Utica and Cooperstown Brewery Tour (June 19-20, 2010)

Posted on 22 June 2010

Ah June…when a boy’s fancies turn to beer and jam bands. And what better way to celebrate the season than to travel out to Saratoga for Phish concert and stop along at breweries along the way. As we were heading out to Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) for the Phish concert on June 19th, we also took some time to stop at a few breweries (and a cidery) along the way. We had a gorgeouse weather for the weekend and, although there were no real suprises (beer-wise), the drive was trip and one definitely worth repeating.

Matt Brewing Company (Utica, NY)
What can I say other than it was very disappointing. Tours are only at 1pm and 3pm and you can only do tastings if you take the brewery tour. Which we didn’t do. We perused the gift shop for a bit, walked around part of the brewery (from the outside) and then went across the street to have a beer. I have to admit that, for a cheaper beer, I did enjoy Utica Club and will definitely have it again. And everyone from the area is very familiar with the Saranac offerings. Were we to do the trip again, I will not lose sleep over skipping Utica and, from the looks of things, progress and industry have done the same to the poor city.

Cooperstown Brewing Company (Milford, NY)
Small and unassuming, the Cooperstown Brewing Company is actually in Milford NY. The brewery is an old, converted milk house and the staff was very friendly and knowledgeable, despite the tasting room being very busy shortly after we arrived. While Old Slugger is their best-known offering, I found their Nine Man (golden ale) to be my favorite but one should also try their Pride of Milford. All of their beers are open-fermented using Ringwood ale yeast and the English character and fruity esters are readily apparent throughout their line. Needless to say, we left with smiles on our faces and 4 full growlers.

Brewery Ommegang (Cooperstown, NY)
Our next stop on the tour was the beautiful Brewery Ommegang, nestled in rolling hills and located on a 140-acre former hop farm. Being familiar with their beers, Colleen and I took an informal tour of the grounds and then headed in for a tasting. Undoubtedly, we enjoyed each of the beers we tasted (Witte, Rare Vos, Hennepin, Abbey Ale, and Three Philosophers) but I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t offer any of their rarer brews (Ommegeddon, Chocolate Indulgence, etc.). Still, the stars of the show were the local foods they offered along with the beer tastings. We didn’t purchase any beers at Ommegang (since we can find them at local vendors like Wegmans or Beers of the World) but did buy some fudge (made with Chocolate Indulgence) and mustard: horseraddish and maple (yum!)

Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard (Fly Creek, NY)
Just north of Cooperstown, the Fly Creek Cider Mill and Orchard screams “tourist trap” and, in the fall, I can envision busloads of pensioners and families running around the mill petting the animals, tasting the many apple-related products, and snapping pictures of the well-groomed orchards and grounds. Their hard ciders are a bit cloyingly sweet (for my taste) but, for those who prefer syrupy, fruity wines (like a Finger Lakes riesling) then you’ll definitely like the ciders and fruit wines available here. The outstanding star of the mill — and a definite reason to return again — is their cave-aged, 5-year-old cheddar cheese. One block alone would be worth fighting through a crowd of apple-addled geriatrics!

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