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By: David Katleski, founder, Empire Brewing Company

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The success of Downtown Syracuse, in particular Armory Square, has been at the forefront of my interest and business priority since 1992. When Empire Brewing Company first opened its doors on November 3rd, 1994 I think we paid $3 per square foot; a fair rent at the time for a basement. And over the past quarter-century and five different landlords we have watched Armory Square grow into something remarkable. Local business people interested in creating a unique entertainment and shopping district of downtown primarily developed Armory Square, fostering the character we see today.


While I applaud the investments being made in Syracuse by outsiders, it’s concerning to see some negotiations are not done for the betterment of our city but solely for personal interest. I am not a proponent of increased regulations but I do believe that a structured growth plan for Armory Square is prudent. Now outside developers purchasing buildings are doubling and tripling tenant rents. Solid businesses are being forced out of their locations as a type of cleansing because they are not able to sustain the new occupancy costs or don’t fit within the landlord’s grand scheme.

Such is the case with Empire Brewing Company in Armory Square. Prior to the Armory Boys acquisition of our buildings Empire paid an average of $10 per square foot; a fair rent for a basement space. When the Armory Boys purchased the buildings, they raised our occupancy costs to average $33 per square foot. Rather than being evicted, and lose 50 jobs, we moved forward optimistically hoping to conquer these economic challenges and remain a cornerstone of Armory Square. Empire has paid over $300,000 more in rent and additional charges in the past 24 months versus the 24 months prior. It is simply not reasonable to expect Empire, occupying less then 20% of the total leasable space, to pay 100% of the Landlord’s mortgage.


In addition, an extensive punch list of landlords required work in the brewpub has gone unfinished. When I was promised an increase in business by having them as our landlord the opposite has occurred. We were promised full tenancy in the two buildings and the opposite has occurred with increased vacancy. Renovations to the Piper Phillips Building went well beyond the projected construction timeframe and during the past two-years of construction we were forced to deal with constant operational disruptions, construction noise and renovation dust, with no rent concessions whatsoever. Empire has been operating for the past 6 months without a Certificate of Occupancy because the buildings sprinkler system is not to code.


The economics of the lease is unsustainable and has caused deficits at the brewpub. Having to pay three times the occupancy cost forced us to cut labor at the sacrifice of service, decrease portion sizes and increase prices, which caused us to fall short on the customer experience that we strive to deliver. The occupancy cost has made it impossible to invest profits back into the business for marketing, renovations and upgrades. We were current on all charges up until August when I asked the Armory Boys for rent concessions; if they wanted Empire to continue as a tenant, we needed a 3-month rent abatement (just rent, not taxes and utilities) and a revised rent structure moving forward.

Tuesday night Jeffrey Appel, managing partner for Armory Boys, LLC locked the gate and all access to Empire without a NYS court order and took possession of all of the contents including perishables, beer, liquor, tenant property and employee personal items.

In as much as I love operating the brewpub in Armory Square, it pains me to admit that we are at a significant impasse with the Armory Boys and will be closed indefinitely. Losing nearly 50 jobs at the pub also pains me greatly.


Over a thousand people have worked at Empire on Walton Street during the past 25 years and each have helped us create and serve award-winning beers and critically acclaimed foods. Thank you to all that have worked here and all that have patronized Empire’s brewpub. November 3rd will be our 25th anniversary. Please raise a glass of your favorite Empire beer in remembrance of the pub and join us in celebrating a quarter century of business.

Oktoberfest 2019

Hey fellow fall lovers… this one is for you!

Next Saturday, October 12th, will be our second annual Oktoberfest at Empire Farm Brewery. Join us dressed in your best Oktoberfest attire from 12-3 pm for an afternoon of family fun activities.

Participants will have a chance to compete in our annual Bratwurst Eating Competition at 12:30. Those of you with a craving German cuisine, check out our specials on the board. While eating lunch, enjoy the musical styling of Valdaniel & friends from 1-3pm. Don’t forget to burn off lunch with our keg toss at 1:30. For our kinder guests we will be offering face painting and have games set up outside including corn hole and more!


Prizes will be available throughout the afternoon so don’t forget to dress your best!

On draft we will be serving our award winning Oktoberfest Ale! The Oktoberfest is a tradional Marzen brewed with German lager yeast and has a mild hop profile with a sweet, clean, and crisp malt flavor. Fresh on draft are some of our other seasonal favorites, including, the Pumpkin Ale and Space Witch DIPA.

Prost Freunde!

Hop Harvest @ The Farm

It’s all hands on deck as summer comes to an end at Empire Farm Brewery. All summer long we have been growing beautiful Cascade hops in our two-acre hop field out front. These hops aren’t just for aesthetic; this year our brewers gathered 500 lbs of the hops and brought them down to the Bineyard in Cazenovia, NY. Only 24 hours after the Bine Yard processed our hops, they were added to our Hop Harvest Ale.

