Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Guinness to build Maryland facility to supply U.S. market

Drawing of the proposed facility.
Guinness has a strong U.S presence, but it may get even stronger.

The iconic Irish brewer's parent company, Diageo, has chosen Maryland as the site of a brewery that will be built to solely supply the American market.

Diageo's announcement said the Baltimore County project, which will cost an estimated $50 million, will be modeled on the Guinness Open Gate Brewery in Dublin, and will include a visitor center. "The new brewery would be a home for new Guinness beers created for the U.S. market, while the iconic Guinness Stouts will continue to be brewed at St. James’s Gate in Dublin," Diageo said.

Thus, Diageo will continue to import Guinness Stouts from Ireland while Guinness Blonde and newer innovative beers intended for the U.S. beer drinker will be developed and produced in Maryland.

Construction will start in the spring, with a projected fall completion that would coincide with the 200th anniversary of exports of the classic Irish stout to the U.S. The last time Guinness had a U.S. brewery was in the 1950s.

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Druthers adding 3rd location, near Schenectady casino

Today's press conference making the announcement.
Druthers, which has brewpub locations in Saratoga Springs and Albany, is adding a third in Schenectady, according to an announcement made today.

The new spot will be in the Mohawk Harbor development adjacent to the Rivers Casino and Resort that is scheduled to open next Wednesday, February 8.

According to the joint announcement by Druthers and the Galesi Group that is building the Mohawk Harbor complex, the brewpub will open sometime this summer.

Druthers' original location, opened in 2012, is at 381 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, and its second is at 1053 Broadway, Albany. The company website has an entertaining page explaining its development over the years.
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Monday, January 30, 2017

Imbibeable Cartoonery

A gallery of artwork honoring those who draw conclusions.


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Diplomático unveiling 2 aged rums in U.S. markets

Diplomático, the Venezuelan rum brand, has announced the launch of two new expressions,  Mantuano and Planas. They are aged for up to eight and six years, respectively.

The two newcomers are part of Diplomático's new Tradition Range, which includes the brand’s flagship Reserva Exclusiva bottling, a sipping rum aged in small oak casks for up to 12 years.

Planas, bottled at 47% abv (94 proof), is a blended white rum distilled in pot stills. It is named after the Planas Valley, where the Diplomático distillery is located. Mantuana, bottled at 40% abv (80 proof), translates as "local man." It is inspired by Don Juancho Nieto Meléndez, the 19th Century character that inspired the creation of Diplomático. It is a blended rum aged in white oak casks that previously held Bourbon and malt whiskey. It is a combination of column, batch kettle and pot still distillates created from sugar cane molasses and honey.

They will begin showing up in various U.S. markets in mid-February. Mantuano will carry a suggested retail price of  $24, and Planas $29.
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Columbia Co. brewer named among world's 10 best newbies

A fledgling Columbia County brewery has burst on the scene with a major international award unveiled today.

The Suarez Family Brewery, which officially opened last June, was ranked No. 10 in the "Best New Brewers in the World" category, according to the annual RateBeer Best competition, which is dribbling out its awards results this week from its Santa Rosa, CA, event.

"These are the top brewers who started collecting their first ratings on or after Q3 2015. Considering there were more than 6,500 new worldwide brewers registered in this period, these 10 are an extremely elite bunch of the freshman class," the announcement says.

"Dan Suarez and Taylor Cocalis Suarez have made their brewery in the small town of Livingston, NY, population 3,646. Here they create farmhouse, mixed fermentation beers, small hop forward beers and Dan's darling -- unfiltered pilsners. Taylor has as one of the brewery's guiding principles: 'You have the responsibility to make beers that are part of a specific point of view that you have. The job of someone who's really good at what they do is not always to give people what they say they want.' "

In the same category, Foam Brewers, founded last year in Burlington, VT, is ranked No. 6. Others in the category are from Belgium, Oklahoma, California, Florida, Oregon, Virginia, the Netherlands, and Poland.

In the top beers, brewers and new brewers ranked by subregions (states), Suarez Family obviously was the top newbie in New York State, with top beer and top brewer honors going to Double Barrel Jesus from Evil Twin Brewing, a Brooklyn brewer with Danish roots.

The Suarez operation is located at 2278 Route 9 in Livingston, about 10 miles from Hudson. Phone: (518) 537-6464.

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Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Tilted Kilt quietly slinks out of Niskayuna

Didn't fly in Niskayuna
Well, that didn't take long. Last April 11, the boobs-and-brews chain called Twisted Kilt Pub & Eatery was all excited about opening a venue in Niskayuna. Now, that spot is out of business without public notice.

Its Facebook page lists it as "permanently closed," while the corporate website doesn't list it at all.

The chain, which began in the early 2000s and has about 100 locations nationwide, relied on waitresses clad in plaid miniskirts and bras showing a lot of cleavage. Oh yeah, and a lot of beer and stuff.

The fleeting local effort was located in the Mansion Square sales strip at Balltown Road and State Street.
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Friday, January 27, 2017

Samuel Adams reformulates its successful IPA

You have to give it to Jim Koch. The Boston Beer CEO isn't afraid to tinker with success.

The brewer's Samuel Adams Rebel IPA, launched in 2014 to solid consumer response, has been reformulated with the addition of several hops. In addition to the original blend of Cascade, Centennial, Simcoe and Chinook hops Rebel now has Mosaic hops, experimental bittering hop HBC 682 and HBC 566, a new hop variety proprietary to Sam Adams.

It now is brewed solely with Samuel Adams’ two-row malt blend, and caramel malt has been removed from the grain bill. According to the company, Rebel IPA’s new flavor profile is “less malty,” and features more tropical, citrus and pine-like notes.

