The perfect beer tour in the Finger Lakes
It can take a while to realize and admit that you aren’t as young as you used to be. For us, having twins was a wake up call that we needed to start doing things a bit differently. Throw in a few rough days after relatively tame nights of drinks, and we knew we needed to do things differently. To celebrate a bachelor and bachelorette party with friends, we decided to skip the trip to Vegas and visit the Finger Lakes of NY instead.
The region may be more well known for wineries due to the great growing soil of the region, but a beer based odyssey can be had as well. The region has nearly as many small craft breweries and excellent bars and restaurants serving craft beer as wineries. Since touring the wineries is so popular, there are also plenty of tour companies that offer drivers and transportation to multiple breweries so you can enjoy the beer responsibly. The variety of the breweries will keep you busy and entertained. Many even have different games including shuffleboard, darts, pool, foosball, and disk golf, so you can have some fun with your drinks. You’ll also get great views of vineyards and the lakes from some, perfect for a sunny day. Lastly, you can get good food from many of the breweries and others are a short walk from great restaurants. A day touring the breweries around the Finger Lakes can be shear perfection.
- Get picked up by Fitzgerald Brothers tours. This small family owned business operates a small fleet of town cars, SUVs, and a bus or two and will be your guides for the day. The drivers are super friendly and will make sure you have a great and safe day.
- Get things going at Roosterfish brewing. This large and modern brewery makes for such a good place to begin, you might just want to spend the whole day there. There are over 2 brews on tap including some adventurous test brews that are cask aged and you can sample them all with a huge flight. The ambiance is cool with vintage pinball, skeeball, and shuffleboard as well as a unique antique fan system that is powered by a series of pulleys. It gets crowded though, so get here first to get a spot at the bar and reserve the shuffleboard table. They serve charcuterie and sandwiches as well as having a popcorn machine. Favorite Beer: Black IPA
- Grab lunch at Nickel’s Pit BBQ. This authentic BBQ joint would feel at home in Brooklyn thanks to the modern aesthetic, but the food is pure southern BBQ. Grab a sandwich or sausage to go to enjoy with the next set of beers. It’s even owned by the same folks as Roosterfish.
- Shut the barn door at Heavily Brewing. This brewery may have the coolest location in the lakes. A converted barn houses the bar and second story loft which also houses the brewing equipment. Downstairs you’ll find several games as well as an outside area with adirondack chairs overlooking the other farms of the area and cornhole. Upstairs is a pool table and foosball table for some fun with the drinks. Drinks are available by the pint or in flights. They also have popcorn here. It must be a Finger Lakes thing. Favorite beer: IPA / Stout Hybrid – like a Black and Tan brewed together
- Kick it old school at Seneca Lodge. This restaurant and lodge in the Watkins Glen state park feels like stepping back in time. There’s a bit of a Twin Peaks vibe as well. The bar features pennants from many colleges as well as arrows shot into the wood. It’s a bizarre as it sounds. The beer selection is top notch with a ton of craft brews. The windows let you look out on the park as well where you might spot a moose.
- Discover jolly ole England at Seneca Lake Brewing. This small British pub themed brewery has a small outdoor area but while the views of the lake are nice on sunny days, it feels a bit like an extension of the parking lot. Instead, stay inside and enjoy the ambiance of a British pint of ale while playing darts with some footy on the telly. Sure you could get a flight here, but if you get a pint, you’ll get one throw at the dartboard and if you hit the bullseye, you’ll win a free growler. Just try not to hit the wall and embarrass yourself. Favorite beer: Old Toad Ale
- Sample a wee dram of whiskey at O’Begley’s distillery. You can hop the Irish Sea from the English pub to this Irish distillery without even leaving the building. It’s mostly for small tastings, but if you find something you like you can grab a bottle.
- Overlook the lake at Starkey’s Lookout. It’s another short walk next door to this winery and brewery with incredible views. The building sits on a hill overlooking Seneca Lake with a ton of space for sitting. The beer can only be sampled in flights but the experimental and exciting flavors are worth the visit. There are margarita and tangerine flavored IPAs, Vanilla Porter, and a hoppy citrusy pilsner. The food here is fairly good as well with some solid bar food staples like fluffy pretzels and nachos with pork belly. Try to get a table out on the veranda. Favorite beer: Vanilla Porter or Tangerine IPA.
- Discover what happens when a mommy hop and a daddy hop decide they love each other at Climbing Bines. This hop farm that also has a brewery inside of a reconstructed barn is about as close to the source as you can get. On the grounds you can play disk golf around the hop vines or ladder ball closer to the bar. On tap are about 10 brews with some hoppy varieties you’d expect and a few maltier, less intense brews too. If the outdoor hangout aspects of wineries appeal to you, this brewery is for you. Food trucks are often on premise as well. Favorite beer: Session IPA, a light and crisp and immensely drinkable IPA that you can drink without destroying your palate.
- Celebrate beer and food of the land at Beef and Brew. After so much touring, it’s time to refill with a great meal at Geneva’s Beef and Brew at the top of the lake. This spot makes it tough to decide if you should sit outside or inside. Inside is an interesting set up with tables in alcoves that can be closed in with a curtain. Outside is a great patio with a roof and space heaters that can be enjoyed in less than perfect weather. There’s even a fire pit for post-meal drinks in case you haven’t had enough. The beer menu includes over 25 beers, many local, and will soon feature over 70. There are flights for hoppy drinks, spring themed beers, local brews, and malty ales. The staff knows it’s stuff and can make great suggestions. The food is awesome too with tons of beef from the area including great steaks, burgers, and stews. It’s the perfect place for a manly meal.
- Grab a post-meal beverage at Olney Place. Currently embroiled in a lawsuit with the town over the bar area that overlooks the lake, you can’t actually drink in there for now. However, the store itself is ok. Thanks to a few tables inside and some on the front porch, this store actually makes for a good place to discover some interesting craft beer. The fridges contain some hard to find and delicious brews from the area that you might not otherwise find. Thanks to a dock, it also works as a good pit stop while boating the lake.
The Finger Lakes aren’t just for wineries. In addition to the recreation that can be found on the lake like renting a boat which makes for a great day out, the breweries of the area make for a great tour. These breweries are the best of the best between Keuka and Seneca lakes, but there are so many more in the area too. Just as many are found on the east side of Seneca and on west side of Keuka. Book with a tour company to take you around safely and you can properly enjoy the best of the lakes in comfort and safety. You’ll find great beer in a ton of varieties, good food, and awesome views in a variety of locales. Take in the scenery of this natural area during the tour or you might miss some of the best parts of this beautiful area. Don’t count the Finger Lakes out for a great bachelor party or weekend away.