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Craft, Community & Collaboration

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LOVE LOCAL. When Empire Brewing Co opened in ’94 in Armory Square, Pastabailities was one of the only other pioneers in a relatively untapped part of the city, a far cry from the dynamic downtown scene we know today. Owner and Founder David Katleski believed “if you build it, they will come” and when he moved into the basement of the Bentley Building he was making a conscious investment into the livelihood and prosperity of Downtown Syracuse. Fast forward 21 years and Armory Square is now home to many successful new startup offices, local business and full time residences. Supporting local isn’t always convenient and sometimes it means changing old habits, but the positive effects are undeniable and a practice that Empire has strived to maintain throughout all facets of business.

ONE BEER, TWO LABELS. DWS is a custom label printer in Deer Park, NY who manufactured Empire’s very first can labels in the summer of ’17 with their deubt of Slo Mo’ 16 oz cans. Naturally, Empire reached out to DWS to bring their Particle City can design to life but DWS was interested in much more. DWS wanted to push the envelope and try their hand at a marketing showpiece demonstrating their own creative capabilities and they wanted to use Empire’s beer to do it. Local supermarket chain Wegmans threw their hat into the Particle Project and pre ordered  most of the canned inventory as a feature in their “Freshest Beer Program” at locations throughout New York State. Wegmans even sent 50 representatives to “Empire Beer School” at the Farm Brewery. The Wegmans reps got to try their hands on the canning line featuring yet another community player, Ninth Planet Mobile Line. By the end of the day, Particle City was the culmination of four local businesses joined together by a shared love for craft, community and collaboration.

The teamwork demonstrated by the Particle City project has been a common theme in Empire’s many ventures and it won’t be their last! Empire has recently opened its doors to fellow breweries seeking contract brew opportunities, and is looking forward to future partnerships. Interested breweries can learn more about Empire’s Contract Brew Program online at:

Check out some of Empire’s other collaborations below:

Honey Brown Ale brewed exclusively for the Modern at the MOMA in NYC, NY
Waldorf Buzz, brewed exclusively for the Waldorf Astoria in NYC, NY
Lax Lager, a collaboration brew with Air Gait Brewing Co. in Syracuse, NY
Sweet Fire, a collaboration series brewed by women in the NYS beer scene since 2014
Beet Beer, brewed exclusively for Empire Brews and Blues Festival in Syracuse, NY
Grindstone Blueberry Ale, a collaboration with Grindstone Farm in Pulaski, NY
Empire Green, brewed exclusively for Tavern on the Green in NYC, NY
Shift Drink, brewed exclusively for Collichio & Sons in NYC, NY
Beer Brats made with East Coast Amber Ale by Hoffmans Sausage Co. in Syracuse, NY
Craft Beer Hot Sauce made with Skinny Atlas Light, and Craft Beer Mustard made with East Coast Amber Ale by Syrachacuse in Syracuse, NY
Local Grind, made in collaboration with Café Kubal in Syracuse, NY
Brewing Studies Program at SUNY Morrisville in Morrisville, NY
Smoke N’ Shadows, brewed in collaboration with Community Beer Works Brewery out of Buffalo, NY








Sweet Fire 2018

At a Brooklyn beer event in October of 2014, 5 friends decided to join forces in a unique beer collaboration by beer industry women. The brew was so successful that the tradition has continued each year since!

This year the Sweet Fire women were invited back to Central New York to brew on Empire’s state of the art, production style brewery at a quantity for mass distribution in kegs throughout New York State.

Brewery Administrator, Jocelyn Feldmeth, gives us the scoop on the brew: “Being able to brew the Sweet Fire was an amazing experience and I am happy to have been apart of it.  We brought together women from all over New York State to take part in the brewing process of this unique beer.  Our day started off with mashing in our base malt and specialty grains alongside brew master Tim Butler.  Tim showed us all the ropes of the brewing process and let each of us take a hand making this imperial stout.  It was a pleasure to work along side him.  Learning how to brew on such a larger scale system compared to brewing on a much smaller scale at our Syracuse brewpub location was fascinating.

Our additions of the five chili spice blend and coca nibs brought the perfect amount of chocolate sweetness on the initial taste with the chili powder giving it a fiery finish.  I am proud to be a part of this all-women craft brew.  I am grateful to Empire Brewing Company for making my dreams of being a brewer come true.  In a male dominated industry, our Sweet Fire Stout shows that women with ambition and innovative ideas can bring something new and exciting to the table.”

Sweet Fire is an imperial stout that is brewed and fermented with cocoa nibs and a special chili blend, giving it a tantalizing chocolate aroma and flavor with a heat that creeps onto the palate and builds into a beautiful balance of sweetness and spice, 8.2% ABV. The liquid is available at a limited release while supplies last.

