Empire Brewing Company: Behind the Scenes

9 Feb
empire taps

Empire Brewing Company offers a variety of beers brewed on-site.

David Katleski, owner of Empire Brewing Company, Native of Syracuse

Matt Riddett, kitchen manager at Empire Brewing Company, Native of Camillus

Kevin Griffin, kitchen manager at Empire Brewing Company, Native of ‘All Over’

The brewing part of Empire Brewing Company

empire beer list

Beers offered on tap are rotated regularly at Empire.

Empire Brewing Company was opened in 1994. Brewing was a part of the concept since the restaurant’s inception after reading an article in the Wall Street Journal about an up and coming concept called a brewpub.  Seventeen years later, and after multiple national and international awards, we have expanded our brewing efforts to Brooklyn and now brew Cream Ale, Amber Ale and IPA directly in Brooklyn. We are interested in expanding to a microbrewery and wanted to test the demand for the concept in other markets. We began brewing in Brooklyn about a year ago by partnering with my friend who owns Heartland Brewery. We distribute from as far east as Montauk on Long Island, throughout the five New York boroughs including Brooklyn, as far north as the Catskill Mountains. We rotate our beers at the restaurant regularly and have about fifteen styles at any given time. Some of our foods even have beer in them.

How Empire Brewing Company keeps it local

The Empire State Pale Ale contains 100% Madison County hops. Our barley wine contains all New York State-produced ingredients and grains from New York State. We received the Snail of Approval from Slow Food based on our use of local ingredients. The more restaurants like us that use local ingredients, the more local farmers will be encouraged to increase their production. Sourcing food can be difficult as we have an ongoing concern that we will have enough volume of a certain product through local vendors. We are constantly looking for new opportunities for sourcing locally. We are involved in farmers’ markets and the local community and get a lot of contacts that way.

empire staff

Matt Riddett, Kevin Griffin and David Katleski at Empire.

We get a lot of feedback from our customers about how important it is to them that our food is made from local ingredients. People are definitely more conscious these days of reducing their carbon footprint. Most restaurants’ food costs are around 28%, while ours are around 36% because of our priority on using local ingredients. We put an emphasis on quality and try not to pass the cost of high-quality ingredients onto our customers. For four years, we have had a garden in Cazenovia that a lot of our ingredients come from, including some of the ingredients for our beers. The garden is located on land that used to be Polo Farms and is owned by Eric and Leanne Burrell. Everything we grow in the garden is organic. We try to be creative with what we grow there and grow some things that would cost a lot to buy. We’ve grown heirloom tomatoes, multicolored carrots, herbs, purple basil and hops plants, just to name a few.

empire sign

Empire Brewing Company opened in 1994 in downtown Syracuse.

The garden is tended daily by Empire employees. Cynthia Mench, a bartender at Empire, has a bachelor’s degree in horticulture from SUNY Morrisville and oversees the garden along with the Burrell family.

What happens at Empire Brewing Company for Dining Week

We try to make the Dining Week menu a mix of what’s most popular, as well as give new customers a broad idea of what our food is like. We are offering 3 select menu items (one may be swapped out for a dessert) for $25.  New Orleans cuisine heavily influences our food. We’ve found that spicy food goes good with beer.

Empire Brewing Company is one of the 25 restaurants participating in the 2012 edition of AmeriCU Dining Week(s).  Visit the restaurant at 120 Walton Street, call 475-2337 for information or reservations or visit www.empirebrew.com.

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