Sunday, April 30, 2017

Tap NY judges spread the wealth statewide

TAP New York President Bill Woodring (left presents the Governor's Cup for Best New York Craft Beer to Jeannie Alexander, Ryan Demler and Ethan Cox of Community Beer Works in  Buffalo for its The Whale Brown Ale. 

Breweries from one end of the state to the other wound up at the top of the judges' lists in major categories at the 20th annual TAP New York Craft Beer and Food Festival, held this weekend at the Hunter Mountain Ski Resort. They were:

• F.X. Matt Memorial Cup (Best Craft Beer Brewery in New York State) -- Spider Bite Brewing Co.  of Holbrook, Long Island. It also won the John Calen Memorial Award (best English style stout in New York State) for its Spider Imperial English Stout.

•  The Matthew Vassar Brewers' Cup (Best Craft Beer Brewery in the Hudson Valley) -- Chatham Brewing Co. of Columbia County.

• Governors' Cup (Best Craft Beer in New York State) -- The Whale Brown Al from Community Beer Works in Buffalo.

In addition, the medal winners in various categories were:

Wheat Beers
Gold: 12 Gates Brewing Co. (Williamsville), Cherry Vanilla Wheat
Silver: Wolf Hollow Brewing (Schenectady), Brunette"s Revenge
Bronze: New Paltz Brewing (New Paltz), Gratzer German Wheat

Light/dark/strong Lagers
Gold: Chatham Brewing (Chatham), Bock & Bock Dopplebock
Silver: Catskill Brewing (Livingston Manor), Ball Lightning Pilsner
Bronze: 12 Gates Brewing (Williamsville), Water Mill Pils

Pale Ales
Gold: Destination Unknown (Bay Shore), Mosaic Mood
Silver: Peekskill Brewing (Peekskill), Paramount Pale Ale
Bronze:Seneca Lake Brewing (Dundee), Baker Street Best Bitter

Light Ales (below 6% alcohol)
Gold: Brooklyn Brewery (Brooklyn), Naranjito
Silver: Lyonsmith Brewing (Penn Yan), Rhiannon Red Ale
Bronze: Rare Form Brewing (Troy), Raw Beets

Strong Ales (above 6% alcohol)
Gold: Crossroads (Athens), Barleywine
Silver: Willow Rock (Syracuse), Rugged Scotch Ale
Bronze: Hopshire Farm Brewery (Dryden), Shire Scotch Ale

Brown Ales
Gold: Community Beer Works (Buffalo), The Whale
Silver: Council Rock (Cooperstown), Leatherstocking Brown
Bronze: Willow Rock Brewing (Syracuse), Jim

India Pale Ale
Gold: Flagship Brewing (Staten Island), American IPA
Silver: Keegan Ales (Kingston), Fun
Bronze: Hudson Ale Works (Highland), Citra Mosaic

Strong India Pale Ale
Gold: Big Ditch (Buffalo), Deep Cut
Silver: Spider Bite Brewing (Holbrook), Open Wide
Bronze: Sloop (Poughkeepsie), Double Plus Good

Gold: The Farmhouse (Owego), Mama Maple, Etc
Silver: Broken Bow Brewery (Tuckahoe), Nick's Hazlenut Praline
Bronze: Mad Jack (Schenectady), Mont Pleasant

Irish Style Stout
Gold:The North Brewey (Endicott), Sno Clouds
Silver: Hudson Brewing (Hudson), Tainted Senorita
Bronze: Kings County Brewers Collective (Brooklyn), What We Don't See Imperial

English Style Stout
Gold: Spider Bite Beer Company (Holbrook), Boris The Spider Imperial English Stout
Silver: Spider Bite Beer Company (Holbrook),  Boris The Spider Barrel Aged Imperial English Stout Bronze: Big Ditch (Buffalo), Towpath

Belgian Ale (below 8% alcohol)
Gold: LIC Beer Project (Long Island City), Ardent Core Saison
Silver: Nedloh Brewery (Bloomfield), Flx Farmhouse Saison
Bronze: War Horse Brewing Co. (Geneva), Killer Monk Double

Strong Belgian Ale (above 8% alcohol)
Gold:- C.H. Evans Brewing Co. (Albany), Union Station Quad 2017
Silver: Great Adirondack Brewing (Lake Placid), Room 237 Flanders Red
Bronze: Catskill Brewing (Livingston Manor), Freak Tractor Blonde

Barrel Aged Beer
Gold: Matt Brewing Co (Utica), Basking In Bourbon
Silver: Shmaltz Brewing (Clifton Park), Funky Jewbalation
Bronze: 42 North (Buffalo), Borderland IPA

Sour Beer
Gold: Catskill Brewing (Livingston Manor), Eye Of Newt Flanders Red
Silver: Brown's Brewing (Troy), Raspberry Sour
Bronze: Keuka (Hammondsport), Ghost Of Rita Gose

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Pennsylvania seeks to break U.S. ban on Cuban rum imports

A lineup of Cuban rums
From U.S. News & World Report
The agency that controls Pennsylvania's 600-plus state-owned wine and liquor stores is working to lift the United States' 55-year-old embargo on Cuban rum, one of the island nation's best-known products.

A purchase of Cuban rum by the sixth-most populous state would be, by all accounts, the biggest shipment of Cuban rum to the U.S. since John F. Kennedy was president, and could pave the way for the nation's private spirits wholesalers to follow suit.

... If Pennsylvania is successful, it would be the first import of a product produced entirely by the Communist state. ... In recent days, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board submitted the initial paperwork to begin the application process, an agency spokeswoman said, and now is  working to provide additional documentation required by the federal government.

There's a reason for hope. The federal office that enforces the embargo has begun granting licenses to allow limited exchanges of goods and services under regulations written by the Obama administration that reflect his 2014 move to restore diplomatic relations between the two nations.

There also is reason for pessimism. Before he assumed the presidency ... Donald Trump criticized the detente between the U.S. and Cuba, tweeting that he might "terminate" it. New federal regulations on Cuba are expected, and Congress shows no eagerness to scrap the embargo. 

