Pioneer Syracuse Craft Brewery Celebrates Quarter Century Amid Changing Beer Styles

Syracuse, NY – In 1995, beers like lagers and porters were considered state of the art among American drinkers.

Today, in a world of hazy IPAs, fruity sours, and pastry stouts, they’re definitely old-fashioned.

This transformation is on display Sunday as the oldest autonomous craft brewery in Syracuse, Middle Ages, celebrates a quarter of a century by offering both old and new styles with its annual birthday party.

The party is free and open to the public from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Leavenworth Park on the city’s West Side. It’s across the street from the brewery at 120 Wilkinson St. Bring cash for food and beer. You can also set up your portable chairs and listen to a full day of live music. (More details below).

Middle Ages Brewing has technically been in business for 26 years, but they missed the opportunity to celebrate the 25th anniversary with a party last year due to the Covid 19 pandemic.

Isaac Rubenstein, who now runs the brewery founded by his parents, calls it the “25th Anniversary Take 2”.

This year’s anniversary beer touches many hallmarks of today’s craft beer scene: it’s a New England-style IPA, hazy of course, brewed with Sabro, El Dorado, and Citra hops and finished with mango and pineapple.

Marc and Mary Rubenstein began in the Middle Ages when such businesses were called “microbreweries”, at least half a decade before the term “craft beer” became mainstream. The aim was to offer an alternative to the domination of so-called “sparkling yellow beers” like Bud, Miller and Coors.

They named the brewery Middle Ages because they believed they were entering their own middle years, and because they had a common fondness for all things medieval and for the type of humor shown in the movie “Monty”. Python and the Holy Grail ”.

The Middle Ages have always been a little different. He focused specifically on beers brewed in the classic British tradition. This meant styles like “bitter,” based on the long-standing standard beers served in UK pubs.

Their first beers had names like Grail Ale, Beast Bitter, and ImPaled Ale.

As part of this goal, the Middle Ages at the time only brewed beers, not lagers, and used a particular strain of English ale yeast called Ringwood. They used an open fermentation system, already unusual at the time, in which they skimmed the live yeast off the top of each batch to prepare future ones.

In one of the most significant changes in medieval history, he no longer uses Ringwood yeast or the open fermentation system. They’ve been brewing other styles, like lagers and hazy IPAs, with different yeasts for years, but during the pandemic they ditched the old yeast even for older beers still in the lineup.

“We just weren’t making enough beer during Covid to keep this yeast alive,” Isaac Rubenstein said. “So we made the transition. “

Some longtime fans may notice the subtle change, but many brewery patrons haven’t – or at least haven’t mentioned it, Rubenstein said. The new yeast for older beers is always the right one for British ales. And, with closed fermentation systems, it’s easier and safer to swap different yeasts for lagers and other beers.

Isaac Rubenstein has started to take over the brewery’s operations in recent years. His mother, Mary, died in 2018. In 2019, Isaac commanded most of the fire while his father, Marc, remained as a sort of senior advisor.

It was at this point that Isaac started to move the brewery to more modern styles while keeping some of the longtime favorites in the mix.

Today, he said, older styles account for around 70% of the brewery’s total sales volume, thanks in large part to Syracuse Pale Ale, introduced in the late 1990s. in many local bars, restaurants and shops.

The Middle Ages are now following a course in which many of its “new” beers have a shorter shelf life. A series called Single Batch changes the recipe with each iteration. It started about five years ago and they are now on Single Batch # 46.

“I think we have a good mix of traditional and new beers,” Rubenstein said. “Something for everyone.”

Read more: Like father, like son: a Syracuse brewery goes from traditions to trends

The Middle Ages Brewery’s annual birthday party takes place on the first Sunday in August each year at Leavenworth Park, Syracuse. (Photo by Gary Walts).Gary Walts

THE DETAILS

What: 26th anniversary celebration of the medieval brewery

When: 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday August 1

Or: Leavenworth Park, across from the brewery at 120 Wilkinson St.

Beer and food: Middle Ages will have its full line of beers available for sale, including its 26th Anniversary Ale. Food provided by Limp Lizard, Food Truck Rescue, Wolf’s Patio Pizza, Danny’s Steaks, Toss n Fire, and Skippy’s Ice Cream.

Music: Vaporeyes, 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. Dirty blanket, 3:20 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Maybirds, 4:50 p.m. to 6 p.m. Dark Hollow, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

As well: Portable chairs welcome. No food or drink outside. Coolers and bags subject to search.

Don Cazentre writes about craft beer, wine, spirits and beverages for NYup.com, syracuse.com and The Post-Standard. Reach it at [email protected], or follow him on NYup.com, to Twitter Where Facebook.