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A sweet note from our beekeeper, it’s liquid gold!

Hey honey,

Going into my first summer of beekeeping I had not a clue of what I was getting myself into. After a bit of research and one Syracuse Beekeepers meeting I realized it would be a small part of my job. I told myself a half day of research and the rest of the day executing—no big deal. I had no idea it would turn into the best part of my day, week and job. I learned a lot too, like how to light a smoker, what a full bee suite felt like on a hot summer day, and what it’s like to move slow, simply observing a thriving colony made up of a thousand small beings.

It became something I shared, often. And I started to not only see my knowledge of honey bees grow, but my colleagues understanding grow as well. Co-workers started to eagerly join me in managing the hives and ask in-depth questions about new hive trends and late-summer swarming. I knew going into this that I was responsible for educating myself on this fascinating hobby but who knew I would have my Empire team behind me doing just the same.

Then something amazing happened, honey! In an unexpected turn of events I extracted ninety pounds of what I call “liquid gold.” Enough to supply our tasting room, make available for retail sale, and even enough to brew a small batch of honey beer at our Syracuse brewpub. (Drum roll) This is what I present to you. Our amazing brewers have crafted the most decedent honey brown-ale and it’s on tap at both of our locations for your drinking pleasure at a limited quantity. Deemed the “Backyard Buzz” this English-style brown-ale will send you into notes of chocolate and toffee, and leave you with a distinctive sweet honey roasted finish. We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it. Save the bees, drink Backyard Buzz!

Bee yourself,

Jackie Wood, Empire Beekeeper

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Empire’s Undercover Mission to Better Soil Quality

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After a successful first harvest of our 3 acres of 6-Row Barley, we shifted gears in our backyard farming to focus on soil quality! Post-harvest we have been using different methods to improve our soil through very specific organic practices.  There are three main ways to improve soil:  grow cover crops, dig in soil amendments like compost and manure and/or mulching with biodegradable mulches.

The barley we harvested scavenged significant amounts of nitrogen from the soil so it was important for us to plant crops that would restore nitrogen levels.  These nitrogen-fixing plants are in a family called legumes. An acre was planted using a seed blend of daikon radish, oats, and Austrian winter peas. The oats are for the peas to climb up, the peas are an edible winter pea that is a nitrogen-fixing legume and the radish’s spear-shaped roots work to break through tight sub-soils in a method called bio-drilling.

Half acre plots were seeded with winter barley, rye and wheat, all of which were under-seeded with clover, another nitrogen-fixing legume.  Aside from uses in our tasting room and brewery these cereal grains help soil through rhizodeposition.  Plants release sugars and other substances through their roots, pumping energy into the soil. Rye and oats can dig as far at 6ft into the ground reaching subsoils deeper than one would ever dig!

Lastly, four 100ft plots of spinach, kale, lettuce and radish were planted with OCCRA compost in an attempt at a late season vegetable garden.  We chose fast growing vegetables that can be harvested in less than 30 days with good weather and a little luck.  If they don’t reach maturation by the first signs of frost they will be tilled back into the soil to convert the plant’s nutrients back into soil.

“If I wanted to have a happy garden, I must ally myself with my soil; study and help it to the utmost, untiringly. Always, the soil must come first.”-  Marion Cran, If I Where Beginning Again

Thanks for reading, stay up to date on what’s growing on the farm through our blog, newsletter and social media platforms. Or visit us and see for yourself what’s what in the backyard beer garden!

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We’re hiring tour guides!

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Join our team! Empire Brewing Company is seeking to hire part-time tour guides for our Empire Farm Brewery. 

Job Description:

The ideal candidate is a friendly and outgoing individual, who is comfortable speaking in front of people, passionate about beer, and always willing to learn. This includes providing hospitality services and one-on-one interactions, which will ensure a positive, informative and quality experience that is memorable to all customers.