Go here for the full story.

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The Great Agave Shortage causing ripples in tequila world

Harvesting agave in  Mexico (Bill Dowd photo)
Americans have a sudden thirst for tequila, and Mexican exporters are struggling to keep up. Booming tequila demand is causing a huge spike in an obscure Mexican commodity -- agave.

Agave, a spiky blue plant that grows in Mexico, is the principal ingredient in tequila as well as mezcal, another liquor that’s grown more popular. As U.S. tequila demand has jumped -- and 80% of Mexican tequila exports go to the U.S. -- agave prices have risen, too. The price has more than quintupled in the past four years ...  .
It’s tempting to blame all this on young party animals, tequila’s traditional U.S. base. But surveys suggest baby boomers also are boosting sales. In all, the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. (DISCUS) says tequila shipments more than doubled between 2002 and 2016, to nearly 16 million cases. Sales of super-premium tequila have been especially strong.

So why not just make more agave? Agave plants take five years or more to grow to maturity, and many are controlled by the liquor companies. The Mexican government also keeps tight controls, forcing producers to use agave grown in a limited number of municipalities. The rising ingredient costs have hurt producers like Jose Cuervo, whose profits fell 48% in the last quarter even as revenue jumped 52%. In the end, the trend could mostly hurt smaller distillers, who will be less able to absorb the higher cost, according to the RBC analysts. ...

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Pittsfield craft brewer hospitalized with severe burns

Christopher Post
From The Berkshire Eagle
PITTSFIELD, MA -- For the second Saturday, a familiar face will be missing this weekend at Wandering Star Craft Brewery. ... Christopher Post, the 15-barrel brewery's founder and guiding light, lies in a Boston hospital recovering from a harrowing injury.

Post, 49, suffered second- and third-degree burns on both ankles on Easter while cleaning equipment at the 11 Gifford Street brewery.

This past week, Post underwent two surgeries in Massachusetts General Hospital's burn unit, after infection set in. Now, as he waits for skin grafts to take, Post offered this advice to craft brewers: "Go around and make sure all your clamps are tight. And next time, get out of the way faster."
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Tasting: Beauregard Dixie Southern Vodka

Beauregard Dixie Southern Vodka is seriously good. And, I use the word "seriously" on purpose because its packaging and marketing might lead to a first impression of a frivolous product.

The brand is not widely known outside the South, although in its three-year existence it has slowly been growing its market and winning plaudits. In 2014, for example, it received a Platinum award at the Spirits International Prestige (SIP) Awards, a judging done by consumers: i.e., people not affiliated with the spirits industry.

I looked at the spirit's label and began suspecting this was all just a gimmick -- an 1800s type font, label information that includes this description: "Praised in the field, admired in the ballroom & loved in the bedroom. Beauregard Dixie. Man amongst boys," etc. Then I began seeing more of the thought that went into the packaging. On the inside of the label, viewed by looking through the bottle, each style of vodka had its own drawing -- men of the period playing cards in a saloon; a sailing ship complete with bathing beauties, etc. The drawing style is much like the coloring books for adults that are the current fad.

OK, OK, I know, enough about the look. What about the taste? Superb! This was one of the smoothest, rounded vodka tastes I've ever had that isn't a potato vodka. Excellent sipped at room temperature or after a turn in the freezer, a treat as part of a martini. It is made from non-GMO corn, and finished at 80 proof.

Its makers say it is distilled six times, which certainly helps because, at least in theory, each distillation removes impurities, known as congeners. But, the Beauregard Dixie brand's success in achieving such creaminess may also be from its use of an additional purification process called TerrePURE Technology, from the South Carolina company Terressentia Corp. It explains itself thus: "Since our technology eliminates the need for extensive barrel aging or multiple distillation, it transforms ordinary spirits into ultra-premium quality spirits in a significantly faster, more efficient, and lower cost way. This directly translates into a lower product cost for retailers and brand owners, not to mention offering end consumers a significantly higher value proposition."

Beauregard Dixie  is produced in North Charleston, SC, by Chicken Cock Distillers, a company founded by Matti Anttila to produce Southern-style spirits. It is available as straight vodka as well as mint, citrus and black pepper flavors -- the latter great for Bloody Marys.

The suggested retail price is $19.99 for the 750ml bottle.
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Tasting: Kung Fu Girl Riesling

Rieslings from middle Europe and America's Finger Lakes usually have a very mature, rounded, and full body about them, something not found in most other U.S. regions. So, it is not surprising that Kung Fu Girl 2015 Riesling presents a less fulsome experience.

However, this wine from grapes planted by Jerry Milbrandt back in 1998 in Washington state's newest AVA, Ancient Lakes, is worthy of consideration when you're looking for a bargain retail price, an unblended Riesling, and a wine with a bit of a citric edge that cuts through fatty, creamy foods.

It's not a wine I'd pour for standalone sipping, but I paired it with a chicken Marsala dish, and it balanced off the creaminess of the sauce while holding its own as a separate flavor. Hints of lime and peach and citrus mingle with the minerality of the wine, and the finish is comparatively long. I can see it pairing well with spicy Asian dishes as well, as its name -- inspired by director Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" movies -- implies.

Kung Fu Girl is from Charles Smith Wines of Prosser, WA. It is barrel aged for two months, finishes at 12% alcohol, with 1.4% residual sugar. It carries a suggested retail price of $12.00, but I've seen it offered online for $1 or $2 less.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Utah continues its complicated relationship with alcohol

One of the now-required Utah signs (photo provided)
From The Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY -- Coming soon to Utah restaurants that serve alcohol: Signs that say they are not bars. And coming soon to Utah bars: Signs that say they are not restaurants.

The state alcohol commission approved the signs Tuesday to comply with a new state law requiring those establishments to clearly tell customers what they are. ...

Utah might be the first state in the country to require such signs. The requirement was included in omnibus liquor legislation, HB442, that state lawmakers approved earlier this year. The sign provision takes effect May 9.

