Two years, 104 weeks, 730 days, 17,520 hours – however you want to slice it, that’s how long East Aurora’s 42 North Brewing has been in business. Time has flown by so fast in fact, that Chief Brewing Officer Clay Keel is surprised that we are already to this point.
“I cannot believe it has been two years now,” he says. “I have to say I couldn’t be happier. I get to celebrate another year with this incredible team, 90% of which were here when we started this thing. In fact, I think the lack of turnover points to how much fun we all have here providing the very best craft beer experience we can every single day.”
Over the past two years, 42 North has not only expanded their brewing capacity, they have won multiple awards for their beer, including medals and awards for their Oak Aged Borderland and Creekside Session IPA to name a few, have increased their sour beer offerings, thanks to their weekly Wild Wednesdays, and their barrel aging program, with the implementation of their 42 Below Barrel House. They have also grown their overall beer production and workforce, something Keel is quite proud of as he looks back on the brewery’s second year.
“Our second year taught us a lot. We grew our production 40% in line with taproom and distribution growth and challenges came with that. We added about 5 employees this year to help with the workload in brewing, retailer support, and tap keeping (our 100% Cicerone Beer-Server certified bartending crew). Our people have stepped up to the challenge of new leadership roles all over the company as Cathy and I have had to shift focus to things like shipping beer to NYC, contract brewing off-site, expansion opportunities like our collocated 42 Below barrel-aging facility, and just managing a growing company.”
The recently opened 42 Below sits adjacent to the brewery itself and serves as the production and aging facility for 42 North’s barrel aged and sour beer line. 42 Below will hold 50 oak barrels from all over the world including white wine, red wine, bourbon and scotch barrels. Most of the production will center on long term sour beers. Most barrel house products will be released in 500ML bottles in the taproom starting in early 2018. In conjunction, 42 North has also launching “The Vagabond Society,” a member’s only club offering members exclusive events, first rights to barrel aged beers and special discounts. They will only be accepting 100 memberships in to the Vagabond Society.
“Since launching our Surveyor Series and, more recently, Vagabond, we have experienced great response to our sour beers. This facility provides 42 North a dedicated area to grow our beer portfolio and push the boundaries of our barrel aged beers,” Keel adds.
That being said, it’s no surprise that 42 Below happens to be one of the things that Keel is most looking forward to as 42 North moves into year three and beyond. But that’s not the only thing that has him excited.
“I’m halfway between outrageously excited and wide-eyed with amazement by the immense opportunities I think our third year will bring. First, 42 Below will be producing regular releases of barrel-aged ales as well as wild, funky, and sour projects starting in early 2018. The 42 Below sour projects are the culmination of years of study and experimentation by the brewing and lab staff and I can’t wait for the results. Next, to exercise our abundant creativity we plan to release more individual one-off releases in cans starting with our White Oak Borderland IPA. Finally, there are some exciting projects ongoing and doors opening for us that may just make it easier for people to get their hands on 42 North beer in the coming year.”
He also reflects on some of his favorite libations from this past year. “My favorite new 42 North beers of 2017 would be the Wanderer Barrel-Aged Sour Blonde (on tap now and bottles soon), Voss Borderland IPA Pilot, Borderlab IPA Pilot, and the Island Farmhouse Sour. Look for some of these beers, and some new creations, to be some of the first of the upcoming wider releases.”
Since 42 North is turning two, we have to celebrate, right? Head to the East Aurora taproom on October 21-22 for new beers, live music and complementary food/beer pairings. Doors open at noon with the tapping of the 42 North and Ithaca Beer Co. Parallel Lines Belgian Style Pale Ale collaboration. At 1pm, there’s a complementary beer/chocolate pairing in the 42 Below Barrel House, a complementary beer/cheese (Nickel City Cheese & Mercantile) pairing at 3pm,live music from Wild Things at 5:30pm and The Observers at 8pm. The next day brings brunch with Root’s Kitchen before the Bills battle the Buccaneers.
One of the highlights of the anniversary party is the tapping of Parallel Lines (6.9%), brewed with New York malt from New York Craft Malt and New York hops from Chimney Bluffs Hoppery in Wolcott, NY, came about once the two breweries realized they actually have a lot in common, including both being located along the 42nd parallel (Ithaca: 42.44°N, 76.50°W and East Aurora: 42.76°N, 78.61°W to be precise).
“We’re fired up about this collab with 42 North!” Ithaca’s Gregg Stacy says. “Clay Keel approached us a little while back about this project and we realized we had a lot of synergies between our two companies and that this would be a fun project to help them celebrate their anniversary. When Clay and his crew came to the brewery here in Ithaca to discuss the project, we knew we were going to come up with something great. Our head of brewing Andy Hausman worked with Clay on the recipe and came to 42 North to help with the brew. The name, Parallel Lines is a play on both 42 North and Ithaca Beer being in the 42nd parallel as well as our similarities in style and our coming together to make this beer. This has been a fun project and we’re really looking forward to tasting the beer.”
Keel adds, “We love the fact that we brewed a beer with Ithaca. They are not only a leader in New York State brewing community, but a brand that represents the ideology and culture that we strive to emulate at 42 North. The fact we both brew in small towns on the 42nd parallel is also pretty cool.”
The beer is described as “a balanced pale ale fermented with a unique blend of Belgian yeasts to create complex fruit flavors and aromas that bound from the glass” and “a gentle malt combination meets an authentic “Belgian” character to lay a nice platform.” Parallel Lines will be tapped at noon sharp on Saturday.
Brian Campbell is a co-founder/Brand Manager of the BNBA’s enthusiast arm, Buffalo Beer League, and writes the weekly Buffalo Beer Buzz column. If you have beer news that should be included in the Beer Buzz, Brian can be reached at email@example.com, on Twitter at @buffbeerleague, on Instagram at @buffalobeerleague and on Facebook at @thebuffalobeerleague.