So, why the change? As Koch told the Boston Globe, "Rebel was well received, but I have this motto that the status quo sucks. The only reason the status quo exists is because we haven’t yet figured out how to do it better. We apply that to our beers.”

This is the first time Boston Beer has changed the formula of one of its prominent beers.

The company also is releasing Rebel Juiced, a 6.2% abv version of Rebel plus flavorings from such fruits as tangerine and mango to complement its Mosaic, Mandarina and Zeus hops.

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Ommegang releases new Sirens' Song dark ale

Brewery Ommegang has released its first limited-edition product of the new year.

The Cooperstown brewer's Sirens’ Song is a Belgian-style dark ale, brewed with a blend of noble hop varieties, figs and raisins. The 9% abv ale is available for a limited time on draft and in 12-ounce bottled four-packs.

“Belgian-style dark ales are a treat to drink,” says Ommegang’s Innovation Manager Justin Forsythe, who developed the recipe. “Sirens’ Song is brewed with dark Belgian candi syrup to impart decadent notes of dark fruit and burnt sugar, and also brewed with raisins and figs in order to compliment the rich, fruity character of this dark ale. It’s a wonderful wintertime treat, or a beer to age for years to come.”
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Imbibeable Cartoonery

A gallery of artwork honoring those who draw conclusions.


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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Rochester Craft Beverage Trail nearing legal reality

Where we once had only wine trails established to attract visitors to various parts of the state, we now have more and more beverage trails in recognition of the explosion in the number of breweries, distilleries and cideries.

The latest one moved a step closer to reality this week when the State Senate voted to approve a bill to create the Rochester-Finger Lakes Craft Beverage Trail.

The bill, introduced by State Senator Rich Funke, R-Monroe County, would permit trail signs on designated local roadways. If also OKd by the Assembly and signed by the governor, Funke's legislation would permit Rochester Craft Beverage Trail-branded signage along portions of Interstates 390, 490, 590 and 90, among other designated routes.

The bill is sponsored in the Assembly by Majority Leader Joseph D. Morelle, D-Irondequoit, where it has moved to the Transportation Committee. With Morelle's backing, it seems a slam-dunk to be passed in that house.

 "One of the best things about the Rochester Craft Beverage Trail is that it was born of a grassroots effort to promote an industry that grows jobs and our economy here every day," Funke said in an announcement. "This legislation would do even more to highlight our great local craft beverage makers by establishing the Trail in state law and allowing for signage in key locations across our region."

There are 21 craft beverage businesses on the proposed trail: Black Button Distilling, Rohrbach Brewing, The O'Begley Distillery, Iron Smoke Distillery, Casa Larga Vineyards, VB Brewery, Nedloh Brewing, Heron Hill Vineyards,  Three Huskies Brewing, Blue Toad, Lost Borough Brewing, CB Craft Brewers, Honeoye Falls Distillery, Swiftwater Brewing, 3 Brothers Winery, Naked Dove, Knucklehead Brewing, Genesee Brew House, Apple Country Spirits, Embark Craft Ciderworks, and JD Wine Cellars.

The Trail was launched in 2014 by an informal coalition of craft beverage makers. Funke said that while they have had some success pooling resources to jointly market their businesses, they sought an official state designation "to increase exposure and secure the placement of branded signage throughout the region."

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Craft brewers festival has 50 breweries lined up so far

The 4th annual New York State Brewers Association's (NYSBA) New York Craft Brewers Festival, set for Saturday, March 25, 2017 at The Desmond in Colonie, already has more than 50 brewers lined up.

And, organizers are promising more than 100 "hard-to-find and award-winning beers." The event, a sellout last year, is planned as a four-hour (4 to 8 p.m.) tasting event with "specially selected beer not available to the general public." Tickets, including an early-admission VIP component, have a variety of price points, and are available both in advance and at the door.

Tickets are available at The Desmond, the Albany Pump Station, Rare Form Brewing in Troy, and Mad Jack Brewing at The Van Dyck in Schenectady.

Admission covers a seven-ounce souvenir tasting glass, unlimited three-ounce beer samples, food samples from a variety of local restaurants and food trucks, and the opportunity to meet the brewers. Beers and ales from 56 different breweries are listed by the organizers. Go here to see the full lineup.

Food sampling designed pairing will be provided by The Desmond Hotel, Brown's Brewing Taproom, Adirondack Pub, Albany Pump Station, Davidson Brothers Brewpub, Druthers, The Ruck, The American Bounty at CIA, Knot of This World Pretzels, Catskill Food Company, Crossroads Brewing, Chef’s Consortium, The Mohawk Taproom, Honest Weight, The Hollow Bar + Kitchen, 20 North Broadway, Elegant Touch Catering & Events, Pasta Pane, and That’s Different Chocolates.

The festival will include select New York State hops and malt section with owners and growers. It is a 21+ event. All attendees must show valid photo ID at the door. All attendees, including designated drivers, must be 21 or over to attend.

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Ginger Man organizing four-session whisky workshops

The Ginger Man wine bar and restaurant in Albany has just announced a monthly series to begin in February called "Around the World In Whisky Days."

It is a four-part event emphasizing different styles of whiskies at each session. The classes will be taught by Joseph Armstrong, and guests can expect two courses and five to seven samplings at each session. They will begin at 6:30 p.m. as follows:
• Wednesday, February 22, Whisky 101
• Tuesday, March 28, Scotch
• Tuesday, April 25, Rye
• Tuesday, May 23, Bourbon
Reservations are $60 per class, or $210 for all four, plus tax and tip and may be made by calling the restaurant.

The Ginger Man is located at 2324 Western Avenue, between Ontario and Quail. Phone: 427-5963.
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Canned beer 'officially' turned 82 this week

The first canned beer
For those of you who like to pop open a cold one from time to time, do so today to celebrate a remarkable achievement. It was this week in 1935 that the Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company of Newark, NJ, sold the first canned beer -- in Richmond, VA.

