Maybe you’ve already noticed that the Catskills is becoming famous for its craft beers, its spirits and its ciders. It’s hard to miss. You will hear the word “renaissance” used in this context a lot and it’s not just the post-prohibition buzz talking. Legislators have been making the production of spirits easier and more motivating.
If it’s any indication, the annual TAP New York brew tasting and competition features hundreds of beers from 120 New York State breweries. Beer bellies abound! A bunch are highlighted within Farm Girl’s Guide and they’re multiplying like rabbits, so certainly you will make your own discoveries. Try a tasting flight or grab a growler to go!
Distilleries, 70 of them and growing, make New York State number one in the spirit department east of the Mississippi. For me, my first tour and tasting was illuminating and despite the thimble-sized portions, definitely lifted my spirits. Spirit production began in the 1600s, giving farmers a way to preserve any surplus of fruits and grains.
Cideries are making a comeback too. In Colonial times, every family table served hard cider to adults and children alike. During prohibition, not only was production halted, but the apple trees were cut down too. Today’s cideries are resurrecting orchards and foraging wild apples too. It’s worth getting to know this deeply historic agricultural product that gives you a taste of the land and our history.
New York State wineries abound, but are more limited in the Catskills region than the Finger Lakes and Adirondacks. Farm Girl’s Guide points you to the best, with some tips from local wine aficionados who have tried them all.
So, what exactly is New York State doing right? The history here is rich and fascinating, the ball for which started rolling with the 1976 signing of the Farm Winery Act which allowed grape farmers to sell wine directly and allowed tastings. Similar legislation followed suit in 2007 (farm distillery act) and 2012 (farm brewery license) to make it cheaper and easier — with tax incentives and quicker approval times — for small producers of beer and spirits as well.
It’s complicated, but legislation continues to move in the right direction to boost the state’s tourism, branding and agriculture. Distilleries currently have to source 80% of their grain from NY farms. For now, breweries only have to source 20% of the grain they use from New York State farms. Hops are still underproduced here. By 2024, that number will increase to 90%. New York farmers better get hopping if we are to expect our breweries to survive.
Do your part and drink in the renaissance!
XOXO Farm Girl
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