The first thing I anticipate as I approach the little corner pub at the Southern Tier Brewery, which is literally a little pub occupying a corner of the brewery itself, is the smell. I know that this detail may not appeal to most people, even some beer drinkers, but it truly is one of the most unique smells I have ever encountered. Most breweries I know emit a smell that tells of the malted grains that are being used in the process, not unlike putting a soggy bowl of Grape Nuts in the microwave. Not exactly mind blowing. The smell here though lets you know, that beyond any doubt, the hop flower reigns supreme within.
You can catch whiffs of it outside, faint citrus wood, but once within the front door, it hits you full force. This moment of entry is also nice due to the fact that once you are in the front door of the brewery, you still have to pass through a small, quiet foyer with just a large wooden brewery logo on the wall, and the smell of hops in the air between you and the door to the empty pint. It gives you a moment to pause and reflect upon what you are about to enjoy. Very Zen.
The Empty Pint is clearly designed for optimum enjoyment of Southern Tier’s fine products. The architecture of The Pint boasts an amazing mortise and tenon exposed timber framework and is finished in rich golden hard wood and dark tiles. One wall features the ubiquitous large windows that look in on the tanks of the brewery, and gives the patron the faint sensation that they are indeed, a part of the process. In summer months, one can enjoy an open-air atmosphere as the frame of The Empty Pint juts out of the back the brewery and creates the stoutest pavilion I have ever seen.
On tap, one can expect to find an array of beers that will never disappoint an enthusiast and may perhaps (just maybe) open the eyes of, and excite a novice. Southern Tier specializes in big, bold innovative ales such as Unearthly and Iniquity, a monstrous, golden, hoppy beast and its antithesis. The beers of their main, year round line up, are all intensely well done. Meaning, that they are not just “meets expectations, that was good” kind of beers, but instead each one tends to blow you away and cause you to want to step up on a near by soap box and pontificate the awesomeness of the particular brew you are drinking. I’ve preached this sermon (despite lack of soap box and audience that was not the choir) on more than one occasion.
Southern Tier is obviously confident in their beers but remain humble, and pay homage to their roots by offering an impressive list of Belgian trappist ales and some other odds and ends such as lambics and a “guest” beer on tap. They also have a selection of wine that usually goes beyond your staple bar offerings of White Zin and Lambrusco, nothing earth shattering, but at least a wine drinker doesn’t need to wait out in the car.
Hungry? Well good, order whatever you’d like as long as it is a pulled pork sandwich and coleslaw. Seriously, that and a soup of the day or a bag of chips rounds out the menu. Which I love! The Empty Pint is not trying to be a brew pub that all too often lose track of what got them started in the first place, beer. Here, they recognize that you may get hungry, and they are not going claim to do anything more than make you a delicious sandwich that consists of one part something from a day-or-longer-simmering-roaster and one part something that’s been marinating-a-day-or-longer in the fridge. That’s what makes those things good, and no one gets distracted from the main showcase of beer. (My apologies if someone from Southern Tier reads this and informs me that someone daily slaves over a barbecue pit, smoking a pork shoulder, I had just assumed that a slow roaster was all the effort applied to the task. Now if someone at Southern Tier reads this and decides that someone should be barbecuing a pork shoulder every day…that just may be my dream job.)
The Empty Pint also has a nice selection of quality Southern Tier gear such as t-shirts, hats, sweatshirts, and decent looking glassware for those looking to be visually identified by what they drink. More importantly, you can also peruse a selection of six packs and cases as well as the popular 22oz imperial line of beers. It is also the staging point for the three weekend tours that occur that give a detailed look at the main guts of the place. While all these things make up a great experience at The Pint, I am still stuck on that initial smell….bright, sweet, citrusy…if only I could drink it…ah! There it is! The smell I love, all embodied in the 2XIPA, my favorite draught there, and probably my favorite beer to date. I am apparently not alone in this as I was told over the weekend that the 2X is about to surpass IPA as Southern Tier’s best seller.
Southern Tier is located at 2072 Stoneman Circle, Lakewood, New York. Not really in Lakewood, but near it, just like it is also near Lake Chautauqua and the Chautauqua Institution and a whole array of other things I did not realize were in such close proximity to one another until I just now looked at this promotional website for Chautauqua County.
So, Southern Tier Brewery and the Empty Pint make for the perfect addition to your weekend getaway to a great looking part of New York to visit. But, if you are more like me, the Chautauqua County tourism website has given you a couple options to augment your weekend getaway to The Empty Pint! Let’s get cooking!