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Brewery Ommegang, Roscoe NY Beer Co. Win First Taste NY Contest

Two New York breweries have a lot to toast after winning the Taste New York Inaugural Craft Beer Challenge. The judging in New York City Wednesday yielded two winners. As WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne reports, one of the craft breweries is in Sullivan County.

After blind tasting the five finalists, Chef Mario Batali, who served as one of the judges, announced the winners.

“We have a tie,” Batali said. “With 90 total points each, Ommegang and Roscoe have been officially named the Taste NY craft beers of the year.”

Beers were judged on their aroma, appearance, flavor and drinkability. Josh Hughes is operations and brew manager with Roscoe NY Beer Company in Sullivan County. He talks about the winning beer.

“Our Two Headed Stout is technically an imperial stout. It is 8 percent alcohol and it is extremely bold. It has a lot of roasted coffee and chocolate notes to it, but it’s also extraordinarily smooth and velvety because of the amount of oats that we put into this beer,” Hughes says. “So despite the fact that it’s big, bold and dark, it goes down extremely smooth and easy.”

Cooperstown-based Brewery Ommegang spokeswoman Allison Capozza talks about their winning beer.

“We entered Three Philosophers quadruple ale which is a 9.7 percent alcohol by volume, really complex flavorful that’s both a fan favorite and a brewery favorite,” says Capozza.

The Taste NY Inaugural Craft Beer Challenge was launched on May 2 and invited New Yorkers to vote for their favorite New York craft brewery. Governor Andrew Cuomo says more than 170 breweries signed up to participate and more than 42,000 votes were cast online.

“That is more votes than I received as governor of the state of New York, I want you to know, not that I’m going to take it personally,” Cuomo said. “More people voted for beer than voted for me. Sounds like a song.”

Capozza says Memorial Day weekend really marks the start of the season and hopes some of the visitors are headed Ommegang’s way because of the NY Taste result.

“The real special thing about this for us was that we were voted for the finals by the fans, and so to have enough people to vote for us to get us to New York City yesterday really meant a great deal to us,” Capozza says. “And then to have Three Philosophers be selected as one of the winning beers was kind of an extra cherry on top.”

Hughes expects business to pour in after Roscoe Beer’s win.

“The amount of phone calls, the amount of reach that we’ve seen on social media, we expect to see an immediate impact on the amount of traffic that we see to our brewery here,” Hughes says. “We already expect that out in the market just with the advertising and promotions that our beer is going to spike in sales throughout the field as well. So that will inevitably translate into a lot more brewing and a lot more sales here at the brewery.”

And that, he says, could mean more jobs, which is Cuomo’s intention, along with driving tourism. Hughes says his brewery aims to benefit the local community.

“We know that the traffic that we’re getting to this brewery means they’re getting off the highways; it means they’re stopping in town.  And we here at the brewery encourage people to go everywhere else as well,” says Hughes. “So we don’t want people just to stop at the brewery and just stay here. We do want them to have a beer or two but we want them to go support local restaurants. We want them to go to the local shops. We want them to spend their money here in town and that ultimately benefit everybody here.”

Cuomo says there were 50 breweries six years ago and more than 320 today.

“And when you put the wine industry together with the beer industry together with the cider industry, it is now a $30 billion business in New York state,” says Cuomo.

And while he participated in the taste test, Cuomo did recuse himself from judging as he did not want to vote against any New York beer. The five breweries that received the most online votes also include Genesee Brewing Company in Rochester, Prison City Pub and Brewery in Auburn, and Southern Tier Brewing Company in Lakewood.  

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