Once a year Custom Brewcrafters, in Honeoye Falls, NY, has a festival where they bring out all 55 of their beers. It just so happens that this year’s festival coincided with my buddy’s bachelor party so we tucked in a brewery tour as well. Custom Brewcrafters is a unique operation in that the vast majority of the beers they brew are contract brews for other local businesses.
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Honeoye (pronounced honey-oy) Falls is a tiny town about 30 minutes directly south of Rochester. It is the home of a small brewery named Custom Brewcrafters owned by Mike and Luanne Alcorn. After getting used to a large variety of quality microbrews in other parts of the country the couple had an idea that they could partner with local bars and restaurants to make custom beers for each. The idea started off strong with some local institutions hopping on board right away and it continued to grow through the present. Two years ago CB moved into a brand-new facility that includes a 23-tap tasting room, a large retail shop and, soon, a small café.
My buddy’s bachelor party started off with a little tasting, of course. The tasting room is situated around a large U-shaped bar. CBs hands out a small business card with a number of checkboxes on the back. After each taste the pourer will write into the box which beer it was that you had. This is a great idea as it serves a number of purposes: 1)The card is good self-marketing. 2) The card tells the pourers how many you’ve had. 3) The card reminds you which beers you’ve had so you know which one should fill your growler.
The retail shop is neat, if a bit much. Most breweries limit themselves to their own merch, like t-shirts, sweatshirts, some hats, glassware, etc. CBs has beer-flavored mustard (made on contract, actually, by local producers Nunda Mustard), Brew-Opoly Monopoly Board Game, Blair’s Death Rain Habanero Kettle Chips, Freezable Beer Pong Game Rack, etc. The one thing that I liked a lot and had never seen before was a Growler Koozie. One corner of the shop is being transformed into a café and I believe will serve full pints and sandwiches, soups and such. The only gripe here was the plastic tasting cups. They also had some mini-glasses that were to be used later that day at their Autumn Festival of Ales.
The tour itself was very well done. It was evident that the tour guide had been pretty well-trained as she went into a great deal of detail about the brewing process. There wasn’t much backstory about the brewery but that may be just because there isn’t one. The neat part was seeing a diatomaceous earth filter opened up. The end of the tour was my buddy taking a shot of beer from the generous décolletage of a gregarious dirndl-clad employee. A great start to the day, according to all involved.
The troupe then headed over to the Festival of Ales to continue our samplefest. After all 55 is a lot of beers to taste! I was pretty far from getting up to 55 but I managed to sample a few different beers before I had to leave the festival and the bachelor party. Everything I sampled was very high quality but I think an unfortunate side effect of CBs’ business model is that they have to make unadventurous beers. This is speculation, of course, and I have not been able to sample all of their beers, but my guess is that somebody buying a contract will not be going for the barleywines, the hop-bombs, the wood-aged, etc. because they would want something very approachable to be their “signature brew.” My guess is that this would necessitate some middle-of-the-road brews. I don’t mean that on a quality scale just a boldness-of-flavor scale.
It seems they’ve thought about this problem, though, because not only do they have their own non-contract brews but they’re also bottling bombers with what they call their Signature Series. I think they have 4 out now, including an Imperial IPA, a Blonde Dopplebock and a Belgian Dubbel Witbier. I hope to do a separate post on these in the future.
For now I can say I highly recommend the tour if you’re in the area. CBs’ beer is widely available not only in local bars and restaurants but also in supermarkets but since there are so many the only way to really try them all is to go to all of the different contractees in Rochester, Buffalo and the Finger Lakes region. It’s a great local operation that seems to be encouraging regional commerce and for that alone we commend them. Now we just have to get started tasting every one of those beers and we’ll have some more to report!