To celebrate our exhibition Beer Here: Brewing New York’s History, the New-York Historical Society is hosting a series of Saturday beer tastings run by local breweries in the exhibit’s Beer Hall. The program will run from May 26 through August 25; half-hour tastings will start at 2pm and 4pm. Not only will visitors get to taste some of these local creations, but there will be hops, whole leaf flowers and other beer ingredients for people to touch, smell and experience. Tickets are $35 unless otherwise noted.
We spoke with Jim McDermott of Genesee Brewery about his plans for Genesee’s tasting.
Tell us a little about the history of the Genesee Brewery.
The Genesee Brewing company dates back to 1878 and is located in Rochester, NY. In 1916 Louis Whele was hired by Genesee and became the youngest Brewmaster in New York State. After Prohibition, Whele purchased the brewery. The Whele family continued to run the brewery until 1999. We were purchased by KPS (a private equity firm from NYC) and formed North American Brewies in 2009. We are now the fastest-growing value brand in America.
What first got you interested in beer brewing?
I first became interested in brewing beer in the summer of 1991. My buddy Paul talked me into moving up to Maine and I spent that summer drinking Bar Harbor Real Ale at the Lompoc Café. That was my first exposure to brewery-fresh beer and everything after that lead to a career in brewing.
This exhibition is all about the history of beer in New York. How do you think Genesee honors and connects to that history?
Well, aside from being a part of New York’s brewing history since 1878, we are bringing history to life in our new Genesee Brew House. It is a museum, retail shop, microbrewery, and restaurant all under one roof on our campus. The Brew House will showcase our history and will have displays specific to New York and our fellow brewers.
We’ve also recently gone back to “stubby” bottles to connect with our own history.
How do you think the “stubby” bottles accomplish that?
It gives it a bit of a “throwback” to the old look and feel.
There are a lot of new beers coming out of New York right now. Do you have any tips for people looking to get into beer?
One of the things that makes beer great is the fact that it is an affordable luxury so don’t be afraid to try something new. Also, tastes are subjective, so it’s OK if you like something that your beer snob friend doesn’t!
Of course, that being said, there are some universal descriptors for beer flavors (both attributes and defects) so that we can discuss them and, ultimately, make better beer.
What is Genesee currently working on that we should know about?
At this time of year we will be selecting the Vienna malt that will become the signature of our Dundee Oktoberfest. Since barley is agricultural product its flavor varies from year to year; picking the Vienna for Oktoberfest is one of the annual brewery rituals.
What will you be doing at the New-York Historical Society tasting that people should know about?
Once of the beers that we will be sampling will be the Dundee Pilsner; it’s one of my favorite beers that we make.