When I began considering the idea of opening a brewery in the Finger Lakes with my family, we got word of the New York State Farm Brewery Law, which requires farm brewers to use NYS grown hops, malt, and other ingredients in their product (excluding water). Until 2019, at least 20% of the ingredients used to make our beer has to be grown in NYS. In 2019, the percentage jumps to 60%, and then to 90% by 2024. The Farm Brewery Law mimics the state’s Farm Winery Law, which helped grow the state’s wine industry to where it is today. The opportunity to create a beer using, for the first time, only NYS ingredients was what pushed us to pursue a farm brewery. It felt exciting to be part of an effort that supports local farmers, malting houses, hop growers, and small business owners. There was also historic significance, as we joined the resurgence of the NYS hop industry, which was once the world’s largest hop producer.
There’s a somewhat controversial term in winemaking called terroir, which means specificity of place, and refers to the climate, soil, and environment that grapes are grown in. For example, an Australian Riesling may taste different than a Finger Lakes Riesling–not just because of possible differences in winemaking technique, but also because of terroir. It is a technical term in the wine industry; if wine has terroir, the word expresses in a subtle way the tastes, colors and aroma of the environment in which the grapes of the region are grown. This can also translate to brewing, which uses malt and hops from different regions. Water, especially, has an impact on beer flavor and aroma (but I will write more about that in another post). Each region may impart its own flavor and aroma. The terroir of the ingredients used will come through in the beer. The terroir and style of New York State hops, malt, and beer is in its infancy.
At SBC, we want our customers to understand that beer is an agricultural product. Growing the grains and hops is just the beginning. After the farmer, the grain goes to a malting house, and the hops are dried and packaged. Each step contains a tremendous amount of work and creativity. Finally, the ingredients reach the brewer. At this point, there is not only a responsibility, but also an artistic opportunity, to do something completely new. Like a chef, brewers are searching for the freshest, most vibrant ingredients, and in our case, we are searching right here in our region.
We think people not only crave craft beer, but craft beer that is truly local. We strive to make the best beer we can from locally-sourced ingredients in NYS.