Culture » What Ales me

A stimulus for my fridge


This morning I, like many Americans, woke up with a much anticipated notification from Bank of America — a $1,200 deposit from the Federal Reserve.

Is that $1,200 going to change my life? Is it ample compensation for the tremendous amount of stress we’re all in? If I had lost my only source of income, would it be able to get me through the month? No, no, and no, but hey, that’s not really the point of stimulus checks. At the end of the day, their existence is meant to be used as spending money to stimulate the economy.

You may be surprised to hear this, but as a career journalist, I’m not exactly rolling in dough. I spend a good amount of money on local beer, but some coveted brews are a little rich for my blood. Now I’ve got $1,200 burning a hole in my pocket, a good list of cans I’m just itching to get my hands on, and a plethora of breweries within driving distance in need of support.

I’m not alone here at CITY — our news editor Jeremy Moule is picking up a bottle of Black Button’s Four Grain Bourbon, partly for pleasure and partly as a show of support for the distillery’s impressive public health efforts.

Below are five local beers that I previously couldn’t stomach paying the premium for, which will soon have a home in my fridge.

“Purple Humpback Whale” from Pantomime Mixtures, Hector, NY
Price: $16 per 16.9 ounce bottle

I consider myself to be a rather well-rounded person with plenty of interests and hobbies. To name a few: I’m an obsessive cook, play the banjo, write short horror stories, really love my cats, and enjoy hiking.

All of these facets pale in comparison to how much I love wild and farmhouse ales. I will rave about them for insufferable amounts of time. In August I made the pilgrimage far off into Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom to Hill Farmstead Brewery (rightfully, ranked the best brewery in the world in 2019 by RateBeer), which is known for its “Farmstead” saisons like Anna and Dorothy.

Earning the absolute highest praise I can give to a brewery, Jesse Perlmutter at Hector’s Pantomime Mixtures has quietly made beers that rival Hill Farmstead. Granted, most of Hill Farmsteads beers are not wild fermented like Pantomime’s, making them slightly different styles, but the end result is similar enough that I consider it acceptable to compare the two.

Purple Humpback Whale is a barrel-aged wild ale with blackberries from Burdett’s Mangus Farms. I adore everything about that description.

“Triple Berry Rural Minutes” from Fifth Frame Brewing Co., Rochester
Price: $20~ per four-pack

Rural Minutes, the absolutely-not-trademark-infringing name of Fifth Frame’s lemonade IPA series, is one of the most exciting beers in Rochester. In the past, the brewery has revolved through versions with strawberries, peaches, raspberries, and plain old lemon.

Word on the street is the triple berry version, brewed with raspberries, blackberries, and boysenberries, is the best of the bunch. I’m anxious to see for myself.

These beers are jam-packed, pun intended, with fruit additions against a backbone of slightly tart, liberally sweet lemon, reminiscent of a certain powdered beverage which will remain unnamed. They’re fun, easy drinking, complex, over the top, and delicious — everything I expect from owner Jon Mervine and the crew at Fifth Frame.

“Hydra” from Mortalis Brewing Co., Avon
Price: ??? per four-pack

If you’re wondering why I don’t know the price of a four-pack of Hydra, Mortalis’s maximalist scream into the sour ale abyss, it’s a bit complicated. These beers retail at $25 per four-pack, but if you want to buy them, be prepared to wait in line for a good minute, and even then there’s no guarantee any will be left.

For scope, during a Hydra release last week, Mortalis was asked by the town to move sales up an hour due to the line of cars building up at their drive-thru window. So, I’ll be reaching out to the local Facebook beer groups, offering to pay the toll from whoever is willing to grace me with a can or two.

These beers are an exercise in absurdity — ridiculously packed with fruit pulp, marshmallows, coconut, and whatever else the team of co-owners Paul Grenier, Dave Luckenbach, and Josh Bauerlein come up with. Previous iterations have included passionfruit/mango/peach, Frosé (with passionfruit, raspberry, mango, vanilla, marshmallow, and coconut), and blueberry/raspberry lemonade.

So, dear readers, if anyone has some cans of Hydra up for offer, name your price.

“Scared to Look” from Rising Storm Brewing, Avon
Price: $17 per four-pack

Rising Storm owners Jeff Riedl and Bill Blake have excellent taste in classic hip-hop, which is more than enough to gain my respect. Beers in their line-up include references to Wu-Tang Clan (Ca.R.E.A.M., The Swarm), Eazy-E (Boise N The Hood), Nas (Made You Look), Snoop Dogg (Lemondrop It Like It’s Hot), and the Notorious B.I.G. (Everyday Struggle).

“Scared to Look,” an imperial stout brewed with local maple syrup, is a reference to Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones, Pt. II,” playing right into this noble tradition.

Often outshined by the popularity of its Avon brethren Mortalis, Rising Storm makes phenomenal beer in its own right. All of the beers I’ve had from them have exceeded the mark. Particularly, two weeks ago, I picked up a four-pack of Rising Storm’s Hawaiian Punch Sun, Moon, and Sours, an endlessly fun beer that sent me right back to childhood. I’m ready to come back for something more.

Rising Storm has proven itself capable of astounding beers, and I’m sure this one will be no exception to the rule.

“Barrel-aged Imperial Red Rye Ale” from K2 Brothers Brewing, Penfield
Price: $15 per 500ml bottle

About two and a half years ago, while working at a different local paper, I paid K2 Brothers Brewing a visit before their opening. At the time, brothers Brad and Kyle Kennedy offered me a homebrewed pumpkin ale to sample. It was good — not outrageously memorable, not mediocre, but simply an adequate pumpkin ale, more or less average in terms of modern craft beer.

So I expected K2 to be an average local brewery, putting out some pretty good beers at a leisurely pace. I was wrong. I cannot think of another brewery that puts out such an outrageously diverse selection of beers, from sours to milkshake IPAs and imperial stouts, at such a breakneck speed and hardly ever missing the mark.

Since opening in December 2017, beer review site Untappd logs 157 unique beers from K2.

It’s with these larger, nuanced beers that the Kennedy brothers really shine. The second-anniversary Barrel-aged Imperial Mole Stout released in December, for example, was an explosion of decadent tasting notes, ranging from deep, dark chocolate, roasty coffee to bright pepper notes and hints of smoke all held in perfect tandem.

This beer is one I also expect to hit that mark of depth, complexity, and balance.

During the pandemic, we should all be fiscally responsible: take care of our needs, pay our bills, make sure we have enough to make it through at least the next couple months. On top of that, we need to look out for our local businesses, and make sure they are able to stand on their own two feet when this is all over.

If the knowledge of supporting your community isn’t reward enough, at least you get some tasty beverages.

Gino Fanelli is a staff writer for CITY. Feedback on this article can be directed to CITY's arts & entertainment editor, Rebecca Rafferty, at [email protected].