Farm to Community—Lake Drum Brewing

Taking on the work of bringing back the joy of community connections over good cider and beer.
Victor Pultinas and Jenna LaVita. Photo courtesy of Lake Drum Brewing

by Amy Quan

“We are a farm brewery,” Victor Pultinas made clear at the outset of our conversation. Opened in 2014, Lake Drum was “the first place in Geneva to manufacture any kind of alcohol since prohibition,” and they do so with apples from local growers in the Finger Lakes. This history and this region are important to Victor, but I also came to understand during our chat that Lake Drum has a more complex, and intriguing, mission.

Though co-owner and chief cider maker at Lake Drum Brewing in Geneva, Victor also emphasized throughout our conversation that central to Lake Drum’s goal is creating a “sense of community; a sense of space.” And not just at the bar.

On ten acres in Waterloo, Victor and his wife, Jenna LaVita, are also in the process of diversifying, as Victor says, “in all directions—people and farm.”

They’ve recently built a commercial kitchen that, in addition to giving them more space for cider and beer making, will be a commissary for people to bring their own food projects to fruition. In the middle of their 600-tree orchard, they’ve also created an open space for gatherings, complete with a small outdoor stage. And they share the Waterloo site with six other people who are working on individual projects from figs to native pollinators, actively building community at their home.

“We try to make it more approachable… to have actual, physical conversations,” says Victor about his cider; but the same could be said about Lake Drum in general.

I went into this interview wondering why a bar and not a tasting room or even regional retail distribution. But by the end of our conversation, it seemed to me that given Lake Drum’s community centered approach to cider, to everything, the bar makes perfect sense. Victor’s goal is to bring folks together in conversation—about cider, about community, about ourselves. 

In this year of “changes and hiccups and bumps,” as he says, we probably need these physical connections more than ever. So for now, and maybe for always, the cider is only available at the brewery because Lake Drum is more than a cidery or brewery. It’s a place for people. 

The large center table that once physically brought folks together at the bar, now sits outside in his orchard in Waterloo. In the meantime, go to Lake Drum and grab a cider or a beer, have a conversation, take some home and look forward to the day the table once again becomes a gathering spot in the brewery.

The Ciders

Victor says his goal is to make “cider that showcases the apples, but also cider that is worth talking about, that draws people into a conversation.”

The two I tried, Crabby Karen and Tulsi Basil, are both great examples of that. Crabby Karen is a classic crab apple cider—bright, tart, apply, all in balance. I especially appreciated this cider’s delicate sourness with no traces of bitterness. 

As much as I liked Crabby Karen, I loved Tulsi Basil even more. Infused with spruce tips, this cider is a bit hard to describe, but harder to put down. The spruce gave it just a touch of herbal-not-just-apple quality which added depth without being overwhelming.  

In addition to the Castle Street brewery, look for a Lake Drum mid-summer pop-up on Linden St, also in Geneva.

Lake Drum Brewing; 16 E Castle Street, Geneva, NY 14456

Amy Quan lives, writes, and drinks cider in Covert, NY. When not outside with her husband planting food and trying to restore the old orchard on their farmland, she teaches writing at Ithaca College.

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