The bill also gives restaurants the option to remove the so-called "Zion Curtain" that shields liquor dispensing from diners, though they would have to put up a 42-inch high partition or create a 10-foot buffer zone around the bar area instead.
Go here for another version of the story.
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Imbibeable Cartoonery

A gallery of artwork honoring those who draw conclusions. 

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

New Brews News: Pale Sour from Ommegang

Brewery Ommegang this month will release a new year-round beer called Pale Sour. It is a 6.9% ABV mixed fermentation sour beer developed by Ommegang's brewmaster Phil Leinhart and the master blenders at its sister brewery, Liefmans, in Oudenaarde, Belgium.

Pale Sour begins with a mixed culture fermentation in open copper vats then is aged over several months in stainless tanks. Blenders mix new batches with older ones until the flavor balance they're looking for is achieved.

The beer is available in four-packs of 12-ounce bottles and on draft at the brewery beginning this Saturday, April 29. It also will be available from some Ommegang retailers.

Brewery Ommegang is located at 656 County Highway 33, Cooperstown. Phone: (607) 544-1800.
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Another brewery/brewpub on the drawing boards in Troy

Site of proposed brewery/brewpub at Congress St. and Pawling Ave. (Photo by Google Earth)
Troy may be getting yet another craft brewery operation.

A partnership seeking to convert a former church into a brewery and brewpub  has submitted a request to the City Zoning Board for a use variance/special use permit to allow for "a parking deficiency related to the creation a brewery/brewpub with an approximate occupancy load of 200 people."

Then site is 560 Congress Street, near the intersection with Route 66 (Pawling Avenue). The applicant is Louis Emory, a Troy resident, and the project is identified as Collar City Brewing.

The building, which backs up on the Poestenkill Falls on a hill above downtown, had been home to the Mt. Ida Community Baptist Church that recently closed. It is adjacent to the pocket park known as the Col. Albert Pawling Memorial Park where a statue of the city's first mayor was installed last April.

The Zoning Board is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, May 2, in the City Hall chambers in the Hedley Building.

Currently, the city is home to a lineup of craft breweries and/or tap rooms and beer gardens that includes Brown's Brewing Co., Rare Form Brewing Co., the recently-opened Beer Diviner, a recently-reported brewpub project in a former North Central warehouse at 669 River Street, Wolff's Biergarten downtown near the Green Island Bridge, The Hill at Muza European-style beer garden off Congress Street, and a variety of pubs offering a long list of brews including the 32-tap array at Finnbar's Pub.

Go here for a list of the craft breweries operating in the Greater Capital Region.

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A proposal for a true 'Upper Hudson Valley Beverage Trail'

A rough outline of a proposed beverage trail
When do efforts to capitalize on local pride and promotion fall short of what could be achieved by broadening one's scope? We may find out if two state lawmakers from the Greater Capital Region are successful in getting state help to promote craft beverage production in a small slice of the area.

The Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce is working with State Sen. Elizabeth Little (R-Queensbury) and Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner (D-Round Lake) on just such an initiative. They would like to designate a regional craft beverage and winemaking trail for Warren and Washington counties under a state Department of Transportation (DOT) program. What it would entail is placing signs along state roadways directing motorists to craft breweries, wineries and distilleries, as well as including such a trail in the state's advertising and marketing of the craft beverage industry.

The effort is being buoyed by Travelocity and The American Distilling Institute recently putting the Glens Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area in its new index of top 10 small U.S. metro areas for craft spirits tourism.

All of which looks fine at first glance. But, at second glance the plan could be considered myopic.

The area already is covered by the Upper Hudson Valley Wine Trail, a collection of  more than a dozen wineries and tasting rooms plus affiliate businesses in Warren, Washington, Saratoga and Rensselaer counties. That existing cooperative venture could become so much more with the right vision and support.

New York State has long labored under the financially redundant and often conflicting burden of having too many school districts, stand-alone fire and police departments, hamlets-within-villages-within-towns, and on and on. Perpetuating such a failed organizational model by championing such cumbersome constructs in an alcoholic beverage industry that is undergoing a boom in all categories seems quite unwise.

Consider, around the state we already have beverage trails that bump up against each other, sometimes creating some confusion when promoting cooperative events. Do we need more of that? I suggest the lawmakers might expand the scope of their current intent. Rather than simply adding another entity to the mix, they could seek DOT and state marketing assistance to go beyond the small area now being targeted and helping the Upper Hudson Wine Trail become the Upper Hudson Beverage Trail and attracting as many wineries, breweries, distillers and cideries as  possible in the true "Upper Hudson" area.

The idea is not far-fetched. Whereas New York once had just a handful of wine trails, today it has 21 -- 15 that are wineries-only, 6 that include brewers and distillers under the "beverage trail" rubrick.

Most beverage trails have partnerships with a variety of hotels, motels, resorts, restaurants, tour vehicle companies, and craft food artisans that offer enticements to tourists. Imagine the promotional clout available to a well-formed beverage trail that stretches a manageable 60-plus miles from Albany and Rensselaer counties to the south to Lake George to the north.

So, Senator Little and Assemblywoman Woerner, care to discuss?

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Monday, April 24, 2017

25th Cayuga 'Wine & Herb Festival' covers 2 weekend

Except for opening day, all 16 members of the Cayuga Wine Trail will be participating in the next two weekends' 25th annual "Wine & Herb Festival."

Each weekend, the event will open on Friday from 1 to 5 p.m. at four member wineries -- Treleaven, Long Point Winery, Montezuma Winery, and Six Mile Creek Vineyard. Then on both Saturday and Sunday they will be joined by Americana Vineyards, Bellwether Hard Cider & Wine Cellars, Buttonwood Grove Winery, Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery, Goose Watch Winery, Hosmer Winery, Knapp Winery, Lucas Vineyards, Swedish Hill Winery, Thirsty Owl Wine Company, Toro Run Winery, and Varick Winery & Vineyard.