Responsibilities:

  • Respond accurately to consumer inquiries/complaints ensuring customer satisfaction
  • Ensure the safety and comfort of all customers during their visitation and reacts quickly and confidently in emergency situations
  • Additional duties and projects may be assigned

Preferred Qualifications:

  • Appreciation and knowledge of Craft Beer
  • Strong knowledge of Empire Brewing Company, its history and its products
  • Requires strong people skills and excellent verbal communication and presentation skills
  • Requires ability to learn and memorize information quickly
  • Must be able to present information in a pleasant, convincing and professional manner while maintaining an enthusiastic and entertaining attitude
  • Requires ability to work in fast-paced, high-pressure environment and a high level of adaptability to constant change.
  • Requires ability to walk long distances, climb stairs, and stand for long periods of time
  • Must be 21 years of age or older
  • Able to lift 50 Ibs.

Availability:

  • Must be able to work Saturday and Sunday 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM and other hours as needed.

Apply here

Barley Harvest

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What is barley?

Barley is a basic cereal grain, or grass seed used for making beer. There are three major types of barley, all of which are differentiated by the number of seeds at the top of the stalk. Barley seeds grow in two, four and six rows along the central stem. We grow six-row barley at the Empire Farm Brewery because it has a higher concentration of the enzymes needed to convert starch into sugar, and is actually more economical to grow.

When is the barley ready for harvest?

We must ensure that the grain is ready to harvest. The first indicator is simply visual, barley turns from green to golden when it’s ready to harvest. The color change indicates that the barley is beginning to lose its moisture and should be cut soon. Harvest time for barely can range from August to early October. The weather during the growing season can significantly impact harvest dates. Moisture level however, is the most important factor when considering harvest. Barley is ready for harvest when the moisture level is below 18%.

Ready, set, harvest!

The combine passes over the barley, cutting the stalks from the ground, and internally processing the grain. In a matter of seconds the barley has gone from stalks in the field to berries, or hulled barley seeds. At this point, the grain is nearly ready for beer production.

Where is the barley being tested?

The 5 1/2 ton totes of grain are hauled away to Pioneer Malting Inc. in Rochester, NY for testing. Pioneer Malting Inc. is a craft malt house that produces malted grains for the brewing and distilling industries. As a smaller malt company, Pioneer Malting Inc. can create a malt specifically customized to the needs of our brewers at Empire Farm Brewery. Regular malt testing is just one of the steps Empire Farm Brewery takes to ensure the quality and consistency of every Empire craft pint. Cheers! IMG_4703

 

Empire Brewing Company attended the Great British Beer Festival in London

Empire Brewing Company headed across the pond last week for The Great British Beer Festival (GBBF), which was held at the Olympia Exhibition Center in London from August 9th to 13th. Over 55,000 participants sampled upwards of 900 styles of ‘Real Ales’ (How the British describe English craft beer), ciders, and international beers throughout the week.

Owner David Katleski was on hand to personally help pour and promote Empire as part of a delegation from the United States Brewers Association. The Brewers Association helped a number of American craft beers gain international exposure, and throughout the week bottles of Slo Mo’ IPA, White Aphro, Black Magic Stout and Skinny Atlas Light were offered. Black Magic Stout and Skinny Atlas are both former winners from the World Beer Cup, and were incredibly well received by our friends in Great Britain. The week was a stunning success, and Empire is gearing up for distribution in Europe in the near future!

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Involvement with international craft beer is no stranger to Katleski. In 2015, Empire Brewing Company collaborated with Jingwei Fu Tea company of China to produce Two Dragons, a beer brewed with the Chinese black tea. Two Dragons is currently being bottled and kegged at the Empire Farm Brewery, and is set for distribution in China later this fall along with the White Aphro and Slo Mo’ IPA.

Empire Brewing Company was founded in 1994 in Syracuse, New York, and recently opened a 60 barrel farm brewery and tasting room in Cazenovia, NY. The new Empire Farm Brewery enables bottling the award-winning ales and lagers for the first time. The 22-acre farm brewery is capable of growing hops, lavender, vegetables, herbs, and fruits for use in the brewing process and to support the needs of both the Syracuse brewpub and Cazenovia tasting room.

