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CASTLE MALTING NEWS in partnership with www.e-malt.com Chinese
21 January, 2021



Brewing news USA, NY: Strangebird set to become Rochester's 13th brewery

Birds of a feather flock together, or at least that's how the old adage goes. But in the case of Rochester's newest brewery, Strangebird, that holds true, the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported on January 20.

Bound by a love of beer and a desire to do something different Strangebird is set to become the city's 13th brewery when it opens this month at 62 Marshall St. in the former Abundance Food Co-op space. And it will be the first to place a heavy emphasis on farmhouse ales, lagers, and an extensive wood-aging program.

At a place that will focus on mixed culture creations, the Strangebird team said the new brewery's collective culture will play a huge role in its success. The partnership of Micah and Dena Krichinsky, Eric Salazar, and Jeff Ching, along with chef Nate Stahl, is bound by a shared belief in patience, artistry, and process.

The Strangebird partnership brings together many of the brightest and best minds in hospitality and beer. Ching is a former partner is a number of well-established and loved Rochester restaurants. Salazar is a legendary figure in beer. Micah Krichinsky boasts one of the most impressive brewing résumés in this region.

"The vibe here is perfect," said Salazar, a pioneering figure in the world of wood-aging and American wild ales through his experience at Colorado's New Belgium Brewing. "It’s exactly the kind of place I want to be and the people I want to surround myself with. The type of beer and the energy that goes into that beer, it’s just right for me. I feel really good here."

The Krichinskys explored opening a brewery more than eight years ago and really jumped into it in 2017 when they moved to Rochester. Dena reached out to Ching, her former classmate at Brighton High School, for business advice. Ching found himself busy with his other businesses. But once he heard about the Strangebird vision, he knew he needed to join the project.

Like band names, seemingly all of the best brewery names are already taken. So when Micah and Dena landed upon the moniker through a bit of happenstance, they knew they needed to trademark it immediately. That happened even before the brewery had a location.

Or as Micah tells it, "We had this lazy, old hound dog, who at moments showed real uniqueness. He got up and started chasing his tail around and then got back down immediately. And Dena was like, “That’s a strange bird.” It just rang like a bell. It reverberated in my head."

Micah said they've "really just found a home here in Rochester." He boasts an incredibly impressive brewing résumé, which includes his start at Capitol City Brewing in Washington, D.C., advancing his studies at the University of California at Davis, one of the oldest and most prestigious programs in the country, and then five years in production at Dogfish Head Brewing in Delaware. Dena Krichinsky will work as general operations manager, focusing on the website and social media.

Ching's former businesses in Rochester — The Owl House, The Playhouse/Swillburger and now Pizza Wizard — all have a distinct visual style and loyal following. It's easy to envision Strangebird will also. He will serve as food and beverage manager.

With Salazar as a partner, the brewery gains an inordinate amount of buzz. Salazar became one of the pioneers of American wild ales during his 24-year career at New Belgium Brewing. Sour and wild beers take years to produce. The process often involves the blending of mature beers with younger ones. Much like wines from the Finger Lakes region, Salazar and Krichinsky said Strangebird's oak-aged creations will be terroir-driven.

"Eric Salazar is a national treasure," Micah said, eliciting a huge laugh from the entire leadership team and sly grin from Salazar, which was evident even through his mask.

"He makes incredible things. He’s an artist and his canvas is wood," Micah said. "The way his palate works and the way he sees two different barrels blended together, he’s just really good at it.

"He has great name notoriety, but it comes honestly, for sure. What he brings? It’s a big splash. People are going to instantly recognize his name. I am so happy he’s a part of this."

The amount of space is really unique for the city. It totals 8,000 square feet and offers the potential to grow more in the future. Beside Genesee and Three Heads, you won’t find a more expansive location than Strangebird.

The new brewery will be set apart by a rooftop deck seating area, which will provide unobstructed views of downtown. It will arguably offer the second best brewery view in Rochester. (Overlooking High Falls, the Genesee Brew House is the undisputed king here.)

“There will be nothing obstructing your view from that deck,” Krichinsky said.

There are plans to finish that seating area in the coming months. When you’re driving down Chestnut Street toward Monroe Avenue and the Strong Museum of Play, you’ll be looking right at Strangebird’s rooftop seating area. “It’s right above your dashboard,” Krichinsky said.

The goal is to get the brewery up-and-running and to offer to-go can sales. Strangebird should offer its first cans by the end of January. The 15-barrel brewhouse brewery, the same one Krichinsky learned to brew on almost 15 years ago while working at Capitol City Brewing, occupies nearly half the space. The centerpiece of the restaurant will be the gleaming copper serving vessels that also came from Capitol City. It’ll provide flexibility and allow the brewery to produce a range of styles, including lagers, farmhouse ales, IPAs, fruited sours and pretty much anything else you can think of.

“We want to explore" Krichinsky said. I love an IPA, too. I also love a premium lager. We’re going to brew both of those things, as well as a number of different beers. I just want to be able to brew what I want. Whatever inspires me, that’s what I want to use to make beer with.”

"There's a lot of creativity and life experience in this room," Salazar added.

"And everyone is willing to collaborate," Ching concluded. "We're talking about culture a lot. That's No. 1 for us, to just have a positive, strong culture."

Salazar’s domain, the wood-aging room, sits next to the kitchen. It’ll be closed off from the rest of the facility to cut down on the risk of contamination. But the plan is to furnish the area with floor-to-ceiling oak barrels and some foeders, which are wood-aging vessels.

Strangebird will become the first brewery in Monroe County to have a coolship (or koelschip) for spontaneous fermentation. The coolship is a traditional fermentation vessel used to produce wild beers.

Other Half, where Salazar previously worked, also utilizes a coolship at its East Bloomfield location. It’s worth realizing that Salazar’s creations will takes years to mature, mix, and release. His work is a test of patience, skill, luck, and kismet.

The goal is to open the restaurant portion of the brewery, if COVID allows, by spring, when outdoor dining becomes more desirable. The wood-aging room will also be utilized for private events and special pairing dinners with the brewer. The brewpub will feature up to 19 Strangebird beers on draft.

Chef Nate Stahl will lead kitchen operations. He brings an impressive resume to the Strangebird team. He’s a veteran of the Owl House and both Next Door and Amore, restaurants owned and operated by Wegmans.

Much of the menu will be devoted to wood-fired pizzas. Stahl has been perfecting his dough recipe for years and gained experience through a pop-up partnership with Marty’s Meats on Park Avenue in Rochester. Stahl labeled the food “elevated pub fare” with a nod to local, seasonal ingredients.

"The menu is awesome. It’s a little eclectic,” Ching said. “It is rooted in complementing the beer. It’s fun. He’s got some great ideas.”

And while the pandemic has caused the business to shift its plans numerous times, there is an undeniable excitement and a huge sense of relief as the Strangebird nears the finish line.

"It's been a long time coming," Dena offered. "We've had to pivot from our original business plan. Some of these things, like canning, were in our future plans, but stuff like labeling, working with the mobile canner, all of that stuff has had to come together quickly. We've all been able to work together really well to bring these plans to fruition. It's really rewarding."

"I've been involved in those for almost five years now," Ching added. "It's time to get going."





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