{Locavore Challenge} a locavore’s guide to booze

When it comes to being a “locavore,” it seems like food gets all the spotlight. People aren’t quite as conscious about what they are drinking. I know that the produce grown on and around my farm are the best anywhere, but sometimes I forget that the delicious beverages that accompany this produce on my table are also homegrown, right here within 100 miles of my little abode. Amazing! To me, that’s one of the best parts of being a locavore – discovering things in your own backyard that might have been overlooked. When you restrict where your food comes from, you become more inventive. You eat better not only because of the innate benefits of locavorism, but also because you have a deeper appreciation for food and how it is prepared. It seems somehow more precious. You think outside the box a bit more, contemplating how this ingredient and that ingredient might come together and form something new, something distinctive, something interesting. Hmm, I wonder if I can marinate that chicken in that wine and local honey I scored at the Swap? Let’s try it… Or, well, I’ve got corn and I’ve got apples… looks like corn fritters with apple relish for dinner. When you take this mentality and apply it to what you’re drinking, you start to develop all new flavor pairings and profiles than make you wonder why the hell you didn’t think of this earlier!

There are several (dozens, even) breweries, distilleries and wineries around the Capital Region, and even some great stops for old-fashioned sodapop and creamy milk. This list could go on forever. Today, I’m offering up a small sampling of what is available within 100 miles of Albany, NY in terms of drink. I plan to continuously add to this list, so I hope you’ll bookmark it, add it to your favorites bar, or leave a little note on your bedside table that read, “Don’t Forget: Check out Deanna’s post on local booze again.” If you have a favorite not on this list, please leave me a note in the comments or holler at me on Twitter. I’ll try to include your suggestions in the updates! In the meantime, happy (and safe) drinking.

Altamont Vineyard and Winery

Altamont, NY 

A small-production winery that grows its own grapes and imports grapes from around New York State, Altamont Vineyard and Winery offers
about eight different wines. Go for a tour or order wine online and host a tasting of local wine along with some local cheese and nuts!

What to Try: Leon Millot Reserve or Traminer Aromatica/Gewurztraminer (pronounce it Gah-VURHZ-trah-meen-er).

Drink it With: Pair the Leon Millot Reserve with braised shortribs. Pair the Gewurztraminer with spicy enchiladas or chicken-corn chowder.


The Saratoga Winery

Saratoga Springs, NY

Part winery, part cozy neighborhood wine bar, there is surely a wine to please all palates at The Saratoga Winery. Nearly 20 value-priced offerings compose the wine list at the Spa-city hangout, but the horseracing-themed vinos create the perfect trifecta of tasting. Grab some friends, a glass of your favorite flavor, and listen to some local jams while you unwind after a long day at the Track.

What to Try: The Steeplechase

Drink it With: Fresh potato chip with herbed salt and bleu cheese


Berkshire Mountain Distillers

Great Barrington, MA

This award-winning distillery has made waves in the liquor world in the past four years. Berkshire Mountain Distillers sources its materials and ingredients as locally as possible to craft offerings like seasonally-based Gins, corn and “Bourbon”-style Whiskies, Rum, and Vodka. The company’s website includes a fabulous library of cocktail recipes, I highly recommend you have a look. Spirits from Berkshire Mountain Distillers are readily available.

What to Try: The Greylock Gin (or if you are a real Gin lover – like me! – try the Ethereal Gin)

Drink it With: Cane sugar syrup and a squeeze of lime over ice for a perfect Gin Gimlet.


Tuthilltown Spirits

Gardiner, NY

Tuthilltown Spirits boasts that it is the first distillery in New York to produce whiskey since Prohibition, built on the grounds on a 220 year old gristmill. A small-batch distiller, Tuthilltown sources ingredients (mainly grains and fruits from within 10 miles of the distillery) from around New York State to create unique spirits that include Bourbons, Whiskies, Ryes, and Vodkas. Tours are available, or turn to the extensive recipe listing to concoct your own sampling.