The tour will allow home gardeners to get started on their own plots by purchasing potted herbs and vegetables that will be featured in all 16 food samples, along with the matching recipe collection. Visitors will be offered wine samples that complement that dish, and will be offered three additional wine tastings. Herbs and vegetables will include jalapeno peppers, marjoram, iceberg lettuce, cilantro, parsley, Sweet 100s tomatoes, oregano, celery, dill, sage, Roma tomatoes, lavender, sweet banana peppers, meatball eggplants, basil and chives.

Potential visitors can reserve tickets and their preferred starting point online. Prices vary depending on the package selected. For those unfamiliar with the Cayuga Lake-centric trail, the organization recently release a downloadable app.
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Imbibeable cartoonery

A gallery of artwork honoring those who draw conclusions. 

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Sip & Canvas staying open under a new owner

Sip & Canvas, the Glens Falls company that combines art with food and drink, has a new owner.

Robin Brewer, a retired school art teacher, has taken over the business that creater Amanda Westcott originally had announced it would close.

Brewer, who has been teaching at the studio, said she will retain the name and format, under which guests experience group art classes in an informal setting and snacks and wine are incorporated into the session. Westcott had offered daytime classes for all ages and evening classes for people 15 and older.

The studio is located in the Rogers Building at 21 Bay Street. Phone: (518) 791-4888.
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Save the date: August food and wine festival in Vermont

As you map out your summer plans, here's a good possibility that is just a comfortable drive over the state line: Vermont's newest foodie event is the Manchester Food & Wine Classic, scheduled for August 25-27 in Stratton and Manchester.

In addition to 500 different wines, beers and spirits and food from more than 20 local restaurants to sample, 10 different seminars are on the schedule in Stratton.

Additional events within the event include "Sip, Swirl & Dine," with chef Vanessa Davis of The Copper Grouse preparing a special four-course upscale dinner at the Kimpton Taconic Hotel in Manchester; "Wine & Nine," a nine-holf golf outing and luncheon at The Equinox Golf Course in Manchester.
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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Common Roots' new tanks triple size of its current ones

New tanks at Common Roots (photo provided)
How big are beer tanks these days? Well, in the case of Common Roots Brewing Co. in South Glens Falls, just compare the size of their new 60-barrel stainless steel tanks with the size of the truck delivering them in the photo above.

The tanks arrived Thursday from Fronhofer Design LLC of nearby Cossayuna, Washington County. They are three times the size of Common Roots' current cellar tanks. They were paid for by part of a $100,000 grant to the family-owned brewery as part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council awards.

The brewery was founded by the father-son team of Bert and Christian Weber in 2013 and makes Belgian-inspired brews. It is located at 58 Saratoga Avenue. Phone: (518) 409-8248.
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Savoy Tap Room debuts its spring-summer menu

The Savoy Taproom's spring-summer menu has debuted, and chef Riyonna Caswell has some interesting offerings lined up at the Albany restaurant, many of which should pair well with Savoy's signature cocktail list.

A few examples:

Jalapeño popper deviled eggs (crispy fried hard boiled eggs, jalapeño egg yolk filling, grana padana cheese, greens); Chef Riyonna's mac-and-cheese (with chorizo and caramelized apple); cheese boards, hummus boards, and charcuterie boards; shrimp and scallop truffle risotto; house made fettucine with black garlic cream sauce; cherry brandy pomegranate strip steak, and the Savoy burgers that begin with a blend of short rib and brisket.

The Savoy is located at 301 Lark Street, long them home of Justin's, in downtown Albany. Phone: (518) 599-5140.
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Thursday, April 20, 2017

City Beer Hall cooking dinner at Common Roots Brewing

Beer-and-food pairing dinners usually are held at restaurants. Here's one going in the other direction.

Common Roots Brewing in South Glens Falls will be hosting such an event, called "An Evening of Wild beers," cooked by visiting staff from Albany's City Beer Hall.

The five-course dinner, set for 6 p.m. next Tuesday, will feature food paired with Common Roots’ special sour and barrel-aged beers, some exclusive to the event. Reservations, priced at $60 including tax and tip, must be purchased in advance online.

Common Roots is located at 58 Saratoga Avenue. Phone: (518) 409-8248.
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Brooklyn Crush's spring edition is in the works

The Brooklyn Crush Wine & Artisanal Food Festival is becoming a major player in the state's pantheon of such events. The "spring edition" of the biannual event is set for Saturday, May 13, at Industry City in the borough's Sunset Park.

The tasting will feature more than 175 wines, ciders and other adult drinks, as well as light fare and hors d’oeuvres, plus numerous artisan food tables offering samples of charcuterie, baked goods, olive oils, vegan selections, cheeses, non-alcoholic beverages, salsas and spreads, chocolates, and other specialty foods. Providers will offer full-sized items for patrons to purchase.

Old, new and emerging wine regions will be showcased, including varietals from the U.S. -- with several New York State wineries to be featured, Brazil, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and South America. Vendor and winery lineups will be regularly updated on the festival website.

Tickets now are on sale, priced from $59 to $120, depending upon ticket level and time of purchase. Additional details of the event and ticket purchasing are available online.
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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Hobby winemakers conference set for Cornell University

Reservations now are being accepted for the annual WineMaker Magazine Conference, set for  June 1-4 at Cornell University in Ithaca.

The four-day event targeting hobby winemakers will include dozens of seminars and other events. Organizers are cautioning anyone contemplating attending that the last time the conference was held in the Finger Lakes it sold out several months early.

Among scheduled speakers are Kathy Arnink, who teaches enology courses in Cornell's enology and viticulture program in the Food Science Department; Peter Brehm, owner of Brehm Vineyards in California where he has been helping amateur winemakers for more than 45 years, and Meaghan Frank, fourth generation of the Frank family to manage Dr. Konstantin Frank's Winery in the Finger Lakes.

A downloadable conference brochure and registration information are available online.
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Schoharie meadery plans move to Delmar site

From the Times Union
Royal Meadery of  Schoharie County is moving its operation to Delmar's Four Corners, next to The Real McCoy Beer Co.