Our Hop Harvest Ale is an American style Pale Ale made with wet hops. This style ale has a fresh hop flavor and aroma with a balanced hop bitterness. We will proudly be serving the Hop Harvest Ale along with our Reverse Viking Imperial Stout at this years Madison County Hop Fest’s Craft Beer Sampling on September 14th. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased at entrance or at Food for the Hop Fest will be available between 12-2pm, while the beer pouring will take place between 2-5pm.

Keep your eyes out for the Hop Harvest Ale at Empire Farm Brewery! See you there and happy sipping!

Introducing this season’s summer ale: Bedrock Wit It!

Prepare yourself for confusing delight- this traditional wit ale has a big twist. We teamed up with Glazed and Confused to bring you Bedrock Wit It. Empire’s Director of Brewing Operations, Tim Butler, and owner of Glazed and Confused, Paulie Valenti, met up to collab. The duo discussed a variety of flavors before finally settling on the popular Cereal Killer Donut for inspiration. The Cereal Killer donut is a vanilla cake doughnut with a honey glaze that is topped with fruity pebbles.

Brewer Matt Ducey weighs in, “This collaboration is really exciting. It gives us the chance brew some playful beers. Bedrock Wit It will be a great brunch beer. I cant wait to see what comes next, hopefully it’s what the fluff.”  Glazed and Confused supplied us with 3 dozen Cereal Killer donuts and 30 lbs of Fruity Pebbles. This seasonal brew is available at both Empire Locations while supplies last, so get it before it’s gone!


This is one of several collaborations Empire has done with local businesses around New York State. In the past we have worked with Café Kubal to bring you Local Grind Scotch Ale, as well as the Community Beer Works that produced Smoke N’ Shadows Porter. Our collaborations are some of our most iconic and beloved ales and we look forward to many more.

Yabba Dabba Doo and happy drinking!

Farm to Table




Summertime at the farm means fresh veggies delivered straight to your plate. Empire Farm Brewery sits on 22 acres of land and features five vegetable gardens and one herb garden. So far this year we have harvested snap peas, green tomatoes, purple basil, cucumbers, watermelon radishes, icicle radishes, and honey drew. We get chives and cilantro from our herb garden. Our crops are used in a variety of ways, from daily specials to award winning Empire ales and lagers.

Our general manager, Bre Barzee, had a vision for these gardens and has brought them to life. Every week before work Bre comes in early and tends to the gardens. She has been in charge of planting the seeds, weeding, and picking the final product. The satisfaction of delivering true farm freshness is something that cannot be obtained overnight.


“We chose vegetables we knew we could utilize in the kitchen and sell to our guests. All of the crops we planted are heirloom from the Michigan Gardener.”


For those of you who are interested in planting your own garden at home we’ve asked Bre for her best gardening tip. According to Bre, “We add worm casing to the soil which adds extra nutrients.” Happy gardening everybody!

Haberle Brewing Company Launch Event

Did you know that Empire Brewing Co. built the Empire Farm Brewery with bricks that once formed an original brewery 100 years ago? The brewery was known as the Haberle Brewing Company and they are back! Empire Brewing Co. has been working with Haberle Brewing Company, to produce the Haberle Congress Lager and the Haberle Derby Cream Ale. To celebrate the re-opening of Haberle Brewing Company, Empire Farm Brewery will be hosting a launch party on Saturday, July 27th from 1-4 p.m.

Don’t be late, the first 25 guests will receive Congress branded pint glasses! Free tastings of both Congress and the upcoming Derby Cream Ale will be served and pint servings will be available at reduced prices. Light appetizers will be available throughout the event and the musical styling of Jamie Cunningham will be from 2-4 pm.


The event will take place in our farm cellar. Our cozy cellar comfortably seats 75 people and features a quaint outdoor space. Surrounded by beer aging barrels, our guests can enjoy a game of pool or foosball, or admire our vintage radio collection.






Monday, June 24th our Farm location celebrated 3 years of business! To celebrate, we wanted to thank all of our customers who continue to support Empire Brewing Co. Those who came out enjoyed dollar off pints as well as two specialty beer cocktails all weekend long. The cocktails included the refreshing Deep Purple Lemonade and the decadent Stout Shake! Additionally customers had the option of ordering from our special Taco Tent.


Since day one Empire Brewing Co. has been dedicated to producing interesting and unique craft beers. For the last three years, Empire Farm Brewery has made that dream a bigger and better reality than ever before. The Farm has an impressive 60-barrel system that allows Empire to keg, bottle and distribute craft beer regionally, nationally, and internationally. Since we first opened our doors in 2016, the Farm has been determined to bring farm freshness to every meal. Locally sourced products, carefully crafted beer, and vibrant atmosphere make Empire Farm Brewery one of a kind.

Cheers to 3 years- from our family to yours!



Girl Scout Cookie Beer Pairing 2018

Join Empire Brewing Company for our 3rd annual Girl Scout Cookie Pairing! Each cookie has been thoughtfully paired with a 6oz pour of one of Empire’s tasty handcrafted brews that are sure to tantalize your taste buds. The fun starts at the Syracuse brewpub on Monday, March 19th.

