of 'Eco-Brewery' aligns with the company’s philosophy of helping to sustain its neighborhood and beer and brewing community while reducing its environmental footprint."

Working in collaboration with the local Monroe Community College, the district also is intended to support workforce development for the beer industry. In addition, the district would be marketed as a tourist attraction that aligns with the High Falls Gorge nearby the low-income Northeast neighborhood.

“Over the past six years, North American Breweries has invested $70 million in Genesee, creating 250 new jobs in the beer industry. Genesee has been a big part of the brewing renaissance in Rochester,” said company CEO Kris Sirchio, "[and] has a great opportunity to help Rochester become a premier destination for beer and brewing."

Marrying cider-, beer-making techniques

Kevin and Evan in an artsy image they provided
Kevin and Evan in their artsy image
Politics is all about finding a gimmick to help sell someone or something to the masses. So, a pair of Finger Lakes beverage producers are hoping their partnership in creating a cider called "Make America Grape Again" will find willing consumers.

The name is, of course, a riff on Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan. You know, the same slogan Hillary and Bill Clinton have proclaimed as racist even though in the past they repeatedly used precisely the same phrase to push their political agendas. Yeah, that slogan.

The new cider is the product of a partnership between Kevin Collins of Cider Creek Hard Cider in Canisteo, southeast of Hornell, and Evan Miles of Miles Wine Cellars in Himrod on Seneca Lake. Collins previously teamed up with brewers -- Resurgence Brewing Company of Buffalo, Swiftwater Brewing of Rochester, and Stoneyard Brewing of Brockport -- to produce small batch ciders, but this is his first collaboration with a winery.

It features Lemberger grapes, saison ale yeast, and champagne yeast, resulting in notes of raspberry, blackberry, plum and pepper. Wines made from Lemberger typically have a light tannin level. The saison ale yeast adds citrus notes, and the champagne yeast adds to the effervescence. The yeasts also join to create a light pink hue.

Why the name, "Make America Grape Again"? The two entrepreneurs say Trump's entrepreneurial spirit and support for agriculture make him the best candidate to "help us grow as businessmen, farmers and beverage producers."


Wolff's Biergartens offer 'brunch bill' specials

Screen shot 2016-09-08 at 4.43.04 PMNow that restaurants and taverns can serve alcohol beginning at 10 a.m. on Sundays rather than being restricted to a noon start, keep an eye out for specials at all sorts of places.

Among the first to take advantage of the new law -- nicknamed the "brunch bill" but endlessly referred to by people who don't know enough not to use childish terms as "booze" legislation -- are the four Wolff’s Biergarten locations.

Beginning this Sunday, and on Sundays through the end of the month, from 10 a.m. to noon customers will be able to purchase a half-liter of beer for the price of one-third of a liter, a full liter for the price of a half, and one-liter Bloody Marys for $12.

Wolff’s locations are 2 King Street in Troy, 895 Broadway in Albany, 165 Erie Boulevard in Schenectady, and 106 Montgomery Street in Syracuse.


'Brunch bill' goes into effect today

Legislation SmallThe timing seemed fitting when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the latest amendment to the state's alcoholic beverage control laws this morning. After all, the package of changes has been nicknamed the "brunch bill."

The change, the latest in a steady stream of modernizations of the laws under Cuomo's administration, immediately allows restaurants and bars to begin serving alcohol at 10 a.m. on Sundays, two hours earlier than previously allowed. In addition, such businesses outside New York City will be able to apply for 12 permits per year to sell alcohol as early as 8 a.m.

Also going into effect because of the signing: permission for the sale of wine in growlers, allowing liquor stores to sell gift wrapping and gift bags, and cutting more red tape for craft alcohol producers and sellers.

“After more than 80 years, it’s about time to bring the rules governing the sale of alcohol in line with the demands of our customers,” Scott Wexler, executive director of the Empire State Restaurant & Tavern Association, said in a statement. “Thanks to the leadership of Governor Cuomo and SLA Chairman (Vincent) Bradley we can now accommodate our guests who want a Bloody Mary or Mimosa with their brunch or a draft beer while watching their favorite football team — European or NFL. This is good news for small businesses all across New York State.”


Troy 'Polish treehouse' celebrating 1st birthday

Outdoor portion of The Hill
Outdoor portion of The Hill

The Hill at Muza took its first ambitious steps last year when the unused space behind the European-style restaurant Muza on Troy's Congress Street was converted into a beer garden.

Now, what some call the "Polish treehouse" is planning to mark its first birthday with a beer and kielbasa bash. The event, set for 4 to 11 p.m. this Saturday, with drinks, food, live '80s music in the 6-9 p.m. period, a photo booth with inflatable Polish props, and some new touches to the venue that will be revealed.

"We've had an incredible first year, and it shows that other Troy neighborhoods outside of downtown are ready to start booming again," said Adam Siemiginowski, who owns The Hill. "We have amazing regulars coming from Troy's East Side, but we're also drawing adventure-seeking visitors from all over the region."

Business partner Timothy Tyrrell adds, "Some of our guests say that being at The Hill feels like hanging out in a treehouse for adults, with beer and kielbasa. We've built an entire business around feel-good energy, creating an experience that people will remember and want to come back for."

The original Muza restaurant was established nine years ago by Siemiginowski's parents Jan and Alicja, who immigrated to the United States from Poland in the 1970s. The evolving menu at their son's extension of the business now includes "Euro" burgers, house-smoked tacos and wings, and kielbasa prepared in the outdoor kitchen, as well as a wine list recently featured on Albany's Yelp site.

The venue, located just off the RPI campus, is framed by three adjacent buildings, a cobble-lined wall and a wooded hill. Guests enter through a pair of black gates at 379 Congress Street. (The main restaurant Muza is located around the corner at 1300 15th Street.) A narrow walkway between two buildings leads to the open-air landscaped beer garden. There also is an enclosed clubhouse-like barroom with tables and indoor seating.


