November 30, 2013
Tapping a new market
New law helps Cortland Beer Co. expand offerings
A couple of people sipped a sampling of beer, called flights, as Dan Cleary, co-owner of the Cortland Beer Co. at 16 Court St. in downtown Cortland, wiped down the bar in the tasting room they call “The Tap Room @ Cortland Beer Co.”
Since 2010, The Tap Room is where people come to sample various types of lagers, stouts and India pale ales the fledgling brewery distributes to stores, restaurants and bars in Cort-land and throughout upstate New York.
But for the first time in three years, the Cortland Beer Co. is finally allowed to do something most other businesses often take for granted: they are able to sell directly to their customers their own product — and lots more of it.
It is all due to a piece of legislation which took effect in January that enables upstate breweries to obtain a farm brewery license. With it, brewers can operate less like a distributor and more like a winery.
This means breweries no longer need additional permits to serve beer by the glass and they can sell their own products in addition to having tasting rooms, retail shops and restaurants.
“Before we could only do small 2-, 3-ounce samples ... we were kind of giving it away. Now we can actually sell drafts,” Cleary said. “Now we can generate some income, which we need to support the business — to grow.”
Cleary said once they found out they would be getting the license, the brewery started taking advantage of the new opportunities almost immediately.
Those already familiar with the Tap Room will notice the flight glasses have doubled in size — from 2 ounces to 5 — and Cleary said the tables and stools were recently added so people can enjoy 9-, 12-, or 20-ounce glasses of beer; or root beer for people in the mood for a non-alcoholic beverage.
The Cortland Beer Co. also has the “Brewer’s Faucet” which employee Deanne Stafford explained as limited, one-of-a-kind experimental beers the brewers create and that customers get to sample.
“We were set up for retail for years,” Cleary said. “Now we’re trying to get more into where people can come in and sit down and enjoy the atmosphere.”
Co-owner Dawn Zarnowski said the customers were thrilled when they found out they could actually purchase and enjoy their favorite beers in the Tap Room.
“So far, everyone seems very receptive,” Zarnowski said. “They’re very happy they can buy a glass of beer and they don’t have to take it with them. They want to hang out.”
“Craft beers are becoming really popular,” Stafford said. “I have one regular who comes up from New Jersey ... and fills her neighbor’s growler (large, refillable glass bottles) with our beer.”
One of the requirements for farm breweries is that they have to use a certain amount of ingredients grown in New York in their beer recipes and Cleary said he liked the idea of breweries “keeping it local.”
“One of the things that’s nice is now a lot of the ingredients are coming out of New York,” Cleary said. “We’ve been trying to find hops for the last couple of months out of New York and we’re starting to get some of those (and) we just bought our first round of greens in New York to make our beer with.”
He added he is excited to see if there are any significant changes in the flavors in some of the brewery’s signature beers.
“It’s going to be interesting, too. It’s probably going to change some of the beers just because the stuff’s being grown in a different region.” Cleary said. “Normally it’s West Coast and Canadian — malts and things like that, and it’s definitely a different growing situation here.”
Cleary said making the move to sell beer out of the brewery has been a learning process and as the Cortland Beer Co. continues to make more additions to the Tap Room, the brewery is looking into adding cider and wine to the menu and he encourages people to come out and experience the new Tap Room for themselves.
“This is an exciting time for us as we make The Tap Room ... more inviting for our patrons to come enjoy our flights and glasses of beer at the brewery,” Cleary said. “This now allows us to serve our customers the way they should be served.”
To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe