When the newly expanded and relocated Good Nature Brewing opens its tap room to the public later this month, it is certain to be a magnet for lovers of craft beer -- and especially craft beer made with local ingredients. The new facility, on five acres outside the village of Hamilton, will allow co-founders Carrie Blackmore and Matt Whalen to brew more beer, can beer and welcome far more visitors than their small tap room in downtown Hamilton currently allows.
It will also allow them to serve food. So it's fitting that the brewery with a focus on "farm to glass” would hire a head chef with a passion for farm-driven ingredients and food. Heading up the restaurant team will be chef Alicyn Hart, well known for her eight-year run as chef and co-owner of Circa New American Bistro and Market in Cazenovia. Hart closed her restaurant in 2014, citing escalating rent and lack of improvements to the small space on Albany Street (Route 20). She has "popped up" as a chef at events, worked as a chef at the Foggy Goggle at Toggenburg Ski Center and at Labrador Mountain and helped the owners of a restaurant in Vermont get it open and on its feet. The Vermont job took her away from her 10-year-old son for long stretches, so she's happy to have a position close to home.
Hart's next chapter is unfolding in rural Madison County, at the big and brand new Good Nature Farm Brewery facility on Route 12B, south of the village of Hamilton, and she says it feels like a good fit, true to her brand and values. She remembers Blackmore and Whalen walking in the door at Circa to pitch their beers and have dinner and says she and the brewery owners have a shared vision and commitment to locally grown and sourced ingredients. The brewery has a small open kitchen with a wood-fired oven and the tasting room will have space for about 85 guests inside -- and many more outside in warm weather. Blackmore describes it as a casual beer garden, with long tables for visitors to have a beer and a bite.
Hart is still working on the menu, which will likely include a local cheese and meat plate for sharing, seasonal salads, wood-fired flatbread pizzas, grassfed beef burgers, gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches and hand-cut frites (French fries) with homemade condiments, including hoppy beer mustard, brown ale gravy and housemade maple ketchup.
"We are, first and foremost, a craft brewery,'' Blackmore says. "The restaurant is going to be an extension of what we already do, a small, locavore menu that changes as the seasons change. We're going to source from local farmers whenever we can. We were thrilled when we saw Alicyn's name come up... She already works with many of the farmers with whom we plan to do business.''
Menu items will make liberal use of Good Nature's line-up of all-natural ales and the menu will likely suggest beer pairings. "Cooking with beer is a really hot thing right now,'' Hart says. "I need to educate myself more.''
In addition to being locally sourced, some of the ingredients will be grown on site. The Good Nature property, formerly owned by Colgate University, is home to the Colgate Community Garden, which will supply produce to the kitchen and be used in beers.
The Tap Room and restaurant's hours of operation are likely to be 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.Thursday to Sunday, with the kitchen serving until 9 p.m. Guests will order food at the bar and come to the counter to pick up their food when it's ready.
Good Nature, launched in 2010, has developed a loyal following for its line-up of year-round beers in kegs, cans and bottles like the signature Good Natured Blonde and American Brown Ale, as well as seasonal and specialty beers. The laid-back Good Nature Tap Room in Hamilton, a destination for beer by the glass, beer flights, growler fills and local music, will stay open -- and receive a makeover down the road, Blackmore says.