Are you over 21?

*This uses cookies.

Get email updates about upcoming Empire events in your area!

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.”