Mr. Beer home brewing kits add 12 new versions

Screen shot 2016-09-04 at 3.07.48 PMThere certainly is no shortage of beer choices, whether from Big Brewers or the still-climbing number of craft breweries. And, for those with an interest in producing their own, in the Capital Region alone we have such helpful sources as the Homebrew Emporium, Hammersmith Home Brew Supplies, and Saratoga Zymurgist.

But, have you heard of Mr. Beer? The homebrew-kit company has been around since 1993, sometimes flying a bit under the radar but steadily increasing its offerings. Its latest: 12 new craft beer kits featuring the six most popular craft beer styles in "complete" and "starter" kit versions.

The intention with the new kits, according to Pat Bridges, head of sales and marketing, is to "allow craft beer fans to take brewing into their own hands, to find a deeper appreciation for the flavors they enjoy from their favorite craft breweries." He also notes that the kits allow for shorter time to consumption, less required startup know-how, and less odor in the home.

They are available with either Bewitched Amber Ale, American Lager, Northwest Pale Ale, Diablo IPA, Long Play IPA, or Churchills Nut Brown Ale inside. They range from $44.95 to $64.95, depending on the beer and whether they are complete (carbonation drops, bottles, caps and labels for bottling) or starter (only brewing essentials) versions. Each kit makes roughly 22 beers of 12 fl. oz or roughly 11 beers at 25 fl. oz. You can get a look at them by going here.

The company also offers kits for making cider, hard root beer, and non-alcoholic root beer kits intended for young brewers.


Troy Craft Beer Week ratchets up 20 events

Screen shot 2016-09-02 at 2.22.37 PMThe community where the local modern craft brewing movement first took anchor will be showcasing beer and all its trappings with 20 events during the 3rd annual Troy Craft Beer Week scheduled for Monday, September 12, through Saturday, September 17, in Troy.

Brown's Brewing Company, the River Street brewpub emporium that is the oldest craft brewer in the Capital Region in modern times, has a variety of meal specials during the week, while other venues are participating in such things as a pub crawl, a clam bake, pop-up meals, an ales vs. lagers night, and other events. A complete schedule and details are available online, along with ticket sales.

In addition, on Friday night the "Collar City Invitational" will be held at the Takk House, 55 3rd Street. The sponsoring Troy Craft Beer Council is defining it as a "rare beer festival" that will feature 30 local, domestic, and imported breweries. Each will be pouring rare and unusual beers from their portfolios. An early VIP admission is available.


Craft brews from NYS, elsewhere going abroad

Screen shot 2016-08-29 at 5.09.42 PM• From The Wall Street Journal

LONDON -- On a recent evening, a group of Americans descended on the trendy South London neighborhood of Brixton to quaff craft beers from New York, Colorado and Michigan, paired with dishes like marinated beetroot with whipped sheep’s curd, puffed barley and hibiscus.

“Hops are insanely food-friendly,” Adam Dulye, executive chef for a Boulder, CO, trade body called the Brewers Association, told the gathering. “Think about how the hops interact in your mouth -- on the roof of your palate, on your tongue, through your nose -- and how they dance back and forth with the dish.”

The vegetarian dinner, designed to showcase the versatility of U.S. craft beer, was one of several events the Brewers Association has organized in the U.K. in recent years as it seeks to accelerate rising demand for American beer here.

Craft beer exploded in the U.S. over the past 30 years as a rash of microbrewers helped the country shrug off its reputation for producing bland, uninspiring mainstream lagers. More recently, that appeal has flowed overseas, sending exports of U.S. craft beer soaring to 446,151, 31-gallon barrels last year from 110,045 in 2011, according to the Brewers Association.

Britain is often the first port of call for many small U.S. brewers looking to expand internationally given the nation’s influence on U.S. beer.

Go here for the full story.

'Battle of the Brews' coming up in Albany

Battle of the BrewsHomebrewers who think their handiwork is as good or better than others in that category will have a chance to prove their claims when the 20th annual "Knickerbocker Battle of the Brews" takes place in November.

The deadline for entering the event, co-sponsored by the Saratoga Thoroughbrews and Albany Craft Brewers, is Saturday, October 22. Judging will be held on Saturday, November 12, at the Albany Pump Station downtown brewery and restaurant, 19 Quackenbush Square.

Details on entry requirements are available online. The entry fee is $8 per entry. All categories, including mead and cider, are accepted. Medals or ribbons will be awarded to first, second, and third place in each award flight. The first place entry in each category will advance to the "Best of Show" round where the top three beers will be selected.


Rare Form unveiling 'relatively' good beers

Screen shot 2016-08-15 at 10.07.13 AMYour average craft brewery tends to release its new brews one at a time. The Rare Form Brewing Company, however is in ... rare form, so to speak. It plans to release three new "extremely limited" offerings simultaneously.

At 1 p.m. Saturday, August 27, Rare Form will be introducing two beers in what it calls the "Family Tree" line, as well as a Karass porter.

The Family Tree line stems from Rare Form's one-year anniversary beer called Dark Tropic, a coconut porter aged in sour dark rum barrels. A small amount of that beer was left in both of the barrels in which they were aged. That added branches to the "family tree," and, say the brewers, "each barrel embarked on two different paths, leaving a small amount of beer from its previous aging. Over a year later, we’ve created two beers that are accumulations from blends of every barrel-aged sour produced by Rare Form. Thus creating Family Tree 1 and Family Tree 2."

• Family Tree 1: Dark Tropic > Wee Plaid > Table Beer (spontaneously fermented) > blended with Table Beer 4.8% abv

• Family Tree 2: Dark Tropic > Wee Plaid > Plum Love > blended with Table Beer 6.6% abv

• The rye barrel aged Karass Porter is "inspired by one of the great Troy authors (*), Kurt Vonnegut. This robust porter is a part of our Karass.” (Vonnegut coined the term in his novel "Cat's Cradle" to refer to a network or group of people somehow spiritually linked.) The beer was aged in fresh rye whiskey barrels from Yankee Distilling Company of Clifton Park, bottled at 7% abv.