So, even though January 24 became the "official" birthday of canned beer, it actually made its debut 14 months earlier when the American Can Company showed off its workable beer can. Krueger was the first company to agree to use it.

"By the end of that month, American had installed a temporary canning line and delivered 2,000 Krueger's Special Beer cans, which were promptly filled with 3.2% Krueger beer -- the highest alcohol content allowed at the time," according to a history of the process from the Brewery Collectibles Club of America (BCCA).

'Church key' collection
The photo above of a can of Krueger's Special Beer appeared in the December 28, 1933, issue of Brewer's News but, according to the BCCA, no current example of an actual can has been positively verified to exist.

"The 2,000 cans of beer were given to faithful Krueger drinkers; 91% gave it thumbs up, and 85% said it tasted more like draft than bottled beer. Reassured by this successful test, Krueger gave canning the green light, and history was made," the BCCA article goes on. 

The first cans were made of steel and weighed about four ounces, a far cry from today's lightweight thin aluminum cans. And, they required that iconic device colloquially called a "church key" to open them by puncturing a triangular-shaped hole on one side of the top and a small hole punched opposite it to equalize the pressure of the carbonated beverage.

In that fine American tradition, many brewers and beverage companies had their names stamped on the openers, which usually had a sharp piercing point on one end and either a hole at the other end for putting the opener on a hook, or a slotted or bent end for prying bottle caps off soft drink containers.
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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Chopin to handle U.S. whiskey sales for Adirondack Distilling

Adirondack Distilling has linked up with a powerful international name -- Chopin.

Chopin Imports Ltd. (CIL), the marketing and sales firm that manages U.S. sales of Chopin Vodka and DORDA Double Chocolate Liqueur, has announced finalization of an agency agreement with Adirondack Distilling, owner of Adirondack Bourbon and American Whiskey. The announcement said CIL will manage national distribution and sales for the whiskey portfolio while Jordan Karp, co-founder of Adirondack Distilling, will focus on production, marketing and branding.

“We are simply thrilled to join the Chopin family," Karp said. "Their reputation and track record are unmatched. We are excited to grow our footprint, plan for the future and continue to provide true quality hand-crafted spirits.”

The move is part of Chopin's efforts to build a portfolio of family-owned spirits brands.

“We are very excited to expand the depth of the Chopin Imports portfolio by offering our valued distributor partners exclusive access to the Adirondack Whiskeys,” said Chopin founder Tad Dorda. “Our companies share the same family-owned values and a passion for crafting one-of-a-kind spirits made from the best ingredients.”

Adirondack, located in Utica, was founded in 2911 by Karp, Bruce Elwell, and Steve Cox.
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Adirondack Winery schedules wine blending workshop

Adirondack Winery has something interesting coming up, a hands-on class on wine blending.

"Wine 101: Wine Blending" is scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, February 10. It's geared for beginners as well as those more experienced with various wines. Reservations, priced at $30, are available online.

The workshop will cover discussion of why wines are blended, what types work best together, and a chance to blend your own. Tickets cover a wine tasting flight equivalent to two glasses, light food samplings, a souvenir tasting glass, a sensory wheel, and two mini-bottles of wine.

Adirondack Winery is located at 285 Canada Street in Lake George. Phone: (518) 668-9463.
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Sierra Nevada issues beer recall over fear of glass shards

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, one of the nation's largest craft brewers, has issued a recall of some of its 12-ounce bottles of pale ales, IPAs and other beers after discovery of a packaging flaw that could cause glass to chip and fall into the bottle.

The voluntary recall came after inspections at its North Carolina brewery. The brewery said the recall applies to eight different types of its craft beers, including its Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, purchased in New York and 34 other states as well as Washington, DC.

In an announcement, the company said, "We have announced a voluntary recall of select 12-ounce bottles that may contain a small glass packaging flaw. This recall comes after quality inspections at our Mills River, NC, brewery detected a very limited number of bottles with a flaw that may result in loss of carbonation and a small piece of glass to break off and possibly fall into the bottle, causing a risk for injury.

"While we believe this concern impacts roughly one in every 10,000 (0.01%) of our bottles packaged during this time, Sierra Nevada has set the standard for quality in the craft brewing industry since 1980 and we have decided to take this precaution to ensure the safety of our consumers.  To date, we have not received any consumer reports of injuries resulting from the potentially affected bottles, and we are working with our suppliers to determine the root cause of the issue."

Go here for a list of which products are affected and which are not.
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How a wine ad maneuvered its way to Super Bowl exposure

From AdAge.com
Even before last year's Super Bowl was played, executives at Yellow Tail wine decided they wanted to make a big splash by advertising in the 2017 game.

But, they quickly uncovered a major hurdle: Anheuser-Busch InBev's exclusive category ad rights with Fox covered not just beer, but all of alcohol, shutting out wine brands.

Yellow Tail did not give up on its goal of giving the wine category its biggest Super Bowl presence since the 1980s, when Bartles & Jaymes ran a national ad in 1988 and Paul Masson Vineyards ran one in 1980. So, the wine brand and its media agency, Havas Media, got to work, executing individual local ad buys across 70 TV markets, including the top 30.

As a result, an estimated 85% of the more than 100 million people expected to tune into the February 5 game will have a chance to see Yellow Tail's ad. And viewers across the nation -- including in massive markets like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles -- will have no idea that the brand went the local route.
Go here for the full story.
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Ever-expanding wine world takes your palate on a journey

• From The Smithsonian Magazine
For all of recorded history and even before, wine has been intrinsic to the lives of the Greeks, Romans, and other peoples of the Mediterranean and Caucasus regions.

