At 4pm on Saturday, February 23rd, BeerTavia will host FeBREWary, a Beer Walk in Downtown Batavia featuring the unique offerings of local breweries, cideries and meaderies. The event promises to be thoroughly enjoyable, with samples and offerings hosted by local businesses all throughout Downtown. This first Annual FeBREWary Downtown Batavia Beer Walk will take place during cooler temperatures, and guests are encouraged to bundle up as they travel through 25 of our local businesses to taste a variety of local Brews. Attending breweries will include Big Ditch Brewing Company, OSB Ciderworks, Swiftwater Brewing, Blue Toad Hard Cider - New York, Southern Tier Brewing Company, 810 Meadworks, Amber Lantern Brewing, Hamburg Brewing Company, WINDY BREW, Rohrbach Brewing Company, Ellicottville Brewery, and New York Beer Project.
The benefits of events like Batavia’s FeBREWary Beer Walk extend far beyond discovering new favorite beverages. Local craft breweries and their more recently arrived cousins, cideries and meaderies, are benefiting their hometown economies in some expected and some unexpected ways. “When you think about the benefits of local craft breweries, think about places like Eli Fish in Batavia. The building they were in was vacant, and now they are there, and people are traveling into the area to visit them,” said Paul Leone, Executive Director of the New York State Brewers Association. “People want local beer. People want local food, particularly in areas like Batavia and the Finger Lakes. There are dozens of such examples in our areas [like Eli Fish], and when a brewery opens, typically a restaurant and other businesses open nearby.” Speaking of Eli Fish, he added, “They are the classic example of moving into a vacant building and establishing a viable, long-term business. I bet you the vacant building next to it had a new business open in it now, too.”
Leone explain that New York’s craft beer movement has been going strong for the past five years, and that he has seen a dramatic increase since he joined the association in 2013. “Five years ago, there were 105 breweries, now there are 427.” When reflecting on this extraordinary growth, Leone explained that one natural inhibitor of business expansion interestingly does not seem to apply in this industry. “The wonderful and unique thing in this industry, whether it is wineries, breweries, cideries, meaderies or distilleries, is that when you have two, three, four, five or however many of them close to each other, it is even better than one alone, even though they are competitors!” Leone went on to explain, “Someone may or may not travel out of their area to visit one brewery or winery, for example, but when there are several, it becomes a destination. People make a day of it. From an economic standpoint, that is the real impact.”
Many of the businesses in this industry also go out of their way to source the ingredients for their products locally. Leone explains that this isn’t just about supporting local communities, it’s about responding to consumer demand, as well. “One could compare this industry to the food industry because people today are really interested in local and hyperlocal products,” says Leone. “In our area, the malt industry has come back, and the hops industry has come back. This is something that didn’t exist before this boom. To the consumer, the more local the connection is, the better they like it.”
This is excellent news to Paul Leone and the New York State Brewers Association. “For us, it is all about trying to get consumers to think local first because when you support the local economies and small businesses, you support your communities. That is what small towns were built on. Our motto is: ‘Think New York; Drink New York.’” In fact, Paul Leone and the NYSBA work hard for New York’s newly booming industry. “We are the Association for the entire craft beer industry in New York State,” Leone explains. “We promote and protect craft beer in New York, and we work with legislators to develop laws to help the industry continue to grow. We are the trade association for craft beer.”
A linger question, of course, is, “Are area industry businesses truly invested in supporting local economies?” The answer, overwhelmingly, is “Yes, they are.” Some businesses, such as Black Button Distilling take supporting fellow local businesses and sourcing local products so seriously that very nearly every ingredient used in making their product comes from Upstate New York. Edgewood Farms, located right in Groveland, provides all their corn, barley, wheat and rye. Dairy cream is sourced from New York farms, and the apple cider they use is from LynOaken Farms in Medina. Black Button Farm & Forestry in South Bristol will grow juniper for gin, white oak to make their own bourbon barrels and fresh herbs and spices as well as organic honey for cocktails.
Although it creates a slightly different product, the above distillery highlights the extent to which such businesses can generate a positive, widespread and diverse, economic impact. Many New York cideries, meaderies and breweries are making similar decisions when choosing their sources. Several businesses such as New York Beer Project and Windy Brew use local suppliers for their ingredients. Blue Toad Hard Cider of Rochester states that it uses New York apples from Western New York’s Ontario region, “from Williamson to Niagara,” and OSB Ciderworks of Lakeville echoes this use of local apples, adding that it utilizes other local ingredients, as well. (585) Still others, like 810 Meadworks of Medina, say they source as many ingredients locally as they can with the exception of citrus fruits and certain spices which are not grown locally, and Ellicottville Brewing Company of Ellicottville features what it calls using Farm-to-Pint, always fresh ingredients. Consider supporting these businesses as well as other local brewers—farmers, growers and a host of other merchants—by visiting Batavia’s FeBREWary Beer Walk and enjoying authentic, delicious New York flavors.
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