New York Beer Project plans a Feb. 14 grand opening at its 15,000-square-foot locale on High Street
VICTOR — First of all, there is no underground stash of beer — none that we know of, anyway — beneath the gigantic New York Beer Project building, the finishing touches to which are continuing in anticipation of its Feb. 14 grand opening.
But there is a reason for the large, artificial chestnut trees “planted” inside the gastro pub that will greet visitors when they come inside.
Back in the olden days of brewing beer in Germany, the product was stored underground to keep it cold, according to Dan Robinson, the director of operations who oversees the New York Beer Project’s beer hall in Lockport and the soon-to-open Victor location on High Street, near Eastview Mall.
“The trees would help insulate those caves,” Robinson said. “Eventually, people started drinking underneath these trees and that’s where the beer garden originated.”
The trees are in place — and soon enough, people will be drinking and eating underneath them. But on this Friday, workers hustled to complete several projects inside the mammoth two-story craft beer hall and restaurant space before the highly anticipated opening.
A VIP and invite-only soft openings are planned earlier that week, but the public grand opening on Feb. 14 will happen, no matter what, Robinson said.
“We have all hands on deck,” Robinson said. “This facility, although big and intimidating in some eyes, is a great opportunity for us to bring what New York Beer Project is all about to the greater Rochester area and explore a different market.”
The approximately 15,000-square-foot Victor beer hall recreates the Atlantic Garden, a New York City beer hall that had its heyday in the 1870s.
It’s big, and it’s drawing attention.
Victor Supervisor Jack Marren is learning just how many people who originally hail from the Buffalo area live here, judging by the comments he’s heard about the Lockport beer hall.
“I think it’s a major economic benefit to the town and to the region,” Marren said. “This will be exciting.”
Jodell Raymond, executive director of the Victor Chamber of Commerce, said she has been fielding all sorts of questions ranging from when it will open to what’s it like inside.
“They’re beside themselves, but all positive,” Raymond said. “It’s a beautiful space and it’s bringing more attention to our community.”
The downstairs gastro pub seats 188 and 40-foot cathedral ceilings offer a feeling of spaciousness. Step through a set of doors to find the guest pub area, with large communal tables that encourage the New York Beer Project’s slogan, “Good beer. Good food. Good times.”
“When you come in here, it’s where you can let your hair down a little bit,” Robinson said.
The elevator to the second floor replicates a clock tower. At the top of a master staircase, visitors can find a private dining area called the New Yorker Loft, which will be used for banquets and events as well as overflow seating.
Outside the loft, which can seat up to 125 people, will be a rooftop terrace.
The 5-barrel brewhouse, located at the far end of the building, is where the real magic happens.
The New York Beer Project offers amber and fruit beers, a Belgian white, its flagship Destination IPA and double and triple IPAs as part of its Righteous series. Seasonal beers are big.
Right now, the Lockport location is collaborating with Perry’s Ice Cream on a peanut butter porter, Panda Paws Porter.
“We do a little bit of everything,” Robinson said. “Victor Lager is something we will debut here. It’s a nice drinkable 5 percent-ish beer that satisfies those drinkers crossing over from the domestic category. We try to hit every consumer so when you come in here, you enjoy 16 to 20 New York Beer Project beers. Everybody can be satisfied.”
Food is a big part of the experience, and not just because of the portion sizes. New York Beer Project is known for its burgers, and anywhere from six to eight burgers are on the menu at any given time, each with a creative flair to them.
Robinson is partial to its “amazing” Buffalo chicken sandwich. The seasonal menu is always changing, and may include wild game dishes depending on the time of year.
“We are a brewery, but we’re not just a brewery,” Robinson said. “A lot of breweries are beer, beer, beer. We want to bring everybody in here to enjoy themselves. You name it, you can have it.”
The brew hall recently hosted a hiring event to fill more than 150 positions.
“We pride ourselves on vacation-style service so when you come here, we want you to relax and let us do everything,” said Robinson, who seems to know his stuff, especially when it comes to beer.
“I’ve been in the beer business so long it’s almost like riding a bike,” Robinson said. “Beer is the easy part of this whole thing.”
For 10 years, Robinson worked as a distributor in Erie and Niagara counties. He met developer Fred Rainaldi, who is the developer of the Victor beer hall and other high-profile projects in town and the Rochester area, and project owner Kevin Krupski when they were building the Lockport location.
Robinson tried to sell them beer, but instead struck up a partnership in 2017. Right place, right time, he said.
“No magical story,” Robinson said. “It kind of just happened and it worked out.”
Nothing is being left to chance for Feb. 14, but the confidence in what the New York Beer Project folks do for customers will be evident, Robinson said.
“Our food’s great, our beer’s great and when people come in here, they will have a great time,” Robinson said.