Empire Brewing getting federal support for Cazenovia expansion

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) shows of Empire Brewing's new bottle. He was in Armory Square Monday morning, to announce he's pushing for a federal rural development grant that would help Empire brew more and bottle beer, at its Cazenovia farm expansion

Syracuse Armory Square-based Empire Brewing is in line to get a $200-thousand federal grant to help its planned expansion to Cazenovia.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) was at the Armory Square restaurant/brewery on Monday morning, to say he's calling Agriculture Secretery Tom Vilsack, to urge that the project get the rural development grant. He also premiered the bottle design that Empire would use to retail its craft beers statewide.

"The expansion," the Senator says, "would make it possible for Empire first, to grow their own hops, bottle their own beer, and then ship the beer to grocery store shelves around the state."

For the past four years, Empire founder/owner David Katleski has been working with a Brooklyn brewer to make more of his product and distribute it, on tap, to restaurants and pubs statewide. He has bought 22 acres--now empty fields--along Route 13, south of Lorenzo, to develop into a 'brew farm' which would include a brewery and bottling facility, as well as a cellar where they'd age some varieties in oak barrels. He also plans to grow the ingredients for his beers, and let the public come in to taste as well as to see how it's done.

"People can come and they can touch hops and see how they're grown," says Katleski."They can touch barley and see what rye is and what it looks like. We make a beer with lavender, so we're gonna have a significant lavender patch there." He is also planning an apiary (honey is used in some beers), and the farm will also grow some of the fruits and vegetables used in the restaurant.

There is also a plan to work with Meadows Farm, just across Route 13. Owner Jerry Wilson tells us he pointed out the possible expansion site. He raises American Wagyu (kobe) beef, and the brewery will 'dispose' of its spent grains there. That means Meadows can cut its hay production by about 35%, says Wilson. Katleski says it'll mean the herd will have warm grain to eat, through the cold winter months.

Empire Brewery has been in business in Armory Square for 20 years, and Katleski says the landmark would stay, even with the expansion. If anything, he says, it will make the Syracuse location more creative. They'd brew more limited edition craft beers in Syracuse, and make their 'workhorse' popular varieties, and bottle them, in Cazenovia.

Even with the expectation of the federal grant, the expansion is not a done deal: the banks are still working on financing, but Katleski hopes to have that done so he can break ground in the next 30 days, and be in business in Cazenovia by next spring.

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