Rare Form Brewing Company is located at 90 Congress Street in Troy. Phone: 326-4303.

Screen shot 2016-08-15 at 10.46.08 AM(*) The reference to the late novelist (1922-2007) as a "Troy" author might be considered by some to be a bit of a stretch. Vonnegut, who lived in Glenville, Schenectady County, while working as a technical writer for General Electric, did set some of his stories in the fictional city of Ilium, which many people took to be Troy (the Roman name for ancient Troy was Ilium), but some insist was based on Schenectady even though Schenectady is referenced as a place separate from Ilium by various characters in Vonnegut's "Player Piano," "Cat's Cradle," and "Slaughterhouse-Five." Let the debate continue.


Ommegang yeast in Nine Pin's latest cider

Co-op beverage creations seem to be popping up everywhere.

I recently wrote about several collaborations between breweries in New York State and counterparts in two southern states. But, closer to home the latest product is a new hard cider that’s a three-county local effort.

The product, called The Lion’s Share, is manufactured under the label of Nine Pin Cider Works of Albany from a blend of apples from Samascott Orchards of Kinderhook, Columbia County, that is fermented with a proprietary Belgian yeast from Brewery Ommegang of Oneonta, Otsego County.

The Lion’s Share debuted this week at Nine Pin’s tasting room, 929 Broadway, at a suggested retail price of $12.99 for a four-pack of 12-ounce cans.


Explaining the Northern/Davidson brewery sale

RegulationSeveral of my readers have expressed confusion about the sale of the Davidson Brothers Brewing facility in Queensbury to an Oneonta beverage distributor and brewery owner, Northern Eagle Beverages Inc., citing what they see as a possible violation of the state's "three tier" or "tied house" rules that regulate cross-ownership of businesses in the beverage world.

I checked with William Crowley, spokesman for the State Liquor Authority (SLA), to sort out the confusion. Here is his response:

"What you and your readers are referring to is the commonly known as the 'tied house' laws, which can be found in Sections 101, 105 and 106 of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law.

"In a nutshell, New York’s tied house laws prohibit (1) New York manufacturers (breweries, distilleries, wineries, cideries) and wholesalers from having a financial interest in a retail business (restaurants, bars, grocery, and liquor stores) no matter where the retailer is located; and (2) New York retailers from having a financial interest in an alcoholic beverage manufacturer, no matter where the manufacturer or wholesaler is located. The tied house law does not, however, prohibit a manufacturer from having an interest in a wholesaler, or vice versa.

"For example, Anheuser Busch (Budweiser) operates a brewery (manufacturer) in Baldwinsville, NY. In addition they also have a New York wholesale license to distribute beer throughout the state. This is not a tied house violation as these provisions only prohibit wholesalers/manufacturers from having an interest in a retail business. Consequently, Anheuser Busch could not have an ownership interest a stand-alone bar, restaurant, liquor store, etc.

"Northern Eagle Beverage holds a wholesale license in New York State, while Davidson Brothers Brewing holds a manufacturing license (micro-brewery), consequently there are no tied house issues here. While, as you may know, Davidson Brothers also operate two licensed restaurants, they do so through a statutory exception that allows micro-breweries to operate restaurants owned by the brewery at or next to their brewery. 

"Notwithstanding this exemption in the law, micro-breweries with adjacent restaurant licenses are considered manufacturers under the ABC Law. The tied house laws would, however, prevent Davidson Brothers from having a financial interest in a restaurant that was not part of the brewery."


An old ski event, a new beer emphasis

There have been a few changes in the annual Albany Ski and Snowboard Expo, scheduled for November. Let’s put it this way: Telling you what is being retained would be simpler — “… Ski and …” about covers it.

To explain. Last year, a craft beer garden was so emphatically received by event-goers that the organizers decided to redirect their marketing emphasis. So, when it the 55th annual event is held from November 4 through 6 at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany it will go under a new title, “Northeast Ski & Craft Beer Showcase.”

Admission to the craft beer and cider garden will be $10, sold in addition to the $10 general admission fee ($8 general admission if purchased in advance). It will include a sampling area for the brews and light foods.

Participating brewers have not yet been announced, but last year the list included 1911 Hard Cider, Adirondack Pub & Brewery, Brewery Ommegang, Brooklyn Brewery, Brown’s Brewing Company, Captain Lawrence Brewing Company, Cider Creek Hard Cider, Druthers Brewing Company, Empire Brewing Company, Ithaca Beer Company, Keegan Ales, Lake Placid Brewery, Olde Saratoga Brewing Company, and Saranac Brewery.

America On Tap events set for Troy, Saratoga Springs

Screen shot 2016-07-25 at 4.36.14 PMThe event organizing company America On Tap has released the initial list of its New York State beer festivals for the coming fall and winter.

The earliest in the Capital Region will be "Troy On Tap," which will have a new location for its Saturday, September 17, event -- the Sage Colleges. That event will begin with a VIP early start from 1 to 2 p.m. and the rest of the crowd will be welcomed from 2 to 5 p.m.

General admission is $35 for three hours of beer sampling and a souvenir glass, VIP tickets $55 for the extra hour of beer sampling, plus food vouchers, a tasting glass, and an event hat. Tickets are available online at a $10 discount that runs until August 1. Use the discount code TENOFF.

Then, during "Saratoga Beer Week," the 6th annual "Saratoga Beer Summit" will be held on Saturday, February 25, at the Saratoga City Center. It will be split into two sessions, 1 to 4 p.m. (VIP admission at noon) or 5 to 8 p.m.

