During the summer of 2011 we visited Southern Tier Brewing Company who are located in Jamestown, NY, near Lake Chautauqua as we have always been big fans of their beers such as 2XStout, Crème Brûlée, Mokah, Choklat, and Pumking. We knew they were due to expand their operation shortly after our visit so decided what better way to follow-up Thanksgiving than a long weekend back to western New York.
With the recent lake effect snow falling on Buffalo and the surrounding weather we did have concerns as to whether this might still be an issue but the weather forecast had predicted warmer temperatures and little chance of snow fall so off we went. The drive was fine until we hit I-86 just south of Erie and then things turned pretty bad with 3-4 inches on the Interstate and a whiteout blizzard!
We took things easy and gradually made it to our hotel then the following day headed down to the brewery. Tours were not being held until the Saturday afternoon but we took the opportunity to stock up on supplies of 2XStout, Robust Porter, some Rum Barrel-Aged Pumkin, Tier De Garde, and Tripel Cafe.
Saturday came around and we promptly arrived just before noon for the first tour which began at 12:15pm and there were already a number of people waiting in cars. The tour was $15 per person and included a complimentary 12oz Southern Tier glass plus 4 x 6oz samples at the end in the new Tasting Room which was located upstairs.
The brewery opened in 2002 and moved into the current location in 2005. Phineas DeMink, who is one of the Founders, went to brewing school and worked at Goose Island before opening Southern Tier Brewing Company.
The existing 30 barrel system is now used as their test system and for small batches, this consists of:
- Mash Tun
- Boil Kettle
Once Mashing, Boiling and Whirlpooling are complete, the wort is then pumped through a chiller to be cooled down to 67 deg F before going into 30 and 125 barrel fermenters and being pitched with yeast. These smaller fermenters are located within the same main space in the brewery but newer 660 and 880 barrel fermenters are situated outside with their own heating and cooling systems.
Also within this room is the bottling line which labels and then fills 200 bottles per minute (12 or 22oz). Labeling the bottles prior to filling is unusual but because Southern Tier use plastic labels they are not damaged during the filling process.
The next room was previously the cold room for storing finished beer but has since been turned into a warm room for bottle conditioning some of their limited series beers. An off-site warehouse now holds the finished beer ready for distribution.
Next we moved on to see the new brew system which was installed in 2012 and is a 110 barrel brewhouse by Steinecker of Germany. The first thing we saw were three HopBacks which are made by Krones and are used for additions such as pumpkin, spices, maple syrup as well as hopping the wort as it exits the Boil Kettle before going through the chiller and into the fermenters.
Next to these was the water treatment system which uses borough water as opposed to R.O. (Reverse Osmosis) and finally in the same room were the caustic and acid cleaners which are used for 45 minutes following each brew cycle.
Upstairs was a room containing the following new brew vessels:
- Mash Tun
- Lauter Tun
- Boil Kettle
The new system is an impressive stainless steel German style brewhouse. Some interesting facts we were told about Southern Tier Brewing include:
- In 2013 output was 88k barrels whilst 2014 is on target for 125k barrels.
- The brewery has a new CEO who joined from Anheuser-Busch.
- In addition to beer they now also produce Hard Cider.
- 24 out of the 30 beer brewed are 7% ABV or higher.
- The original location from 2002 is now a distillery.
- Spent grain is collected by a local farmer three times per day to be used as cattle feed.
- Beer is distributed to 37 States within the USA.
Alongside the new brewhouse is a Tasting Room where we sampled the following beers on draft:
- Helles – 4.6% Munich Helles
- Krampus – 9.0% Imperial Helles
- Pumking – 8.5% Imperial Pumpkin
- Holiday Cider – 5.0% spiced hard cider
- Choklat – 10.0% Imperial Stout
- 2XStout – 7.5% Double Milk Stout
We were not disappointed with our return to Southern Tier Brewing and it was good to see that it is still as popular during the winter as it is in the summer. A recommended place to visit for anyone in that area of New York State.
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