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Monday, December 3, 2007

Custom BrewCrafters Tour

The week before Thanksgiving, I headed up to up-state New York to visit my brother and his family for an early Thanksgiving with my father. We had a blast! But it wasn't all turkey and and football, there was beer too.

I brought up the rest of my English Pale Ale so my father, brother and his beer loving neighbor could give it a try. My Dad wasn't crazy about the beer, he's not much of a beer drinker, but my brother and his buddy seemed to like it well enough.

I did a little beer-recon before heading up and found a short list of breweries in the area. The only one I found that was really close and open on Sunday was Custom BrewCrafters, out of Honeoye Falls, New York. Just a short drive from my brother's town. So off we went for a little father-son-brother bonding.

Custom BrewCrafters was easy to find, but also easy to miss. You have to drive all the way to the end of a dead end street in a residential area before you see the truck above parked in a lot across from a grade school. The brewery is just around the corner at the far end of the lot.

They've recently started the construction of a new facility, bigger and better, so I'm thinking the new home of Custom BrewCrafters maybe less hidden.

Me and Dad pose for a quick shot before entering the brewery. We almost look like we were in uniform or something, I swear we didn't plan our outfits together. What can I say, Dad and I are snappy dressers!

Mark and Dad pose for a similar photo. I really need to get a photographer to come with me on these trips so I can get in on all the photos... Note Mark also has jeans and a black jacket...

Before starting the tour, we were offered a few free samples to take with us on the tour. We started with the Canadaigua Lake Ale, which was a nice smooth yet sweet ale, definitely something I could have a number of in one session. Now I didn't take the time to write up a proper review of any of the free samples I had that day, I don't think Mark and Dad were quite ready for that level of involvement just yet.

Dad gave the Wee Bitter a sip. He wasn't a big fan, although he doesn't really drink, so that's not really a fair critique of the beer. Dad was more into beer back in his youth. Dad confided in me that as a young Marine, he enjoyed the occasional Miller, and I've heard him mention Pabst Blue Ribbon in the past. Cut the man some slack, it was a different time, and there was a lack of quality beer available to him.

He was more or less humoring me on this little excursion, thanks Dad you're a good sport!

My brother noticed this little sign on a locker door as we entered the brewery floor. "Everyone has a dream. For us it was drinking on the job." Aint that the truth? Speaking of which, they're hiring! If only I lived a bit closer...

Our tour guide (I can't remember his name) gave us a thorough walk through on how the brewing process worked. This was the most detailed walk through I've seen so far during a tour. But then again, it was just the three of us in the audience and the place is very small.

Our guide told us a little about the impact the hops shortage is having on their products. They've had to cut back on some of the hops in some of their beers this year. They actually have their beers reviewed with vintages. Beer Advocate shows three different years for their Wee Heavy, for example. Apparently the die hard fans of Custom BrewCrafters can tell the difference, but they still stand by their products as quality crafted beers.

The only beer I tried that I did not like was the one our guide warned me about. It was their Christmas Ale. It tasted like a beer with a candy cane in it. Not a good choice... Everything else was quite enjoyable.

I really want to try their Wasabi Ale some time with a nice plate of sushi, but they didn't have any on tap that day...

Custom BrewCrafters has a pretty cool business model. They brew custom beers for local restaurants and pubs, keg them and let their customers sell them off the tap as their own brews. They also make some beers for themselves and sell just about everything they make right there off the brewery's tasting room.

Our guide was kind enough to let me shoot some images inside the large stainless steel kettles. When I saw the open hatch, I couldn't resist! Once again I couldn't help but think of that scene from Strange Brew.

I call this one, "inside the belly of the beast!"... I wanted to get some one to take a photo from up top of me sticking my fat head in there, but I didn't want to push my luck or cause any contamination.

Here's a shot of the breweries hot water tank, that feeds (you guessed it) hot water to the brewing vats. I could use one of these at my house for showers let alone brewing. Custom BrewCrafters pride themselves on their local water source. Keep in mind this place is nestled in the famous finger lakes area and just south of the Great Lakes.

Now this is a small brewery. You could walk from one end to the other in less time than it would take to fill a pint in the tasting room. But the tour was fairly lengthy and informative. I can't wait to visit their new location once it's completed! They're not taking any of their equipment with them, it's already been sold. They're getting a whole new set up at the new brewery. Apparently they're doing something right with this business model...

Here's the cool thing... They'll be able to bottle at their new facility, which means they'll be able to more widely distribute their products. Who knows, maybe we'll be able to get some of their beers in other states some day. Hmmmm... I wonder if they'll ever become an IPO? $

I couldn't resist getting a photo in the middle of all that freshly brewed and kegged beer in the breweries walk-in cooler. I felt like Daffy Duck from Ali Baba Bunny when he found the cave a treasure...

Although I didn't take the time to write any reviews of their beers I sampled that day, I purchased a growler of their Scotch Ale, Wee Bitter. (Beer Advocates details on the brew) Now that's good stuff! I'll post a review of the beer very soon, I promise!

By the time we finished our tour there was a line of loyal customers waiting to get their growlers filled. Some folks were getting boxes filled, including some Custom BrewCrafter fans that were heading out for some pre-game tailgating before a big Buffalo game.
All in all it was a great trip and so close to my brother's house that I may visit the brewery every time I go up to see the family. Can't wait to see the new facility!

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