Royal Meadery, which makes fermented honey beverages, was launched in 2015 in by Gregory Wilhelm, a SUNY Cobleskill graduate who originally put his operation in Richmondville under the state's Start-Up New York program.

Wilhelm is now planning to move Royal Meadery into the former Boxley's car detailing site behind the Delmar Post Office on Delaware Avenue.
Go here for the full story.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Albany's 'Champagne On the Park' tickets now on sale

Tickets now are on sale for the annual "Champagne On the Park" fundraiser for Albany's Lark Street Business Improvement District (BID).

The Thursday, May 11, event in Washington Park's tulip beds will feature the Graham Tichy Band and honor leaders of the Lark Street community for their positive impact on the neighborhood. There will be, among other attractions, hors d'oeuvres and desserts from neighborhood restaurants and food purveyors, Champagne and wine from Capital Wine & Spirits, cider from Nine Pin Ciderworks, craft beer from Chatham Brewing, photos by Rose & Dale, and cigars from Habana Premium Cigar Shoppe.

Tickets, available online, range from $65 to $80 and various offers expire at different times.
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Monday, April 17, 2017

Angelo's 677 Prime going high-end Mexican for a night

A part of the 677 Prime dining room (photo provided)
Angelo’s 677 Prime in Albany is going Mexican for a night. No, not that low-brow or Tex-Mex stuff, but rather a thoughtfully created menu paired with a selection of tequilas and mescals.

The meal will begin at 6 p.m. Friday, May 5. Reservations, which are required, are $100 per person not incuding tax and tip and priced at $100 per person, plus tax and tip, so you're somewhere in the $125-$130 range.

The beverage and food menus, all involving Don Julio brand spirits, are available here.

Angelo's is located at 677 Broadway. Reservations: (518) 427-7463.
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Cornell planning craft beer roundtable seminar

Cornell University will host a two-day CHR Craft Beer Roundtable seminar for people involved, or who want to be involved, in the craft beer industry.

The event, scheduled for Sunday, April 30, and Monday, May 1, will include speakers and specialty panelists from Cornell's School of Hotel Management and its SC Johnson College of Business as well as other colleges, representatives of several leading craft brewing companies, the Brewers Association and the New York State Brewers Association.

Discussion topics include:
• Deepening the Customer Connection: Sharing Your "Authentic" Story
• Beer Ratings, What Does That Mean?
• What Shall We Call Our Beer?
• The Old College Try: How Can the Collegiate World and the Beer Industry Benefit From One Another?
The full agenda and list of participating speakers is available online, as is registration information.
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Saturday, April 15, 2017

13 entries lead the pack in 'World Whiskies Awards'

Judged 'world's best bourbon'
The 2017 winners in Whisky Magazine's "World Whiskies Awards" are out. As always, they are an adventure in trying to see if you've heard of even half the winners, given the limits of production, global distribution, and affordable price points.

You can find the long, long list of awards in many, many categories -- including the separate judging results for American-made spirits -- online. Meanwhile, here are the "world's best" awardees in the 13 major categories.
  • Best Bourbon – John J. Bowman Single Barrel Bourbon
  • Best Canadian Blended – Gooderham & Worts
  • Best Flavoured – J.P. Wiser’s Hopped Whisky
  • Best Corn – Ironroot Republic Hubris Corn Whiskey
  • Best Irish Single Pot Still – Redbreast 21 Years Old
  • Best Rye – A.D. Laws Secale Straight Rye Bottled in Bond
  • Best Wheat – Bainbridge Battle Point
  • Best Blended Limited Release – J.P. Wiser’s Dissertation
  • Best Blended Malt – Johnnie Walker Green Label
  • Best Blended – Hibiki 21 Years Old
  • Best Single Cask Single Malt – Venture Chichibu Whisky Matsuri
  • Best Single Malt – Craigellachie 31 Years Old 
  • Best Grain – Fuji-Gotemba Single Grain 25 Years Old Small Batch

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Dyngus Day bash set for Monday at Troy's The Hill at Muza

In the beer garden (photo provided)
For those unfamiliar with Dyngus Day, Troy restaurateur Adam Siemiginowski has a simple explanation.

"Dyngus Day is like Saint Patrick's Day, but with a lot of crazy Polish stuff," said Siemiginowski of The Hill at Muza. "It's a big party with friends and family the Monday after Easter, when Lent is finally over and you can just let loose."

They'll be letting loose at The Hill, a European-style beer garden behind the 15th Street restaurant Muza, located just off the RPI campus. Entrance to the beer garden is on the Congress Street side. Once inside,  visitors -- who are encouraged to wear red or red and white, the Polish colors, in honor of the day's tradition -- will find live polka music by the Eddie Forman Orchestra of Hadley, MA, from noon to 4 p.m., and DJ Podeswa from 4 to 8 p.m.

An a la carte menu will feature handmade pierogi, kielbasa rolls, stuffed cabbage, euro burgers and the like at multiple food stations indoors in the restaurant and outdoors in the garden. Beer will include Zywiec lager on draft and a selection of Eastern European and American beers in bottles and cans. Beer will be served at the bar, in the restaurant, by servers in the beer garden, and on the street as part of the official block party.

Siemiginowski -- pronounced shim-ig-in-ow-ski -- is a first-generation Polish-American who opened the beer garden in late 2015 behind Muza, owned by his parents Jan and Alicja and operated by them and their daughter Agata.
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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Brewers Association takes aim at classless beer names

From Food & Wine
No more Batshit ale.

Drinking a couple brews is known to lower people’s inhibitions, but when it comes to naming beers, the Brewers Association (BA) wants its members to keep their wits about them. This week, the trade group for small and independent brewers announced it no longer would allow beers with offensive or sexist names to be marketed using the association’s intellectual property.

Importantly, the Brewers Association runs two of the world’s most prestigious beer competitions, the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup.