We are proud to introduce these amazing women in craft, and this year’s Sweet Fire brewsters;

  • Jen Keppard- Buffalo Tap House & Grill
  • Erin Hopkins- Vestal Ale House
  • Carolyn- Stag’s Head Ale House
  • Carissa Monahan- Branching Out Bottle Shop, Camillus
  • Amy- Wegmans, Canandaigua
  • Kate Amos, Blue Smoke, NYC
  • Sidney Stehle, Empire Brewing Co, NYC
  • Kim Killagrew, The Beehive Brewpub, Canandaigua
  • Tracy Sidmore, The Beehive Brewpub, Canandaigua
  • Jocelyn Feldmeth, Empire Brewing Co
  • Tiffany Rogers, Empire Brewing Co
  • Lindsay Rich, 1911 Established, Rochester

Cheers to you ladies, and thanks for the pure liquid!


Black Magic Stout – How to pour



New advancements in beer technology have allowed us to package our World Beer Cup Gold Medal Winner, BLACK MAGIC STOUT. This classic Irish-Style Dry Stout is crafted to produce prominent roasted flavors, with hints of chocolate and coffee finish. Crack open a bottle, pour vigorously, and unleash the magic. Click below to see how it’s done.


Empire Farm Brewery Completes Pilot Brew

Cazenovia, NY (May 24, 2016) – The brand new Empire Farm Brewery has successfully brewed their first batch of craft beer, East Coast Amber Ale. After a thorough commissioning process to ensure proper function of all equipment and piping, Empire is thrilled to move past their pilot brew and one step closer to bottling their beer for the very first time!


Formerly known as Empire Amber Ale, and the Syracuse brewpub’s flagship for over 20 years, Empire has announced that their East Coast Amber Ale will be available to Syracuse in a bottle. East Coast Amber earned its proprietary name in honor of Empire’s East Coast brewing style, emphasizing bold flavors and balanced brews. It’s not too sweet, not too bitter, and full of personality just like our beloved East Coast brewers.

Empire released their bottled lineup over the last few months, rounding up familiar draft favorites with couple of styles destined to premier in the distribution network this summer. Check out the Empire blog for the complete bottled beer line up.


Meet the Men Behind the Beer


Empire’s success and monumental expansion could not be possible without a team of strong brewers. Led by Tim Butler, Director of Brewing Operations, Ben Brotman and Jon Rodriguez bring their own brewing experience and unique perspectives to the valuable brain trust. Empire also employs full time Cellarman Jim Hildreth and Lab Technician Jim Zahara. Read on to learn a little more about Empire’s A-Team for a greater understanding of their brewing style and impressive liquid.

Tim Butler: Director of Brewing Operations

How long have you worked for Empire?
“Since 2007. I approached David looking for a position that would offer me growth and creativity.”

How long did you work for Middle Ages?
“6 years, from 2001 – 2007 I think. I worked at Towpath Brewery on Erie Blvd. before that, from 2000-2001.”

Can you remember your very first craft beer?
“I do actually, Pete’s Wicked Ale. I drank the whole thing before I passed judgment. I realized I liked bold hop flavors and in ‘97 I started brewing at home. Then I got the job brewing at Towpath.”

How would you describe your brewing style?
“Different. I dig creative, esoteric beers, utilizing original ingredients. I’m attracted to bold malty, hoppy styles with a dry finish, but I also like traditional style stouts and pale ales. I’d consider my style as a cross between English tradition and American innovation.”

What do traditional English, and American styles look like?
“English brews tend to have a dry finish, as they are brewed with hard water. I think American craft brewers take more chances, creating fuller, bolder flavors. The American craft beer scene is still relatively young. I started my brewing career at the beginning of the curve, I mean 15 years ago you would never find a S’mores Porter. Even when I experiment with new recipes, I’m always looking for a classic balance in my brews. I prefer big hop flavor over hop bitterness.”

How do you feel about being Empire’s Master Brewer on the verge of massive national and international expansion?
“I think I needed to get to this point to really feel like a success story. I’ve paid all my dues, I worked up through the ranks, and working in a beautiful new state-of-the-art automated brewery is really a dream come true. None of this would be possible without our Founder and President, David Katleski. As far as I’m concerned, I’ll retire from Empire. This is it.”

Where did you see yourself 20 years ago?
“Oh I had no clue. I was in the army, I thought about being an EMT, but realized it wasn’t the right fit. I developed a love for culinary culture and at one point I thought I wanted to be a chef. I started at Towpath as a chef, before becoming their brewer. I really got in on the ground floor of the craft beer industry, back in the late 90’s. I thought I saw an opportunity there, and I guess I was right.”

