Community on tap
Fairport Brewing company recharges nostalgia, pride, and nightlife
A draft of Fairport Brewing Company's own beer.
The Fairport Brewing Company was of born in the spirit of having a beer or two with friends, and so far, it’s staying true to its name.What started as a home brewery in a one-bedroom apartment has grown into a full-fledged brewing operation with a production facility in Turk Hill Park and newly opened public taproom in the center of the village of Fairport.
“I joke about it, but it’s kind of true; after one too many beers we started filling out paperwork,” says founder Tim Garman. “We figured we’re middle-aged guys, we can do this.” From the start, the venture proved challenging for Garman and Brewmaster Paul Guarracini.
They signed a lease for the historic Pure Oil building, a former auto repair station at the corner of South Main and West Church Streets. Then, the New York State Liquor Authority initially declined their license to sell at the new site. Months later, the duo was eventually successful in changing their licensing from a microbrewery to a farm brewery, which allows the business to sell New York State beer and wine in different quantities and take both to market.
They cleared a big hurdle in April 2013 when they became fully funded through Kickstarter, raising $26,000 to cover the cost of upgrading their beer production equipment.
Next came the renovation of the taproom building, which opened to the public in November 2013 after a whirlwind of improvements. Since then, it’s become a happy hour hotspot for locals and visitors looking for a fun leisurely destination. “I feel like we’ve become master jugglers,” says Garman.“It’s like starting two branding businesses—a taproom and a production facility.” The taproom is staffed by three bartenders and three brewers in addition to the owners, who have regular day jobs (Garman sells medical devices for Medtronic, Inc., and Guarracini works in supply management for Kodak).
“We bring (another) dimension,” says Guarracini. “We’re not exactly a bar, we make our own beer as a taproom.You never know what’s going to come out of the production facility. When people come in here they’re looking for a luxury item that’s an affordable luxury, and that’s what they’re getting. Also, everyone who comes in here is happy.”
With the growing interest in foods made or grown locally, it comes as no surprise that craft beer is riding the “locavore” wave, too. “I think people are a lot more aware of their alcohol consumption and trading quality for quantity,” Guarracini says.“We didn’t start the craft beer movement; it started a long time ago.The additional aspect is the desire for not just good beer, but good beer made locally.”
And that’s becoming the case more often, according to Jeff Bove, who joined the FBC crew as a brewer as he ventures into retirement. The average consumer is becoming more selective when it comes to choosing what to drink. “For the most part, people are starting to realize that craft beers are, in my opinion, better tasting than your average commercial beer out there, and there’s a lot of care that goes into making these craft beers,” says Bove.
The owners have promoted FBC as a community project since the get-go, from fundraising to practical help with renovations. (In fact, the Shattered Elbow Amber Lager is coming this spring in honor of a volun- teer who was injured while helping repair the building.) The atmosphere inside is much like a cozy English village pub. A firefighter helmet hangs next to a photo of the Fairport Fire Department near framed pictures of Red Raider athletes, teachers, and local dignitaries. Garman hopes those who come from near and far to sample one of the six beers on tap will get something more than a drink out of the experience.
“People come in who have never been here before, or maybe they used to come here in the fifties with their dad to fill up gas, drop their car off, or buy tires,” says Garman. “They come in and it’s just a nostalgic type of experience. I wanted something that Fairport could be proud of, and I think we’re doing it.”
Bethany Young is a freelance writer based in Rochester.