Tickets are available online now, with prices going up as certain dates are reached: $35 until January 1, $40 until February 25, $40 at the gate, and $60 for VIP tickets. For "Troy On Tap," the event planners promise "more than 100 releases from some of America’s best craft breweries." For the "Saratoga Beer Summit," they promise "over 150 releases."

Other America On Tap festivals are scheduled for Cooperstown, Oneonta, Utica, and Beacon. Go here for connections to festivals scheduled nationwide.

Brew pub chain planning Colonie Center venue

Screen shot 2016-07-18 at 3.04.15 PMAs so often happens when a business pulls out of a large space, that area eventually becomes home to more than simply one entity.

The former Sears Auto Center at the southwest corner of the Colonie Center shopping complex is the latest local example. A chain restaurant called BJ's Brewhouse -- sure to cause some initial confusion with the nearby BJ's Wholesale Club to which it is not related -- will be created inside the 28,000 square foot footprint.

The same sort of transition -- from auto repair center to restaurant -- is being worked on at two former auto centers in Maryland by parent company Seritage Growth Properties, which also owns the Sears store at Colonie Center.

The BJ's Brewhouse chain has locations in 22 states, but the Colonie venue will be only the second in New York State. The other is in Nanuet, Rockland County.

Its drinks menu lists 11 "always on tap" beers, plus a lineup of other year-round and seasonal brews; a variety of standard spirits, and a line of house-brand soft drinks. The beer program is overseen by Cornell University grad Alex Puchner, who carries the title of senior vice president of brewing operations. He has been with BJ's since its founding in 1996, after having brewed for the Laguna Beach and Huntington Beach breweries in California.

Foodwise, BJ's offers such beer-friendly dishes as deep dish pizzas, salads, sandwiches, pastas, steaks, baby back ribs, and shareable appetizers.

NYS entries so-so at U.S. Open Beer Championships

Screen shot 2016-07-24 at 3.20.53 PMNew York State entries took only eight of the 324 awards handed out by judges in the just-completed 2016 U.S. Open Beer Championships in Oxford, OH, and two of them were for root beer.

Domestic and foreign breweries sent in nearly 5,000 brews -- no word on how many in total were from New York -- presenting nearly 100 different styles in a competition that included professional breweries and award-winning home-brewers.

Firestone Walker Brewing from Paso Robles, CA, was named "Grand National Champion" by winning three gold medals (for its Union Jack IPA, Double Jack, and Parabajava), one silver medal and a bronze. Melvin Brewing from Jackson, WY, placed second and Cigar City Brewing from Tampa, FL, third.

In addition to the serious awards, the judges -- from the U.S., England, and Canada -- selected a top 10 list of what they thought were the most creative names among the brews. They were, in order from No.1 : Wit or Wit Out You; Tall, Dark and Mandarin; Shitnit; Big Booty Golden Ale; Sexapeel; Bolshevik Bastard; You Bretta Run; Guava the Hutt; There Gose My Heart, and Toxic Sludge Black IPA. Two of those were from Long Island brewers -- Shitnit by Port Jeff Brewing, and Toxic Sludge by Blue Point Brewing, which walked off with a trio of awards.

The other New York medal winners:

Rye/Roggen Beer -- Gold medal, Rastafa Rye Ale, Blue Point Brewing, Patchogue, Suffolk County  

Robust Porters -- Silver medal, Asylum Porter, 42 North Brewing of East Aurora, Erie County  

Gose -- Silver medal, Gose, Blue Point Brewing 

Belgian Witbier -- Bronze medal, Beach Beer, Port Jeff Brewing, Port Jefferson, Suffolk County  

Hard Root Beer -- Bronze medal, Jed’s Hard Root Beer, F.X. Matt Brewing Company, Utica, Oneida County  

Non-Alcoholic Root Beer -- Silver medal, Saranac Root Beer – F.X. Matt Brewing

Go here for the full list of all awards.


Crossgates closing only latest for World of Beer

Any time a pub or restaurant quietly closes and doesn't announce plans for a renovation, reopening, or anything else, that is not a good sign.

So, one must assume World of Beer, the chain tavern in Guilderland's Crossgates Mall, is gone from this market. As evidence, the doors are locked, the phone doesn't work, the website, Facebook page, and Twitter account haven't been updated in months.

When Times Union food blogger Steve Barnes tried to find out what is going on, he was stonewalled, saying, "An employee at the mall’s information desk told me the closure was sudden and they have been instructed to say that World of Beer is 'closed temporarily.' A World of Beer staffer who emailed me wrote, 'We can’t get an answer as to when or even if it will reopen'.”

WOB, which leans heavily on its 500-beer selection and live musical performances in its marketing, has opened more than 70 locations in 20 states since its first spot debuted in Tampa, FL, in 2007. The Crossgates location opened its doors in June 2014. However, its closure shouldn't be a shock. My research reveals that in the past 18 months or so, abrupt closings of WOB locations have taken place in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood; in St. Petersburg, Land O Lakes, and Jacksonville Beach, FL; in Austin and Dallas, TX; in Columbus and the Cleveland suburb of Lakewood, OH; in Milwaukee; in the Seattle suburb of Renton; in Denver, and in Ann Arbor, MI. And, that's what I found in less than 10 minutes of searching.

Most of the shuttered spots had been open only about two years on average. As recently as six months ago, CEO Paul Avery didn't say anything about closing any locations when he bragged in an interview with the industry website Brewbound:

"2015 was an excellent year of growth for World of Beer, as we have not only met but exceeded our goal of robust growth and in adding quality franchise partners. ... Last year’s success has set us up for another promising year, and we look forward to expanding the World of Beer brand to new markets nationwide and overseas in markets such as China, India and the Philippines.”


Plattsburgh Brewfest tickets going fast

If you plan to be in the Adirondacks the first week in August, you may want to consider taking in the Plattsburgh Brewfest.

That event is scheduled for 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, August 6, on the Plattsburgh City Beach. While VIP tickets already are sold out, general admission reservations still are available online at $35.

