There has never been a better time to be a beer lover in Upstate NY. A microbrewery revolution has hit the streets and the Mohawk Valley has hopped onto the scene. My college years turned me into a domestic beer drinker, but shortly after meeting my husband, I retired domestic bottles and tapped into the craft beer craze. Together we have traveled all over the United States, visiting breweries in many cities and small towns.Every brewery has its own unique vibe, yet there is always a sense of comradery among the craft brew drinkers. In a challenging world, that comradery has turned a trend into a deep-rooted culture. It’s the conversation among strangers, the music, the artisanal food, the lawn games, the casual atmosphere, the lack of expectation that has hatched the microbrewery movement. The local craft brew scene has excited the area, impacting the communities we live in.
Saranac is a household name in Upstate, NY. Whether you are at a holiday party, drinking the 12 beers of winter, or sitting outside by the fire, drinking a Utica Club, Saranac will always be an honored guest. Saranac Brewery is one of New York State’s most famous breweries, owned and operated by the FX Matt family since 1888. Despite enduring Prohibition and the Great Depression, the brewery has evolved into a national brand.
I have spent my 20s, 30s and now my 40s listening to live music with friends on Thursday evenings. I raced (rather slowly) to the finish line of every 5k Boilermaker, knowing that a big after party was waiting for me. I danced to the music of Almost Queen in the middle of a pandemic, thankful for a “normal” night. I have taken every out-of-state guest on a brewery tour for the full Utican experience. These memories are not my own, but memories shared with my community.
Hopular: Utica Club, Saranac Root Beer, Blueberry Blonde Ale, Legacy IPA, Saranac Pale Ale
Outdoor seating: Yes during festivals
Woodland Farm Brewery
Woodland really raised the bar for microbreweries in Upstate NY. As Oneida County’s first farm brewery, it has since expanded and forged a path for other brewers to follow its lead. The brewery hosts acoustic music on Tuesdays, trivia on Thursdays, and brunch and live music on Sundays. There is plenty of indoor and outdoor seating to sit and enjoy a beer, cider, or glass of wine. And of course, I highly recommend the tot waffle!!
On Tuesday nights, I would watch my dad play the harmonica with other area musicians. Woodland is where my dad’s passion for music really came to life, and at his celebration of life, Woodland was represented through their beer.
Vibe: Farm Forward
Hopular: Karl the Great, Old Main
Outdoor seating: Yes
Copper City Brewing Company
There hasn’t been a microbrewery in Rome since prohibition. Until now. Copper City is where I meet up with Roman friends for a lobster roll and a beer. On Wednesdays in the summer, Everything But a Pickle Food Truck sells fresh lobster rolls (straight from Maine). They sell out almost every week! On Saturdays, Copper City has a new food truck called Mondays.
Rome, also known as The Copper City, used to produce approximately 10% of copper for the United States back when it was an industrial city. The brewery reignited that proud history and assisted in reinvigorating the city of Rome. Younger and older generations alike gather Tuesday through Sunday to listen to live music and converse with friends, old and new.
Value: $8-12 (13 oz. Tulip or 16 oz. Pint)
Hopular: Woods Valley Witte, All Muck’d Up, Delta Double
Food: Food trucks (check their website for dates and times)
Outdoor seating: Yes (limited)
Baggs Square Brewing Company
Baggs Square, located in the Baggs Square neighborhood of Utica, is a German style Brewery, inspired by owner Jennifer Earl’s trip to Germany. Bagg’s Square hosts Taco Tuesday, Wednesday Karaoke, Trivia Thursday, Friday and Saturday Live Music and Saturday Brunch every week. They have really helped to revitalize an older neighborhood in the city.
Over the summer, myself, my husband and some friends took a self-guided brewery tour. This is where we were initiated into the Bavarian food and beer haven. From Wurziges Huhn to Schnitzel Sliders, the food has developed an artisanal menu, new to Upstate NY.
Vibe: Bier Garden
Hopular: Hefeweizen and The Witcher Stout
Outdoor seating: Yes
16 Stone Brewpub
If you are more into sours and flavored seltzers, this is your jam. 16 Stone is a family owned brewery and seltzery with two locations. Their new location, at LIVEIT Downtown Complex in Utica, hosts a variety of events from Chicken Thigh Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Wine Down Wednesdays and Friday Night Rules with Mules. They have some great specials ($4 seltzers on Saturdays) and shareable plates, burgers and sandwiches. With a constantly revolving tap menu, they always have a range of sours and seltzers available.
Location: Holland Patent and Utica
Value: $4-7 (amazing daily specials)
Hopular: Psycho-Ass Blonde, Cherry Seltzer
Outdoor seating: No
7 Hamlets Brewing Company
7 Hamlets, a more rural location, is known for its crafts and live music. In the summer, you can grab a picnic table on the expansive outdoor area and watch local musicians with the countryside as a backdrop. On those nights, take a ride with the coaster fry from the Come and Get it Food Truck. Coaster fries are hand-spun fries in a variety of flavors, served with a bamboo skewer. If you aren’t a fry guy, try their gourmet burgers, fresh grilled chicken sandwiches or the handheld tacos. On Wednesdays, 7 Hamlets also hosts Taco and Trivia night.
This was the perfect bookend location to our self-guided beer crawl last summer. We met up with a group of people, put a few picnic tables together and just enjoyed the summer vibes.
Hopular: Third Rail Honey Blonde, 7 Hammies Irish Red, Sticky Fingers Porter
Outdoor seating: Yes
Heelpath Brewing Company has a big craft brew taste in a small town. It sits on the marina, overlooking the Erie canal. The term heelpath actually derives from the 19th century families that traveled along the canal to get from village to village. The roots of the town’s farming past is still ingrained in the brewery. The owner, Brian, infuses local ingredients from New York State into the beers, and works with the town of Frankfort to ensure a successful future for the brewery.
Brian, with the help of the local communities, has developed brewery bus tours that depart from Heelpath. The tours last 5-6 hours and costs $40/person. To snag a seat on the bus, keep checking their Facebook page for updates.
Hopular: Arctic Red Ale, Heelapeno Cream Ale, Oatmeal Stout
Outdoor seating: Yes
If you haven’t visited these Upstate NY breweries, I highly recommend adding them to your upstate bucket list. Even if you aren’t a craft beer drinker, most breweries serve wine and cider. Plus the live entertainment, social climate and food are worth the visit alone. If you like having a good time, then it’s time to join the revolution.