The Copper Pig

Dawn, left, and Marc Schulz stand outside The Copper Pig BBQ & Taproom, 10 E. Genesee St., Auburn, in June 2016.

The Citizen file

A downtown Auburn restaurant will soon begin serving its own beer — but its owners are no strangers to brewing.

The Copper Pig BBQ & Taproom owners Dawn and Marc Schulz said Friday that their 10 E. Genesee St. restaurant is on track to begin serving four house beers by the beginning of 2018. The Schulzes said it will be a "gypsy brewing" operation, meaning they will hire brewers to make batches of Copper Pig beer at other breweries, not one of their own.

Gypsy brewing will allow the Schulzes to avoid investing in production equipment, which would also be difficult to fit inside The Copper Pig, they said. As opposed to contract brewing — in which breweries produce batches for other, usually smaller breweries — gypsy brewers (Grimm, Evil Twin) are given access to a brewery's equipment and retain complete control over their product.

The Schulzes said they have been in touch with a few brewers and breweries in the Finger Lakes about making Copper Pig beer. And one of those breweries could be their own: Prison City Pub & Brewery. The 28 State St. brewpub could be one site of Copper Pig beer production, they said, but the Schulzes are primarily looking at facilities that are bigger than Prison City's 5-barrel system. Decorated Prison City brewer Ben Maeso also won't be directly involved in Copper Pig brewing operations, they added, but he could provide some advice and oversight.

The Copper Pig's four house beers will likely be a pale ale, an India pale ale, a Belgian wit and a rotating seasonal option, all selected because of how they'll complement the restaurant's food. The Schulzes will install a Crowler machine so that customers can purchase Copper Pig beers in 32-ounce cans to go, they said. The Crowlers will be available at a retail area that's taking shape in the front of the restaurant's dining room. Also for sale there will be Copper Pig barbecue sauce, merchandise like T-shirts and glasses, and takeout meals.

As the Schulzes introduce house beers to the restaurant, they're also mixing up its menu. With the arrival of a new chef from Texas, The Copper Pig will soon add more unique burger options, "adult" milkshakes with alcohol in them, and more Tex-Mex (enchiladas, burritos). The Schulzes said they're adding more of the latter in response to the popularity of their Taco Tuesday promotion. 

Though it took a year and a half for their restaurant to become The Copper Pig BBQ, Taproom & Brewery, the Schulzes said they've planned the expansion since before it opened in June 2016. Given their success with craft beer at Prison City, they expect the move won't be seen as capitalizing on a trend, but continuing to grow a scene they've been a part of for years. 

"We feel a lot of pride that Auburn's got this awesome culture of craft beer right now," Marc Schulz said. "We've been working on that, trying to promote craft beer in this town."

Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or david.wilcox@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @drwilcox.

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Features editor for The Citizen.