Canastota In the 19th century, hops were the staple crop of Central New York; and Madison County was actually known as the “Hops Capital of the United States.” Prohibition, plus a killer hops fungus, decimated the county’s agricultural pride — but in recent years beer-making has made a comeback in CNY in general, and in Madison County in particular.
Under state law, for a brewery to be deemed made in New York 20 percent of the hops and 20 percent of all other ingredients must be grown or produced within the state. There is a new brewery in Canastota, however, that not only gets most of its ingredients from a farm in Chittenango, but is the only brewery around that boasts a beer made from ingredients 100 percent grown in Madison County — Erie Canal Brewing Company.
“It’s costly, but that’s what customers want — a real local brew,” said Erie Canal co-owner and beer maker Jason Tedford. “A lot of ‘farm-based’ beers are not real at only 20 percent [local ingredients]. If we as brewers continue to use local ingredients, it should not be because of the legislation, but because it is the right thing to do.”
Tedford and his business partner Sam Lanzafame started the Erie Canal Brewing Company in 2013. Lanzafame’s Botte Piena Farm in Chittenango grows the barley and hops, and Tedford brews the beer on a three-vessel system that produces 10 barrels per month. The two share marketing and management of the business.
“I’ve been brewing since 1989, when I was a senior in high school in my parents’ kitchen,” Tedford said. “I’ve learned a lot through the years.”
Tedford’s background is actually in technology, and he worked for five years as a manager for CIO Alliance Bank before he decided to do what he loves and make beer. So he bought the production equipment and partnered with Lanzafame; and they both agreed that they wanted to not just make great beer, but also promote the use of 100 percent local ingredients and to highlight the history of hops on the Erie Canal, according to Tedford.