Southern Tier IPA labelSpread out across western New York state, you’ll find numerous towns with similar stories to tell. Lately, those stories haven’t been particularly positive or hopeful. Once bustling with industry just a few decades ago, most of these hamlets haven’t adapted as quickly to the ever-changing new economy, and they’ve been bleeding jobs, money, and population ever since. Interstate 86, once thought by many to be an economic godsend for the area, now allows travelers and long haul truckers to drive by these desolate spots at even faster speeds than they did previously on Route 17.

And let’s not even get into the whole Buffalo Bills thing.

So when I came across Southern Tier brewery’s IPA on the menu at a local eclectic restaurant, I had my hopes up that something would be going right in that area of the world…that perhaps, by some measure of justice, the good folks in that area have the good fortune to be able to sit down and enjoy a fabulous, fresh local brew once in a while.

The “Southern Tier” refers to the counties in New York state that essentially “sit” on that long, straight stretch of northern Pennsylvania. Lakewood (population ~3,200) sits at the south end of Chautuqua Lake, way out west. It’s practically in Ohio (but, luckily for them, not actually in Ohio). The Southern Tier Brewery was established there in 2002, started distributing locally shortly thereafter, and now produces over 18,000 barrels annually and distributes all over the place. Thankfully, Cambridge, MA is one of those places.

The draught IPA poured into my standard pint glass a mildly hazy copper. The head was moderate, and remained intact about halfway down the glass. The nose was nothing but HUGE hops and spice. Loved it. Smelled like a bucket of wet, steamed hops. This beer is not shy on flavor. The hops were so powerful and tasty that it took until the end of the sip to sense the malt presence, almost like it was saying: “Hey, don’t forget about me. I’m still here, doing my part.” The body was medium, and mouthfeel was wet (it went down smoothly, and quickly. what else can I say?). The lacing made it halfway down the glass and appeared quite intricate.

I could smell that aroma all day long and never get tired of it. This is a 3.5 hop beer. No question. And at 6.9% ABV, it’s a decent session beer. I could have had 8 of them. I hope to be able to sample more Southern Tier brews as I find them. They can be proud of this IPA, as can the folks in western New York state who can access this awesome product on a regular basis.

And who knows? At this rate, maybe the Bills will make the playoffs.

(Yeah, Bills fans. You heard it here first. This is your year. Keep telling yourselves that.)


  1. I’m a big Southern Tier proponent and it is relatively easy to find on tap in better beer stores and bottleshops in western PA. In particular their seasonal “Oak-Aged Unearthly Imperial India Pale Ale” was kick ass this spring.

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