The best wines in ancient times were largely reserved for a select few. For others, wine was rough, sour, acrid -- consumed not in pursuit of some form of connoisseurship, but largely because it was safer than water.

Most wines were consumed locally, not far from where they were made. By the 18th and 19th centuries, however, some wines were identified as better than the rest and became commodities to be shipped to wherever they were in demand. Their names became famous: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, sherry, port, Madeira, Rhine wine. In the past quarter century, this portfolio has expanded dramatically.

We now live in an era that would be almost unrecognizable to wine lovers of our grandparents’ generation. Never before have so many different wines, from so many places, in so many diverse styles, been available to so many people around the globe. Of the seven continents, only Antarctica does not have vineyards. 
Go here for the full story.
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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Save-the-date: 'Roll Out the Barrels'

If you like to be among the first to try something, the Lake Ontario Wine Trail's "Roll Out the Barrels" event on the weekend of April 1-2 should be of some interest.

Visitors will be able to visit various wineries, a distillery and a cidery on a self-guided tour to sample new or unreleased vintages.

The event will be held from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. Tickets, priced at $15, are available online or at the first venue visited. Visitors select their own starting point.

Participants will be Casa Larga Vineyards, JD Wine Cellars, Young Sommer Winery, Thorpe Vineyard, Colloca Estate Winery, Apple Country Spirits, and  Embark Craft Ciderworks.
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Julia Hoyle takes over as Hosmer's head winemaker

Julia Hoyle
Hosmer Winery has made a major change entering the new year, naming Julia Hoyle its head winemaker.

She succeeds Aaron Roisen, who held the position from August 2007 through last month. Says Roisen, "I consider the past nine years that I have been making wine at Hosmer to be the most formative and influential of my winemaking career, and I would certainly not be the winemaker I am today without the support of the Hosmer team.

"I cannot think of a better person to take my place in the cellar than Julia. She is one of the most talented and recognized up and coming winemakers in the Finger Lakes and a perfect fit for Hosmer."

Hoyle was born in Philadelphia, but came to the Finger Lakes to study at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. After graduation, she spent time abroad both in France, teaching English, and in Senegal, west Africa.

Her wine interest was stoked In 2009 when, as a college student, she took a job in the tasting room at Fox Run Vineyards on Seneca Lake. After several years, she spent a harvest in the cellar at Atwater Winery in Burdett before taking a fulltime position as assistant winemaker at Sheldrake Point Winery in Ovid in December 2013.

Hoyle, however, didn't limit her training to the Finger Lakes. She took a brief sabbatical in early 2015 to work as the night shift white winemaker at Yalumba Winery, Australia's oldest family winery. She then returned to Sheldrake Point where she had been until her transition to Hosmer Winery.

Asked to name several things she is looking forward to, Hoyle noted "the extremely diverse and expanding Riesling portfolio" and "our estate red vinifera, especially the Hosmer Cabernet Franc."

Hosmer Winery is open year-round on the west side of Cayuga Lake at 7020 Route 89 in Ovid.
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Celebri-Quote: Why do you drink Champagne?

"I drink it when I'm happy and when I'm sad.

Sometimes I drink it when I'm alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory.

I trifle with it if I'm not hungry, and drink it when I am.

Otherwise, I never touch it -- unless I'm thirsty."

-- Madam Lilly Bollinger,
of the famous Bollinger Champagne house 

Go here for my archive of Celebri-Quotes on Drinking.

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Friday, January 20, 2017

Update: Production halted of that audacious little Spanish blue

UPDATE (1/20/17): Inspectors from Spain and the European Union have decreed that no more Gik, a blue wine introduced to the market last year, can be produced until a decision can be made on how, if at all, it fits into prescribed marketing  categories. There is no blue wine category among the 17 wine products listed under E.U. law (Annex VII part II of Regulation 1308/2013). The blue color comes from adding two ingredients to the mix of Spanish red and white grapes --   anthocyanin, a pigment made from the skin of red grapes, and indigotine, a plant-based food dye. All of it is 100% organic and natural ingredients.

(Originally published 7/21/16) 

OK, let’s look at the basics of the grape wine color spectrum: Red and white. Oh, and pink. And, sometimes yellow, or even a little bit light green. And, blue.

Blue? Yep. A bright cobalt blue wine recently introduced in Spain and rolling out across Europe under the less-than-appetizing brand name Gik will begin appearing in the U.S. in October, priced at $16 a bottle.

Curiously, the young winemakers behind Gik (run “gik” through a Spanish-to-English translator and it still comes out “gik”) are not claiming any great product, just a different one.

Their stated manifesto: “Gik represents the innovative side of life, because that’s how we are. We believe in the creative rebellion, we build new things, break with the past and create our future. We are Gïk and we will change the world.”

The wine, bottled at 11.5% alcohol by volume, is a blend of red and white wines -- yes, they’ve managed to mix red and white to get blue, with the help of some food dye -- from vineyards in Spain and France.

Says company co-founder Artiz Lopez, “It tastes sweet and fresh and has no heritage. Surprisingly, when we did a blind tasting, just one of 15 people said it was a wine. Among the reactions we found some people even saying it was a soft drink!”
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Update: Cuomo moviehouse drinks plan deviates from speech

Beer and wine are sold in this California theater where clip-on trays also holds food items.
UPDATE (1/20/17): In one of his budget speeches this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would propose granting approval for movie theater to serve wine and beer, as well as incentives to encourage them to be sure those are New York State products. The catch -- and isn't there always a catch with government? -- is that Cuomo's actual paperwork reveals that such service would NOT be restricted to wine and beer, and there is no provision for incentives for using state products.

(Originally published 1/18/17)

In New York State you can sip a beer or a glass of wine while watching a standup comic perform live, listen to a lounge singer-pianist or a jazz quintet, or even stroll through a gallery to see an art collection or hear a speaker. If alcohol-friendly Governor Andrew Cuomo has his way, you'll be able to enjoy the same beverages while taking in a movie.

