Chautauqua County is now billing itself as "The World's Learning Center," and Southern Tier Brewing is joining in, providing an opportunity to learn all about the craft of brewing beer.
Founder and President Phin DeMink started the company after spending time at Goose Island (a Chicago craft brewer). He returned to Lakewood with an idea, and in 2002 the idea became reality. With the help of brother-in-law Peter Kreinheder of Ellicottville Brewing, and his father-in-law and co-founder Skip Yahn, Southern Tier Brewing was born.
DeMink and his colleagues took pride in the process of creating brew out of raw ingredients, beginning with small batches and having enough to sell their India Pale Ale in 2003, a year that saw them produce 2,500 barrels.
Then the marketing began. Southern Tier's brews are now available in half of the United States, plus Japan, Australia, Canada, Denmark and Singapore. But you won't have to travel that far to sample a sip of their wares. Southern Tier is open for tours and tastings at its headquarters on Route 394 in Lakewood.
Southern Tier's offices, brewery and Empty Pint tavern are located in the General George Stoneman Business Park off Hunt Road. The Made in Buffalo logo, emblazoned on wood from a Westfield barn, greets visitors at the entry. Two silos stand outside to hold malted grain. Visitors can follow the process in which grain is milled and weighed, with specialty malts added. The mixture goes into a "mash tun" for a hot water process called "sparging." The unfermented beer, called wort, is poured into a kettle and brought to just over 200 degrees. Hops are added for bitterness and flavor, and the liquid goes into a whirlpool tank, and eventually lands in the fermenting tank, where yeast is added. Within a few days, beer is born. It sits for two weeks to settle before being cold filtered, and ready to be bottled.
The brewery produces 28 varieties of beer, half of which are seasonal. Its India Pale Ale is Southern Tier's stock ale, but the line-up also includes Oatmeal Stout, Chocolate Stout, Old Man Winter, and seasonal favorites Pumking and Harvest.
> The village
On walkable Chautauqua Avenue, considered the village historic district, seed money provided by Reggie and Elizabeth Lenna, supplemented by additional private and public funding, has created an upgraded streetscape. The Lakewood Women's Club and a local gardening group have seen to caring for the clock tower bearing the Lenna name, and maintaining the public landscaping.
Businesses have responded. Jim Rovegno, owner of the Lakewood Apothecary, a traditional and alternative pharmacy, says they have "made a statement by what we've done here," rippling through the community.
The village also is home to Strive Nutrition, a salon and spa called Indulge, and Eight Limbs, where massage and yoga are practiced.
A Page in Time is a scrapbooking shop, while Off the Beaten Path bookstore presents local author signings, a preschool story time, and children's writing group.
And at Pearson's Stained Glass Studio & Gift Shop, Jean Pearson tells visitors she got her start because she wanted a stained glass lamp, spurring husband John to start a hobby. Their work is now found in area homes and churches, including several at Chautauqua Institution.
Identite and Deb's Tailor Shop specialize in custom clothing, from gowns to hunting jackets. The boutique's line is "very, very different," says Debi Manning, drawing clientele from Chautauqua, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and New York.
An Avenue newcomer is Samuel Whitmore's Bag & String Wine Merchants. A Sonoma, Calif., "cellar rat" with Napa Valley expertise, Whitmore offers educational wine tastings for businesses, residents and Chautauqua Institution events. He also selected wines to accompany the menu Chautauqua's Athenaeum Hotel chef Ross Warhol will serve at the James Beard House in October.
Chautauqua Avenue eating is comfortable at Mindy's Place, a cozy breakfast and lunch nook, and casual at Hungry Hannah's. More formal is the fare found at the Scallion Bistro. For after years serving breakfast and Bemus burgers at the Bemus Point Inn, Sandy Thayer experimented with fine dining two nights a week. The experiment led her to open the Bistro in 2007, where chef Andrew Culver now presides.
> The Packards
Forever anchoring Lakewood to motor car history is James Ward Packard. After purchasing a Winton automobile, Packard saw room for improvement and presented his ideas to Alexander Winton, a Cleveland automotive pioneer. Winton's initial patience turned to irritation, and the story has him telling Packard, "If you know so much about cars, why don't you build your own?" As an engineer with an innovative bent, Packard set out to do precisely that.
In time, Packard built a summer home in 1912 in Lakewood overlooking Chautauqua Lake. The mansion still sits on the waterfront, and is home to the Packard Estates Condo Association. To commemorate the 100th year anniversary of the home, condo owners recently put on an auto show featuring vintage Packards. And Lakewood's library is also paying tribute to the Packard legacy with an exhibit running through August.
Packard and his wife, Elizabeth, made several notable philanthropic gifts in Lakewood, donating land for sports fields and the A. Caprino Municipal Building, home to the Lakewood Historic Museum. Outside the museum rests the anchor to Packard's yacht, Carlotta, named for his sister, and later changed to "The Manana."
> If you go
To reach Lakewood, take Interstate 90 (Thruway) to the Westfield exit, turn left on Route 394; Lakewood is approximately 22 miles southeast.
Southern Tier Brewery, 2072 Stoneman Circle, on Hunt Road (Route 32), near Big Tree Road (Route 69); (www.stbcbeer.com, 716.763.5479). Tours are available Saturdays at 1, 3 and 5 p.m., and include samples and a souvenir glass. The Empty Pint pub is open Thursday and Friday, 4 to 10 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 to 10 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 6 p.m.
Village of Lakewood History Museum in the A. Caprino Municipal Building, 20 W. Summit St., (across from the Lakewood Memorial Library; 716-763-9357). Open Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Thursday, 5 to 7 p.m.
Lakewood Memorial Library, 12 W. Summit St. (716-763-6234). Open daily at 9:30 a.m. An exhibit on the Packards is on display through Friday.Chautauqua Avenue Kids Day is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.