The brewfest will feature local, regional, and national beers, ales, ciders, and local wines. Last year, more than 30 vendors were on hand, and that number should hit 40 by event time. The day also will offer live music and sampling of local foods along with the craft beverage tastings. Designated driver tickets include food sampling tickets and non-alcoholic beverages. No children, persons under 21, or pets will be admitted.

The City Beach overlooks the City of Plattsburgh, Lake Champlain, Valcor and Crab Islands (site of sea battles in both the both Revolutionary War and the War of 1812), as well as the Adirondacks and the Green Mountains of Vermont.

Davidson brothers selling their brewery, sort of

Screen shot 2016-07-22 at 10.00.48 AMScreen shot 2016-07-22 at 10.02.18 AMDuring my many years in the newspaper business, one of the most enjoyable chores was writing headlines. In most of my journalistic stops, we often tried to outdo each other with wit, whimsy, and wackiness.

One of my favorite headlines, written by someone else, was on a story about the country music stars The Statler Brothers. It said, "Statler Brothers ain't neither," referring to the facts that no one in the quartet was named Statler, and none of them were related.

So, out of habit I was trying to find an entertaining way to break the news to craft beer fans that things are changing in Queensbury. I failed, thus the semi-straightforward label on this posting.

Rick and John Davidson, founders and owners of the Davidson Brothers Brewing Company, have agreed to sell their three-year-old brewery on Route 9 in Queensbury to Northern Eagle Beverages Inc., according to an announcement made today by the purchaser.

However, that does not mean the Davidsons are out of the business. They'll retain their Glens Falls restaurant and original on-site brewing operations at 184 Glen Street, near the Glens Falls Civic Center.

Northern Eagle Beverages, located at 41 Browne Street in Oneonta, was founded by Lou Hager Jr. in 1986. In addition to being a beverage distributor, it owns and operates the Cooperstown Brewing Company. That facility, incidentally, isn't in Cooperstown. It is located at six miles south at 110 River Street in Milford.

"We have worked very closely with the Davidsons over the past couple of years on the brewing side of the business," said George Allen, president of Northern Eagle, said in the announcement. "As a distributor we have carried their beers since 2012, so I think we are comfortable with each other."

He also said his company will add lagering tanks, a canning line, and non-alcoholic beverage lines to the brand's portfolio.


World's biggest beer merger closer to reality

Screen shot 2016-07-21 at 3.02.09 PMFrom Reuters news service

Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller on Wednesday received approval for their $107 billion merger from federal antitrust regulators after the companies agreed to unload beer assets and preserve competition from independent craft brewers.

The Department of Justice approval comes with a number of stipulations and is notable after the regulatory authority derailed several recent mega-mergers over antitrust concerns.
The Belgian brewer will make concessions beyond its publicly stated offer to sell SAB's stake in MillerCoors, its U.S. joint venture with Denver-based Molson Coors, as part of the deal. AB InBev will also have to curb its use of incentive programs to limit competition.

Go here to read "How America's two signature beer companies became expats"

Reuters previously reported that the DOJ was investigating AB InBev's practice of financially rewarding beer distributors for selling more of its own beer than its competitors. Craft beer companies had vocally objected the practice, which they argued hurt their ability to sell.

"Independent distributors that sell (AB InBev's) beer will have the freedom to sell and promote the variety of beers that many Americans drink," Deputy Assistant Attorney General Sonia Pfaffenroth of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division said.

The world's top two brewers hold such brands as Budweiser, Stella Artois, Miller and Pilsner Urquell.

Go here for the rest of the story.


St. Lawrence turning off the taps, and the lights

A lineup going defunct
A lineup going defunct
Even in the midst of relentlessly upbeat news about the booming New York State craft beer industry, there can be an occasional sour note.

In this instance, it is the announcement from a St. Lawrence County brewer that it is shutting down operations.

St. Lawrence Brewing Company, which opened in Canton in 2013, closed its tap room Wednesday, then announced it will cease production by the end of the month, citing slow sales and increased competition. It didn't help that a trio of regional development agencies recently called in the low-interest loan that originally helped the brewery open.

According to officials, $290,000 still is owned on a loan of $375,000 made by the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency, the North County Alliance, and the Adirondack Economic Development Corporation. That means the brewer aid back only about $85,000 in its three years of operation.

"Despite our efforts, we've been unable to maintain a sales volume to sustain operations in a rapidly changing and increasingly competitive market," brewery owner Kenneth M. Hebb said in a Facebook announcement. "Unfortunately, we've had to close our doors. We'd like to thank you for your support of the brewery over the last three years. The people we've met, the good times we've had, and most importantly, the friends we've made have been our most valuable assets."


State seizes, closes Schenectady’s Bier Abbey

Seizure signs in the windows
What happens when a bar runs up a tab it wouldn’t allow for a customer? It gets seized and shuttered by the state.

That, in a nutshell, appears to be what happened to The Bier Abbey in Schenectady, which on Tuesday was taken over by the state Department of Taxation & Finance for nonpayment of back taxes totaling nearly $700,000.

The owner of the four-year-old Belgian-style pub, located at 613 Union Street, is a Connecticut resident named George S. Collentine, according to tax records. Local media have so far been unable to contact him to comment on the situation.

James Gazzale, a tax department spokesman, said Tuesday, “We did seize the business today. “Seizure is always a last resort.” Gazzale said the department tries to do before seizing a business. It issued a $692,068 tax warrant against the pub back in May. Gazzale said the bill, which is for taxes owed dating back to 2015, now is up to $698,597.


Beer Institute reveals new ingredient labeling plan

Consumers who like to know what sorts of ingredients they’re putting in their bodies when they eat and drink have been frustrated for years by brewers who don’t want to reveal that sort of information.

