Cooperstown Brewing

23 Jul

Just down the road from Ommegang is a brewery that takes Cooperstown’s baseball legend seriously—and uses it to inspire their beers.  Cooperstown Brewery is much smaller than Ommegang, in both scale and production, but plans to expand and grow are in the works due to its recent purchase by Butternuts Brewery owner, Chuck Williamson.

Unfortunately we were unable to visit Butternuts this time around due to poor planning and lack of time (attempting to visit 3 breweries in one day is a quite a feat).  But, I am a big fan of this brewery—its four flagship beers are available in cans locally as well as in 14 other states, and with names like “Porkslap,” with an image of two pigs bouncing bellies, and “Moo Thunder,” a delicious milk stout with a cow on the can, the beers are both sessionable and fun.

While I was familiar with Butternuts because of its wide distribution in New York City (Williamson is Queens native), Cooperstown Brewing was new to me.  That’s because the brewery has remained strictly local all these years, run by a father/son team since 1995—Stan and Brian Hall—until its purchase by Williamson in September of last year.  It’s unfortunate that the beer is not more widely known, because they produce some fine English-style ales, the most popular and widely available being “Old Slugger,” a pale ale.

Finding this little brewery seemed a bit of a challenge, with a small sign indicating its location off the main road in Milford, NY, a quaint town 10 miles south of Cooperstown.  Sprawling hop vines lining the entrance and silhouettes of baseball players indicated our arrival at the brewery.

While the tasting room is open all day, every day (at least in the summer), tours are only offered once daily: at 5 p.m.  Aside from Old Slugger, a malty, caramel-y tasting pale ale that is brewed with four different barley malts and hopped with Mt. Hood, Cascade and Fuggle hops, their five other beers include Nine Man AleBackyard IPA, Pride of Milford, and their Benchwarmer Porter. 

During the tour we learned that all their ales are brewed with their signature Ringwood Yeast, an aggressive top fermenting yeast that imparts all of these British-style ales with a distinctive flavor.  They also use the hops that they grow outside as well as imported hops to add both aroma and bitterness.

The Nine Man Ale is a nice golden ale that was refreshing and light.  A portrait of baseball’s American founding father (debatable and according to legend), Abner Doubleday, adorns the pinstriped label.  Who knew that baseball bats and barley went so well together?

Cooperstown’s Backyard IPA is perfect for a summer barbecue (or baseball game).  Our tour guide, Chelsea, explained that this beer is brewed in a traditional English style of brewing an I.P.A., not like the extremely hoppy American I.P.A.’s we’ve become so accustomed to.  This beer is dry hopped with a “hop-percolator,” filled with locally grown Fuggle hops (grown right outside).

The “Pride of Milford,” is a strong (7.7% ABV), malty ale, reddish in color and rich in flavor, and described as a “specialty ale.”  While the title is a bit ambiguous, the name comes from a unique brewing process in which the beer is fermented at a higher temperature.  Because of this, the ale is higher in alcohol and has a richer, maltier character than the signature pale ale.

Last but not least was the “Benchwarmer Porter,” a great example of a traditionally brewed porter—with chocolate and roasted coffee flavors in abundance.  This one stood out as a favorite for me, especially since I often find porters to be more like a watered-down stout, and I often miss out on how great this style can be when done well.

Currently the brewery also contract brews for other breweries (which is what we witnessed during our visit—the smell of the wort strongly wafting through the air) and hosts a 40- year-old bottling line that was previously owned by Samuel Adams Brewing Company.  The six English-style, baseball-themed ales are available for purchase at the brewery, and all are adorned with baseball bottle caps—a nice touch.

Cooperstown Brewing Company may be only one stop on the six-stop Cooperstown beverage trail (which includes the three breweries, two wineries and a cider mill), but is surely one worth checking out.  The baseball theme ties in with the overall Cooperstown tourist attractions, and the beer is highly quaffable, offering a different beer-drinking experience than the nearby Ommegang.  I expect to see a lot more from this brewery in the future, given the new ownership and opportunity for expansion–with a bottling line, it seems Butternuts can start offering their already popular canned beers in bottles.  Hopefully the already well-known and established Butternuts name can aid in Cooperstown Brewing Company’s own notoriety.

While Cooperstown may be a baseball-lover’s mecca, one can also add beer to that list.  Ahhhhhh–summer really doesn’t get much better than baseball and beer! (Don’t forget the hot dog…)

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