Attention beer lovers: you need to visit these Finger Lakes breweries! Did you know that there are over 85 craft breweries in the Finger Lakes region in upstate New York? It will take you quite some time to drink your way through all of them!
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You’ll be spoiled for choice when you visit local breweries and restaurants that serve beer from the Finger Lakes. To make things a little easier on you, I’ve sampled some of the most refreshing and delicious pints at these top Finger Lakes breweries. I know, research can be difficult sometimes, am I right?
There are so many different varieties of craft beer from dozens of microbreweries in the region. From wheat beer to IPAs, from stouts to seasonals, the Finger Lakes has a beer for every taste. And if you don’t know exactly what kinds of beer you like the best, you’re in luck: there are tons of tasting opportunities around each of the 11 Finger Lakes.
How to Visit Finger Lakes Breweries
Craft your own adventure on the Finger Lakes Beer Trail. There are over 85 craft brewers spanning 210 miles across central New York State – from Rochester to Syracuse in the north to Corning and Binghamton in the south. You can create custom itineraries around where you’re traveling and staying.
In fact, with so many different breweries, you can try new ones every time you visit. With so many microbreweries in close proximity to the Finger Lakes themselves, you can enjoy a pint with a beautiful lake view. With a refreshing brew in hand, it’s the perfect way to unwind after a day of outdoor adventures, too!
Getting Around the Finger Lakes
The Finger Lakes, New York, is the perfect road trip destination. Keep in mind that if you plan to visit all of these Finger Lakes breweries that you’ll need a defensive driver! As each town is a short drive from one another and several breweries are not right in town, you’ll definitely need a car.
Taking a Finger Lakes Brewery Tour
If you don’t feel like driving around and having a defensive driver, why not book a Finger Lakes Brewery Tour? You’ll have a driver take you from place to place, so you won’t need to worry about finding your way to each brewery. On this Finger Lakes Brewery Tour, you’ll be able to visit five different breweries throughout the day, giving you a great taste of what the region has to offer.
Where to Stay in the Finger Lakes
First, you’ll need to decide where you want to make your home base. If you’re traveling on a road trip of the Finger Lakes, you’ll likely want to make a couple of stops on the way. Here are my suggestions for places to stay in the towns featured in this article. You can also use the handy booking map to compare prices on hotels and vacation rentals in the region.
- 18 Vine Inn & Carriage House in Hammondsport, NY
- Watkins Glen Harbor Hotel in Watkins Glen, NY
- Radisson Hotel in Corning, NY
Best Breweries in Hammondsport
When I traveled to the Finger Lakes with my sister, Robyn, we experienced three Keuka Lake breweries, one of the 11 Finger Lakes. All three craft breweries are located in Hammondsport, New York, and you can easily check them all out in one afternoon.
Keuka Brewing Company
Keuka Brewing Company was the first brewery we visited in Hammondsport, New York. We drove down some dirt roads in the middle of the country to find the brewery. In an unassuming small building, we walked inside to find a lengthy wooden bar in a casual setting. Even though it might be unassuming, it’s one of the best Keuka Lake breweries.
Even though it’s not the fanciest place, Keuka Brewing Company has plenty to brag about. They were voted the best craft brewery in New York State at the TAP New York Beer Festival Competition in 2014, and they also won the F.X. Matt Memorial Cup.
Established in 2007, the Keuka Brewing Company prides itself on creating small batches of artisan beer with unique styles and flavors. As an innovative brewer, they continue to formulate new styles of beer that varies by the season.
Robyn and I tried samples of several different beers in our beer tasting:
- White Cap Wheat – This traditional Belgian Style wheat beer is lightly hopped. It’s brewed with a 60/40 blend of wheat and barley, along with flavors from orange peel, blueberry, and coriander seed for that Belgian style taste.
- Bluecap Wheat – It’s very similar to the White Cap Wheat, except it tastes like blueberries. This was my favorite beer from Keuka Brewing Company, and it’s only available in the tasting room.
- Keukumber Saison – It’s a beer made from cucumbers! I’ve never tried anything quite like it. This beer is super refreshing, and it’s a seasonal beer only available in the summer. Keukumber Saison is a French style ale, brewed to be light and refreshing. There are notes of cucumber and lime. Yum!
- Pumpkin Cream Ale – I’m not so much a fan of pumpkin flavors, but the pumpkin lovers out there have gotta try it. It’s brewed with real pumpkin, seasonal spices, and vanilla.
- Hoppy Laker IPA – This one was definitely more bitter and intense. There are four different hops – Centennial, Columbus, Cascade, and Simcoe. Keuka Brewing Company states that this one will, “wake up your taste buds!”
- Ghost of Rita – It’s a German style Gose beer, characterized by the use of coriander and salt during the boil process. The salt comes locally from Seneca Lake (Seneca Salt Company). Then, hops and lime peels are added, making it like the margarita of beers.
