An inside look at a couple of Ithaca’s local breweries

May 03, 2016 No Comments by

by Mallery Rockwell

Randy Lacey, owner of Hopshire Farm & Brewery, walks into the warm brewery early on Sunday mornings, with the smell of grain filling the air. A sand bed under the tasting room stores waste heat from the brewing process to heat the building. By noon, customers arrive, and the brewing process is well on its way. Just a few minutes down Dryden road is Bacchus Brewing Company, which is another small, yet welcoming brewery serving hand-crafted beers.

Hopshire Farm & Brewery is operated by Diane Gerhart and Randy Lacey as a family owned business, and has been open for three years. Lacey home brewed eight years prior to the opening, which is where their recipes come from.

Lacey said the license requirement for being a farm brewery uses 20 percent of the barley and hops grown in New York in each batch of beer, which makes up to 200 gallons. He said they have made one batch of beer per week since May of 2013. Lacey also said beyond the requirements, there are many other ingredients they can use, such as 70 pounds of local honey used for the Beehave beer and ginger from Good Life Farms for the Zingarbeer.

Lacey said that before founding Hopshire Farm, he hadn’t seen other breweries combined with farms.

“We visited a lot of breweries but we hadn’t seen one that was a farm and a brewery, so people can see how hops are grown,” Lacey said.

He said that the small size of their business is what makes them stand out from other breweries.

“You walk in and you’re talking to the brewer; that’s not going to happen a lot of places. It’s Diane and I, so people deal directly with us,” he said.

Lacey explained the process and effort it takes to create the beer.

“It has to go from raw grain to everything: mashing, malting, brewing, and at the end of the day it’s in the fermenter,” he said. “Then it takes two to six weeks to ferment in the fermenter, so the time that takes the most effort is the brew day.”

Despite the long day of production, Lacey said his favorite part of the whole process is the brew day.

“Since we only do it once a week it’s not really like work,” he said. “Our daughter-in-law works at a brewery that brews three times a day, five days a week, so that’s a job, and this isn’t like that; I look forward to it.”

Bacchus Brewery is also currently in partnership with Americana Vineyards, allowing their beer to be enjoyed on the other side of Cayuga Lake.

Kelly Fitzsimmons has worked for six months in the tasting room at Bacchus brewery. At Bacchus, she gives tastings to customers, pours pints of beer and fills growlers.

Fitzsimmons said because Bacchus isn’t a farm brewery, they aren’t required to get certain ingredients from the state. She said she enjoys going to Hopshire Farm & Brewery for the beer, and likes the variety of flavors between Hopshire and Bacchus.

“Their beer is really good, they have a lot of different styles than we have at Bacchus, which is nice for general consumers, because they can go to both places and not have the same experience at both,” she said. “We do a lot of hoppy ales and darker stuff; we have an American Brown ale and coffee stout now, and Hopshire has great fruit beers, they do Scottish ales, so it’s worked out nice that we’re very mutually supportive.”

Similar to Fitzsimmons, Maggie Scherer has worked at Bacchus for approximately ten months as a tasting room attendant. Scherer said she enjoys the flexibility of the work schedule, great co-workers and casual atmosphere Bacchus has to offer.

Scherer said Bacchus has six beers that stick around all year because they are staples and people often ask for them. These include the Blonde Ale, Red Rye, Bacchus IPA, Flora’s Fate, Bearded Brown and Cyclhops IPA.

She said Bacchus has their tasting room, as well as a tasting location at Americana Winery. Scherer said Bacchus also doesn’t bottle or can their beer yet, so most of the business is done by distributing kegs throughout restaurants mostly in the Ithaca area.

“The tasting room is really just for people that have had our beer at the bars, wanna come out and have more variety of the beers,” she said.

Scherer said the brewery gets busier in the summertime and has been gaining popularity each year as they reach more restaurants.

“The last two months it’s gotten way way busier, we’re always slower in the winter and busy in the summer,” she said. “We’re definitely getting out there more now that we’ve settled into our fourth year and we’re starting new music here every month, so that’s been awesome.”

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