There is a small handful of movie houses in the state allowed to sell such beverages now, a result of a succesful 2011 lawsuit filed by Nitehawk Cinemas seeking such a privilege, but they must have table seating and offer a full restaurant menu. Hardly the same as sitting in your neighborhood moviehouse and sloching back into a comfy overstuffed seat while you take in the latest version of the "Hunger Games" franchise, and hardly a sufficient-sized venue to handle crowds for first-run films.

During his budget address delivered publicly on Tuesday, Cuomo said that in addition to dozens of revenue and regulation recommendations, "We also had a proposal that would allow alcohol and beer to be sold in movie theaters. And, it would be joined with an incentive program, to incentivize the movie theaters to sell New York wine and beer."

If successful, the proposal would be just another step in a long series of moves by the governor to aid the state's wine/spirits/brewing industry by simplifying regulations, expanding tax credits, creating promotional programs, and speeding up licensing.

“It is a very big industry for us," Cuomo said. "We have developed it, it’s going gangbusters, anything we can do to encourage it. It’s especially successful in Upstate New York."

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

BYOB introduction on the way for parts of Boston

• From Eater.com/Boston
This week, the Boston Licensing Board paved the way for some Boston restaurants to allow BYOB, reports UHub. (Applications will likely begin in the spring -- the forms have to be designed first.)

The new regulation gives restaurants that (a) don’t already have a liquor license and (b) are located in neighborhoods that don’t have many licenses available the chance to apply for a $400 BYOB license, which would allow customers to bring in wine bottles up to 750 ml, as well as beer bottles and growlers.

Other rules: no cordials or hard liquor, no running out to pick up another bottle in the middle of the meal, no corkage fee, and no BYOB before 5 p.m. or after 11 p.m. UHub notes that a number of neighborhoods remain ineligible under the new regulation, including the North End, South End, Back Bay, Chinatown, and more.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Saw Mill Tavern 'biker bar' owner, philanthropist dies


Don Birch
Donald F. Birch, owner of The Saw Mill Tavern in Schenectady, died Tuesday at the age of 79.

Birch was well known for being an avid motorcyclist whose tavern, located at 501 South Avenue at North Jay Street. was popular with the biker community for nearly 40 years. 
 
For 31 years, Birch hosted free Sunday buffets there for those in need. He also organized annual Toys for Tots fundraisers that were known for the long line of bikes leaving The Saw Mill, and organized bike runs to raise money for homeless veterans and for the City Mission of Schenectady.

Calling hours will be from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday at the Glenville Funeral Home, 9 Glenridge Road. The funeral will be held there at 9 a.m. Monday home, and it is expected that motorcycles will be a prominent part of the procession to Parkview Cemetery on Monday for Birch's burial.
 
Go here for Birch's official obituary.


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Feds redefine cider regulations to aid producers

Going into the new year, the federal government did not ignore the burgeoning U.S. cider industry.

An amendment to the Internal Revenue Service Code (26 USC Section 5041) was part of the year-end tax extenders bill, and modifies the definition of hard cider.

Passage of the legislation on December 18 makes small cider producers more competitive in the market by giving them increased flexibility in production and ingredients and brings the U.S.'s cider definition into line with international standards for alcohol by volume, carbonation, and allowable recipes.

“This legislation represents a huge step forward for cider makers throughout the nation ,” said Mike Beck, president of the United States Association of Cider Makers (USACM) and owner of Uncle John’s Hard Cider Company in St. Johns, MI. “ We are excited for the positive impact it will have on the U.S. cider industry, which is growing rapidly and creating small manufacturing and agricultural jobs across the country.”

The USACM is an organization of domestic cider and perry producers that gathers and shares information about cider production, regulations, and apple growing to help members improve their operations, raise awareness, and advance cider in the market.
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Imbibeable Cartoonery


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Nine Pin introduces vanilla chai cider

Vanilla chai sounds like something you'd order at Starbucks. But, if you want the hard cider version, look to Nine Pine Cider Works.

The Albany cidery has just released Nine Pin Vanilla Chai, a very local product made with apples from Samascott Orchards in Columbia County, aged with vanilla beans, and infused with chai-spiced tea from Short and Stout, the Guilderland tea producer.

It will be available at the cidery, 929 Broadway, at farmers markets, and at stores selling other Nine Pin products.

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Save the date: Senior Services 'Warmth of Wine'

Here's a March save-the-date event:

The 12th annual "Warmth of Wine" is scheduled for 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, March 2, at The Century House, 997 New Loudon Road (Route 9), Latham.

The wine tasting event will be hosted by Umbrella of Colonie, the home maintenance program of Colonie Senior Service Centers. Tickets, priced at $50, are available by calling 459-2857 extension 337.

In addition to tastings of foreign and domestic wines, there will be hors d’ oeuvres and light fare, as well as silent and live auction items.

More details are available online.

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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Craft brewery under construction in Schenectady

Site of what will become Great Flats Brewing
Harry Whalen
On Christmas Eve, I posted a compilation of all the craft brewing operations in the Greater Capital Region. Here we are barely two weeks into 2017 and I need to update it.

The reason: Great Flats Brewing is being built in Schenectady.

Harry Whalen, who is in the process of moving to the city from Greenwich, Washington County, is building the brewery at 151 Lafayette Street, a venue that became available when Crossfit 518 moved to North College Street. It's recognizable by the glass rollup doors left over from when it was a vehicle service garage.

When completed, Great Flats -- named for the aquifer supplying the city's, and Whalen's, drinking water -- will include brewing space and patron seating space with a bar. While the project has no connection with the neighboring Firestone 151 Bar & Restaurant, its beer may be sold there. Whalen, incidentally, will be hiring a brewer to create his products.

