The town of Cortland, New York is located approximately halfway between Binghamton and Syracuse along the I-81 corridor. Situated on the eastern edge of the Finger Lakes region, the area seems to be the perfect place to start a new brewery. On a rainy afternoon in late May, Tim and I visited the town to check out the Cortland Beer Company.
Walking into Cortland Beer Company, we were greeted by Kate and Max. The tasting room is brightly lit and welcoming to travelers such as ourselves. Large windows look out upon the street and the beautiful wood bar wraps around one wall with plenty of seating. If the bar is full, the tasting room also has other tables scattered throughout for larger groups of people. We sat down at the bar, received some complimentary popcorn, and proceeded to go through their current lineup of beer.
- 4.9% ABV
- Traditional American-style Lager
- Pleasant and light, a good introductory beer.
- Very crisp and refreshing, soft malts.
- 4.2% ABV
- German-style Lager
- Light and simple, another good beer for those used to macrobrews.
- 5.9% ABV
- Good hop presence, very nicely made.
- 7.0% ABV
- Sweet and malty, very flavorful.
- 6.8% ABV
- Rich citrus hops, lots of flavor. Sweet with a bitter backbone.
- 5.9% ABV
- Named for the seven valleys that surround the town.
- Dark chocolate and coffee notes, burnt roasty flavor.
- 10% ABV
- Rich Bourbon notes, full bodied. Very well made with wonderful flavors.
- 8.7% ABV
- Russian Imperial Stout
- Excellent roasted notes and a wonderful finish. Nice full body.
- Made with all NY State hops and grains
- Very earthy with some tropical hop character. A decent IPA.
- 6.0% ABV
- Amazing coffee aromas and flavor, has become one of my favorite coffee stouts.
- 8.5% ABV
- Winter Ale
- Interesting blend of spices with definite nutmeg notes. Very well balanced, with no one particular spice getting in the way.
- 9.0% ABV
- American Strong Ale
- Lots of tart cherry flavor yet made with cranberries, blackberries, and raisins.
- 5.5% ABV
- Lots of bubblegum and clove flavor. An average Hefeweizen.
- Sweet and full bodied, with a lingering finish.
The brewery has quite a lot to offer ranging from light lagers to barrel aged barleywines. My favorites were the Sunrise Coffee Stout and the Bourbon Barrel Flight Level 410 barleywine. Both were extremely well crafted and oozing with character and subtle intermingling flavors. Interestingly enough, their most popular is the Naked Lap Lager, which is one of the lightest beers they create. It probably is popular because it is a great alternative to generic American made macrobeers. Another highly regarded beer is the Red Dragon Ale, named after the athletic’s department at nearby SUNY Cortland.
For $5.75 you can try a flight of five of their beers. The brewery also sells t-shirts, glasses, growlers, hats, hoodies, and more. If you get hungry, small snacks are also available for purchase. On Friday nights, local bands perform in the tasting room. Since Cortland is a college town, I imagine that these events are very well attended and keep the brewery pretty busy.
Cortland Beer Company has roots going back to 2007. Four years later, in 2011, they moved into their current space in Cortland to provide a tasting room to the public and have more room for growth. I was told that the building once contained a shoe repair business! The brewery has two master brewers and a third brewer who helps out part time. One of the brewers is a chemist and uses his expertise to create more interesting flavor profiles and specific characteristics he is looking for within the beer. As with many breweries, they are working with the local hop and grain producers for a portion of their ingredients such as what is found in their #2 IPA. Another local connection is the coffee stout made with fresh, locally roasted coffee beans. Their most popular beers are bottled and are available in many locations throughout eleven counties in the upstate region. Draft options can be had at many local bars; a list of which is kept current on a blackboard in the tasting room.
The brewery has a lot of great things going for it. The location is perfect, being in a college town, and also easily accessible off of nearby I-81. I also really like the way the tasting room menus are all written on chalkboards. It is fun and the use of colorful chalk art brings a smile to my face. The brewery also makes a pretty decent root beer for those that abstain from alcohol. Finally, the tasting room even offers wine from Black Bear Farm winery, local to the region.
I enjoy the beer that Cortland is producing and I am very glad to see some local shops in Rochester are starting to carry their product line. I look forward to returning to see what new and interesting creations are available to try. If you are in the area, be sure to stop in and try some delicious and refreshing beer!
Update: May 8, 2015
As we were driving through Cortland, New York, a stop to see what was going on at the brewery seemed in order. A steady stream of folks looking to get out of the heat and enjoy a nice pint of beer kept Jen and the other tasting room employees pretty busy. Jen told us a bit about what they have been up to this past year, and served us a flight that included some new beers.
- 5.5% ABV
- Wheat Pale Ale
- Lots of grapefruit and hints of melon in aroma and flavor.
- 10% ABV
- Big, bold flavors; sweet and tropical with a bit of citrus too.
- 8.7% ABV
- Very flavorful roasted chocolate flavors; moderate bitterness and good usage of cocoa nibs.
Cortland Beer Company will soon stop bottling their beer and go exclusively to an all canning line. We were told that the bottling machine was in need of repair and it is too expensive to fix. Sadly, I will miss seeing their 22 ounce bottles on the shelves of my local beer store, but I am glad to see that they found an alternate way to get their beer out to customers.
The brewery has also setup an outdoor seating area with a bonfire. This includes a decent sized stage for all the musical performances that are given throughout the warmer months of the year. The cost of a flight of five samples has increased slightly to $6.50, but they still have an excellent selection to choose from. There are a few local hard ciders to try as well, and the brewery hopes to start making their own at some point in the future.
Interesting local bands, fun menu items such as hot dogs cooked in their own beer, and a wide variety of beers on tap continue to make Cortland Beer Company a worthwhile stop if you are in the area.
Cortland, NY is also the home of the Brockway Truck. These heavy-duty trucks were built in Cortland from 1912 to 1977. The hood ornament was a husky dog pulling a harness, thus giving Cortland the nickname of “Husky Town USA.” Today you can visit the Brockway Museum to learn more about the history of the truck and the impact it had on this region.
Cortland Beer Company
16 Court Street, Cortland, NY 13045
Visited May 23, 2014, Revisited May 8, 2015
Blog post written by Thomas Andersen.