PULTENEY | The growth of craft brewing in the area continues, as construction is well underway at Steuben Brewing Company on the west side of Keuka Lake.
The brewery is being built by the Zimar family on their 12-acre property overlooking the Keuka bluff, and is targeting a spring opening.
It's located on a hillside off County Route 76 - in the heart of the Keuka wine trail - and will be operated by longtime Pulteney residents Jim and Candy Zimar and their sons, Chad and Rick.
Chad Zimar, the brewmaster, says he's been homebrewing for several years, honing five or six ales and lagers that will be the staples at Steuben Brewing. He also plans to regularly experiment with new creations.
The new brewery will have a seven-barrel system capable of turning out 200-gallon batches, along with a smaller pilot system that produces 30-gallon batches for seasonals and "experimentals." There will also be a separate cask-conditioning system to add extra ingredients and flavors at the end of the brewing process, Zimar said.
The front of the brewery will have a tasting room and an outdoor patio overlooking Keuka Lake where customers can sample the brews by the flight, half-pint or pint, and get a growler to go.
Steuben Brewing will be certified by the state as a farm brewery, meaning a certain portion of the hops, grain, malts and other ingredients used in its beers have to be grown in New York. Zimar says he'll go beyond the requirements and use almost entirely local ingredients.
He's been a teacher, a chef at nearby Bully Hill Restaurant, and currently works for a state agency in Ithaca.
Opening a brewery is something he's wanted to do for years, he says.
"I've always wanted the opportunity to do something creative," he said.
Zimar's dad, Jim, has been the winemaker at Prejean Winery on Seneca Lake for 25 years, so Steuben Brewing will also offer samples of Prejean wines.
Chad Zimar says Steuben Brewing will rely heavily on tourists during the summer and fall, but he's also got a plan to encourage loyalty among locals.
He wants to have a "beer club" where members pay dues. In return, they'll get invited to tasting events when a new batch comes out, get first dibs on the fresh batches, and other perks.
As contractors from Tom Simons Contracting work on the brewery, Zimar is awaiting the needed approvals at the state and federal level.
Steuben Brewing will likely be the fourth microbrewery on Keuka Lake, following nearby Keuka Brewing Company, Finger Lakes Beer Company in Hammondsport and Abandon Brewing just outside Penn Yan.
Zimar isn't concerned about oversaturation. He says the breweries can piggyback off each other, just as the wineries do.
Page 2 of 2 - Peggy Coleman, president of the Steuben County Conference and Visitors Bureau - agrees.
"I think the beer movement in the Finger Lakes as a whole - and we're very fortunate that here in Steuben County we are expanding as well - is really growing and it's finally starting to get recognition," Coleman said. "I believe that our new breweries and the Finger Lakes Beer Trail are definitely attracting those beer drinkers, those folks who are really interested in craft beers."
Coleman said a fifth brewery is also planning to open sometime this year in the Keuka Lake area. Called the Brewery of Broken Dreams, it will be located in a historic building on Pleasant Valley Road in Hammondsport, she said.
The Finger Lakes Beer Trail was formed in 2011 to promote the 60-plus brewpubs and breweries across the region.