The BA’s new policy effectively prevents offensively named beers from displaying any medals won at these competitions in their marketing materials. Additionally, though the BA says these beers can still be entered in its competitions, if one happened to win, the victory will not be publically acknowledged. “If a brewery with an offensive name or label were to win an award, we would not read that name from the stage,” said Bob Pease, BA president and CEO.
Go here for the full story.
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Bill would allow out-of-state wine shipments to New Yorkers

From The Business Wire

ALBANY -- With the introduction of Assembly Bill 5991, New York State is poised to open the door for the state's wine consumers to enter the 21st Century.

The bill, sponsored by Assembly Member Amy Paulin of Westchester County -- a graduate of UAlbany -- would give New York wine consumers the right to receive wine shipments from out-of-state wine stores, internet retailers, wine-of-the-month clubs and wine auction houses.

The National Association of Wine Retailers (NAWR) today announced its support for her bill. In addition, a number of the state's major wine retailers endorsed the legislation along with its commitment to free and fair trade.

NAWR also has established a new website that provides New Yorkers with access to a variety of tools for supporting the change to the laws governing how the state’s consumers access the wines they want.

“Consumers of fine wine in New York State are slowly learning that it is currently illegal for them to receive shipments from out-of-state wine stores. They cannot fathom why these shipments would be illegal, while out of state wineries, New York state wineries, and New York state retailers are legally able to ship them wine.” said Tom Wark, NAWR executive director. “A5991 would give New Yorkers access to nearly every wine available in the American marketplace and that is a privilege that they should have had years ago.”

The bill also would increase tax revenue by requiring that out-of-state retailers remit sales tax to New York. Protections against minors obtaining the wine are also in the bill and mimic the same requirements for adult signatures at the time of deliver that are required of wineries that ship wine into the state.
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Basil Hayden's brings its first rye whiskey to market

The next time you're reaching for a bottle of Basil Hayden's in your favorite liquor store, be careful you get what you're there for.

Not that you'd be terribly disappointed, just confused if you didn't know the iconic bourbon brand now is offering a rye whiskey.

The spicy finish of Basil Hayden’s Bourbon comes from its use of about twice as much rye as most traditional bourbons. Brand owner Beam-Suntory wanted to take that mash content a step further and now has unveiled Basil Hayden’s Rye Whiskey.

It begins as a straight four-year-old rye whiskey that is rebarreled for an additional seven years in newly-charred quarter cask oak barrels. A portion of it then is blended with traditional straight rye whiskey to create  the final product.

“The spicy character of rye has always been a signature part of what makes Basil Hayden’s special, so creating a rye whiskey was a natural fit,” said Rob Mason, Beam Suntory's VP for bourbon, in a prepared statement. “This limited edition release gives our fans a chance to experience everything they love about Basil Hayden’s Bourbon -- its spicy character, smoothness and approachable nature -- in an interesting rye whiskey expression.”

The 80-proof whiskey is bottled and packaged in the familiar brand packaging which includes a parchment bib and copper belt. It sells for a suggested retail price of about $45.
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Update: Saturday's 'Drink Schenectady' event has 19 entries

UPDATE (4/13/17): Mad Jack Brewing Co. and Hudson-Chatham Winery have been added to the original list below that I posted for the "Drink Schenectady" event schedule for this Saturday at the Schenectady Armory.

(Originally published 3/1/17)

The Capital Craft Beverage Trail will be leading to Schenectady next month, when "Drink Schenectady" shows off  a wide range of local craft beverage makers' products.

The event will run from 2 to 6 p.m. (VIP admission at 2) on Saturday, April 15, at the Schenectady Armory, 125 Washington Avenue. Live music, food vendors and games are included.

Tickets are available now online. General admission covers four hours of tasting plus a souvenir glass. VIP admission includes an extra hour of tasting. All proceeds for the event go to benefit the Capital Craft Beverage Trail Association.

Scheduled producers:
  • Albany Distilling Company
  • Nine Pin Cider 
  • C.H. Evans Brewing 
  • Albany Pump Station 
  • Druthers Brewing Company 
  • Helderberg Brewery 
  • Helderberg Mountain Brewing Company 
  • Indian Ladder Farmstead Cidery and Brewery 
  • The Beer Diviner 
  • Wolf Hollow Brewing Company 
  • Brown's Brewing Company 
  • S&S Farm Brewery 
  • Altamont Vineyard and Winery 
  • Common Roots Brewing Company 
  • Crossroads Brewing Company 
  • Chatham Brewing 
  • Upstate Distilling Company 

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Tasting: Purus Organic Vodka

The word "organic" doesn't automatically impress me. Too often it is used to describe a food or drink that has no authentic requirements to use that description. And, it often means "more expensive" without a discernibly superior flavor or texture.

That said, Purus Organic Vodka is pretty good stuff. And, it's inexpensive.

Purus is produced in Italy's Piedmont region at the foot of the Italian Alps by the Sacchetto family distillery. It is made from water from the snow-capped mountains and certified-organic/non-GMO wheat from the family's farm, and is filtered through 1.7 million square meters of active charcoal after a five-distillation process, finishing at 40% abv (80 proof).

Purus began attracting attention a decade ago as a boutique entry in the chronically crowded world vodka market. It received a score of 97 from the Ultimate Spirits Challenge, the highest rating ever given to a vodka in the competition’s history, and has been slowly expanding since then. This year, it has embarked on an expansion to more American markets.

The bottle, wide at the bottom, with a long, curving neck, is reminiscent of old hand-made Italian wine bottles. And, a composite stopper gives the appearance of a wine cork. Both the bottle and the stopper are recyclable, part of the brand's environmentally sustainable mantra.

What's inside is a pleasant experience. Unlike most good premium potato vodkas which I find to be the smoothest, sweetest of them all, many medium- to low-priced grain vodkas too often have a roughness to the mouthfeel, and an unwelcome heat on the throat. Purus has neither, its initial light aroma a bit nutty and yeasty, its finish light and elegant. As the base for a martini, with a splash of  Noilly Pratt dry vermouth, it is a smooth, refreshing drink.

