The craft beverage scene is booming in Chautauqua County, New York, a destination that has been a long time praised for its wine region, Lake Erie Wine Country. Recent developments have led to a robust offering of craft breweries and farm distilleries, which are required to contain at minimum 75% New York State agricultural products such as grains, honey, fruits, maple syrup, etc. Plan a trip with your friends, significant other or craft-beer loving parents for an experience you won’t soon forget.
Friday Afternoon: Start at 7 Sins Brewing Company, which is located within Sensory Winery and also doubles as an art gallery making for a unique experience. Continue along Rt. 20 east and just outside the village of Westfield you will find Five & 20 Spirits & Brewing/Mazza Chautauqua Cellars. Owned and operated by the Mazza family, makers of Lake Erie wines for over 40 years, Five & 20 is New York State’s first trifecta of enjoyment; the first to produce wine, beer and spirits! They pride themselves on working directly with farmers to utilize local agricultural products like grains, hops, maple syrup, apples and more. Sample by the glass and purchase your favorites to bring home. Just make sure you arrive early because the tasting room closes at 6pm on Fridays unless there is a special event scheduled.
Continue east on Rt. 394 to Chautauqua Institution. Inside the grounds, which are free and open to the public outside of the summer program season, you’ll find a new addition to the Chautauqua family, 2 Ames. This restaurant is dedicated to serving nothing but the freshest, local ingredients and maintains a fantastic wine and craft beer list. Some readers who are familiar with Chautauqua Institution, which was founded on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in 1874 as a place to educate Sunday school teachers, may know of its long history as a dry campus. Times are changing at Chautauqua and during the summer programming many restaurants suggest inspired craft beverage pairings for their entrees. Plan your visit between the Thanksgiving holiday and New Year’s Day to experience Chautauqua’s Winter Village, complete with sleigh rides, a wizarding post office, Ice Wine tastings, cooking demonstrations, a holiday light display and more.
Saturday: While Southern Tier Brewing Company has expanded to include a tap room along Pittsburgh’s North Shore, a visit to where it all began in Lakewood, NY is a must for any self-respecting craft beer enthusiast. Arrive at The Empty Pint tasting room a little before noon and join the queue for a tour of this massive brewing facility. Tours are only offered on Saturday’s and on a first come, first serve basis; no reservations are accepted. Come for the beer and stay for the delicious food. Head down the hill to their sister distillery, appropriately named Southern Tier Distilling Company, where bartenders will craft you a creative cocktail inspired by seasonal and local flavors. Order a flight of their award-winning spirits to taste before selecting a souvenir bottle of whisky, vodka, rum or gin.
Venture to Jamestown, the birthplace of Lucille Ball and the future site of the National Comedy Center. Tucked away in an industrial space you will find Enchanted Mountain Spirits Distillery. This farm distillery, which means the liquor must contain at minimum 75% agricultural products grown or produced in New York State, makes vodka and poteen (pronounced puh-cheen.) The spirits are based on authentic Irish family recipes that are over two centuries old.
Make your way to the heart of historic downtown and Brazil Craft Beer and Wine Lounge. 18 rotating taps, 100-plus bottles of craft beer and 40-plus bottles of wine offer something new for every palate. Grab a board game and find a cozy nook or make new friends at the bar; Chautauqua County residents are notoriously welcoming.
Sunday Afternoon: Treat yourself to one last great meal in the Chautauqua-Lake Erie Region before heading back to Pittsburgh. We recommend checking out either Craft Burgers & Brews (Lakewood, NY), Ellicottville Brewing Company on Chautauqua (Bemus Point, NY), or EBC West (Fredonia, NY.) Leave a piece of your heart in Chautauqua County because you’ll want to come back for it once the much anticipated Jamestown Brewing and Big Inlet Brewing (Mayville, NY) companies open for business sometime during 2018.
For more information on planning a trip to Chautauqua-Lake Erie Region, including private transportation options while you’re here, visit TourChautauqua.com or request a FREE Visitor Guide by calling 1.866.908.ILNY (4569). Please drink responsibly.