That may change because of new, voluntary labeling from the Beer Institute announced today. Brewers participating in the “Brewers’ Voluntary Disclosure Initiative” will provide beer buyers with information now absent from the majority of beer bottles and cans: such things as calories, carbohydrates, fat, protein, and beer serving size, as well as a date of production or “freshness” date.

It will retain the alcohol by volume percentage listing, which most beers currently divulge.

Brewers will be able to adhere to the new, voluntary labeling in detail, or tell customers to go to a particular website or scan a bar code to ascertain their ingredients lists.

In its announcement, the Beer Institute also said, “Member companies, including industry leaders such as Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, HeinekenUSA, Constellation Brands Beer Division, North American Breweries, and Craft Brew Alliance, have agreed to follow these standards. These companies together produce more than 81% of the volume of beer sold in the U.S. … Consumers are increasingly interested in knowing more about the products they purchase. According to a recent survey conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of Nielsen, 72% of beer drinkers think it’s important to read nutritional labels when buying food and beverages.”

The Beer Institute, founded in 1862 as the U.S. Brewers Association, is a national trade association for the American brewing industry, representing both large and small brewers, as well as importers and industry suppliers.


Shmaltz goes where no brewer has gone before

Captain Kirk  in 'The Trouble With Tribbles'
If you know the answer to the question, “Who put the Tribbles in the quadro-Triticale,” you might be a trekkie.

That was the central question in the iconic “The Trouble With Tribbles” episode in the second season of the original “Star Trek” TV series, in which the fuzzy little creatures got into a grain supply that was critical to feeding an entire planet.

While there is such a thing as Triticale — it’s a hybrid of wheat (Triticum) and rye (Secale) first bred during the late 19th Century in Scotland and Sweden, the “quadro” part of the name was made up for the TV show.

I dredge up all this trivia because a new ale brewed with Triticale (the real stuff) is being released in honor of the 50th anniversary of the original “Star Trek.” It’s called, predictably, “Star Trek Golden Anniversary Ale -– The Trouble With Tribbles.” It’s a product of the always-imaginative folks at Shmaltz Brewing Company in Clifton Park. According to their tongue-in-mug description of the American Blonde Ale (5% abv):

The official label
“The Triticale should contribute flavor more distinct than wheat but less spicy than rye. Light Carastan malt will give some residual sweetness in the form of very light toffee. A dose of Munich will add a slight bready quality. Wheat malt will add a slight crisp character. Mashing at a moderate temperature will give this beer a medium body. In keeping with the intergalactic theme, hopping will be comprised of Comet, Galaxy, Polaris, Aurora and Admiral (Kirk) hops. Admiral and Comet will be used in the boil. Galaxy, Polaris and Aurora will be used as flavor hops contributing floral, mint, pine and tropical fruit flavors.”

Star Trek Golden Anniversary Ale will be available to trekkies and others attending the “San Diego Comic-Con” later this month where the new film “Star Trek Beyond” will debut, at the “Star Trek Las Vegas” convention in August, and at “select stores” in various places.


Fledgling Otsego Co. brewer opening tap room

In this age of new craft breweries popping up on farms and street corners with astonishing regularity across New York State, getting a foothold in the market usually can be a trying experience.

But, apparently that is not so for the Red Shed Brewing Company of Cherry Valley.

Less than a year after opening, the Otsego County operation’s four brews — Jessica’s Ale, Otsego Ale, Geordie Boy Brown Ale, and Cherry Valley Smoked Porter —- can be found in more than 10 bars in Cooperstown, Oneonta, and elsewhere across Otsego County. The porter is a one-off product, fermented in a bourbon barrel sourced from the nearby Cooperstown Distillery.

To top off that early success, Red Shed right now is preparing for a soft opening of its new tap room on Friday, July 15, with a grand opening to follow shortly.

Red Shed is located at 817 Butterbowl Road in Cherry Valley, about an hour’s drive west of Schenectady and a half-hour’s drive southwest of Oneonta. Phone: 518-309-2259.


‘Belgium Comes to Cooperstown’ on tap

The 18th annual “Belgium Comes to Cooperstown,” billed as a “beer, music, food, and all-things-fun fest,” will return to Cooperstown the long weekend of August 5-7.

About 3,000 people typically attend the event by Brewery Ommegang, the maker of Belgian-style brews that will be a focal point of the celebration of all things Belgian, along with handcrafted foods, live music, on-site camping, and fireworks.

The festivities are scheduled to begin on Friday at 6 p.m. with a multi-course beer-pairing dinner for VIP ticket holders. The festival grounds will open at noon on Saturday for patrons holding camping tickets. Tastings will begin at 2:30 p.m. for VIP ticket holders and 3 p.m. for general admission. Tastings will end at 7 p.m. Live music is scheduled from 3 p.m. to midnight. On Sunday morning, breakfast will be served from 8 a.m. until noon.

The brewery will be closed to the public on Friday and Saturday of that weekend, reopening for regular service on Sunday. VIP tickets, priced at $275, include the five-course beer pairing dinner, two nights of camping on the brewery grounds, and additional access to the beer tasting on Saturday afternoon. General admission tickets for Saturday’s tasting event cost $110 and general admission with camping on Saturday night costs $125. All tickets are available online.

Brewery Ommegang is located at 656 County Highway 33, Cooperstown. Phone: (607) 544-1800.


New Columbia Co. brewer opens tasting room

The new Suarez Family Brewery, located in Columbia County about 10 miles from Hudson, has just opened its tasting room.

The husband-and-wife team of Dan Suarez and Taylor Cocalis Suarez plan to brew three categories of beer. They also will be offering growler refill services.

The mom-and-pop operation’s website is extremely minimal, and the Facebook page contains scant info. BUT, the Suarezes have promised to increase the frequency of updates.

Tasting room hours: 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, noon to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Phone: 514-537-6464. 

The Suarez Family Brewery is located at 2278 Route 9 in Livingston. Phone: 518-537-6464.