Most beer is available by filling up a growler, though a few varieties are available in cans. I brought home a 4-pack of their 607 Lager for Justin. It’s a Vienna style lager, smooth and ideal for most beer lovers.
Steuben Brewing Company
Our second stop was just down the road, Steuben Brewing Company. The views from the property of this brewery are simply stunning: pastoral lands overlooking the lake with rolling hills just beyond it. It’s a really dreamy location to enjoy a pint on a summer afternoon.
The Steuben Brewing Company takes pride in sourcing their ingredients from local farmers as much as possible. They recently won the 2016 John Calen Memorial Award for Best Brown Ale in New York State at TAP NY, and they also won a silver medal for Best Light Lager in New York State.
The brewery is warm and welcoming, with a bar at the back and tables near the entrance. You can also take a peek behind the scenes to see the brewers at work just beyond the tasting room. Robyn and I each opted for a beer flight, where we chose four varieties of beer to taste. There were also light snacks available to munch on while we sipped our brews. Here are the ones that I tried:
- New York Pilsner – It’s a crisp and light beer with a slight citrus finish.
- Cream Ale – It’s a light beer that starts sweet and finishes dry.
- Vacation Ale – So, I may have tried this one based on the name alone. Who doesn’t love a vacation? It definitely tasted like the perfect beer to enjoy on a vacation or summer holiday. I couldn’t resist bringing home a growler of the Vacation Ale.
- Strawberry Blonde Ale – This is a seasonal beer that I couldn’t resist as I love fruit beers. It even looks slightly pink. It was very refreshing and great to sip on the patio.
Speaking of patio, there’s a lovely seating area outdoors with opportunities to take in that beautiful view. We chatted with the owners briefly and had a wonderful experience visiting this family-run farm brewery.
The Brewery of Broken Dreams
Our final stop on the Finger Lakes Beer Trail was perhaps the one with the most brilliant name, The Brewery of Broken Dreams. How could you not visit a brewery with that name?
The brewery and tasting room is inside a historic stone and wood building. It’s a great way to taste new beer in a charming environment. Sit by the bar, pull up a stool, and try some new craft brews! As the brewer says, “You are encouraged to share your dreams in words while we share ours in thoughtfully rendered liquid form. We hope to entice and satisfy your senses. Tears!”
Robyn and I tried a sampling of several beers all on tap. The beers all shared clever names:
- Summer Blues – A classic German style wheat beer, tasting of banana and cloves.
- Good Enough – An IPA brewed with Chinook, Cascade, and Willamette hops from New York State.
- Old Antics – A light amber ale featuring hops from local farms in New York State.
- Unfinished Business – A Scottish style ale honoring the brewers’ Scottish heritage.
- Floating Leaf – A brown porter ale with hints of chocolate and coffee.
- Wise Old Ale – A malty light bodied ale tasting of molasses.
- So You’re Wild – An oatmeal stout made with malted and unmalted oats that goes down smooth.
One of the owners served us our beer and told us fascinating stories behind each one. My favorite was the story of the Unfinished Business Scottish Ale. Perhaps this is due to the fact that my heritage is half Scottish. The husband and wife team of The Brewery of Broken Dreams discovered that way back in the past, their families both once knew each other in Scotland. In fact, their families despised one another.
There were tales of extreme hatred, and even murder! Their ancestors would not be pleased at all that this pair united, got married, and started a business together. It’s somewhat of a Romeo and Juliette story, really…except for the fact that this personal story had a happy ending. As some Scottish people can be known to hold a grudge, there’s always some unfinished business there.
I adore that there are personal stories like these in the making of the beer. I had to bring home a growler of the Unfinished Business ale after hearing that treacherous tale, and to honor my own Scottish roots.
Best Breweries in Watkins Glen, NY
Staying in Watkins Glen? There’s so much to see and do in this delightful small town in the Finger Lakes. You’ll have to go hiking at Watkins Glen State Park to witness some of the most incredible scenery. Farm Sanctuary is another amazing place to visit where you’ll be able to spend time with the resident rescued farm animals.
I’ve planned out the perfect 1 day itinerary for Watkins Glen should you decide to plan a day trip or spend the night. A trip wouldn’t be complete without checking out these brew pubs and breweries in Watkins Glen. These are the best breweries on Seneca Lake.
Rooster Fish Brewing
Rooster Fish Brewing is right in town in Watkins Glen, so it’s the perfect place to stop for a pint and a meal. It’s a brew pub with a full menu, including plenty of yummy vegan eats. Justin and I visited together many years ago, back when I first started this blog. I’d love to go back the next time I’m in Watkins Glen as it’s one of the best Finger Lakes breweries.
