GENESEO — Livingston County has a unique success story to share with the state as it marks the first Brew IN Livingston winners.
It took a long hard road for these seven winners to get to this point, and for many of them this is only the beginning. The plan to create Brew IN Livingston started with a simple idea of bringing tourism to the county, but after 75 entries were made into this contest it became so much more. Out of those 75 entries there were 28 who sent in a video demonstrating why they should win. Out of those 28 came 15 lucky finalists. Finally, after a lot of work the team chose seven winners for the very first brewery trail.
The winners are: Amber Lantern Brewing Company, Horns and Halos Craft Brewing, Dublin Corners Farm Brewery, Battle Street Brewery, Mortalis Brewing Company, Original Stump Blowers Ciderworks, and Quiet Storm Brewing Company.
Jeff and Mike Fitch were a couple of the members tasked to choosing the winners. They both said this was a unique experience, and it was very hard to decide.
“We worked very close with the others in making this decision,” Jeff Fitch said. “This is the first time anything like this has been done in the state. It was a two fold project for us. We sought to educate and looked for participants to win. You can’t just hang a blue ribbon around everyone’s neck. They need to earn it.”
Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul was the guest speaker at this event. Hochul is calling it a huge success story.
“This team came up with a creative idea to launch a mission and to spark an industry,” she said. “I have seen little towns and governments all over the state who have had this idea, but are not really sure how to turn it into a reality. There is no better place for this than Livingston County. The small downtowns you have here are just crying out for a place like this.”
“This is the downtown that is coming back. What I have seen in this county is the brewery industry is coming in Dansville, Mount Morris, and Geneseo,” Hochul continued. “You have a very vital opportunity to expand your downtowns and bring in new businesses and customers. This is what the brewery industry can do for us. I go downtown and my first question is ‘tell me where the brewery is’ and this tells me that this is a community that has got a niche.”
Hochul said she believes that having this brewery trail is going to create gathering places in the communities.
“When you have a brewery it tells others that this is a gathering place. It is a cool place. It is a place where the millennials are going to come back and the ones who never left are going to come to all the time,” she said. “Some people that are a little older just want to hang out there and be with young people. It really is a gathering place. It is a place where people can come to hear stories, share stories, and really come together.”
Hochul added this program was very important to get off the ground.
“In the past this industry has been suppressed. We had laws on the books holding back this industry dating back to Prohibition. Things have changed a little since the Prohibition,” she said. “There were laws that made everything too expense and regulations that made no sense. Now there are new marketing techniques that the breweries are going to produce.”
Hochul mentioned this is going to cause a ripple effect in the agricultural industry as well.
“To have the Finger Lakes Wine Trail and Finger Lakes Beer Trail is going to hand opportunities off to our farmers. I see opportunities for our growers and young people who want to work in this industry,” she said. “This is a great success story. I want to commend Livingston County for taking it by the horns and just driving it home. We need to nurture this industry.”
Livingston County Board Chairman Eric Gott gave all of the thanks to the winners for the success of their plans.
“The real work for all of you starts after today,” he said. “This is brand-new for Livingston County, and there are a lot of great projects here that I can’t wait to see completed. These folks put in hundreds of hours for something that has not been done before.”
Livingston County Economic Development Executive Director William Bacon said this project got off its feet about a year ago.
“We knew that if we got enough interest we could make this whole thing happen,” he said. “It started out with some funding and a little passion. There are really no winners or losers here. Each one of them brought what they had.”
“This all was put in place to start a craft brew trail in Livingston County. You need a couple to get it going, and we have seven. We will have our own trail that will be connected to the Finger Lakes brew trails. All of them (breweries) had phenomenal plans, and it was very hard for us to decide.”
Battle Street Brewery Owner Doug Acomb said they put a lot of time into this brewery.
“We have stabilized the foundation, so we know it won’t fall down,” he said. “ We have a great team. The real work starts now.”
Battle Street Brewery Brewer Denny Boor said it is very exciting to get this award.
“We throw all kinds of ideas around, and it has been fun,” he said. “I am excited to get all of the equipment and get this done. This has been a great accomplishment for us.”
OSB Ciderworks co-owner Eric Smith said they have sold product in about 40 bars, and have doubled their expansion since starting the business last year.
“We knew we were going to get bigger and better, so our success story is knowing we would have to expand,” he said. “We both work really hard. We hope to expand year after year. We get a lot of support downtown.”
OSB Ciderworks co-owner Elise Barnard is excited to see what comes next.
“We are doing the things we said we wanted to do, and this trail will be bigger than us,” she said. “We are close by to all of these breweries, and they will hit our trail before they get to Seneca Lake.”
Mortalis Brewing Company Brewer Paul Grenier said they are working on getting the agreement for an industrial building in Avon.
“We got a big team, but the strength is not in numbers, it is in the fact that we can rely on each other,” he said. “We are going to brew great beer. We have three brewers with different styles. This is about five years in the making. We came together with our general love of craft beer, and we wanted to bring it home.”
“We want to be the gateway between Monroe and Livingston counties. It will have an industrial feel, and people will taste, smell, hear, and see the brewery,” Grenier continued. “We looked at a lot of places, but we need Avon. It is important to get us there. Our claim to fame will be that we plan on self-distributing our limited edition beer, so people can bring our canned beer home to friends and family. We hope to be open by Thanksgiving.”
Livingston County Development Downtown Coordinator Louise Wadsworth said it is amazing that Dansville, Geneseo, and Caledonia will all have breweries downtown.
“We have eight that will be open by next year. We have an automatic trail,” she said. “We will have visitors from Letchworth Park coming to our trail. It is significant for New York State. It shows the importance of this one thing, and what we can do next.”
Livingston County Development Deputy Director Maureen Wheeler said this was a long process, but it is worth it.
“We had to apply for state funds and sent out a survey to generate interest,” she said. “We got 75 responses and knew we had plenty of interest to get this up and running. It has been evolving. The contestants really stepped up to the plate. Our 15 finalists went through training. They had to turn in a full business plan. We gave the public a chance to learn about the process. We will have plenty of support when they open their doors.”
Wheeler said this industry is like none other she has worked with.
“These people have inspired me. They have made friendships and have given each other advice,” she said. “Their collaboration has been inspiring. They want each other to be successful. One brewery on an island is not much of a destination, but if you have seven that makes it worth it. They want to help send customers to each other, and have their own brand and style.”