High Falls Brewing

Category: Macro
Location: Rochester, New York
web site: www.highfalls.com

Brewing at the site of the present day High Falls Brewing Company in Rochester, New York dates back to the 1850’s, when it was home to the Rau & Reisky Brewery, as well as a first class saloon. It was first known as Genesee as far back as 1878 and there was continuous brewing on site until Prohibition forced a cessation of operations in 1920. One of those who lost his job as a result of this most ignorant and small minded of all Constitutional Amendments was Louis Wehle, who had been the company’s superintendent. We share this information because we feel that it may be of at least of mild interest to some, should they manage to stay with the story. Probably not, though.

Louis Wehle had brewing in his blood. His father had been a brewer, as had his father before him. He even attended the National Brewers Academy in New York City before taking a job at the brewery. When Prohibition shut things down, he became a baker and a grocer, eventually founding a grocery chain which he sold for $1.3 Million in 1929. Following the end of Prohibition, Wehle re-entered the family business using the proceeds of that sale to found the Genesee Brewing Company in 1932. Successful from the start, Genesee continued to grow in the years following WWII, and buoyed, no doubt, by the introduction of Genesee Cream Ale in 1960, was among the nation’s 30 largest brewers in the mid 1960’s. Despite a marked drop in production (from a high of 4 million barrels in the late 1970’s to just 2.2 million 15 years later), Genesee was the 7th largest brewer in the country by 1990.

The 1990’s saw the launch of two new lines for Genesee. Michael Shea’s Irish Amber and Black & Tan were remarkably unremarkable and shall not soon be spoken of again in this space, but JW Dundee’s Honey Brown Lager was an immediate success locally, and even more so on a broader regional- perhaps even national – level. The name came from a combination of the intials of Louis Wehle’s son, John, by now chairman of the brewery, and the source of the honey used in making the beer, Martin’s Farm in nearby Dundee, New York. The modest success of this new line, however, did little to help the brewery’s overall bottom line, and Genesee’s struggles continued. In August of 1999 Pabst made an offer for all of the brewery’s brands. The Wehle family felt loyalty to Rochester and, correctly fearing that local jobs would be lost when Pabst relocated brewing operations, rejected the offer. In 2000, an investment group led by the brewery’s management took over operations and the company’s name was changed to High Falls Brewing Company.

That gob may have been a bit long winded, but here are the important things to know:

Genny still makes beer that is every bit as good as Bud and Miller, no matter what the born on date, or how much less filling it may be. We respect people who drink beer because it tastes good and they enjoy it, not because they laugh at the commercials, don’t feel full, are in the awful habit of always buying the same thing, or because more than half of the country drinks the souless, pale yellow substance.

Speaking of beer that tastes good, JW Dundee’s is now making a variety of pretty fine brews. As our main man, Lew Bryson, says:

New beers are out under the Dundee label: reports are that they are Saranac-like in character. Hope to hear more…Whoa! I’ve had ’em, and they’re at least Saranac-like. The Dundee Pale Bock rocks, the IPA is rippingly bitter. Expect great things in the future.

Full disclosure: while Mr. Bryson is indeed our favorite writer of all things beverage, we do not know him. Were we to know him, he would probably not like us. But dammit, do we respect him!

Dundee’s offers four seasonal variety packs – that’s one for each season! These represent an excellent value (approx. $9.99 for a 12 pack). Variety packs include three each of their American Pale Ale(very good, nicely hoppy), American Amber Lager (decent, we’d take it over a Killian’s any day), Honey Brown Lager (solid; the old standby – we’d probably tend to underrate it) and the corresponding seasonal beer. Spring is Pale Bock, Summer means Hefeweizen, Fall the IPA, and Winter brings with it their Festive Ale. The Pale Bock is excellent, a gold medal winner (German Maibock/Hellerbock – Category 28 – for those of you scoring at home) at the 2006 World Beer Cup Championship. Hard to find a better sixer for less than a buck a beer, we say. We have only sampled the Hefeweizen a couple of times so far. In fairness to us, it has been an unseasonably crappy summer. Solid beer, if a bit disappointing. We must admit that, so far at least, we enjoy it a bit less than Saranac’s Hefeweizen. It is not overly spiced or full of flavour. To be fair, it is labeled as JW Dundee’s Hefewizen American Wheat Beer, which may or may not be a concession to truth in advertising. Still, we find it enjoyable, and a nice complement to it’s packaging mates, which we are gaining new appreciation for even as we type. The IPA is highly anticipated in these quarters, as is the “Special Edition” Festive Ale, albeit to a slightly lesser degree. Overall, let us just say that JW Dundee has become a viable choice for craft beer fans, especially those like us who tend to support local and regional products when the opportunity presents itself. Get yo’ bad self a seasonal craft today!

Editor’s note: Let it be known to all that we are actually at least passing fans of Genny Cream. It’s good. Does not every man fancy a Screamer now and then?

From the News That May Interest Only Us Category:
JW Dundee joins aluminum bottle crowd

High Falls Brewing Co. has begun to package JW Dundee’s Honey Brown lager and American Pale Ale in flashy 16-ounce aluminum bottles as a single-serve product for bars, restaurants, groceries and convenience stores.

“We’re looking at this as a way for people to sample the product,” said High Falls Chief Executive Officer Tom Hubbard. “These are just more ways for us to gain the momentum of the craft line of products that we are offering.”

Sources: Great Lakes Brewing News, The Internet, Our Vast Knowledge

~ by bojangles on June 14, 2006.

5 Responses to “High Falls Brewing”

  1. Wow, looks like High Falls still DOES brew Michael Shea’s. Weren’t we just talking about that? That seems like a no-brainer of a microbrew tour, Jables.

  2. High Falls, despite the ownership/management change, still does not offer tours of the brewery. This is something they want to eventually do, but for now they are concentrating on growing the Dundee’s line and making the finest Cream Ale known to man. – ed

  3. Hey buddy, like the new format. It’s a delicious romp through the field of life.

  4. This is how you blog…I can’t wait for the next one in 3 months.

  5. Michael Shea’s Irish Amber is still available in our local beer store. We suppose we will have to give it another taste at some point. Not that we look forward to it or anything.

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