What’s your desert island beer?
Duvel original, it’s a Belgian Strong Golden. 8.5% I think.”

Why is this the best job ever?
“I love the people in this industry, everyone has a great sense of humor, and we’re all here to work hard and have a good time. Some people have a misconception that being a brewer is all about the party, but it’s really a job like any other. It takes a lot of work, a lot of hours. Events and promotions however, are a lot of fun.”

Ben Brotman: Head Brewer

How long have you worked for Empire?

“Since October 2015.”

How long did you work at Ithaca Brewery?
“2011-2013, it’s a system a little smaller than this.”

How long were you at Catskill Brewery?
“About 2.5 years. I was hired to help design, build and outfit that brewery and create all the recipes there.  And among many other things, I also delivered kegs to the Binghamton and Ithaca markets.”

How did you get into brewing?
“I actually started brewing in high school when I was 17. My friend’s father’s friend asked us if we wanted to use his home brewing kit. Not having ever heard of that before, we said, “Of course!”  We went to see George and Nancy at Home Sweet Homebrew in Philly and they got us off to a good start.  Our first batch was an extract pale ale and it turned out pretty good. I never stopped brewing after that. I got more serious in college, brewing with all grain and using a draft system. That was out in Washington where I got my Bachelor of Science degree. The craft beer scene was already huge there in the early 90’s. Right out of college I got a job at a brewery, Fish Brewing Co. in Olympia, WA. They’re still there today and doing well.”

How did your brewing style evolve?
“For the most part, I brew what I like to drink. My taste and appreciation is always evolving but mainly I go for hop forward styles.”

What did you see yourself doing 10 years ago?
“Ten years ago I had left the brewing industry and was doing habitat assessment for WA State Dept. of Fish & Wildlife. Even when I wasn’t brewing for work, I never stopped brewing beer, cider and mead at home. It really is what I love to do and that is why I got back into it 5 years ago.”

What is your desert island beer?
“If I was on a hot desert island surrounded by salt water  I would want a light bodied hoppy beer like a session IPA. I don’t think I would ever get sick of hops. Loads of hops and not overly malty.  Although Jolly Pumpkin’s La Roja wouldn’t get old on a desert island either.”

Why is this the best job ever?
“Building a brewery is complex and exciting and at the end of it all you finally get to brew and then drink the beer. What’s not great about that? For me, putting together a brewery is one of the best parts. The Empire Farm Brewery is a beautiful building, with a great group of people.”

Jon Rodriguez: Brewer

What’s your favorite color?
“Stainless steel”

How long have you been working for Empire?
“For about 2 months”

Where have you brewed in the past?
“I spent 2 years at Gordon Biersch, and before that I worked at Old Harbor Brewery in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I started in the front of the house at Old Harbor Brewery, but when the brewmaster needed an extra pair of hands I was eager to try it out. I wasn’t much of a beer drinker then.”

What did you brew at Old Harbor Brewer?
“We had 4 standards, a German Lager Halis, a German Pilsner, American Stout, and American Pale. The American craft beer scene is so creative, and I realized that there was so much one could do with beer styles and ingredients. I wanted that ability to create freely and I knew I wanted to continue brewing. There was no other career in mind.”

Where do you see yourself in another 20 years?
“Maybe I’ll open my own brewery someday.”

What’s your favorite beer style and how did your palate evolve?
“I love Belgians and Sours, but I didn’t always. I started with the lighter beers, eventually moving onto darker styles and then finally complicated brews with more character.”

What’s your desert island beer?
Anchor Celebrator, which is a German Doppelbock.”

You’re really into German styles…
“My original brewmaster was German, I have a lot of respect for the German Purity laws, they helped to shape my foundation as a brewer, and now I have the opportunity to expand on them.”

What did you want to be before you knew you wanted to brew?
“I thought I was going to be a civil engineer, or architectural draftsman. The engineering education has definitely helped the brewing process. When you understand your system, it’s much easier to troubleshoot your electrical and plumbing.”


Syracuse Brewpub

With the opening of the Empire Farm Brewery, the Empire brewpub on Armory Square can be utilized as an experimental facility for new recipes. Operating the original location are brewers Nat Ten Eyck, and Tim Dellas.

Nat Ten Eyck: Brewer

How long have you been working at Empire?
“Since 2009”

When did you know you loved beer?
“I spent 8 years in Colorado and really developed a love for good quality beers.”

Have you ever brewed before?
“My first brewing experience was at Empire Brewing Company. I actually used to work in the brewpub kitchen back in the day, but was promoted after expressing interest in the brewery.”

