For the longest time the Finger Lakes region was known as a winery destination. It still is, of course. However, in recent years, the area is also becoming known as a hot spot for microbreweries.
Grist Iron Brewing Company, located at 4880 State Route 414 in Burdett overlooking Seneca Lake, opened in May 2015.
Grist Iron owner and master brewer Pat Palmer said the brewery’s first year went “very well” and “better than expected.”
“I was a home brewer for 10 years,” he said. “I live in Elmira. Opening my own brewery was something I’ve always talked about doing. We spend a lot of time making beer, talking beer, and drinking beer. For quite a few years it’s always been something we have wanted to do. We just needed the right opportunity.”
As for the name Grist Iron?
“It was many, many months of brainstorming and back and forth conversation, investigation and research, trying to figure out a name that works. The area actually has a pretty rich grist history, back in the day before Prohibition. Grist is the grain that goes into making beer. So we tied the two together and threw the ‘iron’ onto there and gave it a bit of a stronger feeling than just grist. That’s how it all came together.”
With other breweries such as Two Goats Brewing and Wagner Brewing already present along Seneca Lake—not to mention all of the breweries on Cayuga and Keuka lakes—Palmer said the window to open a brewery in the region is still open – but it won’t be open forever.
“I think now is the time to [open a brewery in the Finger Lakes area],” Palmer said. “Ten years from now it’s going to be more like the wineries where it’s so saturated with breweries, and it might be too late. I think now is the time to do it—the time worked out well. We found the property and were able to build what we wanted to build. It was just a matter of it all working out. Thankfully it did. We’re very pleased with how everything turned out, and when we were able to make this happen.”
“I think it helps that it’s such a tourist destination with all of the wineries,” he added. “The more breweries that open up, the more it’ll be known as a beer destination as well. I think the biggest thing is that it’s such a tourist area. It’s helpful that if you have one sort of alcohol, [people are likely to like other types of alcohol]. With the number of breweries that have popped up, I think the Finger Lakes is becoming known for its beer in addition to its history with wine.”
With plenty of neighboring competition in the fold, and more likely on the way, Grist Iron prides itself on offering a unique beer-drinking experience. The brewery currently offers a generous 15 beers on tap.
“We try to be consistent with our beers,” Palmer said. “I like to make things that I like to drink, and that my friends like to drink. I always took a lot of ideas from my friends and family. We like to have a good range of beers to drink. We have a lot of beers on tap. The one thing I’m proudest of when it comes to the beers is that we really have something for everybody, from the real serious beer drinker to just someone who is trying out microbreweries for the first time.”
There are more beers on the way this summer, too.
“We’re going to do a couple of beers this summer,” Palmer noted. “We’re going to bring back the Peach Pale Ale, the Blueberry Wheat and the Strawberry Blonde Ale that all were a big hit last summer.”
In addition to offering a lengthy beer menu, Grist Iron separates itself from other breweries by housing the brewery in a large building with plenty of surrounding space.
“I think we’re different just based on the sheer size of our facility. We’re a little different; we have the restaurant. We do flights for tasting like a winery does. We have a huge outdoor space with a lot of events, a lot of live music. The menu that we have for food also complements our beer tremendously.” §