By: Joshua M. Bernstein

Add Beer to Your Tourist Itinerary Around Finger Lakes Wine Country

The Southern Finger Lakes is not a one-adventure-fits-all tourist destination. As we found during our visit, the region caters to a wide cross-section of travelers, no two itineraries alike. Aviation buffs can swoop into the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum to glimpse vintage aircraft, while guests at the Corning Museum of Glass can wander galleries filled with a dazzling survey of contemporary art. Or maybe you’d rather go grape on the wine trail, then spend the night in offbeat lodgings near a lake—and nab a nearby nightcap.  

If any of those people sound like you, be sure to include beer in your plans. Because wherever your interests whisk you, there’s always a brewery close at hand, ready to put a pint in yours. Here’s how to add locally brewed beer to three themed itineraries around Finger Lakes Wine Country.

Stu Gallagher

The Transportation Buff

Resist the temptation to speed to Hammondsport, but don’t miss the Glenn H. Curtis Museum (8419 State Route 54, Hammondsport; 607-569-2160). The city’s native son was a builder of bicycles and high-powered motorcycles, and in 1907 he rode one at more than 136 miles per hour, setting an unofficial speed record. Newspapers dubbed him the world’s fastest man, an accomplishment that many might rest on for the rest of their lives. The following year, Curtiss flew more than 5,000 feet in his June Bug airplane, winning America’s first aeronautical prize, the Scientific American Cup.

You’ll find reproductions of June Bug and the record-setting motorcycle among the museum’s extensive collections, which also include vintage bicycles, boats, cars, and other airplanes.

Cider Creek Hard Cider in Hammondsport
Cagwin Photography

After enjoying the flight of fancy, head into town and get grounded at Village Tavern Restaurant & Inn (30 Mechanic Street, Hammondsport; 607-569-2528). The warm restaurant, styled with wood panels and tiled floors, is filled with brewery signs and plenty of beer, the selection of available bottles and cans standing sentry behind the handsome bar. Look to the tap list, leaning toward local and regional offerings from Grist Iron and Hamburg Brewing, as well as the menu where you’ll find crispy haddock, crab cakes, hulking burgers and, fittingly, the Curtiss chicken sandwich.

Cider Creek Hard Cider Hammondsport
Cider Creek in Hammondsport courtesy Cagwin Photography

Afterward, go to Cider Creek Hard Cider (49 Shethar Street, Hammondsport; 607-224-4174). The cidery’s satellite tasting room features a full complement of the company’s creative liquids, including ciders fermented with beer or Champagne yeast, as well as fruits such as loganberry—a raspberry-blackberry hybrid that’s popular in the region. The tasting room also features New York State draft beer from breweries such as Keuka Brewing Company (8572 Briglin Road, Hammondsport; 607-868-4648), located 10 minutes up the road, overlooking Keuka Lake. Should you choose to visit the source as we did, the lake’s first brewery has a spare, spacious tasting room and boldly flavored beers like the coffee-infused Local Mocha Stout and lip-smacking, lime-infused Ghost of Rita sour ale.

Glider Flight

A Soaring Side Trip

No engine? No problem! To take a different aviation trip, start in Elmira at the National Soaring Museum (51 Soaring Hill Drive, Elmira; 607-734-3128), dedicated to upholding the history of motor-free flight. The museum’s collection features dozens of vintage gliders, including many built by the area’s once-prominent Schweizer Aircraft company.

Once your mind has returned to terra firma, gallop about 15 minutes northeast to Horseheads Brewing (250 Old Ithaca Road, Horseheads; 607-739-8468), which originally opened in 2007. Now under new ownership, the remodeled taproom regularly hosts musicians and revolving food trucks, best enjoyed alongside a few of the brewery’s always fresh beers. We like the spicy Hot-Jala-Heim that’s brewed with a trio of peppers, melding heat and refreshment, as well as the richly malty Brickyard Red Ale that’s named after the town’s historical brick manufacturer. “Our mission is always going to be making good beer,” says Trevor Davis, the general manager.

Corning Museum of Glass

The Art Admirer

Corning Incorporated is a true glass act. From light bulbs to cell phone screens and even Pyrex dishes used to bake birthday cakes, the Fortune 500 firm’s groundbreaking glass products touch most facets of everyday life. In 1951, the company founded the Corning Museum of Glass (1 Museum Way, Corning; 607-937-5371), featuring more than 50,000 glass objects that span 3,500 years of glassmaking history. The complex contains contemporary works of art and ancient Roman creations alike, as well as one of the world’s largest collections of paperweights.

