Brewers announce plans for microbrewery

John Christensen
The Abandon Brewing Company team: Jeff Hillebrandt and Travis Fisher, brewery partners and brewers, Pat McGloon, hop specialist and viticulturalist, and Garry Sperrick, brewery partner.

Two engineers and a physicist have taken time away from their calculations to pursue a more enjoyable passion: beer.

Not the mere swilling of some mass-brewed light beer at a local watering hole, but the careful consideration and testing of their own recipes as craft brewers who take both pride and pleasure in the products of their labor. And now they have partnered to take that labor the next step from a fulfilling hobby to a profitable enterprise.

Abandon Brewing Company is the dream that is rapidly being realized by partners Garry Sperrick, Travis Fisher, and Jeff Hillebrandt. Now incorporated and with their site on an old farm at 2994 Merritt Hill Road, they are moving forward with their plans to begin on-site operations by the end of this year.

Renovation of their 19th century peaked roof barn is soon to begin. Despite long neglect, the post and beam barn is a good restoration project which retains much of its original tongue and groove vertical siding. This will soon become both their brewery and “Tap Room” tasting facility, modeled on the many farm winery tasting rooms in our area.

“We want people to know that we aren’t going to be some bar where college kids go to party,” says Fisher. The Greek revival farmhouse will also be restored and renovated to serve the expanding plans for the brewery.

Fisher says, “It’s going to be a family-friendly place with our own root beer and birch beer on tap, so kids can have their own tasting experience.”

Another offering may be “Hop-ade,” an infusion of hops, citrus fruit, and sugar in water.

Just uphill from State Route 54A on Merritt Hill Road, Abandon Acres Farm enjoys some of the most beautiful views of Keuka Lake, overlooking Keuka College, with Norton Chapel and Ball Hall in prominent view.

A neighboring pond adds to the picturesque setting. With the classic New York farm architecture and plans for a deck and terrace, few places could be better suited for attracting an appreciative public.

It was on a perfect late Saturday morning in that setting I was able to sample just some of the many candidates for Abandon’s first class of beers.

I claim my personal favorites to be the American Rye and the Mocha Porter, which will earn their places among the best craft-brewed beers in the world, if all goes well. Fisher, a dedicated home-brewer, shows an adventurous attitude, exploring different grain combinations with hops and yeast inspired by history and his own imagination.

Hillebrandt served as an intern at Custom Brew Crafters in Honeoye Falls, and studied at brewers’ schools in Chicago and Munich, Germany. His mastery of Belgian ales is without doubt, and his blending of flavors and limited sweetness in his mocha porter is impressive.

Sperrick is the business force among the partners and is not lacking in his own creativity. having just planted 250 apple trees, he expects to make cider part of Abandon Brewing’s market offerings.

A vineyard is also being replanted, making wines another possibility. Sperrick describes their philosophy as “Living off whatever we can grow here.” That will include a hopyard with six varieties, being planted with the help of their hop specialist Pat McGloon, a student at FLCC’s new viticulture program, who rounds out the Abandon Brewing brotherhood.

Abandon Acres Farm and the Abandon Brewing Company are the latest set of entrepreneurs to recognize the unique qualities of Yates County and the opportunities it can offer. The partners look forward to taking their place as a new element in the Finger Lakes experience, as contributing members of the local economy, and as good neighbors.

Five beers made by Travis Fisher:

Cream Ale - Accurate to style, historically this type of ale was brewed to compete with the fast growth of the American Lager style.  The addition of corn as an adjunct dates back to early America, when malted barley was hard to come by.  This recipe uses a flaked maize and pale malt blend with a light Cluster hop for bitterness to create an easy drinking and thirst quenching lawnmower beer. (4.6% ABV)

Heffe-Rye - Loosely based on the traditional Heffe Weizen style that highlights a spicy or fruity character with a velvety texture and cloudy appearance, Rye malt and Cascade hops were used specifically to create an even more complex spice and citrus character. (4.5% ABV)

American Rye - This beer was fermented with American Ale Yeast which allows the malt and hop  character  to dominate the beer profile.  Flaked rye and rye malt make up 15% of the grain bill while keeping hop levels balanced to create a crisp, dry and slightly spicy rye influenced session beer.  (4.5% ABV)

American Wheat - Similar in style to the American Rye, this beer was brewed as a training session with my father-in-law on the basics of homebrewing.  Just lightly hopped this extract batch is slightly sweet and has just a hint of wheat flavoring. (5.6% ABV)

Chinook IPA - Brewed to style, this India Pale Ale highlights the unique characteristics of the Chinook hop.  Spicy, piney, grapefruity aromas and flavors are complemented and balanced by a complex sweetness added by the crystal malt in the grain bill.  This beer’s IBU level only reaches into the mid 40’s which allows the spicy character of the Chinook hop to come through smoothly without a cloying hop bitterness. (7.2% ABV)

Four beers made by Jeff Hillebrandt

Belgian Pale Ale - A lightly hopped, medium bodied pale ale brewed with Belgian yeast. This one  is more lightly hopped than most commercial examples. (5.6% ABV)

Belgian Dubbel - A traditional example of the style, using Belgian aromatic malts and dark beet sugar syrup. The sweetness from the aromatic malts is balanced by a fairly light body and high carbonation level. As per style, the hop level is very light. (7.7% ABV)

Belgian Quad - Brewed in the tradition of the Belgian Dark Strong Ale category, it uses a large amount of dark aromatic and caramel malts along with beet sugar syrup. The body is sweet and thick, making the beer more of a slow sipping dessert drink. (10% ABV)

Mocha Porter - This is a typical robust porter recipe brewed with unsweetened cocoa powder in the boil and “dry hopped” after fermentation with fresh roasted coffee beans. The coffee aroma gives way to a rich dark chocolate flavor. The body is light for a porter, but flaked oats were used to add to the mouthfeel, giving the beer a smooth, almost silky, feel. (6.5% ABV)