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New York State Brewers Association

When you think of beer, what comes to mind?How about, it’s one of the oldest drinks humans ever produced, dating back to at least 5000 BC, and probably much earlier? That it can be made from just about any grain containing certain sugars? That it has been argued to be responsible for humanity’s ability to develop technology and build civilization? That the use of hops in beer was first noted by a monastery in about 822? That prior to Prohibition, there were thousands of breweries in the US, 386 of them being right here in New York State? That most parties, football or baseball games, hot summer afternoons, pizzas, or after-chores refreshments just wouldn’t be the same without it?

Or that you should go to thinknydrinkny.com right away and get your tickets for the New York State Craft Brewers Festival to be held November 20th at the Landmark Theatre in Syracuse?’

New York State has a long and storied history with beer, and at one time, the state was the largest producer of hops in the country, hops being one of the ingredients that helps with the magic of brewing, and also, depending upon the brew, gives it a distinctive flavor.

The mission of the New York State Brewers Association is to support the craft breweries of New York – and it’s a happy duty to report that the industry is thriving, and growing, all across the state.

I asked Executive Director of the Association, Paul Leone, if ample sources of clean water was one reason New York State had such a robust industry. “That,” he said, “and the fact that the state has been very supportive of craft breweries; the state has very friendly craft beer laws.”

Beer was a popular beverage from the early days of New York State, and between the gift of great water, and the hops-growing industry, pre-prohibition, New York was a beer-lover’s heaven. Early on, beers brewed in the state, and across the country, tended to be the heavier type brews popular in England and some places in Europe. With the 1919 passing of the Volstead Act, the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages became prohibited – oddly, drinking alcohol was never forbidden under federal law. Most of the small breweries languished and went out of business, though some converted to making and selling sodas or went into other businesses.

In 1933, with the repeal of the Volstead Act, breweries resumed operation, but by 1980, only 5 breweries were in operation in the state.

And then – magic. More and more craft breweries began to experiment with the art and science of making beer, and the more such small, artisan shops were set up, the more beer became a beverage of choice, and, in fact, small craft breweries became destinations for an afternoon’s outing.

“Brewers are like chefs,” Leone said. “There are only four basic ingredients in beer: water, grain, hops, and yeast. That’s when the brewer becomes a chef – they want to experiment with flavors, maybe something seasonal like pumpkin in the fall, that will make a particular brew special; something to make the flavor more fruity or sour or tangy.”

And people love it. From that low of 5 breweries in the state, the number has roared back to 485, from Long Island to Buffalo, each with an approach to crafting beer that differs by region and by brewer.

55 of them will be represented at the November 20th event, and with a “dry” year last year due to Covid, craft beer lovers are not going to want to miss this event – a chance to sample craft beers from across the state, meet and chat with the brew masters, and gather with and make new friends.

The NYS Brewers Association was originally founded in 1830, with an obvious hiatus during Prohibition. It was re-started in 2003 by Empire Brewing’s David Katleski, and today in addition to organizing festivals like this one, the association offers support and marketing to the craft beer industry in the state. It also offers beer aficionados fun tools and merchandise to expand their exploration of craft beers – whether its t-shirts and mugs, or a cool free New York Craft Beer app offering 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.

So, start “thinking New York craft breweries,” and get your festival tickets now so you can plan your beer-venture right away!

New York State Brewers Association

PO Box 25353
Rochester, NY 14625

New York State Craft Brewers Festival

November 20, 2021
4-8 pm
Landmark Theatre
362 S. Salina Street
Syracuse, NY 13202
21+ event, must be fully vaccinated for Covid-19

Nancy Roberts