Next Chapter Brewpub, the sixth brewery to open in Cayuga County in recent years, celebrated its one-year anniversary last month.
So for the next edition of Better Know Your Brewers, I spoke to the guy making the beer at the Genesee Center brewpub, Scott DeLap:
Q. What was your gateway craft beer, the beer that turned you on to it?
A. One that really made me think, "a ha!" about craft beer was Sip of Sunshine from Lawson's (Finest Liquids) as an (India pale ale) style. But in general I would say Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. There's a beer that outlasted all these other trends and continues to be very strong. If you make something like that, you're gonna do fine. I've got a couple pales now; I'm into the third version of my pale. And I think the third one is pretty darn good, Chapter Pale Also. It's actually dry-hopped a little bit, too, so there's an interesting finish. Very drinkable. But malty, still.
AUBURN — Scott and Michelle DeLap have turned the page on their Next Chapter — but they're s…
Q. When did you know that you wanted to brew beer for a living?
A. I had a career in IT for 30-something years. So when that job was coming to an end, I started reading about creating a brewery business. I read three different books and it gave me the courage, as well as the ideas: "The Lagunitas Story" by Tony Magee, "Brewing up a Business" by Sam Calagione (founder of Dogfish Head) and then a more practical book, too, "Brewery Operations Manual" by Tom Hennessy, just to see how simple it could be. It took the mystery or myth behind brewery being this big science down to something pretty simple. It's not unapproachable. So we wanted to come back to Auburn, and what could we do? Obviously we love beer, and brewing, but we think we've created more than just a brewery. As a brewpub, we're a gathering place, a food spot, a music spot, that kind of thing.
Q. What brewers, breweries or beers have been your biggest inspirations?
A. I'd have to say that I picked up something from every brewery I've visited over the years, since my first brewery visit to Rohrbach and Empire in downtown Rochester back in the late '90s. Rohrbachs in particular had such a great gathering spot for beer and food. I'd go there on a Friday for fish, and they had great German beer, of course. It was outstanding. But as I said earlier, the Lagunitas and Dogfish stories were the most inspiring. One of the things I find encouraging about the industry is that there really are no rules. Sky's the limit as far as what you can invent and what people will like.
Q. What's a style of beer you wish there was more appreciation for, more of a demand for?
A. I think the pale is certainly that. Everybody's gung-ho over the IPAs today. And I think that's not a fad, per se, but certainly a trend, and I think that's gonna change. Over time, you're going to find that more sessionable beers, more niches — gluten-free, non-alcoholic — and soon I'm hoping to get into both of those. Standard, without the 8% alcohol or huge fruit notes. I get a lot of customers here who just can't drink that's stuff. It's one and done for them. Eight percent is so big, and all the hoppiness gives them serious headaches. So taming that down a little bit is something that needs to happen.
Q. Do you have a favorite hop to brew with?
A. Certainly one I've had the most fun with was Belma. I put that in my blonde ale to give it a strawberry note. It's one of two hops in existence that actually have strawberry notes to them. And I used it as a contrast to a beer I made that used extract to get the strawberry note, as an experiment. What was fun about that was waiting to taste that flavor. So many other hops do citrus and tropical notes, but strawberry is kind of unique. Waiting for it to develop, to get that flavor, that was a nice one.
Q. Do you have a "desert island beer"?
A. Chapter Watermelon Wheat. Easy-drinking, very sessionable, refreshing.
Q. What do you think is the next big thing in craft beer?
A. Certainly non-alcoholic and gluten-free. I'd have one (brewed) right now if it wasn't cost-prohibitive. The product right now is three times the cost to make, unfortunately, so I don't think I can sell a pint of beer for $10 at this point. I think, moving away from the big beers to more sessionable stuff — the big, hoppy fruit bouquets are great, but I can't have a lot of them. If I'm looking to have three beers with dinner, with pizza or wings or whatnot, I may not get away with three of those. But something in the 4-6% range, without all that hoppiness, is much more drinkable.
Q. Are there any trends or styles of beer that you kind of wish would go away?
A. Sours are an interesting beer. I can have one, or most of one, and then my stomach is just wrecked. I love the style, though. I don't want that to go away. But if I had to pick 10, sour would probably be off that list. It's just so intolerable to my stomach and it's borderline to a cider to me.
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This month, I'm introducing a new feature to Cayuga County Craft.
Q. Which of your beers do you recommend to people who are new to craft?
A. Easy: Chapter Blondie has been that beer for us. It's an easy-drinking blonde ale that reminds domestic beer drinkers of their favorite lager. It's become near our No. 1 seller. Chapter Pale Also is another one that brings them further into the space.
Q. What's the most frequently asked question you get here?
A. "Why Next Chapter? Why the name?" Then either one of us, (wife and co-owner) Michelle or I, will get into explaining what our previous chapters are and how this came about. And then they get it — the light goes on.
Q. If you could collaborate with any brewer or brewery in the world, which would you pick?
A. If they're still brewing, certainly Sam and Tony. But at the same time, you gotta look locally. People appreciate what we've done locally as brewers and what we'll continue to do. I could see us doing a collab with Lunkenheimer, Good Shepherds, Prison City, Summerhill, Aurora. Keep it local — that would be inspiring to people. "These guys got together, they're not enemies, they enjoy the business and just want to continue to do it." So any one of the locals would be a treat.
(Editor's note: This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.)
What's on tap
Next Chapter Brewpub
Scott and Michelle DeLap's downtown Auburn brewpub has several new beers releasing and on deck. Available now, or soon, are Chapter Blondie Too (dry-hopped with mosaic), Chapter Barrel-Aged Cherry Wheat and Chapter Barrel-Aged Cherry Vanilla Porter, and Chapter Dark Saison. Coming soon will be a new IPA, Chapter NY IPA, made with 99% state ingredients and resembling an old-school West Coast IPA; Chapter Pumpkin Porter in early October, more Chapter Chocolate Milk Stout in October; and the brewpub's first pilsner. In other news, wood-fired pizza and grilled chicken wings have been added to Next Chapter's menu, 16-ounce cans are now available to go and growler fills now come with carbon dioxide purges to help beers stay fresher for longer.
SUMMERHILL — Summerhill Brewing needed to expand before much of Cayuga County even knew it existed.
The southern Cayuga County brewery has been working on its new 7-barrel system and building its inventory, and will expand its hours soon. It continues to make its standard six beers — Millard's American, Naked Neighbor Amber, Summer Hillbilly Raspberry Wheat, Paper Money IPA, Platos Haze New England IPA and Iron Plow Porter — as well as small-batch seasonal ales. A blueberry wheat ale is on deck and a pumpkin brown ale is on the way in time for fall; the brewery's spruce tip IPA has sold out. The brewery also hosts weekly yoga classes at 7 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 a.m. Saturdays, and continues to represent itself at community events like Moravia's Books and Brews fundraiser for Powers Library Sept. 14.
Thirsty Pug Craft Beer
Mike Sigona's taproom and bottle shop is now open at its new location at 131 Genesee St., Auburn (the former Cayuga County Office of Tourism). For more information, read here.