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New York State Craft Brewers Festival

Did you know that beer drinking dates back as many as 5000 years, and was a popular beverage among the Sumerians, Egyptians, and Neolithic Europeans? Some historians even argue that the development of bread and beer were the keys to human civilization, providing nutrition, portability, and safe eating and drinking. Beer is mentioned in The Epic of Gilgamesh, in which the “wild man” Enkidu is given beer to drink: “…he ate until he was full, drank seven pitchers of beer, his heart grew light, his face glowed and he sang out with joy.”

We’ll guarantee you that at this year’s New York State Craft Brewers Festival, you won’t need seven pitchers – but you will have a light heart, a glowing face, and plenty of joy! You may even sing!

And, as New York State Brewers Association Director, Paul Leone told me, “What better way to kick off the holiday season, a season of joy, than with a festival like this one?”

If history is any indication, this festival, bringing in sell-out crowds of craft beer enthusiasts, is a great way to head into the holidays, enjoy an afternoon (and evening) with friends, and support an industry that means so much to New York State.

This year is the 10th anniversary of the Craft Beer Festival, and promises to continue the return of pre-Covid enthusiasm. Held at the Landmark Theatre, the attraction of great beers to taste, a beautiful venue to visit, and a chance to talk directly with the brewers as they showcase their product is a winning combination. 

New York State’s history with brewing beer goes back to at least the 1700s. By Prohibition times, the state boasted 386 breweries. Today, there are over 500 craft breweries. This is in part, of course, because New York State has an abundance of fresh, clean water – and was, and continues to be, a major producer of hops.

“Another ingredient,” Leone adds, “is barley. Cornell University has created two new varieties of barley that grow uniquely well in NY. Breweries are using this barley to give the beers a decidedly New York State flavor. And that’s what we, and this festival are about – local.”

I asked Leone about the “terroir” of craft brews. Wine, we’re told, gets a distinct regional flavor thanks to the specific soil and climate conditions where the grapes are grown (the “terroir”). “Yes, beer has a distinct terroir,” Leone said. “And Cornell is working on a couple of varieties of hops that grow especially well in our many and varied New York State ‘micro-climates.’ These are sure to add even more distinction to our New York State brewed beers.”

In addition to your event admission, your ticket to the festival will include:

• a 7-ounce souvenir tasting glass

• the freedom to enjoy unlimited 3-ounce beer samples from any of our craft breweries

• the opportunity to meet the brewers who make your favorite beers

• a souvenir glass for your designated driver at the end of the festival

In addition, this year the festival will be offering an opportunity to attend a “Fred Talk.” This is a one-hour talk given by Fred Matt, the current owner of the FX Matt Brewing Company, the second oldest family-run brewery in the country. He’ll be giving you an insider’s view of his family’s history, and the history of beer breweries in our state.

In addition to sponsoring festivals like the one at the Landmark, the NYS Brewers Association offers a wide range of support and marketing to the craft beer industry in the state. In addition, beer lovers can find t-shirts and mugs, and if you want to explore the many member breweries throughout the state, “We’ve got an app for that!” Leone reminds us. The free New York Craft Beer app offers two “passport programs,” an NYS Brewery Passport and the Empire State Trail Brewery Passport. The maps help you find the destination breweries, and you can collect virtual “stamps” as you go, earning “Think New York, Drink New York® beer gear. “Stop at new breweries,” Leone says, “and win free prizes!”

“While many of the obstacles the brewing industry in New York faced during and immediately after the Covid lock-downs have eased, distribution and access to many popular brews continue to be a challenge,” Leone said. “The festival is a great way to help get around that. Breweries from every region in the state will be at the Landmark – so if you can’t find it near you, you’ll find it at the festival. And besides being a great location for its own beauty and history, the Landmark is conveniently located near the Armory Square area, so patrons of the festival can continue their evening out with friends with a visit to a nearby restaurant or pub. It’s another way of showing support to the industry, and to all the local venues that offer great food and brew!”

Leone cautions that tickets to the event sell out fast – so make your plans now with family and friends, and count on a great 2023 Craft Brewers Festival!  

Saturday, November 18, 2023, 4-8PM

Landmark Theatre, Downtown Syracuse




$60 Advance Tickets • $70 At the Gate (if available) • $15 Designated Drivers

Buy tickets direct from: Middle Ages Brewing Company, Willow Rock Brewery, Landmark Theatre Box Office (Cash only)

Nancy Roberts