Rochester’s seventh craft brewery is located in an old firehouse on busy Route 104 in the shadow of the Kodak Park manufacturing complex, a stark reminder of how this city is constantly renewing itself in the face of adversity. Twenty-eight year old Keith Owens is the founder of Iron Tug Brewing, taking his interest in home-brewing to the next level.
This newest entry into the Rochester beer scene opened on August 6, and of course we were there for the brewery’s “maiden voyage.” Keith was nice enough to let me take a quick look around the day before as they put the finishing touches on the space, which is nicely done in a nautical theme. When he’s not busy brewing beer, Keith is a second mate on a tug boat that works out of the busy Philadelphia ports.
The brewery is located inside an old fire house (Hose Co. No. 24, according to old plat maps), located next to Bomberos Sub & Bake Shop. When I first learned of the location, I imagined the parking situation would be a nightmare alongside this stretch of multi-lane 104. Not so, thanks to a free public lot located directly behind the building, right off of Woodside Street. Thanks to the convenient location, selected items from the Bomberos menu are easy to order and delivered right to your table. All brewing is done on premises, using a compact system located at the rear of the building.
Iron Tug is a family affair, with brother Kurt often found behind the bar pouring pints and helping to run the business side of things. Many family members pitched in to renovate the space and prepare it for brewing, a mean feat since signing the lease on the space only six months previous. The long wooden tables and confined spaces make you feel like you’re aboard a merchant vessel at sea. Be prepared to make friends, because the tasting room fills up quickly. The tall ceilings are beautiful to look at, but tend to amplify the noise levels of boisterous crowds.
On our first visit, we tried just about everything available on the menu. Nothing out of the ordinary here, presenting a solid list of traditional brews including Pale Ale, Blonde Ale, Summer Ale, and IPA, as well as an Irish Stout and a Red Ale both on nitro. Most beers are infused with carbon dioxide (“carbonation”) which produces bigger bubbles and more “bite” as it crosses your palate. Nitrous oxide (“nitro”) produces tinier bubbles and produces a smooth, creamy feel as you are drinking. I personally enjoyed the Blonde Ale and the IPA as refreshing standouts on a 90-degree day. The IPA (8.0%) had just enough hop flavor, but not bitter, tipping the scales just beyond 8 percent. The Blonde Ale (5.0%)was crisp and refreshing. My friends also appreciated the Summer Ale (5.1%) with its subtle notes of lemon. In an unusual twist, Iron Tug plans to have this seasonal brew available all year round.
We returned the following week to try out the Red Ale (4.8%) on nitro. A beautiful rusty red color, the nitro really highlighted the malty flavors. It paired nicely with the tacos that were on special that night.
Greece and Rochester’s west side now have a neighborhood option for fine craft beer. Make it a point to check out the Iron Tug tasting room for solid beers served up by a friendly crew. Don’t be surprised if you end up staying for more than one, but if you feel like the bar is actually setting sail for the high seas, please call a cab home.