Micro breweries take their place in upstate New York economy

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July 30, 2013

From the Adirondacks, to the Hudson Valley, and down to New York City, dozens of micro-distilleries are popping up.

And, in Western New York, Jason Barrett is adding another operation to the ranks.

His company Black Button Distilling is staking a claim as the first craft-distillery to open in Rochester since the prohibition era saw operations close or go underground.

Barrett says at least 75 percent of the ingredients will be locally sourced, and that’s what consumers want.

“People care about what they’re eating and they care about where it comes from. And we’ve obviously got the wineries and the breweries and the distilleries are the natural third leg of the alcohol triangle.”

Jacob Rakovan, bartender at local cocktail house The Daily Refresher says people are beginning to rediscover the more complex drinks of pre-prohibition times.

That translates to demand for more unique liquor choices, and a more personal experience.

“If you look in the literary world you find a rebirth in the handmade book, and it’s the same thing in the culinary and cocktail world, in that the care and attention being paid on the small scale is exactly because of the ability to do mass production of things. And you know, we’re tired of things with white, round, plastic edges.”

Barrett says his operation will be turning out several unique styles of whiskey, bourbon, gin and vodka. And, he’s hoping the first batches will be ready by the end of the year.

But the business isn’t just about alcohol. Black Button is also cultivating relationships with local farmers.

Barrett says they’ll be sourcing wheat, rye and corn from a local family farm in the Southern Tier.

And, they’re trying to create a more efficient, integrated approach to the distilling process by sending their used grain straight back to the same family farm as free cattle feed.

“It’s very expensive to feed 400 head of cattle, they eat a lot of grain. And the stuff that we’re providing back, the agreement is that if the farmer’s willing to come and pick it up, we’re willing to give it to them because we would otherwise have to pay to dispose of it and we’re much happier having it going back into the system.”

The result is something Barrett calls ‘happy cows’. But with more than 1000 gallons of feed available after each batch of liquor is made, it’ll make for happy farmers too.

Black Button Distilling is currently waiting for its license, and Barrett says he hopes to be firing up the stills by the end of September.