USA, NY: Geneseos newest brewery, Strange Design Public House, eyeing October grand opening
The couple behind Amber Lantern Brewing, the GLOW regions first craft brewery, is eyeing an October grand opening for their new brewery in Geneseo, the Strange Design Public House, The Daily News Online reported on September 5.
Located in the three-story, brick building at 4570 Millennium Drive, Tommy and Kristi Streamer said their new craft brewery will mark an about face from the spaces past life as a mens dormitory in the Livingston County Poorhouse complex.
I want people to feel like were welcoming them into our home, said Kristi Streamer, speaking inside her and her husbands new brewery last month. I want it to be relaxing and while I hope to be very, very busy, I dont want it to be frantic Thats our big thing - we want everyone to feel welcome, whether you love craft beer or not.
The building has been lovingly restored by building owner Greg OConnells work crew. OConnell is a the New York City real estate developer best known locally for his efforts to revitalize Mount Morriss downtown district by buying and restoring neglected properties and then renting them out at affordable rates.
Exposed brick is much in evidence throughout the brewery and the Streamers said OConnell took pains to preserve many of the buildings original details and features including some of the interior doors and the transom windows above them.
Despite the renovation, the layout of the brewerys main floor still bears a close resemblance to what it would have looked like when it housed the poor and destitute in the 1800 and 1900s.
A custom bar with 16 taps serves as the central feature of the space and was built to encompass a portion of an interior brick wall original to the building. The Streamers have taken full advantage of the layouts strange design in creating pockets of seating clustered around the bar.
Strange Design features a five-barrel brewing setup in the basement a five-fold increase over the one-barrel system the couple uses at Amber Lantern. The brewery also boasts a 10-barrel fermenter system so that on our more popular brews, we can double batch and do 10 barrels, explained Tommy Streamer.
And while customers will still be able to purchase the varieties like the Old Amber Ale that Amber Lantern is best-known for, Tommy Streamer said the new setup will allow him and Head Brewer Ben Bernard to try out new beer varieties and styles.
I think were going to have a little freedom and a little fun too that we havent had the opportunity to have over there (at Amber Lantern) because the systems so small, he said.
Elsewhere on the main floor is a dedicated dining room, where patrons can take advantage of the brewerys full kitchen executive chef Josh Hurlburt will use to serve up dishes that encapsulate his mantra of something similar, but different.
Youre going to see things and youre going to be like Oh I know what that is, but maybe I dont know what this component of it is, he said.
Hurlburt comes to Strange Design most recently from the 41 Lakefront Hotel formerly the Ramada Geneva Lakefront. He previously served as executive chef at Trio in Rochester and, before that, worked for about 10 years at the Inn on the Lake, now The Lake House, in Canandaigua.
Customers should expect an eclectic menu that will change with the seasons to take advantage of local ingredients. There will also be a focus on creativity and fun, said Hurlburt.
Its a brewery. You should be coming here, having a fun time not worrying about what youre eating, he said. Just having something you cant have somewhere else and something youre really going to enjoy.
Hurlburt is still making final cuts to his menu a process he acknowledged is always the toughest part for him.
Ive had ideas before thatve been on the chopping block and they make it and then they end up being some of your best-loved dishes, he said. For me, its always kind of this painful process of like, which child do I hate the most? Then its always the one who barely makes it is the one who impresses you.
Whatever else makes the final version of the menu, Hurlburt said its a safe bet a few burgers and his chicken sandwich will be among them.
Chicken sandwich is gonna sell amazing, he said. Once the chicken sandwich craze started happening, thats something Ive researched for awhile and tried different things and found something thats really good and people really seem to come back for.
Once the brewery is up and running, the Streamers also plan to offer a Sunday brunch.
The couple had considered the idea of working Pour House into the brewerys name - a play on its past use as part of the county poorhouse complex but ultimately decided against it.
I was like Eh, I just feel like thats kind of disrespectful. It made me uncomfortable, recalled Kristi Streamer. So once we decided it would be a public house, we were like Well thats kind of cool, OK. And then one day I just came home and Tommy said I have it its Strange Design. Im like Oh it fits everything.
