Travelers and vacationers were already a big part of the Central New York Economy. But now tourism officials say it’s a focus of state development efforts. One area that’s booming is craft-beer tours.
Tom Ireardi was making home-brew beer 25 years ago…but craft brewing didn’t quite take off…He opened Finger Lakes on Tap to bring his aficionado approach to the people.
“Our niche and focus is staying with the local breweries, making sure we serve beer here the way they serve it there. We want to make sure we put it in the right glass; we want to make sure the temperature’s right; we want to make sure our lines are clean.”
Finger Lakes on Tap is…well just that, 50-to 55 local beers on tap. Now since I was working I couldn’t really sample any. But Tom says he gets in two types of customers to check ‘em out.
“One are the people who know beer inside and out. They love all styles of beer, they love talking about it. And we have people who are not really familiar with craft beer. They want to try local things. And for those people, what we’re trying to do is really stretch their palate.”
He’s enjoying a surge in craft beer tourism…which includes beer tastings…just like wine tastings. And just like wine trails…Visit Syracuse Program manager Liz Judge is helping market craft-beer trails.
In the Syracuse region, in Onondaga County alone, we’re seeing huge expansion. I’m contacting our web managers at Brew Central all the time and they’re always getting messages saying a new brew pub in the area has opened. They want to join Brew Central.”
A website – BrewCentralNY.com – highlights breweries, cider mills, wineries to help tourists plan visits. It’s backed by state economic development funds as regional and Albany leaders see the potential.
“If you can get people to come up as groups. I know with wine tours, a lot of times people rent buses. So really getting people to maybe travel up from New York, Long Island, other local areas, on buses to specifically do that (craft beer tours).”
Tom Ierardi says a Finger Lakes Beer Trail map last year had 103 breweries; there’s more this year.
“In Auburn Prison City, I think most people know now. There’s also Good Shepherd's. In Syracuse, Stout Beard, Eastwood Brewing, Cortland Brewing, they’ve done great stuff. I think everyone knows Ithaca Beer Company, but there’s also Band Wagon Brewing. Places are popping up everywhere.”
And people are willing to travel around and drop some tourism dollars to sample them.