New York is to craft beer as California is to wine

Beer Sample

Shmaltz founder Jeremy Cowan gets a pour from a visiting brewmaster

Well, maybe that’s a bit aspirational. But I was quite impressed with the quality and depth of the state’s craft beer movement as exhibited at yesterday’s first ever “New York Statewide Collaboration Brew Day”.

The event was hosted by Shmaltz Brewery in Clifton Park, where in the morning visiting brewmasters got together to brew a unique ale featuring New York-grown ingredients. I arrived in the afternoon for the collaborative tasting session, where the brewers were pouring for each other from the jugs they’d brought along. A special treat was strong ale from C.H. Evans of Albany, brewed in bourbon and rum barrels procured from their neighbor across the street Albany Distilling Co.

Tanks of Beer

Forest of tanks at Shmaltz Brewing Co

I spent some time with Paul Leone, Executive Director of the New York State Brewers Association, a trade group representing what he says is a $3.5 billion craft beer industry in the state. His group excludes national brands with local facilities, though not Rochester’s Genesee, a big brewer which I learned is also experimenting aggressively with craft beers. I asked Paul if there were legal or legislative barriers in this over-regulated state that he’d like to see removed and he said really no, the legislative environment is quite positive for brewers.

I also spoke with Greg Chanese of the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce, who told me about his Adirondack Craft Beverage Trail map which will soon be interactive and is now available in pdf form. Print it out and get it stamped by each of the breweries on the trail and get a free commemorative beer glass.

Shelby and Paul

Shmaltz’s Shelby Schneider with brewmaster Paul McErlean

The event culminated with a walkthrough of the facility with Shelby Schenider, Shmaltz Marketing Director. I was reminded that when I arrived in the region some six years ago Shmaltz was brewed on a contract basis at Olde Saratoga Brewing Company. Now they’ve got row after row of gleaming tanks and capacity sufficient to be a contract brewer to other folks. That’s quite a trajectory and good news for beer lovers, because strong sales have been an impetus to try new things.

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