Rooster Fish is one of the first official New York Farm Breweries. This means that the brewery supports local farmers and producers. They use locally grown hops, local organic malts, and water straight from Seneca Lake, the Finger Lake that’s in Watkins Glen.
While the Farm Brewery license came into being in 2013, Rooster Fish Brewing used local ingredients far before the designation even existed. You can be sure that these craft ales use the freshest ingredients and help support small businesses and local farmers.
Rooster Fish Brewing has at least five craft beers on tap, as well as up to four seasonal and special brews. We tried a couple of special ales when we visited: the Mysterious Amber and the Summer Sky Hefeweizen. Rooster Fish Brewing is by far one of the top Seneca Lake breweries, and you’ll need to visit when you’re in town.
Wagner Valley Brewing Company
Wagner Valley Brewing Company is part of the Wagner Vineyards property, one of the best Seneca Lake wineries I visited on a day long wine tour. As I’m also a beer lover, I was delighted to hear that they brewed beer here, too. It’s one of the oldest craft breweries in the Finger Lakes region (established in 1997) and the first craft brewery on Seneca Lake.
There are a wide variety of different brews to try at Wagner Valley Brewing Company. Definitely get a flight if you’d like to try a few of them. A lot of the beer is seasonal on a rotating menu, so you’ll be able to sample different ones all year long. I got to try some of their beer with some friends at the TBEX travel blogging conference.
For instance, you might find the following beers on the menu: Sugar House Maple Porter, Dockside Vienna Lager, Berliner Weisse (sour ale), Mangose (sour beer with Mango puree, in cooperation with Resurgence Brewery in Buffalo), Hefeweizen, Bavarian style Doppelbock, a cream ale, a pilsner, IPAs and more. They also brew their own non-alcoholic rootbeer here, too.
Top Breweries in Corning, New York
As we make our way around the Finger Lakes, there’s lots of great beer to try in the city of Corning, New York. While it’s home to the amazing Corning Museum of Glass, there’s also a cute downtown area with great brewpubs and restaurants. Here are my picks for the best places to drink beer in Corning.
Iron Flamingo Brewery
Iron Flamingo Brewery started back in 2014 by the Mauer family and it’s managed by two brothers. It is Corning’s first brewery to bottle and distribute beer. The brewery is a little outside of the main city streets, about a 20 minute walk from the downtown core. You may want to drive there or walk, depending on how you’re feeling.
Iron Flamingo Brewery always has five beers on tap: an IPA, a red ale, a blonde ale, a brown ale, and a dark English ale. They also have seasonal varieties, like sour beers, lagers, double IPAs, a pilsner, a pale ale, and even a blueberry sour beer. Check out what’s on tap here.
When I visited Iron Flamingo, I tried a flight of three beers: the Belgian Wit ale, the Tart Apple Ale, and the Blonde Ale. It was interesting to drink an apple beer! It tasted a bit like a cider, but a bit like beer. Hard to describe. Iron Flamingo is one of the best breweries in the Finger Lakes, so check it out while you’re there.
Liquid Shoes Brewing
Liquid Shoes Brewing is a brewery in downtown Corning, New York. It’s owned and operated by two brothers, David and Eric Shoemaker (in case you were wondering where “shoes” comes into play in the name of the brewery!).
They’ve always got loads of interesting and rotating flavors of beer on tap at their brewhouse on Market Street. Liquid Shoes Brewing also does collaborations with other brewers and has a couple of guest brews on tap, too. If cider is your drink of choice, they usually have at least a cider on tap, too. I tried one of their ciders for something a little different and it was really refreshing and tasty.
For instance, right now, there is a beer called Squeezy with mango, orange, banana, coconut and marshmallow flavors. I love the fruity beers, so I’d give this one a try. However, for those who like their beers a little more classic or straight forward, those options are there for you as well.
More Finger Lakes Breweries
There are so many more Finger Lakes breweries that I need to return to try. I’m only a small percentage of my way through all 80+ breweries! Here’s one more brewery at the top of Canandaigua Lake in Canandaigua, New York, that you need to visit.
Twisted Rail Brewing Company
Twisted Rail Brewing Company is located in the small town of Canandaigua, New York, on the northern side of the Finger Lakes. It’s one of my favorite Finger Lakes breweries, and they also serve food here, too. The brewery has quite a few seating areas inside and a spacious patio outdoors overlooking the lake.
If you don’t find yourself in Canandaigua like I was, perhaps you’ll be driving through Geneva, Macedon or Honeoye, New York? Twisted Rail Brewing has four locations to serve you, so there’s really no excuse not to sample their tasty brews.
They currently have 15 craft brews on tap, and I suggest trying a flight if you’re undecided or want to try a few. These range from lagers and wheat beers to IPAs and stouts. There are even a couple of ciders to taste, too.
You might want to grab some food while you’re here, too. I got a big hummus platter to snack on while drinking my beer. It was delicious!