At this time, there are no website or Facebook page for Great Flats, although there is @greatflats on Twitter.

As I noted in December, depending on how one draws the imaginary boundaries of the geographic area loosely known as the "Greater Capital Region," the number of micro, nano and craft breweries inhabiting it ebbs and flows.

I keep the definition rather loose, given the propensity of people in this area to travel a bit to attend the many drinks and food shows and festivals with which it abounds. Thus, certain nearby parts of the Adirondacks, Catskills and Cooperstown area are included in my latest compilation of breweries, which includes at least one other scheduled to open early this year, that is approaching the 50 mark. To be specific, by my count we are at 48. Here they are, in alphabetical order:
    1. Adirondack Pub & Brewery, 33 Canada Street, Lake George
    2. Argyle Brewing, One Main Street, Greenwich
    3. Artisinal Brew Works, 41 Geyser Road, Saratoga Springs 
    4. Battle Hill Brewing Co., 4 Charles Street, Fort Ann
    5. Beer Diviner, 461 Broadway, Troy, and 243 Bly Hollow Road, Petersburg
    6. Big Slide Brewery & Public House, 5686 Cascade Road, Lake Placid 
    7. Big Tupper Brewing, 12 Cliff Avenue, Tupper Lake
    8. Brewery LaHoff, 50 Vedder Road, Coxsackie (to open this year)
    9. Brewery Ommegang, 656 County Highway 33, Cooperstown
    10. Brown's Brewing Co., 417 River Street, Troy, and 50 Factory Hill Road, North Hoosick
    11. Cave Mountain Brewing Co., 5359 State Route 23, Windham
    12. Chatham Brewing, 59 Main Street, Chatham
    13. C.H. Evans Brewing/Albany Pump Station, 19 Quackenbush Square, Albany
    14. Common Roots Brewing Co., 58 Saratoga Avenue, South Glens Falls
    15. Cooper's Cave Ale Co., 2 Sagamore Street, Glens Falls
    16. Cooperstown Brewing Co., 110 River Street, Milford  
    17. Council Rock Brewery, 4861 State Highway 28, Cooperstown
    18. Crossroads Brewing Co., 21 Second Street, Athens
    19. Davidson Brothers Brewing Co., 184 Glen Street, Glens Falls
    20. Druthers, 381 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, and 1053 Broadway, Albany
    21. Dutch Ale House, 255 Main Street, Saugerties
    22. Great Adirondack Brewing Co., 2442 Main Street, Lake Placid
    23. Great Flats Brewing, 151 Lafayette Street, Schenectady (to open this year)
    24. Green Wolf Brewing, 315 Main Street, Middleburgh
    25. Hank Hudson Brewing, The Fairways of Halfmoon, 17 Johnson Road, Mechanicville
    26. Helderberg Brewery, Carey Institute for Global Good, 100 Pond Hill Road, Rensselaerville 
    27. Helderberg Mountain Brewing Co., 141 Warners Lake Road, East Berne
    28. Honey Hollow Brewing Co., 376 East Honey Hollow Road, Earlton
    29. Hudson Brewing Co., 99 South 3rd Street, Hudson
    30. Indian Ladder Farmstead Brewery and Cidery, 342 Altamont-Voorheesville Road, Altamont
    31. Lake Placid Pub & Brewery, 813 Mirror Lake Drive, Lake Placid  
    32. Mad Jack Brewing, The Van Dyck Lounge,237 Union Street, Schenectady
    33. Mean Max Brew Works, 193 Glen Street, Glens Falls
    34. Olde Saratoga Brewing Co., 131 Excelsior Avenue, Saratoga Springs 
    35. Paradox Brewery, 154 Route 9, Schroon Lake 
    36. Racquette River Brewing, 11 Balsam Street, Tupper Lake,
    37. Rare Form Brewing Co., 90 Congress Street, Troy  
    38. Real McCoy Beer Co., 20 Hallwood Road, Delmar
    39. Red Shed Brewery, 817 Butterbowl Road, Cherry Valley
    40. Rip Van Winkle Brewing, Angela's Italian Bistro & Brewery, 4545 NY Route 32, Catskill
    41. R.S. Taylor & Sons Brewery, 3602 County Route 30, Salem
    42. Serious Brewing Co., 116 Caverns Road, Howes Cave
    43. Shmaltz Brewing Co., 6 Fairchild Square, Clifton Park
    44. Sloop Brewing, 1065 County Route 19, Elizaville
    45. S&S Farm Brewery, 174 Middle Road, Nassau
    46. Steadfast Beer Co., 90 State Street, Albany
    47. Suarez Family Brewery, 2278 Route 9, Livingston
    48. Wolf Hollow Brewing Co., 6882 Amsterdam Road, Glenville

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    2 from NY earn 'best of' awards in largest domestic wine test

    One way of assessing the viability of a wine competition is by the number of entries it attracts. The just-completed San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition rings in as the nation's largest for domestic wines with 6,850 entries this year.

    Of course, it could be argued that it attracts so many entries because it gives out so many awards. But, it also could be argued that it gives out so many awards because it has so many entries to choose from. Your call.