Push resumes for KY election-day alcohol sales

From NKY.com

FRANKFORT, KY -- A proposed law would allow Kentuckians to buy alcohol on election day for the first time since at least the 1930s.

State Rep. Arnold Simpson, D-Covington, next week will discuss before lawmakers in Frankfort a bill he’s tried to get passed in some form or another for four years to make alcohol sales legal on election day.

Kentucky is one of only two states that still bans alcohol on election days, with South Carolina being the other, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS). The laws trace back to the early 20th Century when saloons also served as polling places. ...

The state doesn’t need to worry as much about people buying votes with liquor but does need to worry about the loss of both tax revenue for the state and business revenue for restaurants and liquor stores, said Simpson. "Most jurisdictions have done away with this prohibition. We need every dollar in taxes we can generate and permit businesses to work.”

The Kentucky Alcoholic Beverage Control does spot checks on the primary and general election days to ensure businesses are compliant, said spokesman Nathan Jones. The state law bans alcohol sales on the days of the primary and general elections when the polls are open. It also requires businesses to keep alcohol under lock and key. ...

Simpson will speak before the Interim Joint Committee on Licensing and Occupations on Friday, July 13 ... .

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The bill has died in committee each of the previous four sessions.


MA partners making beer-based whiskies

Berkshire's spirits line.
Two Massachusetts adult beverage makers are teaming up to create a pair of craft beer-based whiskies.

Berkshire Mountain Distillers Inc., located in Great Barrington, and the Boston Beer Company, brewer of Samuel Adams, on Monday announced their collaboration in a multi-year project.

The two brews -- Samuel Adams Boston Lager and Samuel Adams Cinder Bock -- will be triple distilled in Great Barrington, then barrel-aged in wood. The collaboraters said because whiskey aging is a very complex and multi-faceted process it is difficult to pinpoint an exact release date. The projected timeline is for 2015.

Representatives of both companies tasted several beer styles and their distilled products from trial distillations before deciding which Samuel Adams brews to use. The two brews have markedly different taste profiles. The hopes are to create two whiskies just as different from each other.

"There are many parallels between making spirits and brewing beer," said Jim Koch, founder of Boston Brewing. "Marrying the two not only makes sense, but will also produce a drink that beer- and spirits-lovers alike can enjoy."

Berkshire Mountain Distillers was created in 2007. It produces Greylock Gin, Ethereal Gins, Ragged Mountain Rum, Ice Glen Vodka, Berkshire Bourbon and New England Corn Whiskey in the Berkshires' first legal distillery since Prohibition.

The Boston Beer Company was founded in 1984 and has become an iconic craft brewing brand. It brews more than 50 styles of beer.

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Drinking scene rejiggered in Kansas

TOPEKA, KS -- The Jayhawk State's drinking scene is in the midst of major changes.

Under a bill signed into law by Governor Sam Brownback, changes effective July 1 include:

• Liquor stores will be allowed to offer free wine, beer and liquor tastings as of Sunday, July 1.

• Dinner railway cars can obtain a liquor license. State Rep. TerriLois Gregory, R-Baldwin City, said the measure was aimed at luring a Nebraska dinner train business to operate between Baldwin City and Ottawa.

• Drinking establishments may offer "happy hour” specials. Previously, could offer special drink prices, but those charges had to last all day.

• Micro-distilleries will be allowed to to sell and serve their products on their premises.

Another provision of the law, that went into effect on May 31, allows visitors at wine tasting festivals to taste samples and buy bottles of those same wines at the event. Previously, wine tasting visitors had to go to the individual wineries to purchase those same wines.

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BeerTender means draft beer at home

Local temperatures may still be bouncing around erratically, but the calendar says it's spring and we're nearing the outdoor dining season.

Going outside, however, doesn't mean you have to give up cold draft beer or settle for purchasing a half-keg or keg. Take this item from Krups, better known for its coffee making equipment.

The Krups BeerTender keeps beer at 37.4°F, an optimal drinking temperature in the minds of most people. The appliance is designed for indoor use, but the drafts can quickly be delivered outside.

The BeerTender is compatible with Heineken, Heineken Premium Light and Newcastle Brown Ale. It features an LED temperature indicator, and keeps the beer for up to 30 days after tapping. It also has a removable tap, a nice security feature to prevent underage would-be drinkers from sneaking a glass.

A package, priced at $149.99, includes the BeerTender, a large stainless steel drip tray and five draught tubes. It's available online or at major stores' appliance departments, such as Macy's. 

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Table-top beer taps a growing trend

One of several types of table taps.
From Nation's Restaurant News

Personal beer taps installed at restaurant tables not only brew up excitement for guests, but they also are helping boost beer tabs, operators say.

In addition, the pay-per-ounce dispensers encourage guests to linger longer rather than bar-hop, while allowing managers to monitor guests’ drinking and remain compliant with liquor laws.

Rob McGovern, general manager of Park Avenue Tavern in New York, said the restaurant’s six booths equipped with table taps make the operation’s lower level a popular private-party space and after-work spot.

“People really like the novelty,” he said. “They’re pretty wide-eyed when they see it.”
... Much of the activity in pay-per-ounce alcohol technology centers on on-table beer taps at casual restaurants. 
According to advocacy group The Beer Institute, beer sales at restaurants rose 9% in 2011 to $23.6 billion, accounting for about 24% of total beer sales in the United States.

At Park Avenue Tavern, the 50-cents-per-ounce price gives the restaurant a premium -- a pint of beer suddenly costs $8 -- and helps cut down on waste, McGovern said.

[Go here for the full article.]

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Tempers flare over Genesee Brewing project

• From democratandchronicle.com

ROCHESTER -- A group of Genesee Brewing Co. executives, labor leaders and city officials stood in November inside a partly boarded-up industrial building, saying that by April it would be home to a $2.6 million combination microbrewery, restaurant, visitor center and gift shop.

