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Keg Tree canceled as Genesee releases two new holiday brews


If you’ve held high hopes of watching the Genesee Keg Tree lighting this year, well, 2020 has struck again leaving you out of luck. On Tuesday, the brewery announced it will skip the annual celebration, which has become a beloved staple of the holidays in Rochester.

“With safety as our top priority, we made the decision to forgo the Genesee Keg Tree this season,” Inga Grote-Ebbs, Genesee brand director, said in a news release. “While we will miss the big party and our favorite seasonal spectacle, we’re excited to celebrate in a different way, by sharing two new seasonal beers for fans to enjoy at home.”

The Keg Tree began in 2013 as a seasonal celebration following the opening of the Genesee Brew House the previous year. Since then, the display has gradually increased in size, hitting 500 stacked kegs in 2019, when about 7,000 people packed the brewery space and the Pont de Rennes bridge to watch the tree lighting.

Instead of the Keg Tree, Genesee will celebrate the holidays with the release of a blood orange cranberry cream ale and the return of the Reisky and Spies old ale. This year’s release was aged in Black Button bourbon barrels and boasts a hefty 12.1 percent alcohol by volume.

Brewmaster Dean Jones is as traditional as brewers come and in the past he’s balked at the idea of brewing fruited ales. But he’s slowly coming around, due partly to the high demand for fruit beers and for the fun of experimenting with new flavors.

The inspiration for the new cream ale variant came as Jones was at home making a cranberry orange relish.

“I’m actually kind of having fun with it,” Jones said, in a phone interview. “I just kind of roll with it, and whatever strikes me at the moment, I say ‘the hell with it.’”

Jones also noted those styles are accessible to more casual beer-drinkers, who are often attracted by additions of fruit flavors. Reisky and Spies lies on the opposite end of the spectrum.

First released in 2017 as an homage to the brewery that stood at the site of Genesee from 1874 to 1878, Reisky and Spies is an imposing beer. An originally English style, old ales are similar to barleywines, filled with notes of dried fruit, toffee, caramel, roast, and a strong backbone of alcoholic warmth. The time spent in barrels also adds notes of char, wood, and bourbon to an already intensely flavor-packed beer.

It’s a complex style, but rewarding for those willing to take their time sipping on a slowly warming glass. Among beer nerds, it’s among the most highly acclaimed beers Genesee has ever made, clocking in as the second most highly rated beer from the brewery on beer review site Untappd.

“These are one of these beers I brew because I like it,” Jones said. “That personal satisfaction of brewing something I enjoy to drink is fun.”

The blood orange cranberry cream ale and Reisky and Spies will be released Friday, and can be pre-ordered in crowlers from Genesee

Gino Fanelli is a CITY staff writer. He can be reached at (585) 775-9692 or