A drive through the Town of Homer today, you’ll find rolling hills and valleys, dairy farms, and an unspoiled 19th century downtown. Don’t forget about the world’s largest pair of pants, connections to Abraham Lincoln, and an unsolved murder.
And now, the small New York town will welcome its first craft brewery.
Homer Hops Brewing, located roughly five miles outside Historic Downtown Cortland, is hoping to open in summer 2020, giving the craft-beer locals a place to enjoy a beverage made by their own.
Officially founded in 2015, the brewery’s story began when co-owner, Jason Kristof, whose 16-acre plot is now home to the operation, first started brewing when his wife bought him a home brew kit.
“All, but one was a success, Kristof recalled. “I made a chocolate peanut butter porter once, and it was gross.”
Home brewing took a backseat though when Kristof and his siblings planted hops on his property used for his occasional small-batch creations and for distribution to neighboring craft beer producers.
“Unfortunately, my day job got really busy and I was never home long enough to brew,” he added. “I thought hops would be easy because they were seasonal, but man, was I wrong.”
The switch was flipped on for good though when family friend, Shawn Potts, expressed interest in the beer-making process. Kristof showed him the ropes and eventually reaffirmed his own passion for brewing after tasting Potts’ experimentation of flavors and recipes.
“I think we were at BRU64 after we had just tasted some beers I had created,” Potts recollected. “And he (Jason) said ‘Let’s open a brewery!’ and asked if I wanted to join him.”
After making sure it wasn’t the beer talking the following day, Potts and Kristof combined forces, and were joined by family and friends - Jason’s wife Dina, Shawn’s wife Beth, Jason’s brothers Tony and Wally, Tony’s wife Katie, and family friend Steve Romer. They immediately began producing and pouring fresh brews for Cortland County craft beer fans to enjoy. The process of building a home base began just a few years later.
The team broke ground in August 2019 on the site of the Homer Hops farm on Route 90, just west of the village of Homer. The plan is to build a 50- by 80-foot building to house its brewery and taproom, and continue to use the hops farm onsite to raise crops to supply the brewing operation. The property will also feature an outdoor patio for relaxation and live music, and the group hopes to host weddings and private events in the future.
A five-barrel brew house will continue to brew stouts and porters, plus many varieties of IPAs, including some hazy New England styles, though it’ll have a variety of other beers, too. Their regular selections include “Mother’s Day”, a hazy IPA; a chocolate coffee stout “Sweet Mama’s Java”; and “Exit 12”, a pale ale named for the exit to Homer from I-81. The group plans to have guest taps available as well to highlight beer, wine, and cider from other New York craft brewers.
“Half of us like the IPAs, and half of us like the stouts,” Potts said. “Though we all have our favorites, we are continuing to develop new recipes. We haven’t tried our hand at a sour yet, but maybe we can feature a few on our guest taps while we do some test runs.”
Though the group’s preferred beer selections differ, what they can agree on is the importance of developing a space for locals and visitors to hangout, where families can bring children and enjoy a beer on the lawn.
“We really want to try and make it a destination with the idea that life is local, life if family, and life is to be enjoyed,” Jason’s wife Dina said. “We want people to come to enjoy our beer, but also to stay awhile and enjoy the atmosphere.”
Homer is a great little village,” Shawn’s wife Beth added. “I’ve lived here my whole life and if we can do something to bring up Homer even more, that’s what we’re hoping to do."
You can also find the Homer Hops feature in the 2020 Cortland County Visitors Guide. Order your FREE printed copy today to start planning your future beer-filled adventures in Cortland County!