What to Try: Hudson Manhattan Rye

Drink it With: Vermouth, bitters, a maraschino cherry and an orange slice for the namesake Manhattan (a tasty nightcap).


Photo 1

Harvest Spirits

Valatie, NY

“Homegrown Hudson Valley spirits from tree to bottle,” says it all. It’s the motto of Harvest Spirits, and it’s what the company strives to create with it’s Core Vodka, Pear Brandy and Cornelius Applejack. All seasonally produced by an artisanal method, Harvest Spirits captures the essence of the autumnal pilgrimage to the orchards in over-21 form. Take a tour of the farm and distillery, have a little tasting, and support local agriculture while doing it (bonus karma points!).

What to Try: Cornelius Applejack

Drink it With: Popcorn Balls and your kids’ stash of Halloween candy


Brown’s Brewing Company

Troy, NY

A local touchstone of good beer, Brown’s is a go-to for a healthy libation. Surprisingly, though, I don’t seem to see if on as many draught and bottle lists in area restaurants as I would expect. While some beers are nearly guaranteed to be available, go seasonal and try some limited-release varieties, like the Whiskey Porter or Harvest IPA. The quality of the beer offerings are matched by a superb pub menu. Check the Brown’s website often for seasonal releases and great events. This is definitely a craft beer company dedicated to the locavore movement.

What to Try: Oatmeal Stout

Drink it with: Enjoy it alone or use it in chocolate cake (when the recipe calls for melting chocolate in water, substitute the water for Oatmeal Stout. PS – You’re welcome).


Albany Pump Station-CH Evans

C.H. Evans Brewing Company (Better Known As Albany Pump Station)

Albany, NY

Talk about a place with history: C.H. Evans Brewing Company was founded in 1786 (that’s three years before Washington became President)! If you know anything about Albany in the early days, in the time when the city was still a major trading hub in the “New World,” then you’d know it was like the Vegas of the Northeast (seriously, it was). Of course a rowdy town like that would need it’s own roadhouse. Today’s incarnation of the company, the Albany Pump Station, is still a fun place for good times and good drink, just tamed a little. Stop in for a great meal and even better beer, like the Quackenbush Blonde or Pump Station Pale, and get a first-hand look at the brewing process (most of the equipment is behind glass for patrons to marvel at).

What to Try: Kick-Ass Brown

Drink it With: Roasted game, like a herb-roasted pheasant or venison tenderloin with mushroom gravy.


Brewery Ommegang

Cooperstown, NY

Okay, I’ll admit it right now: I’m a bit biased about this brewery. I just love it. Rare Vos is my favorite beer on Earth. If you ever want to make Deanna a happy girl, just hand her a bomber bottle of Rare Vos and she’ll perk up quick. (Okay, you could hand me a Peroni or an Anchor Steam, but let’s leave technicalities aside for the sake of being a Locavore, okay? Okay.) At the American Craft Beer Fest this year, I had to deprive myself from going to the Ommegang booth for knowing that I wouldn’t even give the other fabulous beers a chance. So, if that rave hasn’t convinced you to trek out to Ommegang, perhaps the setting will. The brewery is perched on a hill overlooking Cooperstown, NY, a drinking town with a baseball problem. And since I’m in Cooperstown basically every-other weekend, I’ve come to adore just about everything about Ommegang, especially its commitment to protecting an ancient brewing method and supporting local economies. Ommegang has daily tours and a great variety of events, like a Christmastime visit from St. Nick for the kiddies and more adult-friendly concerts featuring stellar performers like Steve Earle and The Avett Brothers.

What to Try: Rare Vos

Drink it With: Thanksgiving dinner or backyard clambakes


Matt Brewing Company/Saranac

Utica, NY

Matt’s Brewing Company (known to the masses as Saranac) is well-loved for the amazing variety of beer it pumps out season after season. But people tend to forget the amazing root beer is also crafts (thanks to my buddy and fellow hard-cider enthusiast Evan for reminding me!). When prepping your locavore feast, don’t forget about the youngest guests and non-drinkers – include this great root beer to please everyone (and don’t be surprised if the booze diehards steal a swig, too).

