By Sara Jenks – Young Urban Preservationists (YUPs)
In a new office park in the Rochester suburb of Victor, NY, sits one of the world’s largest beverage companies, in fact, the largest wine producer in the world. Historically, the Rochester drink scene has been dominated by its famed ice wines and prize winning rieslings from the rolling hills of the Finger Lakes Region. But like the Rust Belt young preservationists who have come Tuesdays prior and those who will come Tuesdays next, we Rochesterians have decided that we want our booze local, urban, and found in old buildings.
In 2014 the Young Urban Preservationists of The Landmark Society of Western New York (YUPs, for short) unveiled our WHERE THE #&@% AM I?™ historic pub/bar coaster project. The Rohrbach Brewing Company Beer Hall and Black Button Distilling were in the coaster project’s inaugural class. These two establishments are located on Railroad St. in a factory building built for the Bantleon Brothers’ millwork door company in 1906. Since the door company, this building has housed a telephone warehouse, an auto parts company, and a flea market.
Jason Barret named his distillery Black Button to honor his family’s history of manufacturing buttons that “have closed suits worn by presidents, popes, kings, and businessmen the world over.” Colorblind, Jason grew up thinking every button was black. Black Button was Rochester’s first urban distillery since prohibition, and Rohrbach’s is deemed Rochester’s original craft brewery.
As the mid 20th century fades into the past, we YUPs can now embrace its architectural fruits. Swiftwater and ROC Brewing Company are modern in their decor and flavor. Located in a former car repair garage across from the Genesee River, Swiftwater stays true to theme with kayaks hanging on the walls. It’s a partcularly gratifying place to drink a beer after a subzero heart-bombing event.
At ROC Brewing, whether playing shuffleboard or Wednesday night trivia, you can enjoy unique brews like the jalapeno-tinted saison “Sassypants” or my favorite, the citrusy “WHOOPASS” imperial/double IPA. And you can usually catch a pretty fantastic sunset over the downtown skyline, with our lovely Inner Loop project in the foreground (a sunken highway/moat around downtown that’s currently being filled in to re-create a normal urban street…yay for undoing urban renewal!).
We are looking forward to the development of Split Batch Brewing, a combination coffee shop, craft brewery in one of downtown Rochester’s newest repurposed buildings, The Hive @ 155. Split Batch won the inaugural Retailent Rochester competition last year, offering free rent for a year and start-up assistance. Isn’t it the best when our two favorite activities of historic preservation and drinking local brews can go hand-in-hand?