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Distilling the Brewery Takeover From a Vino’s Perspective

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For years now, Empire Brewing Company has been one of my favorite places to eat in downtown Syracuse. With a welcoming, casual atmosphere and an emphasis on eating food grown locally, it’s a great place to add to your repertoire of restaurant names.

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A more recent development and addition to the Empire Brewing family was the opening of Empire Farm Brewery in May 2016. This gorgeous establishment, decked out in all hardwood and sitting with its 60 barrel brewhouse on over 20 acres of land, can be found in Cazenovia, a short, 30-minute, drive southeast of Syracuse. My mom and I, both with our gluten allergy in tow, headed here in our infinite wisdom this past Saturday to sample some beers and destroy our stomachs. Girls day done right if I do say so myself.

The first thing I noticed when we arrived was how busy it was, even despite the gloomy day. I’ve had friends tell me how crazy the brewery can get in the summer, but I didn’t expect it to be nearly as packed during the offseason, and honestly I was impressed. I also loved how the brewery offered a welcoming environment for people of all ages- I saw everywhere from 6 year old kids and their families to young couples and groups of friends in their 40s and 50s. I think this is due in part to the fact that the brewery also offers much beyond just its drinks- there’s an incredible menu of food and events held throughout the year including yoga, Sunday brunches and live music. Plus, take a tour of the brewery if you’re so inclined and learn all about the brewing process. Tours run every Saturday and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. so there’s plenty of time to take advantage of this.

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On the actual brew side of the experience, there are over 45 flavors to choose from, separated into Core Brands, Limited Releases, Seasonals and Specialty In-House Draft. We ordered a beer flight that consisted of 6 different flavors and chose the East Coast Amber Ale, White Aphro, Cranbaby Wheat, Cream Ale, Skinny Atlas Light (a play on words named after Central New York’s Skaneatles Lake, which the Empire website explains it draws its brewing water from) and Slo Mo’ IPA. Another that I wish I could have tried would have been the Apple Harvest Ale, a collaboration brew between Empire Brewing and Beak & Skiff Apple Orchard, my hometown favorite for ciders and wines. If you know me, you know that I don’t consider myself a beer girl, so of course my favorite that I sampled was the Cranbaby Wheat, probably the sweetest and most fruity flavored of them all. But for those who take their brews much more seriously than me, I think you’ll be thoroughly impressed by the selection and the distinct flavor differences in each. For more information on each beer including seasonality, ingredients and alcohol content, click here.

Craft breweries are definitely up and coming in terms of popularity, and I can see why. If you’re looking for something different to do with friends and family, nothing beats the experience of tasting uniquely flavored beers, instead of paying for your typical overpriced drink at the same chain restaurants weekend after weekend. Plus, for photographers and bloggers like myself, places like Empire Farm Brewery put me in my absolute glory- I mean, just look at how pretty these brews are! As the number of wine trails along the Finger Lakes seems to grow exponentially every time I look, I’d like to see more brewery trails pop up in the Central New York area in the years to come. Places like Empire are hidden secrets that definitely need to be shared.

See more behind the scenes photos and learn about upcoming events by visiting Empire’s Instagram page, and happy drinking!

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