You Can’t Start a Beer Trail by Yourself

6 months, 2 weeks ago by Andy Cook

Over the last couple of years many brewers in the area have gotten together as an informal group that meets once monthly to enjoy each others’ successes and address challenges. These meetings of the 585 Brewers are as informal as possible. No Robert’s rules, no voting, no business. We are a bunch of friends who share a common occupation and passion for great beer. We do have a goal though; to help our brewing community by helping each other. We want to make Rochester a great beer destination to rival Vermont, Asheville or Portland. We can’t do that as individual businesses; it only makes sense that we collaborate to grow.

My colleagues share their expertise and knowledge within this small community. Brewing beer can be an intimidating and lonely challenge at times. When hops jam up a valve or refrigeration equipment goes down, it can be a challenge to muster the patience to figure out a solution. On top of that, there are a plethora of small decisions to make and many of them have multiple decent answers. I’ve leaned on other brewers in the area to help me through some tricky problems and bail me out when I run out of grain too many times to count.

When we first started carbonating beer in a brite tank, we were having a tough time getting it to absorb enough CO2 in a reasonable time. I ran over to the Genesee Brewhouse one day and asked Dean Jones if he had any advice. Over the next 15 minutes he very succinctly explained exactly how he carbonated beer. I still use a different method, but knowing how Dean did it helped me to refine the process that I currently use.

We’ve also been lucky to benefit from the collaborative spirit and expertise of Genesee Brewery. Starting over two years ago, the sensory analysis team for North American Breweries invited us in to join their brewers and lab personnel in their in-house training. Ever since, with more or less regularity, many of the #585brewers have joined them in learning to taste off flavors in beer. Genesee runs the program with an impressive amount of precision and professionalism. This education would be very expensive and is something that we could not afford to do as an individual business. Genesee has generously chosen to help educate local brewers in order to make Rochester a beer destination.

A new locally grown app designed for small breweries grew out of this incubator. DraughtLab is designed to allow brewers to thoroughly and accurately describe a brand and then return to that to test a new release of that same brand against an established metric. Several members of the sensory department at New Belgium, in addition to the brewers at Roc and Swiftwater, contributed our thoughts towards the development of the app. It’s a great tool for us going forward because it allows us to communicate on the same wavelength about the beer we’re making and the beer we’re tasting from other breweries.

As the spirit of collaboration and innovation continues to grow, I couldn’t be more excited to see where we will be in the next year and the next decade. The world of craft beer is changing incredibly rapidly and I believe that the #585brewers will be at the forefront of it, in no small part thanks to the collaborative spirit in this community.