Rockwell Museum
The Rockwell Museum

If you’re eager for more art, head around the corner to the Rockwell Museum (111 Cedar Street, Corning; 607-937-5386), which is housed in Corning’s former city hall, built in 1893. The Smithsonian-affiliated institution contains artwork that explores the wide lens of the so-called “American experience,” from intricate Native American beadwork to Andy Warhol prints and bronze sculptures of bronco-busting cowboys. For a relatively small museum, the Rockwell punches above its weight.

After you’ve satisfied your eyes, fill your belly down the block at Hand + Foot (69 West Market Street, Corning; 607-973-2547), a boisterous bistro with communal seating, comfy chairs snug in the storefront window and elevated global eats. Think po’ boys packed with fried cauliflower and tofu, then finished with General Tso’s sauce; edamame sprinkled with “chicken salt”; or our favorite: a duck confit sandwich painted with a cherry-pistachio chutney. Don’t forget to thumb through the wide-ranging drinks list, including rare Belgian sour ales, plenty of spirits, 11 different boilermaker combinations, and well-calibrated cocktails, too.

Enjoying Brews at Liquid Shoes
Liquid Shoes Brewing courtesy Cagwin Photography

After perusing the galleries and watching a live glassblowing demonstration, you might be thirsty for some refreshment. Walk five minutes across the Chemung River until you reach Liquid Shoes Brewing (26 East Market Street, Corning; 607-463-9726), found amid Market Street’s historic Gaffer District, where brothers David and Eric Shoemaker—the namesake “shoes”’—turned a bygone bank into a thoroughly modern taproom and brewery. Head brewer Eric, a longtime homebrewer who formerly worked in education, focuses on of-the-moment fruited sour ales and lavishly hopped hazy IPAs, fragrant enough to smell from five feet away.

“We’re bringing new styles of beer to the area,” Eric says. Crowds have responded, returning week after week to fill the brick-walled taproom with white tin ceilings for a taste of something new. “People keep telling us, ‘We needed something like this,’” Eric says.

The Wine Connoisseur

The Southern Finger Lakes offers an embarrassment of liquid riches, encompassing far more wine (not to mention spirits and beer) than someone can consume in a single day. Why not make it a weekend? And to mix things up, why not spend the night at a brewery.

Seneca Brewing Beerocracy Cask Ales
Seneca Brewing courtesy Cagwin Photography

If you’re the outdoorsy type, Seneca Lake Brewing Company (4520 State Route 14, Rock Stream; 607-216-8369), in striking distance of half a dozen wineries, offers two classed-up camping sites on its wooded lakefront property. Each campsite includes a canvas tent perched on a platform, a mattress-equipped queen bed letting you comfortably slumber. Our advice: Pop by the Beerocracy, the brewery’s Tudor-style English pub, for a couple pints of properly poured cask ale, such as the biscuity Baker Street best bitter, then grab a few extra bottles to sip by the campfire.

Over on the eastern side of Seneca Lake, Grist Iron Brewing Company (4880 State Route 414, Burdett; 607-546-4066) runs a revamped lodge featuring nine guest rooms, including options for folks traveling with their canine companions. Plus, with J. R. Dill Winery next door and Finger Lakes Distilling down the road, we couldn’t have been happier with the location. Every creature comfort is accounted for, from Wi-Fi, to hop-infused hand soap, a wood-stocked fire pit, and plenty of beer. “You check in at the bar and get a free half pint of beer,” says Kate Fuller, the guest relations and marketing manager. “We want you to have a beer the minute you walk in [until] you walk out the door—and take a six-pack home.”

The beers at Grist Iron, which opened in 2015, range from the crowd-pleasing Campfire Lite Lager to tropical Lake Life IPA and Fippenny Apple Graff, made with apple cider and finished with citrusy Cascade hops. Grist Iron’s menu is also a differentiator, including house-smoked brisket and pulled pork, plus beer chili made with plant-based Impossible “meat” and hand-tossed pizzas. “We want you to stop here for food, too,” Fuller says.

Outdoors Tasting Abandon Brewing Company
Abandon Brewing courtesy Cagwin Photography

For a more private, pastoral experience at Keuka Lake, Abandon Brewing (2994 Merritt Hill Road, Penn Yan; 585-208-9088), which occupies a former barn, rents a restored nineteenth-century farmhouse to overnight guests. Apple trees and lush vineyards surround the so-called “old house,” where the front porch offers prime lake views, ideally enjoyed with a growler or two of Abandon’s beers. We like low-alcohol, high-flavor options such as the chocolate-tinged Dark Mild, the tart and citrusy Garrett Gose, and Session Saison, which gets its subtle spiciness from rye.

After an afternoon of swirling, smelling, and sipping the fruits of the vine, these affable ales will ease you from day to night, your bed right nearby.

Written by Joshua Bernstein in partnership with Finger Lakes Wine Country