That scuffed building remains in the same state four months later. And Genesee’s owner, North American Breweries, is saying it may pull the plug on its plans.

" 'Threatening' is not the right word," North American Breweries CEO Rich Lozyniak said Thursday during a news conference, a day after Rochester’s Preservation Board voted to nominate 13 Cataract St. for landmark designation. North American’s brewery plans include demolition of 13 Cataract.

"We want to do this really badly," Lozyniak said, "but if we’re going to spend the next year in court, two years in court, we have much better opportunities within our company to invest."

The Preservation Board decision was made without discussion. But afterward, the board said the century-old Cataract building fits the criteria for landmark consideration.

[Complete story here.]

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Coor to try iced non-tea in UK

We're several centuries away from dependence on Great Britain, but that doesn't mean we don't look to them for guidance in some things. At least, Denver-based Molson Coors is.

The brewing company is about to introduce an iced tea-flavored beer to the Brit market to see it it meets consumer acceptance before trying it in the United States.

It's a daring move, but a necessary one since the company's UK sales have been in a three-year decline.

Coors Light Iced T, according to the UK business publication Daily Finance, will sold in aluminum cans similar to conventional Coors Light. It will have an alcohol content of about 4%. It will contain no caffeine and thus, no actual tea, just tea flavor. Given UK history, that seems like sacrilege of some sort.

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Changes for Farm Breweries, Wineries, Distilleries

ALBANY -- Governor Andrew M. Cuomo may not be the poster boy for grocery stores that would like to be able to sell wine, something he has dismissed out of hand, but he may have won some friends among the state's craft brewers, winemakers and distillers.

Cuomo today proposed legislation that would create a "Farm Brewery" license. It would allow craft brewers who use products grown in the state to operate in a similar fashion to the state's wineries which have flourished under the 1976 Farm Winery Bill, leading to increased demand for locally-grown farm products as well as expanded economic development and tourism.

He also proposed legislation to exempt Farm Wineries and Farm Distilleries from the current costly tax filing requirement.

"These bills provide a boost for breweries, farmers, wineries, and communities across New York State," Cuomo said. "This legislation will give our state's growing craft beer industry the tools needed to create jobs, promote agriculture, and encourage environmentally friendly economic development across New York State."

His bill to promote the economic growth of the craft brewery industry includes:

Increasing Retail Outlets for New York Products: The legislation would allow Farm Breweries to sell New York State-labeled wine at their retail outlets. In addition, Farm Wineries would be permitted to sell New York State-labeled beer for off-premises consumption.

Allowing Farm Breweries to Open Restaurants: The legislation would allow Farm Breweries to obtain licenses to operate restaurants, conference centers, inns, bed and breakfasts or hotels on or adjacent to the farm brewery.

Increasing Tastings: The legislation would allow both Farm Breweries and Farm Wineries to conduct tastings of New York State-produced beer and wine at their premises.

Selling Related Products: The legislation would allow Farm Breweries to sell beer making equipment and supplies, food complementing beer and wine, souvenir items, and additional products similar to those allowed under the Farm Winery statute.

To hold a Farm Brewery license, a producer's beer must be made primarily from locally-grown farm products. Until the end of 2017, at least 20% of the hops and 40% of all other ingredients must be grown or produced in the state. From January 1, 2018, to December 31, 2022, no less than 60% of the hops and 75% of all other ingredients must be grown or produced in the state. After January 1, 2023, no less than 90% of the hops and 90% of all other ingredients must be grown or produced in the state.

The beer manufactured under these guidelines would be designated a "New York State labeled beer." The legislation is modeled after the 1976 "Farm Winery Act," which spurred the growth of wine production in the state, including the creation of 237 farm wineries and tripling the number of wineries, which in total now have hit the 316 mark.

Also today, the governor proposed exemptions for Farm Wineries and Farm Distilleries from a costly and burdensome tax filing requirement. Currently, all beer, wine, and liquor wholesalers in the state are required to report sales made to restaurants, bars, and other retailers. However, because Farm Wineries and Farm Distilleries are small, often family-owned operations, they have struggled to afford the costs of complying with this annual reporting.

According to the Governor's Office, "The burden imposed on them by this filing requirement outweighs the benefit received by the State Tax Department, as purchases from Farm Wineries and Farm Distilleries account for a very small percentage of the state's total beer and wine sales. These businesses are already required by law to maintain sales records which the Tax Department may obtain upon request, making the additional mandatory filing requirement not necessary."

Here is some of the pertinent reactions to the proposals:

• Dean Norton, New York Farm Bureau president: "We've seen tremendous growth opportunities for our farmers from alcoholic beverage license categories that are specifically linked to locally produced farm goods – from the growth of farm wineries to the relatively recent trend of farm distilleries. This is an opportunity for local farmers to bring New York back to being the premier hops growing state that we once were, creating added value markets and new jobs in our State."

• Dennis Rosen, State Liquor Authority chairman: "This legislation will provide a significant benefit to local farmers, by helping to create a sustained demand for their products. Ultimately, by providing incentives for farm breweries to expand, these businesses will become, much like farm wineries, destination locations that will promote economic development and tourism within their communities. This bill will boost agriculture and breweries, as well as create jobs and increased economic development across New York."

• Darrel Aubertine, Department of Agriculture and Markets commissioner: "This bill will exempt Farm Wineries and Farm Distilleries from burdensome tax filing requirements that have hurt small business here in New York. Our Farm wineries and Farm distilleries are small, often family owned operations, and they have struggled to afford the costs of complying with this annual reporting. Governor Cuomo has made opening New York State to business a top priority of his administration, and this bill will help cut burdensome costs that have been imposed on small farm wineries and distilleries. New York's craft brewery and farm winery industry is an important part of our economy, supporting jobs and tourism across the state, and I look forward to working together to make sure this legislation becomes law."

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