This article was originally posted in Edible Buffalo’s Fall 2013 edition.
The slightly rolling road to Wilson, NY is lined with luxurious expanses of wildflowers and squash vines, with tall grasses shushing in the breeze and birds spinning into the sky and trilling their song. Woodcock Brothers Brewing is nestled in this abundance, just south of Lake Ontario. The large building sits back from the road, tucked in behind a large parking area amongst towering trees and rushes. It is located near a string of lovely wineries and u-pick farms and a drive along the lake is always such a pleasure.
Woodcock Brothers Brewing will be celebrating their first year anniversary this coming November. After months of work, they turned the 120-year-old building, which was once an apple processing and storage facility, into a larger brewery with storage and a quaint restaurant and bar. Mark Woodcock and his wife, Andrea, and brother Tim Woodcock and his wife, Debbie, and many family and friends spent over a million dollars and two years to renovate the 45,000 square feet into not just a brewery, restaurant, and bar, but four nice sized commercial storefronts as well.
Debbie Woodcock was eager to show off the beauty of the structure and share the brewing process. The twenty-inch thick walls keep the temperature and moisture constant and allows for excellent storage of the brewery’s close to 300 kegs of brewed beer, hundreds of bags of grain from Briess found in Wisconsin, and boxes of hops from Washington’s Hop Union, as well as locally sourced hops from McCullum Farm and Midnight Run.
The brewery operates a ten-barrel brew system, consisting of, one ten-barrel fermenter, three twenty-barrel fermenters, and one twenty-barrel brite tank. The cracked grain goes into the mash unit and then into a boil kettle where hops are added. This kettle whirlpool mixes the mash and hops. The liquid then goes through a glycol cooler, to bring the temperature down to 72 degrees Fahrenheit as it transfers into the fermenter where the yeast is added and the brewing process finishes in the brite tank. One brew cycle fills the ten-barrel fermenter, while two brewing cycles will fill one of the three twenty-barrel fermenters. It takes approximately ten hours from start to cleaning stage to complete one brewing cycle. The brothers and their assistants brew when needed and not on a set schedule, allowing them the flexibility to play with recipes. Playing with recipes, both on the brew floor and in the kitchen were the main focus for the family. To be able to have fun while making their business grow and be sustainable was a goal, as it’s all too easy to loose the homey touch as a place grows.
The dining area is broken up into different areas. There is a rather charming patio in the front of the building. A separate sitting area to the right of the entrance has regular height tables with seating for four throughout. The area closer to the kitchen has tall bar table seating, with one particularly large and truly unique trestle table in the center of the room. The unusually long bar has plenty of room for standing and sitting, and large glass panes behind the glossy counter reveal the brewing floor.
The air had a pleasant scent of cinnamon, pepper, yeast, and wood, which was burning in the waist high brick oven. Chef Randy, who manned the wood-fired oven, baked spent grain pretzels made with barley leftover from the brewing process. He creates dishes quickly but it takes time to bake in the beautifully rustic oven, which means more time to sample and appreciate a glass of Hoppycock IPA, Harvest Wheat, or Porter. The bar has many options to choose from, including a house made Root Beer and a locally produced hard cider from BlackBird Cider Works, located in Barker, NY.
The restaurant’s menu features an extensive list, which includes unique daily specials. The lead waitress recommended two standards, a classic French onion soup and a pizza. The soup is made with a porter beef broth and a plethora of sliced onion and is layered with a blend of six Italian cheeses over a thick slice of spent grain baguette. The pizza was outstanding, filled to the crust’s edge with locally grown seasonal vegetables and bubbling cheese.
Between the shining metal and glossy wood, the clean and well-run brewery floor, kitchen, and bar, the smells of wood and food and well-brewed craft beer, it’s easy to feel at home. The Woodcock’s and their staff want to make you feel at home and welcome you to linger. Be prepared to take home a growler and an order of pretzels as well as planning out your next trip to the brewery.