CANANDAIGUA — Known for its robust wineries and trails dedicated to the red and white, Ontario County is now hopping on a different beverage bandwagon.
In 2010, there was only one brewery in Ontario County — the Naked Dove Brewing Company in Hopewell — but by spring 2014, there will be seven, according to Sara Paduano, the marketing manager with the Finger lakes Visitors Connection.
Joining Naked Dove are Brew and Brats at Arbor Hill in South Bristol, Crafty Ales and Lagers in Phelps, and the Glass Factory Brewhouse in Geneva. Additionally, The Victor Brewery is slated to open this year, as is the Twisted Rail Brewing Company in the old Canandaigua train station next to the Beehive Brew Pub. In 2014, the Nedloh Brewing Company — based in East Bloomfield and owned by the husband-and-wife duo of Nate and Josie Holden — will also join the county’s beer lineup.
“Growing up in Vermont, I’ve seen the (craft beer) industry grow,” Nate said. “Josie and I were sitting around one night and we both thought how cool it would be to bring this to a region full of wine ... make the two be partners instead of competing with each other.”
Surge in hops
While the brew is made locally, one of the main beer ingredients can also be found in Ontario County.
Nate and Jose are also among the new crop of hops farmers in the county, along with The Bluebell Hopyard in Victor and Schmidt Farm in Farmington.
A hop is a tiny cone-shaped plant that is used as a main beer ingredient. It’s a bitter plant that adds flavor to the beer and balances out the sweetness from the malt. India Pale Ale (IPA) beers are typically more “hoppy” brews, said Mike McMullen, a co-owner at the soon-to-open Twisted Rail Brewing Company in Canandaigua.
Farming hops is not something new in Ontario County, in fact, it’s a region that used to be well-renowned for its hops production, Paduano noted.
“Towns like South Bristol and Bristol were known for hops production,” she said. “It disappeared, but now it’s coming back.”
The craft beer trend is not unique to Ontario County. Surrounding counties host a mix of established breweries. For instance, Monroe County is the home of CB Brewing Company in Honeoye Falls, Rorhbach Brewing Company in Rochester, and new establishments such as the Fairport Brewing Company, which opened in 2012.
Nationally, craft beer sales are up as well. Barrels of craft beer shipped have more than doubled in the past decade, according to trade publication Beer Marketer’s Insights. Craft beer now makes up nearly 7 percent of the U.S. beer market.
At the time Naked Dove opened in 2010, craft brewing in the United States grew 11 percent by volume and 12 percent in sales to $7.6 billion, according to the a country-wide group of beer enthusiasts known as the Brewers Association.
Tracy Sidmore, a co-owner of the Beehive Brew Pub in Canandaigua, said the craft beer trend is nothing new.
“I lived on the West Coast for a long time, and 20 years ago this was all going on there,” Sidmore said. “The East Coast is finally catching up to what the West Coast has been putting down all this time. ... It’s definitely here to stay.”
Brewing up a trail
The Ontario County beer destinations are part of the 62 stops on the Finger Lakes Beer Trail. The trail was founded in February 2011, and is modeled after the wine trails that weave throughout the Finger Lakes region.
The Nedloh owners suggested that Ontario County will soon be able to start its own smaller subsection of the beer trail. They added the volume of breweries is a good thing, rather than a source of competition.
“It’s good for the variety,” Nate said. “We’re competitors, but you should also be friendly. In the long run, we’re all on one big team.”
Twisted Rail co-owner Mike McMullen agreed.
“From all the people we talked to, it seems to be open arms in the craft beer industry,” he said. “They want to help you.”
He added that during the process of opening Twisted Rail, they have already received offers of help and advice from members of the Fairport Brewing Company.
The anticipated openings of Nedloh and Twisted Rail showcases the surge of local craft beer locations, but does this mean people will be more likely to buy a product brewed locally?
Nate and Josie said they don’t think this is necessarily the case; however, McMullen said, local flavor is not something that can be replicated by other brands.
“It’s a different type of atmosphere,” he said of visiting a local craft beer maker. “You can go right to the brewery, you can sit down and have a pint with the owners. It’s fun ... you can tell (the customers) a story behind the beer.”
— Includes reporting from the Associated Press