In addition to meshing well with the brewerys unique physical layout, Strange Design is also the Phish song that played during the couples wedding, when Kristi was walking down the aisle.
Its important to us, she said of the song. It talks about life is strange and having your friends with you is important, so that was great for us.
When Strange Design finally opens to the public, it will mark the culmination a journey that began in earnest nearly five years ago, when the Streamers first approached OConnell about the idea of putting a brewery in one of his buildings on Millennium Drive. OConnell also owns the two buildings to the east of the brewery that house the Oak Valley Inn and Expressions Salon and Spa.
We knew we wanted to be in Geneseo - weve talked about that forever, said Kristi who, along with Tommy, has extensive family connections to the area. We just feel comfortable here and connected. I love Geneseo. Ive loved it forever.
Added Tommy: It was Geneseo or bust pretty much. We werent going to go anywhere else.
After contacting OConnell to see if he had any concrete plans for the building, the Streamers were able to do a walk-through to see whether turning it into a brewery was even within the realm of possibility.
We came in and we walked around and Tommy took pictures and we kept thinking What could we do? Could this be done? How would we do it? What would need to happen? Kristi recalled. And then we met with Greg and walked him through it were like This is what we see.
The building looked a bit different back then, recalled Tommy.
It was dark and sad, he said. A little bit scary.
And its no wonder. According to Amie Alden, the Livingston County Historian, the structure hasnt seen regular use since the 1960s, when the countys welfare department used it for office space.
Around the time the Streamers aspirations of opening a brewery in Geneseo were coming into sharper focus, Livingston County launched Brew IN Livingston, an economic development program intended to kick-start the counts craft beverage industry by offering financial incentives to those wishing to start breweries or cideries.
The Streamers were among seven winners announced in 2017, but it took until March 2020 for the couple to lock up the building and secure the financing needed to move forward with the project.
The irony of that situation was March 13, 2020 we signed all the paperwork and the world shut down the next day, recalled Kristi. Everything literally shut down the next day and we were like Oh my gosh, what are we going to do?
The pandemic complicated the project as well as operations at the Streamers other business, Amber Lantern in Warsaw, where the couple was forced to layoff all but two employees for several months.
Part of our original business plan was being able to run that and keeping that going was going to help us fund some things for this, said Kristi. Thats how you do it - you have one business, you open another.
While the pandemic delayed the project, work did progress, albeit slowly. And while the past year-and-a-half have certainly been stressful, looking back, the Streamers feel like things actually worked out for the best.
Now that we look back on it, Im kind of we didnt just open and have to shut down, said Kristi. I feel like it somehow, maybe, has worked in our favor.
Theres still a few things to wrap up over at the brewery. The point-of-sale system needs to be installed, some walls need to be touched up with paint, some drywall needs to be patched.
But those final touches should be done soon and the Streamers said theyll be selling to-go crowlers out of the space as soon as possible. They still need to hire and train staff before rolling out their food menu, though.
Kristi said theyll probably do some soft openings in September before holding a grand opening hopefully some time in October.
Were hoping to be open to the public on September 8, she said. We have kegged two beers and are hoping to have four when we open. Well also have Deer Run wines and Black Button Distilling spirits available.
In the future, theyd like to create some outdoor space for their customers - Were gonna have a tent, picnic tables, some Adirondacks, a fire pit, said Tommy. Some picnic tables and Adirondack chairs were already set up outside the brewery last week and a fire pit to the immediate west of the brewery looked just about finished.
The couple may also look to partner with nearby businesses for special events and weddings at some point down the road.
Theres Expressions Salon, and you have the B&B and you have this space, outdoor space theres so much we could do, said Kristi. We are going to get to that, just now were just like Lets get open. Beer first, restaurant, then events.
They want people to know theyre excited to bring Geneseo a hometown brewery it can be proud of.
Its not just a money making thing for us, said Kristi. Its really about the things that were passionate about and care about and love to do.
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