The 1888 Tavern or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Craft Beer, Part 3

saranac_brewery10If you’ve followed the last two weeks, then you have come to know how the beers of FX Matt’s Brewing played a pivotal role in my discovery of craft beer.  While the beers themselves were the cornerstone, the accessibility of the brewery was also of critical importance.  We were first introduced to it when we were pledging Delta Phi fraternity.  Although we were too young to get any beer as part of the tour, we were sometimes called upon to drive the brothers who were of age to the brewery so that they could fully enjoy the pleasures of the 1888 Tap Room at the end of the tour.  In addition, two of my classmates were required to get the signature of FX Matt himself as a pledge task.  Interestingly enough, this proved to be not only possible but enjoyable.  After making an appointment they showed up at the appointed time and were warmly greeted by FX himself who spent a great deal of time sharing the history of the brewery and asking them about themselves.

This kind of family atmosphere translates to the tour.  The friendly guides and imagesCAYTSV55homey atmosphere made it easy to learn something of the basics of brewing and to understand some of the steps that can be taken to make a beer better than the mass produced junk that many of our peers were still happily guzzling.

In 2006, my relationship with Matt’s became intergenerational.  In the course of visiting old friends we found ourselves back in Utica, NY.  While there I could not pass up the chance to revisit my past and walk the tour I had so often walked many years before.   But even more so it was a joy to watch the excitement and curiosity on my kid’s faces as they learned about the science and art of beer.  Their favorite part was the bottling which is very cool to watch.  At the time they were bottling Brooklyn’s Octoberfest.  (Matt’s has done contract brewing for a number of other brewers including Brooklyn, Harpoon. Pete’s Wicked and even Philly’s own Dock Street). 

1888aAt the end of the tour is the 1888 Tavern.  As part of the $5 tour ticket you get 2 drink vouchers which the kids used on the delicious root beer, orange cremecicle and sparkling lemonade.

I tied two new Saranac brews… the Pomegranate Wheat and the Imperial IPA.  The Wheat was tart and definitely better than what I feared it might be (I am NOT a fruit beer guy)… my wife liked it so much she bought some to take home.  The IPA on the other hand was quite good indeed.  I also benefited from the fact that I stuck up a conversation with the assistant brewmaster (who had knocked off for the day) and after 10 minutes of what I hope were fairly good questions about their beers, he proceeded to keep my glass filled even though my two beer vouchers were long since spent.  This beer carried all the kick and IBU’s one would expect but went down with remarkable ease.  Some imperials really lend themselves much more to sipping as opposed to gulping but this new Saranac product was not only delicious but also very drinkable.

So there you have it… my trip down memory lane.   If you ever find yourself near Utica take the time to check out the FX Matts brewery.  For info on how to take the tour yourself, just click here.

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