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Autumn beverage forecast


The past year found key local beverage players making big moves, from Black Button Distilling’s new place on University Avenue to the prospect of K2 Brothers Brewing taking over an entire school. As the cooler months roll in, Rochester’s bev community is still making moves.

Here are a few cool things in store from local favorites:

Stoneyard launches its seltzer line, Beelzebubbles

A few months back, Stoneyard Brewing Company head brewer Jeffrey Osborne had an epiphany while standing in a Bug Jar punk show.

Among the crowd were the typical hardcore denizens—folks in patched-up jean jackets, spiky leather vests, and high-top leather boots synonymous with counterculture chic. And almost ubiquitously in their hands was the usual suspect—High Noons, the wildly popular canned vodka sodas from E&J Gallo Winery.

“I’m watching people scream anti-establishment lyrics in one room and sipping High Noons in the other,” Osborne said. “And I was like … that doesn’t quite jive with me.”

That experience set Osborne on the path to creating his own seltzer brand. It’s not an unheard of project in the world of craft beer. In fact, most breweries in Rochester had at one point or another dipped their toes into the seltzer game, as products like High Noon and White Claw saw meteoric rises in sales over the past few years. For scope, High Noon, by volume, was the largest spirits brand in the country in 2022, totaling about $1.25 billion in sales.

Comparably, in 2022 the national Brewers’ Association estimated sales for all craft beer in the country at $28.4 billion.

“The more I thought about it, the more I thought that I could do something that was more appropriate,” Osborne said. “’Alternative’ might be the better word. Something that isn’t deemed for being on a boat, or being at the pool, or healthy lifestyle or whatever.”

Thus, Beelzebubbles was born. Featuring a skeletal fallen angel reaching toward a fruit on the can and a slogan of “it’s fun to do bad things,” Osborne sought to capture a darker alternative to the sunshine-y image of other major seltzers.

The branding was initially geared towards the local staple punk bar Lux Lounge on South Avenue, although he has yet to get them placed there. Four 70-case batches later, Beelzebubbles can only be sourced from a handful of select bars, including the Sager-Stoneyard taproom on Sager Drive and Joey’s on East Main Street.

But Osborne is leaning toward cautious, methodical growth for Beelzebubbles.

“I don’t think if it’s ever going to have the kind of mainstream success of High Noon or White Claw,” Osborne said. “But I would like to become at least a local or regional player. But also, seltzer is a weird game.”

Barry’s goes Irish for its cream

Like many good stories, the launch of Barry’s Irish Cream started with an unusual phone call. In early 2020, owner of Barry’s Irish Pub in Webster received a call from someone claiming to be an agent for UFC fighter Conor McGregor.

Barry’s was one of the first bars in New York to carry McGregor’s whiskey brand,  Proper 12, and were avid promoters of the brand. The man on the phone said Conor liked what they were doing and asked if the couple wanted to come to his upcoming Vegas fight against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.

“I thought this was my brother or a relative prank-calling us,” co-owner Danny Barry said. “And before I hung up, I remember thinking, ‘I think this guy’s for real.’”

Shortly after, Danny and his wife, Jessica, were in the crowd at the T-Mobile Arena, seated alongside employees of Proper 12. McGregor won by technical knockout in 40 seconds, and the Barrys were invited to the afterparty.

It was there they pitched the idea of launching an Irish cream brand, an idea they had been stewing for a while. The Proper 12 folks were able to introduce the Barrys to Robert A. Merry & Co., a Tipperary, Ireland-based liqueur producer.

“They told us if they can’t do it, no one can,” Jessica said.

She’d spent months testing out different batches of Irish cream at home, using her neighbors as guinea pigs.

“They loved us,” Jessica laughed.

The secret ingredient came when Jessica remembered advice from her mother-in law for making the best chocolate chip cookies—add more vanilla. An extra dose of extract into the cream, and the Barrys had their winning recipe.

“My jaw dropped, I was just like, ‘this is it,’” Danny said.

Barry’s Irish Cream is expected to officially launch in September. It will be produced entirely in Ireland, its base liquor distilled by the Boann Distillery in the town of Drogheda.

Because of the shift to producing a liqueur brand, Barry’s Irish Pub will close its doors in September, after 12 years in business. It’s a bittersweet moment for the Barrys as they enter a new enterprise, and a new chapter of their lives, but like the Webster venue, Danny said the dream is for the Irish cream to capture the spirit of an Irish pub where people laughed, cried, and found a sense of community.

“That was kind of our mantra, this is going to represent all of the great people who have come in, all of the memories that are made in a place like a little Irish pub,” he said.

Drink this now >>

Mystic Hues from Grow Brewing Company

There was once a time where you could drop a single raspberry into a sloppy lactobacillus-inoculated wort, and beer nerds would throw you a goddamn parade. Now, every brewery seems beholden to having at least one pulp-laden soured smoothie on tap. Far be it from me to question the invisible hand of the market, but I can’t help but feel with every sip of viscous pineapple-marshmallow-colada-choco-surprise that we’ve strayed too far from God.

Mystic Hues is a breath of fresh air: a simplistic, perfectly executed kettle sour ale robustly showcasing an array of tropical and pine notes of Nectaron and Riwaka Hops. A beautiful, understated beer.

Pineapple Yuzu Kind from Three Heads Brewing Company

The past few years have been a rollercoaster ride for Three Heads’s flagship IPA “The Kind.” There was their COVID-era Rohrbach-collab Kind Kitty; the light version Tiny Kind; the 9% big boy in big cans Kinda Hazy; and now, Pineapple Yuzu. Brewers have a recent love of yuzu (essentially a Japanese lemon, for the uninitiated). In this iteration of The Kind, it offers a zesty tartness contrasted by upfront sweet, tropical colors, and finishing with that classic Kind bitterness.

Flanders Red Ale from Copper Leaf Brewing Company

Brewer Clay Killian at Pittsford’s Copper Leaf came out of the gate in early 2021 with an impressive array of honest, no-fooling wild ales. Unreal. Crazy choice. Holding true to that heritage, this take on a love-or-hate Belgian style is on point. An acetic masterwork that may scare off the novice palate with its unforgiving tartness will reward the brave with notes of cherry, oak, and candied stone fruit deep beneath the surface.

Strike Gently from Fifth Frame Brewing Company

Twilight hits a stillness as the last remnants of the autumn sun’s ambers and fuchsias fade over the horizon. You take a deep breath, the hints of foliage and sweet pine mingling with the woody musk of campfire smoke to create a final punctuation on the end of the day, and the summer season. It’s warm and cold. It’s quiet but brimming with life. It’s a really good smoked lager that comes in big ass steins at Fifth Frame.

Gino Fanelli is a staff writer for CITY/WXXI. He can be reached at [email protected].