By Denise Richardson The daily star
---- — An Oneonta beverage distributor is expanding into production with the purchase of a local brewery.
Northern Eagle Beverages Inc. of Oneonta on Tuesday bought the Cooperstown Brewing Co., LLC, for an undisclosed, all-cash sum, said George Allen, president of the privately-held beverage distribution firm. The purchase has been under discussion since late last year, he said, and is part of an expansion and relocation plan.
Cooperstown Brewing Co., at 110 River St. in Milford, was founded in 1994, by Stanley Hall, and was purchased in 2011 by Chuck Williamson, owner of Butternuts Beer and Ale in Garrattsville, a media release said.
The Milford brewery has been shut down and without employees since last autumn, Allen said, and about five employees will be hired for the brewery with plans to re-open for tastings in May.
The purchase includes the Cooperstown Brewing Co.’s property, recipes and brands, including top-seller Old Slugger, Benchwarmer Porter, Back Yard IPA, Pride of Milford and Nine Man Ale, the release said.
Allen said Cooperstown Brewing Co. has had “a great portfolio of hand-crafted beers.” Unique to the company is a recipe using a strain of 150-year-old Ringwood Yeast created by Shipyard Brewing founder Alan Pugsley, the release said, and the new owners plan to return to the original recipe developed by Hall and modified by Williamson.
“When consumers try an Old Slugger in the coming months, they will be pleasantly surprised,” Allen said. “It will taste just like the popular Old Slugger brewed 20 years ago.”
Northern Eagle Beverages, located on 7 Railroad Ave. in Oneonta, is a wholesale beverages distributor serving Chenango, Otsego and Delaware counties.
Louis B. Hager Jr., Northern Eagle chairman, founded the firm in 1986, and in 2010, the company was named a NBT Distinguished Business by the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce.
Northern Eagle has 36 employees, Allen said, and the acquisition is the company’s first venture into brewing.
“We thought it would be a nice fit,” he said. Northern Eagle already has been processing hops, he said, and plans are to increase those operations with a focus on local ingredients.
“Recognizing the movement toward local products and ingredients, we believe this purchase will help promote the Cooperstown and Otsego County chambers’ ‘Think Local First’ campaign,” Allen said. “Our goal is to offer a brand like Old Slugger, crafted with Otsego County hops, honoring the history of the area.”
The Milford brewery has a tasting room and will offer tours of its Peter Austin Brewing System, which features a brick brewing kettle, the release said. Summer hours of 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday will start Memorial Day and end Labor Day.
The Cooperstown Brewing Co. is a member of the Cooperstown Beverage Trail Association.
Bill Michaels, president of the Cooperstown Beverage Trail Association and co-owner of the Fly Creek Cider Mill, said the investment and brand development planned by Northern Eagle Beverages will increase public awareness of the trail and its businesses.
“We are very excited about today’s news and welcome the exciting changes,” Michaels said in the release.
Northern Eagle’s plans under development for the next 10 or 20 years follow business growth in recent years, Allen said.
Northern Eagle Beverages has purchased 11 acres on Browne Street in the town of Oneonta, Allen said, and the company plans to relocate the Oneonta and Milford operations to that site, with a ground-breaking possible this year. Plans include building a 60,000- to 70,000-square-foot building to accommodate hops processing, brewing and distribution operations, he said.
The existing facility on Railroad Avenue, which is about 43,000 square-feet, would be placed on the market for sale, Allen said, and the later fate of the Milford site isn’t known.