Craft beer enthusiasts flock to CNY Brewfest

Beer enthusiasts flock to CNY Brewfest

The CNY Brewfest returns to the New York State Fairgrounds for its 24th year, with more than 100 breweries, 200 brews and 2,000 beer lovers.
Published: January 27, 2020
SHEPS Brewery talks with fellow beer lovers at the CNY Brewfest.
The crew at Shep's Brewing Company in Auburn chat with a fellow beer lover at the 2020 CNY Brewfest on Saturday.

Jason Purdy likes a challenge. He’s been trying to stay ahead of the curve to make next year’s pour of craft beer better than the one before it. This time, he added a Friday night VIP section to the longest-running Brewfest in Central New York at the New York State Fairgrounds for the 24th time.

Featuring more than 100 breweries and 200 beers, entertainment from soul-grass jam band Soul Risin’ and the Syracuse University men’s basketball game against ACC rival University of Pittsburgh on the jumbo screen, a record attendance was expected.

Combined with online sales, each session between Friday and Saturday brought over 2,000 beer lovers together for a taste of breweries located near and far. For Purdy, owner of Now & Later Bottle Shop and Tap Room, it’s about establishing a relationship between the drinker and the seller.

The designer beer glass and poster for the 24th Annual Central New York Brewfest.
The designer beer sampling glass and poster for the 24th Annual Central New York Brewfest.

“You get both kinds of people, people who just want to try a bunch of stuff, and maybe some who just want to try something they haven’t had before,” Purdy said.

The saying “often imitated, but never duplicated” guided the idea for Purdy’s fourth annual planning of the event. The Brewfest kicked off Friday night with a new addition to the festival – a VIP session that catered 16 breweries and just over 30 beers. The challenge of creating something new and memorable like the red-haired monster that donned each beer flight cup, was accepted.

Purdy and his CNY Brewfest team extended the variety of beer choices this year by inviting new breweries that don’t have a distribution connection to Syracuse, while also keeping unique Syracuse brewers, like the Eastwood Brewing Company.

Pete Kirkgasser, owner of the Eastwood Brewing Company, has been setting up a booth like this one at the CNY Brewfest for over 20 years.
Pete Kirkgasser, owner of the Eastwood Brewing Company in Syracuse, has poured samples at the CNY Brewfest for more than two decades.

Pete Kirkgasser, owner of Eastwood Brewing Company, has been going the extra mile for over thirty years to create beers that have a lasting taste.

Attributing diversity of breweries to the success of the Brew Festival, Kirkgasser said, “It’s the one place you can try a variety of beers from everywhere, it’s incredible, it’s the best of the best.”

Kirkgasser brought six barrels of beer from the second oldest brewery in town. What’s the best way to taste a beer at Brewfest? Kirkgasser said it depends on the beer style.

“Is the beer style hitting what the style requires? Does it have uniqueness, does it exist anywhere else?” and, most importantly, he added, “Does it have everything for maximum flavor?”

Thousands of beers were poured at the CNY Brewfest on Saturday, January 25, 2020.
Thousands of beers from more than 100 brewers were poured Saturday at the CNY Brewfest.

Beer was poured, minimal glasses shattered and the sound of Soul Risin’ kept the mood alive.

Next year, Purdy and his team will set the stage for their fifth direction and 25th Annual Brewfest when it returns to the Fairgrounds in January 2021, with hopes of taking on new challenges and meeting new expectations for the craft brewery lovers of Central New York.

Avatar for Alyssa Lyons

is a broadcast and digital journalism graduate student and contributor to The NewsHouse.