    In any event, two New York State wineries emerged from the appraisal of 60 judges with best-of-class awards:
    Atwater Estate 2014 Riesling
    Merritt Estate Bella Ice
    Double Gold medals (unanimous selection by a judging panel) were numerous, including one for Merritt and a "double double" for Penguin Bay:
    Penguin Bay Percussion and 2015 Riesling
    Merritt Estate Bella Rosa
    Anthony Road 2015 Dry Riesling
    Bellangelo 2015 Riesling, Gibson Vineyard
    Swedish Hill 2015 Riesling
    Wagner 2015 Dry Riesling
    Gold medals went to 1911 McIntosh Classic Apple Wine; Bellangelo 2015 Dry Riesling; Black Willow 2015 Diamond, and 2015 Bare Cat Blush; Brooklyn Winery 2013 Blanc de Blanc, and 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon; Buttonwood Grove 2015 Riesling; Coyote Moon 2015 LaCrescent, 2015 Concord, and 2015 Niagara; Keuka Spring Vineyards 2015 Riesling Humphreys Vineyards, and 2015 Vignoles; Merritt Estate 2015 Vidal Ice Wine, Edelweiss, and Pinot Grigio; Swedish Bill Blanc de Blanc; and Wagner 2015 Riesling.

    You can find the complete list of winners in all categories here but be forewarned. It is immense, so don't be surprised if you end up spending a lot of time on it.
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    Friday, January 13, 2017

    Renovations under way at former Bradley's Tavern in Troy

    The old floor's gotta go. 
    Anyone wondering how things are going with the closed-until-further-notice work at the former Bradley's Tavern in Troy will get an idea from these Keith Sweeney photos, posted today on Facebook by Vic Christopher.

    Christopher and wife/business partner Heather LaVine purchased the 28 Fourth Street business, which had been closed for about six months, late last year.

    No word on their renovation schedule, or whether they will retain the  Bradley's name, go back to its original Dempsey's Bar & Grill name, or something else all together.
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    Cuomo asks sweeping changes to aid NYS craft drinks industry

    Governor Cuomo
    New York Craft Beverage Week.

    It has a nice ring to it and, if our adult-beverage-friendly governor has his way, it will become a reality. And, so will numerous other expansions of the state's drinks industries that have been the darlings of his administration. 

    Governor Andrew M. Cuomo's sweeping proposals outlined in his "State of the State" speeches around the state this week are subject to approval by the State Legislature. Many of them will be included in his Executive Budget proposal, which is due next week.

    One of the items submitted in his "State of the State" book is the creation of the craft beverage week to "highlight local beer, wine, cider and distilled spirits on restaurant menus across the state and in advertising," according to the governor's office.

    His proposal would have the New York State Restaurant Association and the New York City Hospitality Alliance team up to promote the state's craft beverage industry, and the state government's Taste NY initiative that promotes New York-made beverages and food products partner with the New York State Liquor Store Association to market the week and hold craft beverage tastings.

    In addition, there is a financial component to the initiative.

    Cuomo is asking for a new grant for craft beverage producers to participate in joint marketing campaigns, and wants to offer stipends to breweries, cideries, distilleries and wineries to enter national and international competitions that  could help broaden recognition of the state's beverage products.

    Cuomo also wants to establish the "Taste NY Culinary Trail System" that would provide support to the various beverage and food trails. That goes beyond the numerous wine trails that began the consumer-centric effort to encourage consumer involvement by adding regional beer, spirits and cider trails in recent years.

    That trail system would assist with statewide promotion of current trails and serve as a one-stop shop within the state's "Taste NY" program. It would coordinate with the state Office of General Services and the Department of Transportation.
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    Thursday, January 12, 2017

    Celebri-Quotes: Jillian Michaels

    New ones pop up all the time, but Jillian Michaels endures as one of our most recognizable fitness gurus on TV (hosting "The Biggest Loser" for its first 11 seasons), in magazines, and online. This is from her website.
    "When you're trying to lose weight, alcohol is the No. 1 enemy. ... Simply, alcohol can sabotage your weight-loss efforts. It releases estrogen into your bloodstream, promotes fat storage, and decreases muscle growth. As soon as you have a drink, your body eats up all the glycogen (stored glucose) in your liver, makes you hungry, and reduces your inhibitions, so you're more likely to grab that chicken wing or stuffed potato skin at happy hour.

    "Plus, alcoholic drinks contain many more calories than most people think — for example, a 20-ounce serving of beer can pack 250 calories, a six-ounce glass of wine contains 120, and a 1.5-ounce shot of liquor contains about 100. And, that's without any sugary mixers. If you're serious about losing weight, it's best to put alcohol aside until you're in maintenance mode."
    Go here for my archive of Celebri-Quotes On Drinking.
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    'Saratoga Beer Week' a showcase of varied events

    The schedule, with perhaps a few events to be added closer to the time, is out for the 6th annual "Saratoga Beer Week," set for February 21-25.

    The Tuesday through Saturday citywide event will range from specials at individual taverns and restaurants to large public tasting events. Tickets are available online now for both single events and packages.

    Here's a sampling of the variety:

    Saratoga Beer Week Kick-Off Party -- Tuesday, February 21, at  Olde Saratoga Brewing Company. Samples of 20 different New York State-brewed beers, ales and ciders, plus food samples from 10 local restaurants, and live music. Tickets: $30/35.

    Flying High with Lagunitas -- Wednesday, February 22, at Harvey's Restaurant and Pub. Enjoy a pint and build a paper airplane that may win some Lagunitas swag. Free admission.

    3rd Annual Cider Night -- Friday, February 24, at the Saratoga Springs City Center. Three hours of sampling more than 30 hard ciders from all over the country, plus live music, and food available for purchase. Tickets: $30.

    Saratoga Beer Summit -- Saturday, February 25, at the Saratoga City Center. Two sessions: 1 to 4 p.m. (VIP admission at noon) and 5 to 8 p.m. Tickets: $40 until February 25, $50 at the door, $60 for VIP tickets. Standard ticket includes three hours of sampling, a souvenir glass, and live music entertainment. VIP ticket includes four hours of sampling, a souvenir glass, a hat, $5 food voucher, and live music entertainment.
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    Save-the-date: Saratoga wine and beer tasting

    Here's a February save-the-date item:

    The 13th annual "Winterfest Wine & Beer Tasting" is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, February 3, at the Holiday Inn, 232 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. The event is part of the community-wide Saratoga Winterfest.