What to Try: Saranac Root Beer

Drink it With: Slow-churned vanilla ice cream


Photo credits in order of appearance:  Hudson River Valley Wineries, Saratoga Seen, Berkshire Mountain Distillers, Seasonal-FoodandDrink.com, Drinking Made Easy105.7 Crush FM, Albany Alive, Brewery Ommegang, Rootbeer Reviews


17 Comments Add yours

  1. Love this! Ethereal Gin is my favorite Gin bu far, and I love everything from Tuthilltown. They are just down the road from me. Great write up Deanna!

  2. Daniel B. says:

    Please tell me you didn’t suggest adding a maraschino cherry to a Manhattan.

    I know that it’s widely done, but so is shaking a Martini. Both are wrong and need to be stopped. A good booze steeped cocktail cherry on the other hand, is a lovely addition to the drink. Those impossibly colored, artificially flavored, orbs of fruit that at some point before being processed to oblivion were cherries, have no place in a good cocktail.

    Especially not one made with such a good locally produced rye.

    On the wine front, there is also the Hudson-Chatham winery that is doing some great things with grapes that grow well in our climate and soil, like Baco Noir, and it’s worth checking out. If you happen to enjoy roast chicken, this wine should make you very happy.

  3. Deanna says:

    @Jessica glad you like it! Will be adding more stops as I come across them. Stay tuned and thanks for reading.

    @DanielB well, well, well, Mr. Fussy indeed. Shoot me, go ahead. That cherry makes me nostaglic for a dear relative who is no longer with us. I’ll just go dilute my cherry-laden Manhattan with tears of shame and sadness now…

    Hudson-Chatham is a place I’ve been meaning to try buy haven’t made it to yet. I can give an honest review without sampling the goods first! Field trip?

    Thanks for reading, bud.

  4. Phoebe says:

    What about Harvest Spirits? They’re located in Valatie. I haven’t tried any of their stuff yet, but they do a locally sourced applejack, apple vodka, and pear brandy, all of which I have been meaning to get my hands on.
    Also, I have to second the mention of Saranac Root Beer. Even though it is made with high fructose corn syrup which I normally avoid like the plague, it is one of the best root beers of all the many root beers I’ve tasted and I can’t help indulging myself every once and awhile.

  5. Hey this is a killer list. I’m in total agreement with Ommegang, I freakin love it there. I once used their Chocolate Indulgence Stout to make an ice cream float, it was incredible. Sadly, that was a limited release, but the Three Philosophers is a potent dessert all on its own.

    Agreed on the Cornelius Applejack too, I made a great hot toddy with it, complete with cloves and cinnamon sticks. If take the tour you can usually get a taste of their weird infusions too.

    As for the Berkshire Mountain Distillers, I was totally unaware. The gins and the bourbon look promising for sure though, so I’ll have to check those out.

    And thanks for the mention about the root beer. Aside from the Caramel Porter (available now) that’s probably my favorite Saranac offering.


  6. Daniel B. says:

    @Phoebe – Harvest Spirits is wonderful, and Deanna totally listed them above. But what both of you are neglecting to mention is their recently released traditional grappa. They also have a two year aged pear brandy. I’ve yet to try either of these, but one of my prized possessions is the last few ounces of Batch #21 of their Core Vodka.

    Officially it’s not Apple Vodka, since to the US Government “Apple Vodka” is vodka with added apple flavoring. Harvest Spirits produces a vodka made from apples. Each batch is different, so it makes sense to either check the distiller’s notes or head to the distillery and try a sample before buying a bottle.

    I know, twist my arm.

    @Deanna – I totally owe Hudson-Chatham a visit. I wrote up their Baco Noir for All Over Albany, and really want to see their vines. I should drop them a line and see when they are harvesting and crushing. That would be fun to see. I’ll keep you posted.

