Albany County is spotlighting local producers with a new beverage “tasting pass.”
Speaking at the Albany Distilling Company on Monday, Democratic County Executive Dan McCoy said the new Albany County Craft Beverage Trail would support part of the county’s economy that has been struggling since the pandemic.
“You put farmers to work and you circulate their products. And it’s all made locally, which is really great,” McCoy said.
The project is supported by $40,000 in funding to Discover Albany, in addition to $30,000 allocated last year to expand the initiative. There are currently nine participating sites, including ADCo, with more being sought. President and CEO John Curtin says the pandemic has dealt a major blow to the distilling business.
“It’s been very important to get people to come back, meet in person and enjoy each other’s company again. And initiatives like this have really helped perpetuate that,” Curtin said.
But he says the business is growing.
“Right now, we’re all in New York state. We just expanded into Massachusetts. We are in Tennessee. We are in Florida. We’re in Nevada,” Curtin said.
Democrat Wanda Willingham is deputy speaker of the county Legislature.
“This business here will be part of the backbone of what is needed to bring life back to this part of town, North Albany, North Pearl Street, my church is right down the street here, we are looking to put together in another theater, a black theater,” Willingham said.
Jill Delaney, president and CEO of Discover Albany, says alcohol production is central to the Capital Region’s history.
“When I talk about history, I’m talking about almost 400 years. It started with the Dutch settlers, the Dutch adopted alcohol. It’s not something that was taboo for them. And that was really an early industry for Albany, something that we’ve always embraced. And it was perhaps the premier craft beverage destination in all of colonial America,” Delaney said.
Unlike other drinks circuits, which focus on a specific type of product, the county’s is varied.
“We have nine different partners on this trail, from all corners of the craft beverage industry, we have breweries, distilleries, wineries, cideries and meaderies,” Delaney said.
Delaney says the passes come at three different price points and tasting amounts.
“And while you’re there to enjoy your pre-purchased tasting, also be sure to pull out your Capital Craft Beverage Trail Passport, which is our regional trail,” Delaney said.
Andrew Joyce, a Democrat and chairman of the Albany County Legislature, says the idea was developed to help with economic recovery from the pandemic.
“Who would have thought, you know, that by going to the bar, sitting outside or many different places in Albany County, that you could help us get through the pandemic and help businesses? “Joyce said.
Albany County Legislator Matthew Peter, a Democrat whose 5th District includes Albany Distilling, says supporting small businesses is crucial.
“We’re creating signage throughout the county, we’re working with the DOT so individuals when they’re driving try to find things on a map, it’s easy,” Peter said.
Peter says artisan producers are key to the Empire State’s economy.
“To be a craft producer, you have to use New York State products, which further strengthens the farms, which further strengthens agritourism,” Peter said.
Dan Dineen, general manager and partner at Bull and Bee Meadery on Hamilton Street near Albany’s MVP Arena, encourages people to try an unfamiliar drink.
“We ferment the sugar and honey. Everything is local, we use Albany city water, which luckily for us is very, very, very good. And then we also have honey from New York State which is about 10 to 15 miles away,” Dineen said.
“We had a few meetings, but it also felt like we’re joining other opportunities while giving everyone a discount, we’re attracting people, there’s more people coming through the door,” Dineen said .
Other pass program participants include Indian Ladder Farms, Helderberg Mountain Brewing, Mixed Breed, Meadowdale Winery, Rail to River Brewing, Warbler Brewery and Bye-i Brewing.
There is more information about the program here.