(syracuse.com – 8/1/14) Niagara boasts its falls. The Finger Lakes toasts its wine. The Adirondacks hosts millions of visitors in its celebrated mountains.
And the big center section of New York state? The area between Syracuse and Albany has many attractions, but none that give it an instantly recognizable identity.
Now, tourism officials in the region are pinning their efforts to lure visitors, in part, on beer, spirits and hard cider.
Last year, several of the area's local tourism bureaus united to launch Brew Central, a campaign that features a web site and ad placement that aims to spread the message of Central New York's alcohol-based hospitality industry to a wider audience.
"We took an inventory of what we have to offer and realized the breweries and distilleries are a big part of the region," said Kelly Blazosky, president of Oneida County Tourism and the current chair of the state's Central New York vacation region. "And they're getting bigger."
The region includes the Greater Binghamton area, and Madison, Oneida, Otsego and Schoharie counties. Although Onondaga County is in the state's Finger Lakes vacation region, it signed up to help support the Brew Central effort, Blazosky said. The program receives matching funds from the "I Love NY" program.
Including Onondaga, the region currently has 18 breweries, 9 wineries, 5 distilleries, and 2 producers of hard cider, not to mention 29 "craft pubs" that the campaign considers destinations. The list includes places like Middle Ages Brewing in Syracuse, Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, Harvest Moon Cidery in Cazenovia and Adirondack Distilling in Uitca.
More are on the way in each of those categories.
And, as the Brew Central campaign likes to point out, the counties east of Syracuse were once the leading hop-growing region in the United States (before Prohibition). So there's history, too.
Brew Central has hired ABC Creative Group of Syracuse to produce videos and other content for the web site (including listings and features on destination brewers, distillers, pubs etc.) And ABC is also putting together the ad campaign.
The total Brew Central media campaign for this year cost about $30,000, but is likely to increase next year if the effort succeeds in winning some new grants, Blazosky said.
The videos -- about 2 minutes each -- give each brewery or distillery the opportunity to tell a bit of their own story. The print ads touting the region's brewing and distilling will be placed in national trade publications, such as Beer Advocate, Beer Connoisseur, All About Beer and Ale Street News.
"The idea is to attract the people who have an interest in beer and brewing and distilling and so forth and make sure they know about what this area has to offer," said Jamie Lesczynski, ABC's senior account manager.
This week, the creative team from ABC visited Beak & Skiff Apple Farms in LaFayette to shoot a Brew Central video and take photos for an ad campaign focusing on its 1911 brand line of hard ciders, vodka and gin.
With ABC's Shane Liebler directing and interviewing, Scott Kraushaar shooting the video and Mitch Wojnarowicz handling still photography, the man at the center of the production this day was Beak & Skiff's farm manager, Peter Fleckenstein.
Fleckenstein sat in the 1911 bar and tasting room -- part of the company's recently expanded Apple Hill campus on Route 80 -- and spoke for the video about the 100-plus year history of the orchards and its modern move into the spirits business.
There's a lot to tell: In addition to a rapid increase in the lineup of ciders and liquors, Beak & Skiff opened the new visitors center/country store/restaurant in time for last year's apple season. Later this summer, it will open its new state-of-the-art production and bottling facility for ciders.
"This is a great way for us to gain more exposure," said Peter's wife, Danielle Fleckenstein, who handles marketing for Beak & Skiff and 1911 spirits. "Brew Central is is something that will make more people aware of us, for our products and to know about us as a destination."