By Mrs. Mecomber
on January 04th, 2011
Mr. Mecomber and I had a little time together, so we took a short drive to check out the FX Matt Brewing Company of Utica to take the tour. I am always interested in how things work and in local history, so this was a fun trip!
First, a little history. Utica is a very proud city, and they are very, very proud of the Matt Brewing Company. This company started up in 1888 by German immigrants. It is the second-longest running brewery in the nation, and it’s undying devotion to the city has saved the city through quite a few financial plights. The brewery even continued it’s operations during the Prohibition (secretly, of course). The password for getting into the brewery’s “speakeasy” was the inauspicious phrase “Joe sent me.” LOL, no one would notice that in Utica, New York!
The brewery sponsors the Utica Boilermaker every year. The Boilermaker is THE event in Utica. It attracts people from all over the world.
The Boilermaker had the unique distinction of being the largest 15K road race in the country. This from the Boilermaker website:
The Boilermaker 15K Road Race was established in 1978 by Earle C. Reed. Reed was looking for a way to give back to the community that had supported his family’s business, Utica Companies (ECR International). The race began with just over 800 runners and a budget of $750. Now, the Boilermaker is the largest 15K in the nation with more than 10,000 runners.
The name is credited to the late Frank S. Owens, Jr., former Vice President of Advertising at the F. X. Matt Brewery. It was he who suggested the name, combining the nature of Reed’s company, Utica Boilers, with an old-time drink that was made by dropping a shot of whiskey into a mug of beer.
The Analytic Distance Runner shows the men’s Boilermaker field as the most competitive in the world for 1993, 1995-2005, and the women’s field as most competitive for 1996-2003 and 2006.
At the end of the Boilermaker race, everyone gathers to the brewery for free Saranac beer.
The National Distance Running Hall of Fame is located nearby, too. In the first week of July (Boilermaker week), the city of Utica is packed solid with runners from all over the world. It’s quite a festive time!
When we arrived at the brewery, the tour had already started, so we hurried through the entrance lobby, to join the group in the next room. I had never been in the building and I admit, I was totally awestruck by the luxury and ostentation of the beautiful architecture and fixtures of the sitting room.
The rooms are very dark, so I am hoping you can see the photos well enough. Look at the photo below– I think that ceiling is all carved wood! The wallpaper was heavily textured. The moulding and other woodwork was maple or oak (a little hard to tell, I’m no wood expert), and the old floors gave out a groan now and then, letting us know that it has supported thousands of feet for over a century. Very impressive.
I probably looked silly, snapping photos of the ceilings and walls, and fawning over the gorgeous woodwork while I virtually ignored our talkative tour guide (Mr. T). I was so awed by the opulence of the room.
I did eventually stop my salivating over the decor and turned my attention to our young and talkative tour guide, Mr. T. He quickly ran over the historical highlights of the brewery, emphasizing its importance to the Utica area’s economic health.The brewery has an innumerable number of beer varieties. Their flagship beer, Saranac, comes in many different tastes (including but not limited to pomegranate, india pale ale, black and tan, chocolate amber, and pumpkin). We have tried several varieties of Saranac, and they all do have a very distinctive taste. If I was blindfolded, I could probably determine if someone was giving me Saranac– it is that memorable.
After our excursion through the gilded rooms, Mr. T took us through the area where all the action happens. Matt Brewing Company is very picky about their beer-making process. They still do some things by hand (for example, spreading hops or shredded pomegranates over a vat of fermenting beer for flavor), and these little nuances have made them famous.The tanks are enormous. The amount of beer they produce is incredible. Actually, Matt Brewing Company makes so much beer that they contract their beer out to other companies.
Mr. T explained that the Matt Brewing Company purchases their hops from other states. Madison County in New York State used to be called the hops capital of the state, but the blue mold, competition from the west, and the ubiquitous bad policy coming from Albany killed the industry.
We walked through a fermenting area. It was a bit smelly here, like refrigerant. While we walked between the tanks, it reminded me of a dairy farm, when you walk between “the ladies” with their big rearends facing you down a row.
After this, we toured through the packaging area. Mr. T kept our steps lively with his narrative. Once in a while he threw in a joke to make sure we were still listening. By the way– if you ever go on this tour and he asks what does “Saranac” mean, say “cluster of stars” and you’ll win a free beer.
This was the end of our lively tour. Mr. T escorted us into the saloon for a complimentary taste of the brewery’s product. It was my first time trying the Utica Club, and it was very tasty!The saloon is quite grand, so once again I was swooning over it’s architectural elegance. This chandelier reminded me of a Viking hat.
What is this in the photo below? A polyphon, of course! Uhhhh…..
The thing looks like a music box, and lo and behold, it is! Kind of… It’s from Germany, judging by the engraving on the metal disk. I think it was considered to have been the German jukebox of the 1800s. I couldn’t tell what song was engraved on the large metal disk, but I strongly suspect it was a rousing rendition of “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”
The mantelpiece had a collection of collectible Schultz and Dooley
steins. What a flood of memories! I remembered those old television commercials with the two talking, animated mugs, Schultz and Dooley. We kids loved the commercial so much that we would come running into the living room at the sound of Jonathan Winters’ voice.The mantelpiece woodwork is truly exquisite.
We relaxed and got to chat with Mr. T a little more about the history of the brewery and of the many types of beers it produces. I also promised to blog a post about interesting things to do in Dallas, for Mr. T! I’ll be getting to that right away, T!I was pleasantly surprised at all there was to see at the brewery. I had been unaware of the local importance over the decades. Utica has seen some very difficult times; a friend in need is a friend indeed.
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