Beer lovers visiting New York might be tempted to head straight to the Big Apple for the state’s best breweries, but we urge you not to overlook the hidden gem of Rochester, NY found in the Northwest. As the third largest city in New York, Rochester is renowned for its photographic history, natural beauty, and its culinary culture, but it is also home to an extensive list of some of the nation’s best breweries that even earned the city a place on Vinepair’s list of “The World’s Top 10 Beer Destinations” in 2019.
Not only does Rochester, NY rank nationally and globally for its craft beers, but it also ranks nationally for the sheer number of breweries, measuring at six breweries for every 50,000 people. In fact, 25 breweries can be found in Monroe County alone! Because of this impressive selection, we decided to cover what we deem the top seven breweries in the city to help dwindle down the list and ensure you experience Rochester’s best.
- K2 Brothers Brewing
- Fifth Frame Brewing Co.
- Swiftwater Brewing
- Genesee Brew House
- Nine Maidens Brewing Company
- Rohrbach Brewing Company
- Three Heads Brewing
K2 Brothers Brewing
If you ask Rochesterians for their brewery recommendation, you’re bound to hear K2 Brothers Brewing ranked at the top of more than one person’s list. Owned and operated by brothers Kyle and Bradley Kennedy, this brewery is renowned for its wide selection of craft beers, sours, wines, ciders, and more. Flavors here range from comforting classics to unique innovations, ensuring that there is a little bit of something for everyone.
While you enjoy the brewery’s exceptional, covered outdoor seating area, equipped with firepits and lawn games, we recommend trying some of their top-sellers, like the Jalapeno Cream Ale, the Wasabi Peanut Cream Ale, and the Blue Razz Sour. A rule of thumb here seems to be “the stranger it sounds, the better it tastes.”
Fifth Frame Brewing Co.
If you’re looking for a chill hangout spot where you can drink a specialty coffee by day and enjoy exceptional craft beers by night, then you’ll want to head to Fifth Frame Brewing Co. Located in the heart of downtown Rochester, this hip and welcoming location is praised highly for its coffee-infused drinks (made with beans they roast themselves) and stunning fruited sours and stouts.
While we highly recommend trying this brewery’s coffee and food options, we’re here for their beer. Our top recommendations include any of the Bath Bombs, which are heavily fruited sours, or the Espresso Mousse Cake flavored Clawfoot Bathtub, one of the brewery’s two pastry stout options.
Some of the best qualities of Swiftwater Brewing Co. aren’t just the brewery’s dedication to creating high-quality and innovative beers, but also its dedication to the community, particularly the local farms. Farmer and company owner Andy Cook, provides 80% of the malt used in the brewery’s beers from his own family farm while also incorporating fresh local ingredients in their menu items and sustainable local materials in the brewery’s architecture and décor.
We recommend chasing Swiftwater’s famed Stromboli with their Festbier, a floral and malty German-style lager. Alternatively, you could try their hazy, fruity IPA, Alpaca Kisses, or their nitro golden ale named Swiftingtons Pub Ale.
Genesee Brew House
If there’s a brewery in Rochester, NY that you absolutely must visit, it’s the Genesee Brew House. Not just for its beer, but for its history as well. Founded in 1878, the Genesee Brewing Company is one of the oldest and largest continually operating breweries in America. The Genesee Brew House sits on part of the original Genesee Brewery campus and hosts a series of informative tours with interactive exhibits where you can gain a deeper understanding of its products before trying them for yourself.
While the Genesee Brew House’s selection has changed countless times over the past century, you will always find three of its most iconic beers on the menu. These include the Genesee, the Genny Light, and The Original Cream Ale.
Nine Maidens Brewing Company
Another Rochester brewery that gets a lot of praise for its innovative flavors is the Nine Maidens Brewing Company. Located in a quaint, quiet part of the city, it certainly isn’t the biggest venue for trying beer, but what the brewery lacks in seating, it more than makes up for beers that range from trendy to historical to experimental.
As a nano brewery with a batch size of one barrel, it can be difficult to come across the same beer selection twice at the Nine Maidens, especially if you’re trying something on tap. Therefore, we highly recommend tasting their latest-and-greatest on offer before it’s gone. Some staples you can try in addition include the Lemon Tumeric Lager, the Billowing NEIPA, and the Ginger Peach Blonde.
Rohrbach Brewing Company
Those of you who favor craft beers should go appreciate Rochester’s first craft beer brewery, the Rohrbach Brewing Company. Founded in 1991 by John and Patty Urlaub, Rohrbach derives its name from the small German town where its founder was inspired to introduce these specialty beers to the city. One glance at the brewery’s atmosphere and food and drink menu proves they have stuck firmly to their German roots over the past few decades, despite substantial company growth and modernization.
While you ponder which of Rohrbach’s delicious wood-fired pizzas you want to enjoy, we recommend trying one of their handcrafted ales, like the Blueberry Ale, Scotch Ale, or Flaherty’s Irish Ale. If you’re not a huge fan of these types of drinks, you should consider the brewery’s Different Animal IPA.
Three Heads Brewing
Three Heads Brewing is the ideal location for people who enjoy hippie vibes and sipping on a cold beer while listening to live music. The brewery’s Beer Garden is an especially popular hang-out spot where locals can chase down nearby food truck cuisine with one of 3HB’s seasonal craft brews or year-found pale ales.
When it comes to beer recommendations, this is another one of those breweries where we urge you to try the weirdest option you see, especially if it is a seasonal or otherwise limited drink. If you’re not really the adventurous type with your beers, you can test some of the local favorites, like The Kind India Pale Ale/ the Too Kind Double India Pale Ale, the Rochestafarian Scotch Ale, or the Tiger Blood Sour.