Chef's Best - Seneca Lake Brewery Tour
Updated: Aug 26
Chef’s Best – Seneca Lake Brewery Tour
The Finger Lakes is home to one of the best Wine Regions in the USA. Visiting the wineries is something my wife Marisa and I make time for at least once a month. We were missing another great reason to tour the Lakes, the breweries.
This month’s edition of Chef’s Best is not about the food, it is about some of the best beer you can drink, on the Eastern side of Seneca Lake. Instead of the Chef picking my meal, I simply asked what beer I should sample at each stop. Marisa was by my side sampling her own picks as well.
Prior to our adventure, we did the responsible thing. We found a driver. I can not stress this enough. Those 4 or 5 ounce beer samples add up. By our count, almost 100 ounces of beer was consumed in the research for this feature.
Find a designated driver, or do what we did. We hired a driver to drive our car.
Free plug to our friends at MainStreetDrivers.com. We have used their services a couple of times. The process is simple, log onto the website, click on the Make a Reservation link and fill out a form with your trip info. You will be contacted with availability and pricing. The driver shows up, drives your car and brings you back. You and your car are safe and sound at home when the trip is over.
Now, back to the tour. We decided to start at the farthest point from our home, and work our way back. Wagner Valley Brewing Company is a short 15 mile drive from Watkins Glen up the eastern side of Seneca Lake. The parking lot at Wagner seems to always be full, but don’t let that deter you from stopping.
The tasting room features a dozen tap lines, and the first recommended beer for a tasting flight was the Trippelbock. Just two days before our visit this Bavarian-style lager was designated the “Best Strong Ale (Non-Belgian) in New York State at the New York State Craft Beer Competition.
The flight of four was rounded out with Wagner’s Dockside Vienna Lager, the Seneca Sol and their Sled Dog Doppleback. This selection really did have something for everyone. The smooth Dockside was my favorite of the four, but each stood on its own and is worth trying.
I did break from the format slightly at Wagner. Their Cloudbank Hefeweizen was calling my name, so I had to add a sip on my way out. I never really thought I had a “style” of beer, but the Cloudbank was it. There is something different about the texture of a Hefeweizen that I enjoy. This version had subtle flavors of banana and clove. It was my pick for beer of the day.
Only three miles south on Route 414 was our next stop, at Lucky Hare Brewing Company. A nice departure from the oversized venue at our previous stop. Lucky Hare’s Hector Taproom is a quaint joint with a great deck, perfect for sampling the best this Farm Brewery has to offer.
The pre-selected flight included my first IPA of the day, their Falcon Punch. All I can say is Hip HOP Hooray for that IPA. No, I am not a ‘hop-head’ by any means. The first sip was a hopped-up assault of the senses, which calmed down on sip two, and became every drinkable. If you are into hops, this beer is for you.
The flight also included their London Gentleman, Blonde Moment and the Upper Class Wit of the Year. The Blonde Moment was the class of the field for me, although all three of these beers were near the top of my list at the end of the day. The Blonde Moment had a light coffee aroma, was smooth as can be, with an almost nutty background. It was amazing.
Take a half mile hop south from Lucky Hare and you will find our next location, Scale House Brewery. We had ear-marked this spot before the trip as our late-lunch stop. My boss raves about the beer and pizza here, and he was on the money. Food first. We ordered the Insalata Caprese and the Margherita - Prosciutto Pizza. The caprese was simple, yet perfect; just as it always should be. The pizza was fresh and light, all the flavors were balanced. Pizza and beer, how can you go wrong?
Scale House Brewery was named the 2021 Finger Lakes Brewery of the Year at the New York International Beer Competition, so I was looking forward to the beer selection. I have heard about the stouts, specifically the chocolate and the peanut butter which are sometimes featured. While the chocolate was not on tap, I was very happy to see their Peanut Butter Stout was one of my selections.
Marisa always picks dark beer, while I typically stay on the light side. This Peanut Butter Stout would be the exception for me. It goes down smooth, with coffee undertones and of course peanut butter. The beer had just the right balance of sweetness.
Summer Jam, Lake Monster Lager and the Cream Ale were lined up next to the stout on my flight dance card. For the hop drinkers out there the Summer Jam is a nice entry level hoppy beer. The Lager and Cream Ale were both smooth and very enjoyable. The comfort of the Cream Ale lands it at the top of my list from the Scale House.
Three miles south from Scale House and on the lake side of 414 is where you will find Two Goats Brewing. This lively, eclectic spot was stop number four on the tour. This small brewpub has great views, an amazing atmosphere and yes, great beer.
The pre-selected flight featured their Go Easy Blonde, Hector Logger, Peach Hefe and Brown Ale. I mentioned previously that I am a hefeweizen fan, and the Peach Hefe was a unique twist on the classic. The peach flavor was subtle. It was a perfect summer version of a hefeweizen.
The Hector Logger, described by Two Goats as a “great craft beer intro for ‘domestic’ drinkers” lives up to the billing. Light, clean, smooth… you don’t have to head for the mountains. Head for the Lake, drink great local beer right in our own backyard.
Less than a half mile south from Two Goats, perched on the hill is the last stop of our tour, Grist Iron Brewing Company. I have been here a few times before. Grist Iron is always bustling with activity with a brew hall type feel. You can pair the beer with pub style foods and enjoy an afternoon overlooking Seneca Lake.
The four picks for my flight included the Campfire Lite Lager, Citra on the Dock of the Bay Pilsner, the B.O.B. (Blood Orange Blonde) and their Banana Wolke Hefeweizen. Yes, I was lucky enough to get another hefeweizen and it did not disappoint. Traditional in style, the Wolke was smooth, slightly sweet, with notes of banana and clove.
The B.O.B. was a refreshing ale, with just a bit of bite from blood orange puree. The dry hopped Citra Pilsner had a thirst-quenching snap to it. While the Campfire was light and crisp, perfect for sitting around… you guessed it, a campfire. Again, why pick up anything mass-produced, when a local micro-brewery can do a better job?
The best part of this tour is the fact that it is still just a small sample of breweries surrounding the Finger Lakes. Try one at a time, or you can make a day or weekend of it. Don’t stay stuck in one lane. The best thing about a flight is that you can explore what each brewery has to offer. Ask questions and learn about the beer making process. Who knows, you might stumble onto a new favorite style. Please remember, always do so responsibly.
When you sample, just ask for the Brewer’s Best!
Featured in this Article:
Wagner Valley Brewing Company
Lodi, NY 14860
Lucky Hare Brewing Company
6085 Beckhorn Road
Hector, NY 14841
Scale House Brewery
Hector, NY 14841
Two Goats Brewing
Burdett, NY 14818
Grist Iron Brewing Company
Burdett, NY 14818