by David Diehl. Photography by Jan Regan.
It seems as if more and more people and companies are migrating to the Finger Lakes, and truth be told, the region is the better for it, especially when it comes to good beer.
The latest to improve on the Finger Lakes craft beer scene is award-winning, Queens-based brewing company Big aLICe. After a weekend visiting the area, co-owners Scott Berger and Kyle Hurst saw the potential in the region and shopped around for a space to call their own.
“When the owners inquired if there were any breweries for sale,” says Paul Leone, executive director of the New York State Brewers Association, “I told them about Gael [the space that Big aLICe now occupies]. I explained to them about all of the great breweries and wineries that were already in the region and that it would make sense for them to at least go and investigate. And that’s exactly what they did. And I know that the team from Big aLICe are going to be team players in the community.”
So, about that name… the brewers named their business after the Ravenswood Generating Station in Long Island City (LIC), which is locally revered and known to locals as “Big Allis.” They substituted the spelling with a capital LIC. Hence, Big aLICe it is.
Despite how tough 2020 was, Big aLICe received accolades and recognition for their outstanding brews and Berger and Hurst are well aware of their good fortune.
“Clearly this has been such a challenging year for everyone, but adjacent to that, we have had an incredible year as far as our beer getting recognized,” says Berger. “We knew after some experimentation that one of our beers [The Many Lives of Our Lives] was really special [100% New York State sour ale aged in New York red wine barrels with sour cherries from the Hudson Valley]. We entered the beer into the NYS competition, and it won two gold medals and took home the Best in Show at the Governor’s Cup.”
“Because it was named the best beer in NYS, we wanted to see how it stacked up in the Great American Beer Festival, and it achieved another gold medal,” Berger remarks. “We also were named the Small Brewing Company of the Year and the Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year, all because of this one beer. Crazily, this was all happening during quarantine—during the pandemic.”
“Achievements like these help you carry on,” he says. “It’s not why you do it, but it sure is great when it happens.”
Moving to the Finger Lakes presents Big aLICe with tremendous opportunities to grow using a formula that they have based their company around: team with local resources, companies, and supply chains to produce a community-based and delicious catalog of brews. Big aLICe co-owner Hurst is excited to partner up with a whole new proverbial grocery basket.
“What we are doing already exists here. Even more so than in the city. This concept of sourcing local ingredients and using local resources—that has always been important to us,” says Hurst.
“We always brewed our beers based on what we got from our CSA [community-supported agriculture harvest subscription program]; we would go to the local food co-op and see what was in season. Over the course of a weekend, we would use those resources and do all of our brewing. Although it is important in the city, it’s not a driver the way it is up here in the Finger Lakes. You see it everywhere up here. And that is really encouraging for us to see that companies up here are of that mindset.”
With the opening of the Tap Room and Brewhouse scheduled for April 2021, Big aLICe has even larger plans as to how they will utilize the space—space that has been so hard to come by in NYC.
“The city doesn’t make anything easy on you. Everything just takes more effort. It’s more of a struggle,” says Berger.
“In the city, you learn more about cube footage. We use every possible space with shelving and so on. They know how to use all this space in the Finger Lakes; they would kill for it in Queens,” adds Hurst. “It’s a plethora. Everything that we have wanted to do in Queens, we thought we could do in Brooklyn—like live music and events—and now with this space in the Finger Lakes, we feel like everything that we couldn’t do in Brooklyn, we are going to do here.” “We want to become a part of the community up here,” Hurst continues. “We want to add something to the beer scene in the Finger Lakes. We are here to support everyone else that is already here, and with the ‘rising tide’ mentality we want every local business to be successful. We think that this area is going to be great. It already is really great, and it’s growing.”
4180 Rte.14, Geneva; bigalicebrewing.com
It was always a goal for David Diehl to return to the Finger Lakes and make an imprint on the beer culture of the region. A Hobart & William Smith Colleges graduate, Diehl spent over a decade in Brooklyn and is excited to be back and taking on Finger Lakes craft beer reviews and commentaries for EdibleFingerLakes.com. He has also been published in Inked Magazine, YRB Magazine, Nerve.com, and The Finger Lakes Times. You can follow his work at FLXWORDS.com.
Jan Regan is a longtime Geneva-based photographer happiest when capturing the people, places and things of the Finger Lakes—and beyond. More at janreganphotography.com.
This article first appeared in the April 2021 print issue.