Purus is available at a suggested retail price of $19.99 for the 750ml bottle.
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Update 2: Cuomo moviehouse drinks plan bites the dust

Beer and wine are sold in this California theater where clip-on trays also holds food items.
UPDATE 2 (4/12/17): Governor Andrew Cuomo's push to allow all movie houses in the state to sell alcoholic drinks failed to get enough support in the Legislature to become reality. Neither the Republican-led Senate nor the Democrat-led Assembly included it in their budget proposals, and the final budget passed over the weekend did not include any provisions for the measure. Current state law prevents movie theaters from selling such beverages unless the venue also serves restaurant-style food and has tables to go with every seat.

UPDATE (1/20/17): In one of his budget speeches this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would propose granting approval for movie theaters 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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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Beak & Skiff emerging as an Upstate multi-spirits producer

Kombucha is ever-so-slowly staking a claim to a small slice of the adult beverage market in New York State. The latest company hoping to make the fermented tea product a substantial part of its business is the Beak & Skiff Apple Orchards and its spirits line called 1911 Establishment.

The Lafayette, Onondaga County, operation is in the midst of a push that potentially will make it a major player in the overall spirits industry. It is constructing a $3.5 million, 20,000-square-foot juice facility adjacent to its apple-pressing building on the south side of Route 20, just east of Route 80.

Across Route 20, a 2,000-square-foot rickhouse will be built next to the 1911 Distillery, which opened in 2009. Eventually, the  barrel-aging facility will hold as many as 600 barrels. As part of the local emphasis, the barrels are made by Adirondack Cooperage of Remsen, just north of Utica.

While the various spirits will need to spend some time being barrel aged before going to market, Beak & Skiff will gain revenue from products of the new juice facility. It expects fresh apple cider this fall, and natural drinks such as kombucha ready for market in 2018. In an interview with, Beak & Skiff general manager Ed Brennan said the kombucha likely will be produced at Beak & Skiff for another company, using that company's brand name.

"We don't want to rush things," Brennan said. "We want to differentiate ourselves, have something that stands out." Joe Bergan, 1911 distiller, concurs. "We're not going to hustle something out just to get it out," he said.

Beak & Skiff is anything but a newcomer to Upstate New York. It began, according to the company's official history, in 1911 "when George Skiff, an onion farmer on the North Side of Syracuse, and Andrew Beak, a dairy farmer, met at the farmers market and decided it would be fruitful to join forces and enter the emerging apple business. They found that the hillside area along Route 20 provided the perfect conditions for growing apples and began planting that very year."

The company is located at 2708 Lords Hill Road, Lafayette. Phone: (315) - 696-6085.

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Admiral Nelson's adding 10th flavored rum to its line

Admiral Nelson’s rum is adding its 10th flavor this month.

The Heaven Hill Brands' label will release Admiral Nelson’s Pineapple Rum, a flavored spirit bottled at 35% abv (70 proof). It will carry a suggested retail price of about $11 for the 750ml bottle.

Current flavors of Admiral Nelson’s rum include the flagship Admiral Nelson’s Spiced, Black Patch Black Spiced, 101 Proof Spiced, Cherry Spiced, Coconut, Vanilla, Dark, Silver and Gold varieties. They all are available in all standard sizes and bottled between 35-50.5% alcohol by volume (70 to 101 proof).

Other Heaven Hill spirits include such labels as Evan Williams Bourbon, Elijah Craig Bourbon, Deep Eddy Vodka, Burnett’s vodkas and gin, Hpnotiq Liqueur, Christian Brothers brandies,  PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur, Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur, Lunazul Tequila, and Rittenhouse Rye Whisky.
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Vodka vs. rye battle crops up

Q: What do you get from the maker of Crop Harvest Earth Organic Vodka if you are the maker of WhistlePig FarmStock Rye Whiskey with the designation Crop No. 001?

A: A cease-and-desist letter to stop using the word "crop."

New York' Chatham Imports apparently thinks sales of its Crop Harvest line of plain and flavored vodkas somehow will be negatively impacted by the Vermont distiller's rye whiskey being labeled with the number of its grain crop harvest.


Chatham Imports contends that its vodka is well known and widely distributed and has a firm grip on the word "crop." WhistlePig responds that its spirit is rye whiskey and has nothing to do with vodka.

Stay tuned to see how this pressing matter of commerce resolves itself.

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Monday, April 10, 2017

Beer Diviner tops the field in IPA tasting event

The Beer Diviner, a Rensselaer County nanobrewery, won a taste-off among 10 India Pale Ales brewed in the Capital Region that was part of the 6th annual Hudson Valley Hops Festival.

The Saturday event, held at the Albany Institute of History & Art, was judged by a trio of  Albany professionals -- Dimitrios Menagias of The City Beer Hall, Tess Colins of McGeary's, and Kevin Tighe of the in-development Bistro Americain. They gave owner/brewmaster Jonathan Post's IPA 80 of a possible 90 points.

Finishing in second and third places, respectively, were Chatham Brewing (74) and Adirondack Brewery (71).

Other IPAs were entered by S&S, Brown's, Shmaltz, C.H. Evans/Albany Pump Station, Clemson Bros., Green Wolf, and Rip Van Winkle.

The Beer Diviner has a taproom and market at 461 Broadway in Troy (518-729-0200) and a brewery and taproom at 243 Bly Hollow Road in Petersburgh (518) 210-6196.
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Clinton Vineyards tasting room reopening with tax-free days

Clinton Vineyards' intimate, attractive tasting room is always a warm-weather treat, so it's good news that owner Phyllis Feder today announced it will open for the season on Saturday.

To mark the occasion, as well as the winery's 40th vintage anniversary which will introduce the latest version of its signature seyval blanc, Feder notes: "The celebration begins with our tasting room opening  on April 15. That's the day people usually pay their taxes. However, not for friends of Clinton Vineyards. We are offering tax free shopping this Saturday and Sunday between 1 and 5 p.m. So, no worries about the tax on your wine purchase. We'll pick up that part of the bill."