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Hoperations at Empire Farm Brewery

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After a late start on hop planting at the Empire Farm Brewery we have been working hard to ensure these young plants can endure a Central New York winter. Weeding, soil amendments, and training have been the name of our hop game. Let’s take a closer look at what these methods do for our favorite perennial plant:

Weed control has proven to be the most time-consuming task in the hop yard. Weeds compete with hops for nutrients in the soil and also restrict airflow causing damp conditions that foster disease like downy mildew. Surprisingly, there are very few organic methods of weed control aside from hand weeding. UVM’s 2015 Hop Weed Management Trial states that, “While relatively effective, hand weeding has taken as much as 200 cumulative hours of labor per acre per year.” The good news is that our weeding efforts will pay off when our hops are established enough to ward off weeds.  Did you know a hop plant can send roots up to fifteen feet into the ground?!

Soil amendment refers to any material mixed into the soil. For us this means compost. OCCRA has provided us with the best USCC Certified organic compost in the area (see photo above). Compost offers numerous benefits as a soil amendment. It adds nutrients to the soil to promote plant health, retains moisture, and suppresses the spread of disease and weeds. There are similar benefits to the application of compost tea. Compost tea is just as it sounds, it’s the act of steeping compost in water. At the farm we use the method of fertigation to evenly distribute the tea (see photo below).

Lastly, one of the largest factors in strengthening hop bines and promoting growth is training. Training involves wrapping three or four bines in a clockwise direction around each string. The bines are trained clockwise to follow the sun as it rises and sets. Since, we have seen significant growth in a number of plants, the largest bine reaching well over seven feet! If you think that’s exciting we are also seeing flowering and the start of hop cones, but more on that in the coming month.

Even with a late planting this season we have been busy cultivating healthy soil and a system of organic practices in the hop yard. Be sure to stop by the farm before the end of summer to see our young hops while enjoying our award-winning handcrafted ales and lagers!
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Happy National IPA Day!

Today is #NationalIPADay! It’s the hoppiest day of the year! Join us as we celebrate one of craft beer’s most iconic styles: India Pale Ale.
India Pale Ale, also referred to as IPA, is a hoppy pale ale that has become the most popular beer style in the craft beer industry. The style originates in England when brewers began exporting their beer to colonial India. Traditional beer styles would spoil in hot cargo ships over the course of the long journey. Brewers then began to experiment with more malt to increase the alcohol content, and more hops which acted as a natural preservative… thus IPA was born!

On Thursday August 4th we’ll be offering $3 pints of our original IPA and $4 pints of our SLO MO’ IPA at our Syracuse and Cazenovia locations. Get hoppy with us on National IPA Day!

What IPAs will you find at Empire?

ORIGINAL IPA 7.2% ABV
Our American IPA, hopped heavily w/ 6 kettle additions of Falconers Flight. It has a citrus aroma and a bright earthy flavor, with just the right amount of malt balance.

SLO MO’ IPA 6.5% ABV
Slo Mo’ IPA is a true American IPA brewed with a blend of Falconer’s Flight and Mosaic Hops to convey bright tropical citrus notes for a crisp dry finish.

Ladybugs Released in Hop Yard at Empire Farm Brewery

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Today we employed thousands of mail order ladybugs to aid with pest control in our hop yard.  Ladybugs are known as “beneficials” or insects that only eat landscape pests.  Their life cycle, from egg to adult, takes 4-7 weeks.  Adult ladybugs and their larvae will help to rid the yard of mites and other harmful pests.  In addition to the ladybug release we also sprinkled a mite predator called Neoseiulus fallacis, these hard to see bugs are highly effective in eradicating spider mites.  We can sleep easy tonight knowing these little guys are hard at work keeping our hops pest (and chemical) free!

Empire Brewing Company Rejuvenates NYS Hop Culture

19th Century bricks lay the foundation of a modern Empire

It was 1808 when James Coolidge planted the first commercial US hop yard in the fertile terrain of Madison County less than 20 miles from the Empire Farm Brewery in Cazenovia, NY. It wasn’t long before Coolidge began transporting his hops to New York City, catalyzing an industry that would soon sweep the nation. Two hundred years later, Empire Brewing Company inspires a new chapter in Madison County’s rich hop heritage. Empire Brewing Company set an example with their Empire State Pale Ale, the first beer made with 100% NYS ingredients in over 50 years. Last week, 2 acres of Cascade hops were planted at the Empire Farm Brewery, but much more will be needed for the production of their award winning ales and lagers. Hop farms in Central New York diminished after a decade of national temperance, but local farms are finally experiencing a revival due to the recent popularity of local craft breweries.

