Beer flight at Seneca Stag Brewing featuring four small mason jars with various colored beer
Beer & Wine,  Upstate New York

Sip Your Way through the FLX with the Crafts & Drafts Passport

Everybody knows that the Finger Lakes region is filled with countless wineries, breweries, and distilleries crafting some delicious beverages. But planning a trip through the region can be a bit overwhelming; not to mention pricey if you aren’t careful. So I always recommend that people look into local craft beverage trails or programs that give you access to tastings at several locations. Luckily for us, there’s a brand new beverage trail in Yates and Steuben counties: the Crafts and Drafts Passport.

What is the Crafts & Drafts Passport?

Many places you visit that have a network of breweries, wineries, cideries, and/or distilleries typically have some kind of program to encourage people to visit them all. Those types of programs break down into two categories. There are the free ones with incentives to visit them all – think free pint glasses and t-shirts – that don’t include any drinks at the locations. Then there are the passport-type programs. You pay for a pass up front and it gives you access to a tasting at each location, usually a pint or a flight.

The Crafts and Drafts Passport is the latter of the two. A combination effort between Yates and Steuben counties, the digital passport gives you access to discounted tastings at 9 breweries and 2 distilleries in the area. You can purchase a 1-day, 3-day, 5-day, or an annual pass depending on how many stops you want to visit and how long you will be in the area.

A 1-day pass gives you access to tastings at 3 participating locations.

The 3-day pass gives you access to tastings at 5 participating locations.

A 5-day pass gives you access to tastings at 7 participating locations.

An annual pass gives you access to tastings at all 11 participating locations.

Of course, the higher level pass you purchase, the more you’re saving with each tasting!

Crafts & Drafts Passport Participating Locations

While there are dozens of breweries, wineries, and distilleries along Keuka Lake, the Crafts & Drafts Passport focuses on the following 11 locations. Of course, feel free to add to your itinerary if you find other stops along the way! (I’m looking at you, Black Sheep Distillery and Bully Hill Vineyards.)

The participating craft beverage venues include a lot of history, great views of Seneca and Keuka Lakes, passionate brewers, and – of course – delicious drinks.

Abandon Brewing Co.

Located on a hill overlooking Keuka Lake, Abandon Brewing Co. is located in – wait for it – an abandoned barn. Well the barn was abandoned when the owners purchased it. During one of my visits, the staff shared photos of the 1800s barn from when they first took ownership. Now, they have restored it just enough to house the brewery, while still leaving as much of its history intact.

All of the beers produced by Abandon are made with locally sourced ingredients from farms around New York State. The head brewer has a commendable mission to use the freshest ingredients possible. While you’re enjoying your Abandon brews, take advantage of the back deck of the barn. The views of Keuka Lake from there are phenomenal.

Barrelhouse 6 Distillery

It’s rare to find a distillery that is woman-owned. It’s even rarer to find one that has a female distiller. At Barrelhouse 6 Distillery in Hammondsport, owner Kara holds both of those positions. After watching a documentary on distilling over a decade ago, she got inspired to learn the craft for herself. A few years, several classes and workshops, and a lot of money later, she now owns and distills at Barrlehouse 6.

The name Barrelhouse 6 comes from its location on Keuka Lake, the 6th of the Finger Lakes whether you count from east or west. The distillery claims to have the ‘smoothest bourbon in the Finger Lakes’, but I think their bourbon cream is where it’s at. In fact, their chocolate bourbon cream is their most popular product, with folks saying it tastes just like a chocolate milkshake.

A flight of liquor including bourbon, gin, and bourbon cream at Barrelhouse 6 Distillery

Brewery of Broken Dreams

When you visit The Brewery of Broken Dreams, take a few minutes to chat with Doug and/or Shelly, the owners. They would love to share their story about how they founded the brewery. Long story short, while searching for a new home and a place to open a brewery, the process dragged on. Struggling to find a place within budget that they liked, they lost out on the first one that seemed like a good fit. That was until they came across a property that they fell in love with but never thought they could afford. The building was built in 1887 as the home of Monarch Wine Company and sat upon an old vineyard. Spoiler alert: they could afford it! So The Brewery of Broken Dreams found its home in Hammondsport.

While you’re enjoying a pint or flight in the taproom, make sure to check out the historic photos and story of the brewery scattered around. Their story on their tap menu explains that “the name, The Brewery of Broken Dreams, comes from years of experience and a healthy dose of humor as we pick up the pieces and put them to good use!” The logo for the brewery is a loon with a tear drop. The loon because Shelly kept noticing them throughout the Finger Lakes – and in Native American culture, the loon represents the reawakening of dreams. The tear drop symbolizes the tears shed through both struggle and joy.

As for the beers, there are quite a few on tap, all brewed on location. Simon, one of the owners of neighboring Black Sheep Inn & Spa, helps brew and bartend at the brewery. No matter your style preference, you’re sure to find something you’ll love. It goes without saying that my favorite was the chocolate creme stout, aptly named ‘Hyperdeliciousness’!

Climbing Bines Hop Farm and Craft Ale Company

The story of Climbing Bines starts a little differently than most. Before Climbing Bines was a brewery, it was a hop farm. Homebrewer Chris Hansen wanted to perfect his beer, so he decided to start growing his own hops in 2007. Now the hop farm grow 7 different varieties of hops: Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, Hallertau, Magnum, Nugget, and Willamette.

Five years later, Chris’s friend Matt Klehammer joined the picture and together they dreamed of turning the hop farm into a brewery. They spent the next year remodeling Chris’s grandfather’s old farm shed on the property. On August 17, 2013, Climbing Bines Craft Ale Company opened its doors to the public.

