Ellicottville Brewing Company. Ellicottville, New York, is in the southern tier of western New York State, nestled in the Allegany Mountains. Julie and I were married in a house outside of the small ski town and of course spent quite a bit of time at the brewery during our wedding weekend. Having returned to Ellicottville a few times since, we’ve witnessed the brewery’s expansion. EBC has outgrown the rustic ski town bar with a brew house in the back, to a large restaurant and even larger brewery operation. This time we sat at a very modern and chic outdoor bar.
CATT. COUNTY CUVEE. Ellicottville is in Cattaraugus County (CATT.), also home to the Seneca Indian nation where there’s cheaper gas, cheap smokes, gambling and staggering poverty, a raw reminder of the ugly, fractured relationship between the State and Tribes (County). The beer is fermented in barrels (Cuvee) from finger lake wineries adding a wine-esq oak barrel flair to the Belgian yeast. This yields an elegant fruit ester that features a moderate spice, some soft floral notes and an anonymous alcohol taste that disguises the 8.5% abv. My affinity for Belgian ale is really developing to an obsession. Their price tags are often higher and like wine the more you spend, the better the libation, to turn a phrase “Belgian is my new black.”
PANTIOUS DROPPUS. Well, of course I’m drawn to a hop fest for the same reason I adore extreme metal and math rock, I like my senses to be smothered and obliterated. This is sold as one of those beers and it comes close, especially with the addition of the classic and renowned Cascade hop. Having biked the Cascade Mountain Range in Oregon, I feel a kinship with this hop, I can often tell when its in the mix, maybe its the spice, maybe its the low grapefruit citrus or maybe the pull is from that unknown mysterious plant that was mated with the English Fuggle and Russian Serebrianker plants to make this profoundly popular hop. Dropping cascade into this nearly clear easy to drink beer is captivating. Be forewarned the booze sneaks up on you unlike other IPA/DIPA, requiring someone else to drive or drag you home.
JUST THE TIP. This is different, but the history of this beer is far more interesting than actually drinking it. During the 16th century explorations of the St. Lawrence Seaway and Lake Champlain, sailors were succumbing to scurvy from the typical upstate New York sunless winters. Jacques Cartier and later on Samuel de Champlain relied on an Iroquois Indian recipe of using a high in vitamin C evergreen needle elixir to keep sailors from perishing. Leave it to the forward thinking Canadian’s to ferment the pine/evergreen needle recipe into a cocktail… “oh, Canada,” Anyway this beer was cool to experience but not something I want to drink often.
MOWMASTER. Now everyone has a special uncle. The one that shows up an hour early to every party, hits on your girlfriend, often needs bail money, you know the one, you can smell his cologne when he pulls in the driveway. But sometimes they surprise you, like the day before our wedding on the grounds of the house we rented, there was my uncle on the lawnmower, sprucing up the yard for us. I could swear to you that he is pictured on the label of this beer (though he would have scotch in hand). The Mowmaster is a refreshing chugger specifically crafted for those hot days where a light citrus pale ale transports your taste buds to a breezy, relaxing beach. It’s a light hop, pale yellow in color and ever so easy to drink, inspiring you to finish the yard work quickly in order to crack another 12 ounces, stat!
I must make mention of another excellent New York State brewery, SouthernTier. They are one of my favorite beer makers, I only visited their operation once many years ago but I’ve faithfully continued to purchase all of their Imperial brews. The Pumking is a crowd favorite in my neck of the woods, it tastes like your eating a perfectly prepared pumpkin pie. Although for me it’s really their BlackWater Series thats so exciting, there are four, Choklat Stout (awesome!) Creme Brulee Stout (amazing!) Mokah Blended Stout (holy territory) and lastly the brilliant Jah-Va coffee stout. More about this world- class brewery later.