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The ABC’s of CNY’s Craft Beer Scene: Part One

GPO, SWCB, SCBE, CNYCBS —what’s this alphabet soup all about and what do they have to do with beer? Well, these letters represent local craft beer social and educational groups. As the number of craft breweries grows in the U.S., New York is no exception. With one brewery opening approximately every ten days in the state, the level of enthusiasm for craft beer also continues to grow. Local craft beer groups have been popping up in recent years, so let’s take a look at them.

Syracuse Girls’ Pint Out (GPO) at Eastwood Brewing Company.

As founder of the Syracuse Women of Craft Beer (SWCB), I wanted to find out more about the other groups. I recently had the fortune of talking with leaders in the local craft beer scene to find out more. I spoke with Stacey Juston, Zoe Rodriguez, Tony Cimpi, Nick LaPlant and Michelle Berthelot Giraud about the groups and how others can participate. Just about everyone is a native Central New Yorker, with the exception of Nick from outside Middlebury, VT and Zoe who is from Puerto Rico. We engaged in some Q & A to dig a little deeper.

What’s your affiliation with craft beer?

NL: Most directly, Tony and I are administrators of a local craft beer group on Facebook called the Syracuse Craft Beer Enthusiasts (SCBE). I also follow several other groups on social media and around the web.

Me and Michelle Berthelot Giraud of the Syracuse Women of Craft Beer.

TC: I am active in a bunch of social media groups for beer as well as frequently post formal beer reviews on Beer Advocate’s website. 

SJ: I’m the CNY Sales & Marketing Support for Shmatlz Brewing Company, founder of the CNY Craft Beer Society (CNYCBS), blogger for thehoppyspirit.com and contributing writer for wearebrewstuds.com.

MBG: I’m currently with three breweries in the Syracuse area working in their taprooms and doing sales and marketing. I also co-organize events for the Syracuse Women of Craft Beer (SWCB).

ZR: I’m the chapter head of Syracuse Girls’ Pint Out (GPO).

GA-R: How did you become a craft beer enthusiast?

NL: For me it started in college when my friends and I would hide it in our fridge to have with dinner.

TC: I had a friend that wanted to try every beer on a rack of “Craft Your Own Six Packs” one summer. After that and my first Heady Topper (a double IPA from VT) I really got into craft beer and the chase.

SJ: I grew up in Polish and Irish homes where there were always imported beers around. In college at LeMoyne, several of my friends were from other states so I started trying a variety of beers. I then went to the first CNY Brewfest at the Fairgrounds and it was a full on run after that.

MBG: I never realized I even liked beer until I had my first stout about ten years ago. Once I discovered that there was a whole other world of beer I just kept trying new things and have never looked back.

ZR: Growing up in Puerto Rico, it was very common to use beer in cooking. As a chef, I’ve learned more about beer through cooking. My husband is a brewer at Good Nature Brewing in Hamilton, so with the food-beer connection, I fell into craft beer very naturally.

Stacey Juston, Founder of the CNY Craft Beer Society.

GA-R: When did you start your groups and what kinds of things do you do?

TC: March 2015. There were twelve of us that used to go to Brilbeck’s and we were planning a bottle share … the group expansion continued mostly from word of mouth; I met Nick and we discussed the group’s growth and where it should go. 

NL: The core goal of the group is to connect beer enthusiasts with other local beer enthusiasts while promoting an open forum for beer-themed discussions. Activities include working with a local beer-themed business on events where SCBE members can meet and chat in person. SCBE plans on several activities in the coming year.

SJ: I started the CNY Craft Beer Society about six years ago with my roommate to get people together who liked good beer. I put on a small brew fest and worked  to bring more small breweries to catch locals’ attention, had get-togethers, etc. I took a bit of a hiatus and started CNYCBS back up again about a year ago and have done some get together events. After the first of the year we’ll have monthly events —everything from casual get-togethers to brewery tours and beer dinners.

GA-R: The SWCB had its first meeting in January 2014 with 14 members and has grown to over 100. Our group is focused on women meeting other women who have an interest in craft beer and would like to learn more in a social setting. I started it because I was working for a brewery and wanted to meet other women with the same level of enthusiasm for craft beer.

MBG: The SWCB features monthly events that are focused on learning something new about beer. They’re usually held at a local brewery, restaurant, or bar where we enjoy samples of beer and a small bite to eat. Some of our recent activities include a dark beer & chocolate pairing, Middle Ages brewery tour, a discussion panel featuring women working in the craft beer industry, and a tour of a hop farm.

Syracuse Craft Beer Enthusiasts.

ZR: I started the Syracuse chapter of GPO in January 2016, and our first meeting was this past March. With over 90 chapters in the U.S., the GPO is a national craft beer organization for women. I really wanted to meet other like-minded women and so I searched on the Internet and read about the GPO organization. So far we have met at places like Now & Later, Eastwood Brewing Company, and recently had a bottle share at Syracuse Co-Works.

Gloria Rakowsky

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