Local Grind paired with a S’more
Black Magic Stout paired with a Thin Mint
Tog Grog paired with a Samoa
Cream Ale paired with a Trefoil
White Aphro paired with a Savannah Smile
Deep Purple paired with a Tagalong

This tasty pairing is only available while supplies last, indulge your sweet tooth and head to the Syracuse brewpub! See you there.

Particle City

Empire Brewing Company limited releases Particle City for the first time in 16oz cans!

Empire Brewing Company released Particle City at both their Farm and Brewpub on March 1. Back by popular demand, this brew made its debut in January of 2017. It’s local success on draft and rave reviews from brew fests throughout New York made it an obvious candidate for a specialty-canned brand. Still coasting off the demand from last year, the majority of Empire’s Particle City can inventory was presold to Wegmans, but the local supermarket chain didn’t stop there. Over 50 Wegmans representatives actually came out to Cazenovia on February 27th, 2018 for “Empire Beer School” and lent a hand on the packaging line. Particle City will be available at most Wegmans locations throughout New York as part of their Freshest Beer Program.

North Eastern Style IPAs, widely referred to as a New England Style IPA or NEIPA, have been gaining attention for years. In May of 2017, Beer Advocate called NEIPA an “official style”, as they had undoubtedly become an integral player in the mainstream craft market. Recognizing the rising popularity, Empire’s Director of Brewing Operations, Tim Butler, decided to throw his hat in the ring and developed Empire first NEIPA recipe.

“A ton of research went into this beer from small batch to the 90 Bbl batch that we brewed for this launch.” Brewer Tim Butler recalls. “Particle City was brewed with healthy 5 lbs. of hops per barrel, which is our highest hop/beer ratio to date. I knew from the first sip out of the fermenter that Particle City was destined to be a hit. It was exactly what I wanted, we really nailed it.”

If you expect this hop bomb to be super bitter, think again. Known for their bright hop aroma and citrus flavors, North Eastern IPA’s are not as bitter as you might think. Bittering hops, which give a bitter hop flavor, are added early on at the very beginning of the boil. “I really backed off the bittering hops with Particle City,” Tim explained. “Instead, I focused on introducing the hops in the whirlpool and as late dry hop additions.”

The resulting brew is aromatic and bright, with tropical flavors and a big juicy mouth-feel that only Citra and Mosaic hops can deliver. New York State flaked oats, late whirlpool additions and a three stage dry hop give this unmistakable North Eastern style IPA an iridescent haze but don’t be alarmed, it’s just Particle City. 8% ABV


NY’s Latest Craft Collab, Smoke N’ Shadows

Pictured left to right, Tim Butler, Ethan Cox & Ryan Delmer

Later this week, millions of people will be tuning in to see what Puxatony Phil thinks about the weather. This Groundhog Day, Empire Brewing Company and Community Beer Works take the pressure off groundhogs everywhere with a promise everyone can look forward to.

Longtime friends and fellow NY brewers from Empire Brewing Co and Community Beer Works have joined forces to bring you New York’s latest craft collaboration, Smoke N’ Shadows, available this Groundhog Day. Munich and Vienna malts were hand-smoked with cherry wood in Empire’s on-site smoker for three days. The smoked malts were then blended with other specialty malts to give this rich porter a smooth, subtle, smoky flavor.

Community Beer Works is NY’s first nano brewery, making (really good) beer in (very) small batches since 2012. They believe that if they build community in all the things they do, good things will happen. Empire Brewing Company was founded in the heart of downtown Syracuse in 1994 but has since expanded to become the largest Farm Brewery on the east coast, recently named judges’ choice for ‘Best Brewery in Upstate NY, 2017’. Far from fair-weather friends, the collaboration between Empire Brewing Co and Community Beer Works is a demonstration of the brotherhood of brewers. Hard work, perseverance and passion are industry standards.

Founder and “Main Instigator” of Community Beer Works in Buffalo, NY, Ethan Cox, sheds some light on the origin of the collaboration: “Dave and I have been friends for a long time and we both serve on the NYSBA board. We have always talked about doing a collaboration together but it got serious when the Empire Farm Brewery in Cazenovia opened. I love how the idea evolved, Tim Butler stepped up to say ‘I want to smoke some malt, we have a killer smoker at the farm’, and that was the cherry on top.”

Ethan Cox and Head of Brewing Operations, Ryan Delmer, joined Empire’s founder, David Katleski, and Director of Brewing Operations, Tim Butler, at the Empire Farm Brewery mid-January for the first 50BBL batch of Smoke N’ Shadows.

“It’s fun to work with these guys and get them in-house.” Tim Butler said of his buddies at Community Beer Works. “It’s been a longtime coming for us, anticipated for many years over many beers.”

Demler agrees, adding that they’ve been, “Talking about opportunities and always looking forward to the collaboration. Tim and I have drunkenly joked about it for years!”

Thirsty yet? The Smoke N’ Shadows collaboration will be made available this Groundhog Day, regardless of the forecast. Look for this limited release on draft in Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse. Don’t miss out, the liquid won’t last long!