Brew Biz: Werts and All

Written by Ken Carman for

Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Escambia Bay and Music City Homebrewers, who has been interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast for over 10 years.

The Topic: Brew Ghosts

One of the most haunting things about getting older is the ghosts. Oh, I don’t mean the obvious: parents, pets, the bullies we buried in our backyard. Shhh… don’t tell the police. I mean floors we used to walk that don’t exist anymore, places we and our friends used to play, walk and, yes, even drink beer: like The Barber Shop in Utica, New York. When I was in college it was a fun place to go drink dark beer for a 50 cents a glass and eat small paper trays of shelled peanuts for free.

The Barber Shop advertised “Where John and Mary meet.” Well, like my ex-girlfriends who I took there, John and Mary don’t meet anymore: the streets rerouted like our lives, as time tends to do. Or the fact that one such ex… short redhead… was a total b…

Never mind.

Then you have breweries. I used to hang around Newman’s in downtown Albany, NY: one of the first craft breweries when the trend started to nibble on the northeast in the 80s and 90s. Newman’s was in a somewhat disgusting part of downtown that, since Newman’s is long gone, has probably gone to “brewing” less legal substances.

Sorry. That was a not so funny… crack… I just made.

Cough Cough.

Then you have Laughing Pines in Slidell, Louisiana, and many other breweries long gone.

I think that’s why the following story caught my interest from

The Otisca Building, a historic but hazardous former brewery that looms over a block of Butternut Street on Syracuse’s (NY) North Side, is destined to be demolished within weeks.

City officials plan to seize the rambling two- and three-story brick complex for back taxes and sell it to a company controlled by St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center and Home HeadQuarters, which will pay for the six-figure demolition.”

But the story doesn’t end there…

The name of the brewery was actually Ryan’s Consumer Brewery and its namesake, Thomas Ryan, went on to be mayor of Syracuse. This single building housed several breweries in the 1800s, including Haberle Brewing Co. and Onondaga Brewery, with beers like Ryan’s Pure Beer. The style? You’ve got me. The reason they decided to demolish Ryan’s/Haberle/Onandaga was another former, abandoned, 1800s brewery in Syracuse had collapsed recently and they decided not to take the risk. Some of these breweries moved out of that location, one stayed: but the result was the same, as we shall soon see.

By 1845 there were seven breweries in Syracuse, like Greenway Brewery that occupied a whole city block on the Erie Canal and was six stories high. Greenway once produced 100,000 barrels per year, employed over 100 workers. Yet, like the rest of the country, only worse, by the end of Prohibition five survived and by the 50s they were gone. The majors like Miller built facilities outside of Syracuse, like Volney and Baldwinsville, but hometown brewing didn’t begin again until 1991. Once again Syracuse has a local brew by companies like Middle Ages Brewing with kinky names like Druid Fluid, ImPaled Ale and Wailing Wench.

I would like to know: when is it someone will get the grand idea to take one of these breweries and start a brewing of Syracuse museum instead of just destroying history?

But, once again, the story doesn’t end there: and someone is doing something creative. Part of the brewery will survive. By the time this edition of Brew Biz is published, Pioneer Millworks plans to have taken down the wood: does all it can to maintain original saw marks, knots and such. The wood will be made available for projects to the community.

What a great idea.

Hey, Middle Ages, Syracuse Suds, Towpath! How about adding some Syracuse brew history to your atmosphere?

Maybe you might see a ghost smile from time to time?

Brew Biz: Werts and All, is a column dedicated to reviewing, discussing and commenting on all things beer including, but not limited to: marketing, homebrewing and homebrew/beer related events, how society perceives all things beer. Also: reviews of beer related businesses, opinions about trends in the beer business, and all the various homebrew, judging and organizations related to beer. Essentially, all things “beer.”

©Copyright 2012
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
All Rights Reserved

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