ITHACA, N.Y.—A new microbrewery and beer garden is opening up on West State Street featuring classic brews and new creations.

Inside the renovated building that formerly held the City Health Club gym, the brewery features an outdoor beer garden, over a dozen selections on tap ranging from classics to new creations, as well as several recreational shuffleboard courts. 

The brewery is now in its soft-opening phase and is open four days a week from 4-10 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays; 4-11 p.m. on Fridays; 12-11 p.m. on Saturdays; and 12-8 p.m. on Sundays. Hours are subject to change and will be adjusted once the grand opening is held.

Founder and owner Anthony Cesari said the idea of opening a brewery came to him a few years ago. 

“This building has been in our family, it was originally a health club since the ‘80s and the health club was slowly [fading] away,” Cesari said. “Around that time I had just gotten into home brewing and we started toying with the idea of maybe doing a brewery — and then the health club closed and we started [demolishing] it in 2019 and it really became a project.”

Originally, Cesari intended on using just a portion of the space and allowing his brother to utilize the rest of the space for another project, but the COVID-19 pandemic sent the project in a different direction. 

“[COVID was] one of those things that’s now like a blessing in disguise in terms of the project,” Cesari said. “It gave us a chance to reassess what we wanted to do, because the original idea was to open in a smaller capacity because we could open quicker if we maybe started smaller — but then COVID happened and everything stopped, so it gave us the time to try and do everything at once.” 

With the extra time, the project shifted to make use of all of the 8,000 square feet of the facility and include a taproom and fully functioning brewery featuring 10 barrel fermenters among other items. Cesari said that the capacity of the facility allows him to serve standard selections as well as experiment with new creations. 

“We can make 10 barrels at a time, but we also have a smaller one barrel system,” Cersari said. “That flexibility allows us to test a recipe on a smaller scale without committing to 10 barrels of it.”

All of the beers served are produced in-house, excluding wines, which are sourced from Wagner Vineyards. Canning is outsourced to another company. Another benefit of the pandemic was giving more time for Cesari to experiment, allowing the business to open with 18 selections on tap. In addition, customers are able to purchase beers by the keg for larger off-site events.

Credit: Casey Martin / The Ithaca Voice

The project was made possible through a loan from the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency (IURA), aimed at revitalizing downtown spaces. Cesari applied for a $140,000 loan from the agency last July. Cesari said that working with the city to fund the project also helped him learn to stay organized as a new business owner.

“It was almost like a good exercise of learning to start out with due diligence in terms of organizing [your books],” Cesari said. “The loan through the IURA was very helpful, especially in terms of getting us across the finish line.”

The business is currently in its soft opening phase as construction is still underway at the facility, but Cesari is looking forward to having a grand opening, hopefully in time for the new school year. Cesari also hopes to rent the taproom for private events more regularly once renovations are complete.

“We have furniture that’s still being built for the taproom,” Cesari said. “Think a little more comfort and like a lounge feel [is what we’re aiming for].”

To Cesari, opening a business pays tribute to his family’s long history of running small businesses in upstate NY. 

“My great grandfather Rossi opened a bowling lane in Elmira back in the ‘50s and so the name [of my favorite beer] ‘Rental Shoes’ is a nod to him,” Cesari said.

Correction: The original version of this story stated an incorrect loan amount from the IURA.