Riding a recent wave of new Rochester breweries, WhichCraft Brews (1900 Empire Boulevard) joined the local craft ranks when it opened on July 8. The brewery was the brainchild of owners Chris Prince, John Moscato, Scott Baxter, and Lori Weber-Baxter. Prince and Moscato already operated 585 Rochester Beer in Brockport, and the idea for WhichCraft "actually started as a continuation of the bottle shop concept," Prince says.
Head brewer Brendan Kewin comes from a family of home brewers, and Kurt Wielgosz, another of the brewers, has extensive home brew experience and was looking to turn his passion into a career. Prince was introduced to craft beers about five years ago, and "my interest has continued to elevate me to the point of wanting to learn how to brew, myself," he says. "I was fortunate enough to have Brendan and Kurt show me the ropes over the last few years, and now we find ourselves on a brewing team together at WCB."
WhichCraft's brewpub has 55 draft beer lines, a 3 BBL brewery upstairs, and an indoor food truck. Staying true to its original bottle shop business, the site also offers packs, cases, and crowlers (32-ounce cans sealed by a machine on site) of beer. "Customers are welcome to visit just for picking up a six-pack on the way home from work for example — drinks do not have to be consumed on site," Prince says.
The stationary food truck was custom built by Rochester's M Design Vehicles. Customers order from the truck at the driver's window and pick up at a window on the side closer to the rear of the vehicle. The condiment station is where the engine used to be.
WhichCraft's menu includes Shareables like a giant soft pretzel called the Pretzilla ($13), buffalo chicken-stuffed eggrolls called Crunch Rolls ($9), and baked potato poutine ($10). The Whiches on the menu include a Cuban sandwich with chorizo ($12), a pulled pork Philly ($12), and crab cake grilled cheese ($14).
The WhichCraft space itself is massive at just under 5,000 square feet, with polished and stained concrete floors and an open ceiling with exposed ductwork. Siding made of repurposed pallet wood gives the interior a unique feel. A 1,500-square-foot mezzanine is upstairs, and has a large window that gives patrons a view of the brewery below. There's also a covered patio with outdoor seating.
The 55 draft lines will feature local, national, and foreign craft beer selections. WhichCraft also offers house cocktails made with Southern Tier Distilling spirits, and Glenora Lakehouse series chardonnay and Riesling wine on tap as well as several other bottled wine selections.
Obviously, opening a brewery is no easy task. There's bound to be hiccups and the WhichCraft crew has run into a big one. "We won't have WCB house-made brews available until closer to the end of July due to some equipment delays for the brewery," Prince says.
Coming up, though, the brewery will have a hopped kolsch, "Thunder Kolsch," which combines the crisp light fruitiness of a German-style kolsch with a citrus-forward hop profile of an East Coast-style IPA. "The original intention was to open with 5 out of the 55 taps dedicated to WhichCraft made beers," Prince says. The other four are slated to be a stout, Scotch ale, hefeweizen, and an East Coast-style IPA.