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In the late 19th century, Central New York was producing annual hop yields of more than 21 million pounds, over 80% of the nation’s hop supply. An accommodating agricultural climate coupled with the accessibility of the Erie Canal stimulated a brewery boom in Central New York from 1850 until Prohibition. With a steady supply and an increasing demand, a strong hop culture developed in Madison County. At the peak of production in 1890, hops sold for $1 a pound. Men, women and children would temporarily leave their factory jobs to move onto hop farms for 3 weeks of harvest season in late August. Flowers were picked from the hop bine and then transferred to “hop houses” where the hop cones would be dried and processed. At night, laborers would play music and socialize in the hop houses, a festivity known as a “hop dig”. Hop houses from the 1800’s can still be found along the Madison County Hop Trail.

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With over 20 breweries in Syracuse, NY, brewing was the second largest industry in the state pre-prohibition, second only to salt mining. Haberle Brewery, the longest surviving local Syracuse brewery, was established in 1857. Known for their popular “Congress” lager, Haberle produced as much as 100,000 BBLs of beer annually. When the National Prohibition Act was passed in 1920, production came to a halt. The price of hops dropped to 10 cents a pound, and the very last hop yard in Madison County shut down in 1950. Haberle Brewery shifted to non-alcoholic beverages during prohibition, but unable to maintain the new business model, they finally closed their doors in 1961. The Haberle brewery was dismantled 5 years ago, but a stockpile of bricks survived and Empire Brewing Company jumped at the chance to repurpose them. Now, this piece of history constitutes the outdoor patio at the Empire Farmstead Brewery, paying homage to local craft culture before them.

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After 50 years, Foothill Farms in Munnsville, NY was the first to reintroduce local hops to Madison County in 2001. Other farmers started to catch on and by 2010 there were 35 acres of commercial hop yards in New York State. The Farm Brewery Law passed in 2013 allowed hop farmers to produce and sell beer on site, and also incentivized brewers to source their ingredients from NYS. Today, New York boasts over 300 acres of hops, 280 breweries and 900,000 BBLs of beer per year. New York State is well on its way back to becoming a leader of the brewing industry with the support of local breweries like Empire Brewing Company and local farmers.

E-Piary installed at Empire Farm Brewery

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The honey bees have arrived at Empire Farm Brewery! A big thanks to Scott Ouderkirk at River Road Farm in Hammond, New York for cultivating the hives over the past year. Our apiary, or what we like to call our “e-piary,” will play a large role on the farm as key pollinators for lavender, wild flowers, fruits, and vegetables grown on site and also supply raw, natural, estate honey for our kitchen and brewery.

Beekeeper, Scott Ouderkirk made the trip with 4 full hives. Each hive has two deep boxes and one medium (for all you beekeepers out there), on an open trailer. Upon arrival Scott walked us through the process of setting up a fifth beehive by using a split. A beehive split is made by dividing an existing colony into two parts. From the existing hive the split is given frames of honey, brood, worker bees, and drones to imitate a normal nest structure but is left missing one huge factor, a QUEEN! Once the new hive recognizes that it is without a queen the worker bees will choose several of the existing small larvae and feed them ample amounts of royal jelly into specially made queen cells. This will trigger the genes necessary for the nascent queen to develop ovaries, which is needed in order to lay eggs and grow the new colony.

Upon the split a month long process begins before a queen is ready to take her throne and start producing eggs (a throne she is able to keep for as long as six years!)

What’s a beekeeper to do during these 4 weeks? WAIT and mark the calendar for very specific days to be opening the hive for observation.  Update: Just four days after the split, queen cells have been formed and capped, which is a sure sign the hive is working to make a queen to sustain in its new home in our backyard.

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We’re excited to buzz about our experiences in the e-piary as we continue to learn and grow. Stay tuned for more updates on our newsletter, blog and social media platforms!