What are your feelings on the transition?
“It’s still surreal. I’m excited about the opportunity for growth and we are going to be brewing with some incredible brewers. There will be a tsunami of beer flowing from the new brewery, I can’t wait to see where it is going to go.”

How do you feel about the new capacity?
“Our core beers are obviously going to stick, but adding more variety will only help our sales team and events. Being able to get new and improved beer out into the market is only going to help our growth and creativity.”

Tim Dellas: Assistant Brewer

How long have you worked for Empire?
“Since March of 2016”

Have you ever brewed before?
“This was my first experience brewing on a commercial system, but I’ve been homebrewing for 5 years. I started with a pre-made kit to get the basic feel of the process and eventually moved onto grain. Working as a professional brewer is a big step”

What’s the biggest difference from homebrewing to joining the Empire team?
“Organization. It’s great to work with a process that has already been set in place. I’m excited to learn new styles”

What’s your personal beer style preference?
“My favorite style to brew and drink would be blonde ales and oatmeal stouts.”



IPA is a style that dates back to the English occupation of India.  Brewers used hops as a preservative to ensure their beer would last the slo journey, and arrive to their troops fresh and tasty. Slo Mo’ is our interpretation of a true  American IPA. Greater than a session but less than a double, Falconers Flight and Mosaic Hops convey bright, tropical and citrus notes with a crisp dry finish. Step back, slow down, and enjoy Slo Mo’.



Our most awarded and best-selling beer since 1994, Skinny Atlas Light is a crisp, Kölsch Style Ale. German Pilsner malt gives this beer a bright, golden color, reminiscent of its many Great American Beer Festival® medals. A beer that appeals to all palates, we invite you to judge our flagship for yourself. Go ahead and quench your thirst with a tall glass of Skinny.



For the first time in history, the Syracuse Men and Women’s Basketball teams have both made it to the Final Four in the NCAA tournaments! We’re celebrating down at the brewpub with the OTTOMEN EMPIRE BURGER SPECIAL! Get four cheddar sliders with a pint of our Otto Amber Ale for just $15, available now until the Women’s Championship Game, Tuesday April 5th!


If you’re really feeling like a champion, take the SLIDER SHOT CLOCK CHALLENGE! Finish all four sliders (not your beer) in two minutes or less, and the meal is on the house! *challenge available at the bar area only

White Aphro, coming soon to a bottle near you!



Initially developed to raise awareness and money for the artisanal breweries that were affected by the 2011 tsunami in Japan, White Aphro gained such tremendous popularity that we decided to package this style first.

NYC Beer Week ‘Sweet Fire’ Returns!


In 2014, on one particularly snowy January day we brought the folks that run some of our best accounts in NYC, who ended up becoming some of our best friends, to the brewery in Syracuse. Together we created and brewed a beer, now known as Sweet Fire. This beer is to be released exclusively at their bars during New York Craft Beer Week.

Three years later, this collaboration has turned into a tradition.

We love that the original brains behind the beer are still involved, including veterans Blind Tiger Ale HouseSpring Lounge, and Taproom 307.. and we also love tp throw new bars in the mix, to keep things interesting! This year we added Bob’s Your Uncle on the Upper West Side.


Read more about ‘Sweet Fire’ 2014 and 2015!


This imperial stout is brewed and fermented with cocoa nibs and a special chili blend, giving it a tantalizing chocolate aroma, and flavor with a heat that creeps onto the palate and builds into a beautiful balance of sweetness and spice. 8.5%

Get it while it’s hot


Enjoy this beer this during NYC Beer Week 2016, February 19th-28th at the following bars all week long:

Blind Tiger Alehouse – 281 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014

Spring Lounge – 48 Spring St, New York, NY 10012

Taproom 307 – 307 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10010

Bob’s Your Uncle – 929 Columbus Ave, New York, NY 10025

AND at the following NYCBW events:

Taproom 307, Monday Feb 22nd

NY Night at Valhalla, Tuesday Feb 23rd

Brewers Choice, Wednesday Feb 24th


Building Beer – Week 2

Week 2


Construction Continues

Another week of beautiful weather is behind us and this kept the earth moving on site at the Empire Farm Brewery. Unfortunately the rain that was much needed for our gardens put construction on hold for a few days…

Last week the guys continued to strip and pile top soil, pull stumps, prep the pad and work on the road. The road presented a problem with a low wet spot they couldn’t compact, but after a dozen loads of cobble stones they finally got it filled in and the road in place.


A Week of pumping water out of the wet area yielded little progress.


The road is in place for construction vehicles to access the building pad.













Heavy rain over the weekend presented it’s fair share of challenges.


A dozen loads of cobbles were delivered to fill in the wet area and give the sub base some substance.