Pardon the deviation from the usual legal discussion that takes place here.

Last Friday I had the pleasure of getting a private tour of the Genesee Brewery on St. Paul Street here in Rochester.  I went with a group of friends and we had a great time.  After the tour we had the opportunity to taste many of the beers brewed there, including Genny Light, Cream Ale and several varieties from the Dundee craft line.  One of the coolest parts of the tasting was that we got to taste unpasteurized Genny Ice that our tour guide had taken off the canning line only moments before.  It was delicious! 

Below is a photo gallery of pictures I took on the tour, including some of the neat examples of old time advertising on display in the offices, and a great shot of our friend Joe Waldorf modeling the safety gear we were required to wear, right down to the hairnet.  The canning line you see is the very same one that the Genny Ice we sampled came off of.

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The current renaissance of the Genesee Brewery is a great Rochester success story.  Less than a decade ago, things looked very bleak indeed for a local institution that had been around since 1878.  However, since the business was purchased by a private equity company in 2009 and made a part of the North American Breweries group, the fortunes of Genesee have dramatically turned around.  So much so that the front page of the Democrat and Chronicle declared in June 2009, “Genny’s Back, Rochester!” following the announcement of a $10 million investment in the company.  On the tour we got to see the fruits of one part of that investment, a multi-million dollar upgrade to the facilities for treating and storing yeast – a key ingredient in the brewing process.

As a Rochestarian I am very proud of the success of our local brewery, as are many other people in the community.  I think if you do enjoy the occasional beer, you should consider supporting a local business and the people who work there by choosing a Genesee product, much as I would also recommend you select other local products when you have a choice.

The Brewery has been in the news for another reason of late, specifically its plans to construct a visitor center, museum and brew pub on its St. Paul Street campus.  Part of those plans involve the demolition of the abandoned old Standard brewhouse at 13 Cataract Street.  Some community groups, including our friends at Rochester Subway have campaigned to stop the demolition on historical preservation grounds.  Genesee has stated its reasons why the demolition is necessary, including the high cost of refurbishing the building as well as structural issues that call into question the building’s safety.  Rachel Barnhart did a nice report that I feel fairly framed the issue.  You the reader can decide for yourself.

My take on the dispute, with due respect and admiration to those who advocate for the preservation of historical buildings, is that this brewhouse project is very important and necessary to the continuing success of the brewery.  Look no further than the success of the Saranac (Matt’s) Brewery in Utica with its tours and brewery store.  A similar facility at Genesee could likewise be an awesome attraction for visitors and will hopefully spur further development in a sometimes troubled part of the city.  I think that if Genesee felt that saving 13 Cataract was feasible as part of the project then they would do so.  It’s unfortunate that this is the case, but to me it appears there is no other reasonable solution that would allow the project to move forward other than demolition.  Perhaps the new facility can be constructed in such a way as to be evocative of the unique architecture of the 13 Cataract.

I definitely recommend you follow @GeneseeBrewery and @DundeeBeer on Twitter as well as Facebook.  I for one am looking forward to the new Heritage Packs coming out soon, which I understand will consist of 12 Horse Ale, Fyfe and Drum, and an old favorite – Summer Brew.

(As always, please drink responsibly and never drink and drive.  But if you do find yourself in that situation, please give me a call at 585-730-6280.)