    Admission is $20 per person at the door, por $30 per couple. That covers sampling of a selection of wines and beers paired with a display of hors d'oeuvres. Proceeds will benefit the Wesley Foundation and the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.
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    Wednesday, January 11, 2017

    Parker Beam, part of the Kentucky distilling dynasty, dies

    Parker Beam
    Parker Beam, 75, longtime master distiller for Kentucky's Heaven Hill Distilleries, has died after battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.

    Beam, of the iconic distilling family, died Monday. He was a whiskey maker for more than a half-century at the Bardstown, KY, company. He was responsible for the creation of Evan Williams, the world's No. 2-selling bourbon behind Jim Beam, and other Heaven Hill whiskeys.

    "He was a true industry giant long before the current bourbon renaissance," said Max L. Shapira, president of Heaven Hill Brands. "Without question, he was committed to our industry and possessed a real passion for the craft of distilling." 

    Beam's was a grandnephew of Jim Beam, born into a family that traces its Kentucky whiskey-making roots to 1795 when Jacob Beam set up his first still. Park Beam, Parker's grandfather and namesake, was Jim Beam's brother.
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    Finger Lakes Distilling is on the air!



    Psst. Got a minute? Well, a minute and 7 seconds to be precise.

    The distillers/pranksters at Finger Lakes Distilling take their craft seriously, but not much else it seems. Witness some of their short videos that have been posted on You Tube. Great entertainment value. Here's another one that caught my attention, created after a shoot for FLD commercials. Enjoy.
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    Shmaltz Brewing to host 'Winter IPA Fest'

    Nine New York State breweries have been lined up to participate in the 3rd annual "Winter IPA Fest" at Shmaltz Brewing Company in Clifton Park.

    The event, scheduled for 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, January 20, in the Shmaltz tasting room, will feature dozens of different IPAs. The other brewers are Adirondack Pub & Brewery, Cooperstown Brewing, Davidson Brothers, Empire Brewing, Greenport Harbor Brewing, Keegan Ales, Mean Max Brew Works, and Saratoga Thoroughbrews.

    The event also will be the scene of the national release for Shmaltz’s Hop Orgy variety 12-pack filled with Hop Manna IPA (Gold Medal, World Beer Championships), Hop Momma IPA (Gold Medal, World Beer Championships), Hop Mania Imperial IPA (Silver Medal, World Beer Championships), and the brand new Hop Orgy IPA.

    Richie Saunders, Shmaltz’s head brewer, will lead an IPA educational seminar called "Do You Know Your IPA?" highlighting the differences in hops for IPAs, double IPAs, and triple IPAs. He also will run a blindfolded tasting and smelling of hops.

    Tickets, priced at $25, are available online. They cover a tasting glass, six drink tokens that can be used with guest breweries, discounts on beer to go and Shmaltz merchandise.

    Shmaltz is located at 6 Fairchild Square in Clifton Park. Phone: 406-5430.
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    Tasting room offerings catering to wider preferences

    We passed the point of singularity in beverage tasting rooms quite some time ago. No longer do wineries limit themselves to their own wines and nothing else. Breweries are welcoming cider manufacturers' wares. Coffee houses sometimes offer brews or wines. Distillers are working with everyone.

    Thus, seeing different beverages and different brands wherever you visit is commonplace. Tuthilltown Distilling is a great current example. Later this month it will be offering tastings of a specialty coffee and a specialty cider alongside its own spirits.

    The Pitchfork Hard Cider team from Poughkeepsie Spirit Works will be at Tuthilltown from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, January 28, to offer free tastings of their Hudson Valley cider, made from apples grown at Fishkill Farms.

    And, sometime in mid-month Irving Farm Coffee Roasters of nearby Millertown will be bringing a new coffee to Tuthilltown, a bourbon barrel roasted coffee employing used whiskey barrels from Tuthilltown.

    Tuthilltown Spirits, which in addition  to the distillery has a restaurant and a visitor center, is located at 14 Grist Mill Lane in Gardiner, Ulster County, about an 80-minute drive south of Albany just off I-87. Phone: 845-255-1527.

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    Tuesday, January 10, 2017

    Drinkable Cartoonery


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    Tasting: Benachie / Jericho Blended Malt Scotch Whisky

    The Scotland version
    The Lost Distillery, an independent boutique Scotch whisky company,  has a name that is both intriguing and a touch confusing.

    In the past few decades, a number of long-shuttered distilleries have been renovated and put back in service. This is not one of those. The "lost" part of the name refers to historic distillations the company is emulating to create its products.

    One good example of the craftsmanship is the whisky known in the U.S. as Benachie and in Scotland as Jericho. Go here for my full set of tasting notes.
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    Fire-damaged Hamlet & Ghost reopening on Thursday

    Hamlet & Ghost main entrance
    The first of four Saratoga Springs businesses closed by a Thanksgiving Day fire will reopen this Thursday.

    The cocktail bar Hamlet & Ghost will open its doors at 5 p.m. with a full bar and light food menu available while fire restoration work continues.

    An intense fire that started in the adjoining restaurant Mio Posto, which was destroyed and the building subsequently razed, forced the closing of Hamlet & Ghost at 24 Caroline Street as well as Sperry's and The Ice House, all clustered into the same area of Caroline and Putnam streets.

    "After the fire we found some of the rafters in our kitchen and a wall needed to be rebuilt," said Brendan Dillon, co-owner and lead bartender of Hamlet & Ghost. "That area still is under repair, so our usual kitchen is closed. In the meantime, chef Colin Murphy has created some delicious pairings of cheese and meat, drawing on traditional tavern fare that customers will enjoy."

    No word has yet been publicly announced about reopening of the other businesses.

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