  7. LO says:

    Great post, wonderful time to be living in this wonderful place! If you haven’t checked out Keegan Ales in Kingston, you owe it to yourself to make the trip. Besides brewing some of the most awesome suds that have crossed my palate, they’re keeping it local with occasional specialty brews like a honey porter with the honey from the hives on the roof, a coffee stout with coffee from Monkey Joe’s roasters down the street and a Mother’s Milk stout aged in whiskey barrels from the aforementioned Tuthilltown Spirits. And if that’s not enough, the food is super and reasonably priced and it’s a great community gathering place.

  8. Kate says:

    The list is great! I’m trying to buy all my gifts local this year so this gives me a jumping off point for the drinkers in the bunch. I love Harvest Spirits vodka and applejack – now I’ve got to go try the grappa, ever other one I’ve had that’s made in NY I didn’t much care for, nothing like the homemade stuff I had in Tennessee made by my old boss.

  9. Deanna says:

    Thanks for all the great comments! I’m so lucky that FSC has wonderful readers.

    @Phoebe – I did mention Harvest Spirits above. And I totally agree with you on the HFCS – I try to avoid it whenever possible, as well. It’s so hard to find good sodapop around here (sometimes I have to resort to “Mexican” pepsi that’s made with cane sugar).

    @DanielB – I knew about the grappa, but I’ve never had it. There’s only so much liquor one girl can drink in a day, you know. Please keep me in the loop about Hudson-Chatham. I’d love to check it out with you.

    @Lo – I’ve never heard of Keegan Ales, but I’m quickly moving it up to the top of my list of “places to try.” I’ll leave my thoughts on this post, so come back and check it out!!

    @Kate – GOOD FOR YOU! Local gifts are the best. Do you ever do Handmade Holidays? Maybe try some infused vodkas like the Herbal Digestif I made here: http://thesillygoosefarm.blogspot.com/2011/07/herbal-digestif.html
    Good luck with all of your hoiday shopping!

  10. Dianna says:

    Great post. I live in Saratoga and have never been to Saratoga winery. Time to gather some friends. I still have never had a NY wine that I can stand to drink, but I am ever optimistic. In beers, there is also Cooper’s Cave in Glens Falls which also has an ice cream stand and a restaurant. I am not a big fan of beer and ice cream, but either one by itself is good. thanks Deanna.

  11. Deanna says:

    @Dianna – Thank you so much! As someone who grew up around the Finger Lakes wine region, I’m here to convert you into a NYS wine lover. Try some of the Rieslings from that area, especially the Dr. Frank’s Late Harvest Riesling (my favorite) or the NV Riesling Cuvee from Swedish Hill. Montezuma makes some really tasty fruit wines and meade (I like the Cranberry Bog). Bully Hill is a great resource for reds, and Fox Run produces and OUTSTANDING port (if you like port – personally, I take a glass of port instead of cold medicine when I’m sick :-).

    Happy drinking, bud!

  12. BradenRussom says:

    HELL YES, great entry. You’ve got a good knack for pairings – all of those sound delicious.

    Special support for Brown’s. The Whiskey Porter is my favorite beer of all time. And I’ve sampled quite a number in my day (as evidenced by my belly).

    Interested to try some of that berkshire whiskey.

  13. BradenRussom says:

    @Dianna there’s also a good Cabernet Franc from Standing Stone. Got a real green pepper-y kinda thing going on. Solid stuff.

  14. Deanna says:

    @Braden – thanks for the lovely comment and for stopping in! Nice to have the attention of a food-celebrity in his own right 🙂 I’m definitely trying your wine suggestion, and maybe we should find a time to sip that whiskey? Working on finishing up a bottle of Glenlivet 15y French Oak Reserve at the moment… So tasty! Thanks again for reading along.

  15. Angel Tomes says:

    Hello, can any body assist me how to get this video tutorial from this website, I have watched and listen it here but would like to get it.

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