Clinton Vineyards is located at 450 Schultzville Road in Clinton Corners, Dutchess County. Phone: (845) 266-5372.
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Sunday, April 9, 2017

Update: Glass Tavern introducing Sunday brunch service

One corner of the restaurant's dining area. (photos provided)
UPDATE (4/9/17): The Glass Tavern in Glenville, which opened last fall, is adding Sunday brunch service, beginning with a traditional Easter brunch next Sunday (April 16). For the holiday, brunch hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and thereafter 11 am to 3 p.m.

UPDATE (9/27/16): The Glass Tavern has scheduled an official grand opening party for 3 to 10 p.m. Saturday, October 8. Live music, free hors d’oeuvres, tastings of Wolf Hollow Brewing beers, and a pig roast are on the schedule. 

 (Originally published 8/7/16) 

Socha Plaza exterior
When you look at the exterior of the Socha Plaza 115 building in Glenville, what you see is glass. Everywhere. So, it is not surprising its latest tenant is called The Glass Tavern. However, inside the new restaurant, scheduled for an official opening next Sunday but operating in soft mode as of today, it’s anything but glass.

The new venue opposite the airport is owned by Plaza developer Bill Socha and restaurateur Christopher Evans. It is reminiscent of classic dining clubs, all book shelves and dark wood and stone and soft lighting and a generally cushy atmosphere accented by a large stone fireplace. It seats about 200 on the patio, in the bar, the main dining room, and a library room. Much of the venue was constructed using reclaimed material from Socha’s grandparents’ farm on Waite Road in Clifton Park, and wood from two Lake Luzerne barns that were leveled for re-use.

Chef Yair de la Rosa
The menu is steak and seafood-centric, with beef sourced from Iowa Premium which specializes in USDA Prime Black Angus beef. Among the interesting-sounding offerings are a raw bar featuring ceviche; a carpet bagger steak dish (grilled filet mignon, fried oysters, tavern potatoes, housemade steak sauce) for $24; braised short rib mac-n-cheese and Nashville chicken (with hot butter sauce, cauliflower made, green beans), at $16 each; Irish curry fries (with cheddar cheese, curry sauce, bacon) at $7; oysters turtlefeller (with spinach, bacon and Parmesan) at $16; and, a “seafood harvest” (grilled gulf fish, crab-stuffed lobster tail, oysters turtlefeller, rice, vegetable, citrus beurre blanc) at $29.

The beverage menu offers eight draft and 15 bottled beers; a line of very reasonably-priced specialty cocktails including a Glass Martini (Chopin Black potato vodka, blue cheese-stufed olives) and The Looking Glass (Skyy peach infused vodka , Larceny Bourbon, cranberry juice, sweet and sour, squeeze of lime) at $10 each; a Naughty Dog (Bulldog English Gin, Campari liqueur, orange juice, Martini and Rossi sweet vermouth) at $9, and a Rumchata Taver-Tini (Rumchata liqueur, Malibu coconut rum, pineapple juice, shaken and served as a martini) at $8; and, a 30-plus label wine list grouped by price points (eight at $25 per bottle, eight at $35, six at $45, and six at $60, with most available by the glass).

The Glass Tavern is part the SoEva Hospitality Group, co-founded by Socha and Evans. Together, they purchased the Turtle Club Coastal Tavern & Claw Bar in Punta Gorda, FL, in 2015. The Glass Tavern menu was created by Yair de la Rosa who had worked for them at their Florida restaurant and moved here to be the startup chef.

The restaurant entrance is in the lobby of the Socha Plaza building at 115 Saratoga Road, Glenville. Phone: (518) 952-7443.

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DC loosens restrictions on sale of alcoholic beverages

As of this month, consumers in Washington, DC, have more options to purchasing alcohol.

Mayor Muriel Bowser signed a new law that "allows District businesses to expand areas of their operations consistent with other jurisdictions,” Fred Moosally, director of the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, said in a news release. “It also clarifies existing law for licensees and the public.”

Here are the highlights:
•  Craft beer brewers in the District who had been limited to selling beer by growler or jug now are permitted to sell in cans, kegs and bottles.

• Distillers in the District who had been limited to making cocktails in which only their spirit could be the primary ingredient now open to mix freely.

• Grocery stores can expand beyond beer and sell wine, cider and mead in growlers.

• Hotels now may sell beer and wine in their convenience stores, not just in the hotel bar and restaurant.

• Bed and breakfast operations with fewer than 30 guest rooms now may serve alcohol to registered guests as part of a room fee.

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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Raindancer renovation embraces demand for tap craft beers

Raindancer expands bar seating. (photo provided)
From the Amsterdam Recorder
AMSTERDAM -- With 37 different beers on draft, it doesn’t matter if someone prefers dark and roasted over fruity and sour flavors when stopping for a drink at he Raindancer. They can even check the BeerMenus app before headed in to see every style available on the menu that night.

Walter Porath, operations manager, said... “We were dabbling before and now we are full fledged in" the craft beer scene. “It’s definitely worked, we’ve had tremendous feedback from the customers. They love it just as much as we do.”

Porath said renovation ... nearly doubled the size of the bar [adding] 23 seats to the bar area. He said the customer size in the bar has increased. “It was seats that we would only fill when it was a banquet and when it was a banquet large enough to fill that room,” Porath said. “We had that opportunity to fill that seat every day or several times a week.”
Go here for the full story on changes at the 37-year-old restaurant.
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Jack Daniel's new cider getting UK debut before U.S. rollout

Flavored whiskies are not new in the Jack Daniel’s portfolio, but ciders? Yes, the iconic Tennessee distiller has added a new, higher-profile cider to its offerings.

This particular 5.5% ABV (11 proof) cider is made from a blended apple spirits base.

Even though the demand for hard cider is steadily increasing in the U.S., it has been a staple in the United Kingdom since the late  Middle Ages. So, JD owner Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands (BBFB) is introducing the new spirit there on May 1 before it becomes available in any other market and before its official global launch. It will the equivalent of about $6 U.S.