Cayuga County breweries came up big at the inaugural Taste NY Governor's Cup Craft Beer Competition.
Auburn's Prison City Pub & Brewery took two gold medals: One in American IPA Variations for its 4 Piece Pale Ale hopped with galaxy, and one in Experimental for its Wham Whams imperial stout with toasted coconut and vanilla beans. Neither is currently on tap at the 28 State St. brewpub, but the 4 Piece, a rotating hop series, sees a new release about once every few weeks.
Back in early March, I got a text from an old college friend I don't see too often these day…
Held July 29 in Rochester, the competition was judged by 40 brewers, beer writers, cicerones and Beer Judge Certification Program members. More than 700 beers made in New York state were submitted, judged blindly and scored according to criteria developed by the state Brewers Association.
The competition is a partnership between the state and the Brewers Association, and one of the latest efforts by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to boost the state's craft beverage industry. Since he took office in 2011, the number of breweries in the state has surged from 50 to 326. Cayuga County itself has gone from zero to five breweries in that timeframe.
The Excelsior Cup, which recognizes the best overall beer of the competition, went to Brooklyn's Threes Brewing for its Vliet Pilsner. (Click here for a full list of winners.) All medalists will be given the opportunity to showcase their prizes and pour their beers at the Horticulture Building of the New York State Fair Aug. 23-Sept. 4.
For Prison City and brewer Ben Maeso, the medals join a crowded trophy case. Since opening in December 2014, the brewpub has won a 2015 Great American Beer Festival silver medal for its Bleek Worden Belgian pale ale, a No. 1 ranking in Paste Magazine's blind tasting of 247 American IPAs in August 2016, and four 2017 Best of Craft Beer Awards in February, among other honors. Prison City also brought Wham Whams to the inaugural Taste NY Craft Beer Challenge in May. It earned entry into the contest by placing in the top five of an online vote of favorite New York breweries.
As he filled kegs Thursday in Prison City's new basement brewing space, Maeso said the medals help validate his hard work. The space is just beginning to yield its first batches. The brewpub's owners, Dawn and Marc Schulz, have said they hope the expansion will allow Maeso to triple his production as they search for a site for a new production facility.
"It brings me happiness, because we've been really busy and forgetting stuff like that," Maeso said. "So it's nice to get recognition amidst the chaos. It makes the long hours a little better."
Gallery: Cayuga County's new craft beer scene
Four craft breweries have sprouted up in Cayuga County within the past year, and along with a new craft beer market, they've all seen sales surpass their original projections. Local brewers talk about what they have planned next and the state of the craft brewing industry.