Nestled in the small town of Horseheads, NY is Birdland Brewing Company. Birdland is one of the newest breweries to pop up in upstate New York, having just opened in November of 2012. While visiting recently, I had the opportunity to talk to Mike, one of the co-owners, to learn more about them!
Birdland Brewing was started by three friends; Dennis, Sue, and Mike. Dennis had been homebrewing out of his garage for many years previously. Dennis was always getting requests for his brew so it made sense to open up an actual brewery and reclaim their lost garage space! The name Birdland Brewing Company actually stems from the name of the community that they live in. Most of the beer names also stick with the bird theme but there are some exceptions. The brewery is very easy to find as it is just a quick hop off the Southern Tier Expressway with a clearly visible sign in front of the modest building.
Currently, Birdland brews on a one barrel system; however, they are planning an upgrade to a three barrel system by the end of the month. If all goes well, they should have a ten barrel system up and running by the end of 2014! Dennis currently has around twenty recipes up his sleeve with more to come. They currently self-distribute and can be found at many of the local area restaurants. Birdland also tries to use locally sourced ingredients when possible. This includes fresh maple sap for their seasonal beer Sap Sucker. A hop farm in Trumansburg, NY supplies them with many of their local hops.
The tasting room is small and functional with room to sell shirts, hats, pint glasses, goblets, growlers, and more. The bar is nicely designed, though I imagine it can get quite busy and crowded on the weekends! They are still working on the acoustics which tend to bounce the sound around during busier periods.
When I visited they had seven beers on tap with one “malternative” as they like to call it. The tasting fee is very reasonable, only $2.00 to try everything. You can purchase a growler or bring your own to get filled. Here is a quick rundown of what they had to offer with some of my thoughts.
- Oat Ale
- 5% ABV
- Light and crisp with some good spice notes. Interesting apricot finish.
- Pale Ale
- 6% ABV
- Great use of hops, not overpowering. I was told that they are trying to introduce the Coors light crowd to the world of craft beer with this concoction.
- Amber Ale
- 6% ABV
- Cascade, Chinook, and Fuggles hops
- Grassy hops with a malt sweetness. Nice finish. My favorite of the tastings.
- Copper Ale
- 6% ABV
- Complex grain bill, one of their most popular beers. I would have liked a bit more malt character with this one though.
- Red Ale
- 6% ABV
- Excellent malt aroma and taste; this is their most popular beer. Great finish with spicy notes.
- 6% ABV
- Lemon flavor is added, but not as heavy-handed as a Shandy. Not as much character as the other beers.
- 6% ABV
- Cascade, Simcoe, and Centennial hops
- Not overdone at all. Nice push of grapefruit at the end.
Lastly, I tried the Flabingo which comes in at 10% ABV. They wanted this to be a replacement for drinks like Smirnoff. It contains lots of fermented grains and cranberry. Dennis and Sue came up with this as a “malternative” to beer. It is interesting but not something I would typically seek out. Still, it is a unique drink that I have not seen at breweries before.
Overall, I think Birdland Brewing is off to a great start. I am looking forward to coming back in the fall to try out their porters and stouts; especially the Blue Bird (chocolate blueberry porter). For the summer, they tend to have a lot of lighter style beers which I think will go over well with those looking for the typical seasonal beverages. I tried nothing really groundbreaking, but what they do have to offer is good solid beer and that is not always easy to find. Definitely check them out if you are in the area.
Finally, here is an interesting history lesson about Horseheads, NY. In 1779 an armed forces unit had to make a 450 mile journey. During this trip, food was sparse and many horses became sick and disabled. Those left behind were discovered by the Iroquois Indians who took the skulls and arranged them along a trail. From that time on it was known as the valley of the horses’ heads, now known as Horseheads. Crazy, huh?!
Birdland Brewing Company
1015 Kendall Street, Horseheads, NY 14845
Visited on July 12, 2013Blog post written by Thomas Andersen.