Two upstate New York breweries tied for first place in the inaugural Taste NY Craft Beer Challenge.
Cooperstown-based Brewery Ommegang and Roscoe NY Beer Co. of Sullivan County won the competition with 90 points at the final tasting event in New York City Wednesday.
Prison City Pub & Brewery in Auburn was one of the five finalists in the contest launched by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The brewpub's score in the final tasting wasn't revealed.
The finalists — Genesee Brewing Company and Southern Tier Brewing Company were the others — each submitted one beer for the blind tasting. A panel of judges, which included chef Mario Batali and Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas, graded the beers on a scale of 1 to 5 in four categories: aroma, appearance, drinkability and flavor.
The event capped off the Craft Beer Challenge, which Cuomo launched May 2. More than 170 breweries entered the online vote and over 42,000 votes were cast.
"That number shows just how much New Yorkers care about our beer," Batali said.
The top five vote-getters received an invitation to the final tasting in New York City, which coincided with American Craft Beer Week.
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While the competition was the main attraction, it also served as a celebration of the state's craft beverage industry. Cuomo has advocated for legislation and policy changes to boost production.
Before the final tasting, he recalled New York's brewing history before Prohibition when the state was one of the largest beer producers in the country. Albany was a "brewing hub," he said. Rochester and Utica had dozens of breweries.
When Cuomo became governor, there were 50 breweries. Now, there are more than 320.
"We have been working very hard to back that industry," he said. "And it has grown tremendously."
Cuomo was listed as a judge, but announced before the tasting that he was removing himself from the panel.
He cited his bias as the reason for "self-eliminating" himself.
"I don't want to be responsible for voting against any New York beer," he said.