Currently the brewery uses a mix of its own hops and those it sources locally to produce a variety of beer styles. Visitors feel the warmth of the community at Climbing Bines as soon as they walk into the doors. And its hard not to admire the craftsmanship in all of the woodworking in the brewery.

There’s plenty of space both inside and out for guests to enjoy – it even makes a great event venue. Plus, the brewery is dog-friendly.

Krooked Tusker Distillery

Now for the second distillery on the Craft and Drafts Passport, Krooked Tusker Distillery. The first time I visited this spot, I was very impressed. We had such a great time and were pleasantly surprised at the concept of the tastings and the flavor of the alcohol.

Krooked Tusker Distillery creates a variety of different spirits, including vodka, gin, whiskey, and bourbon. When you visit the distillery, you can do a tasting of any 4 (and get a shot glass to take home). Or, choose from a long list of craft cocktails created using their spirits. Don’t see a cocktail you like? Unlikely. But, you have more options! They keep a list of all specialty cocktails they’ve EVER created.

If you’re still undecided, they also serve local wine, beer, and soda. And in the summer, guests especially enjoy the frozen drinks.

The distillery has ample room inside, on the deck, and out on the lawn. They often have food trucks and live music, so it’s an all-around great spot to hang out and enjoy a drink – or a few. And yes, they are also dog-friendly.

Laurentide Beer Company

There’s just something about the charm of Laurentide Beer Company that can’t be beat. The main taproom for the brewery is located in a restored carriage house from the 1800s. It’s stunning. And they offer some great beer.

Located in the heart of Penn Yan, Laurentide prides itself on crafting great beer and providing great food at the True Roots Kitchen next door (in the warmer months). At the heart of the brewery you’ll find lifelong friendships with an appreciation for the Finger Lakes region, travel, adventure, and good beer.

Wondering where the name Laurentide comes from? For that you have to go back in time to 2.5 million years ago when the Ice Age covered the Earth. That’s when the Laurentide ice sheet and glacier slid across New York State and carved out the Finger Lakes.

LyonSmith Brewing Co.

What do you get when you combine two craft beer-loving families with a passion for the Finger Lakes? A brewery named after the two families, of course! LyonSmith Brewing Company is truly a family affair with the Lyon and Smith families.

The brewery focuses on traditional English style beers, using English malts. They pride themselves in honoring the centuries-old traditions of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. So you’ll find styles on their tap list that you don’t always find at other breweries. Styles including like braggot, mild ale, red ale, scotch ale, and others. The family is also happy to share the stories of how many of the beers got their names. Rhiannon, Rylie, and Reid are the couple’s three children. The Three Mutts Stout is in honor of the first three brewery dogs. [Did I mentioned that the family are dedicated animal rescuers and regularly foster dogs at their home?]

Head on over to LyonSmith if you’re looking for an inviting, casual, and dog-friendly atmosphere with English-style ales.

RailHead Brewing Company

Slightly outside of Hammondsport, this brewery is definitely worth any trip in the Keuka Lake region. RailHead Brewing Company pays homage to the history of the local community. Before RailHead existed, Hornell Brewing Company was a staple in the town for over 50 years. Mike McCumiskey & Dave Woolever wanted to bring a brewery back to the city. And in 2014 that’s exactly what they did.

Dave brews all of their beers on-site on a 3-barrel system, using traditional recipes for a classic taste. RailHead isn’t trying to be flashy or trendy. Their goal is to provide solid, quality beers – and they truly succeed in doing just that. Their favorite beer they make? The altbier.

When you visit the brewery, make sure to get a wood-fired pizza with your pint or flight. They also offer homemade soft pretzels, cheese boards, and candied bacon. It’s all delicious.

Relative Risk Brewing Company

Relative Risk Brewing Company is designed with both the risk-takers and the risk-averse in mind. So it’s safe to say that their beer is a little bit traditional and a little bit experimental. The family-oriented brewery is located in Penn Yan overlooking Seneca Lake. The quaint taproom sits upon 12 acres of prime real estate providing plenty of space for guests to enjoy the property.

Like many Finger Lakes businesses, Relative Risk operates on limited winter hours and is currently only open on Fridays and Saturdays.

Seneca Stag Brewing

Also located along Seneca Lake, Seneca Stag Brewing Company is a true family affair. The brother wanted to open a brewery, the mother wanted to open a restaurant. The solution? A brewery with a small kitchen offering a limited food menu.

Like many other breweries in the area, Seneca Stag is located in a renovated old building – this time a hay barn. The current decor honors the farming history of the building, with antique farming equipment adorning the walls in the most creative ways. As for me, I’m a big fan of their Oktoberfest and Hefeweizen – and the little brewery dogs that are often wandering around.

The brewery also hosts regular events including bingo, brushes & beers, and live music.

Tub Town Brewing

As soon as I stepped foot into Tub Town Brewing for the first time, I could feel the community spirit thriving there. It is the kind of place where it seems like everyone knows everyone, but outsiders don’t feel alienated. They are welcomed with open arms.

The current location for the brewery is in a small building at the heart of Bath. Though it must be noted that they are currently in the process of moving to another historic building in town that will have room for a bigger brewing facility, a biergarten, and parking.

Tub Town operates on a small 1-barrel system, so they are able to experiment with different recipes and styles often. Their current taplist includes a few uniquely-flavored hard seltzers (marshmallow and orange creamsicle) alongside some IPAs, stouts, and a blonde. While they aren’t usually my first go-to, the IPAs at Tub Town were on point! And the staff was so friendly, I cannot wait to return. Next time I’ll be able to try some of the pizza that the other folks were raving about.

PS – isn’t their flight board amazing?!

Tell me your thoughts!