Rochester's craft brewing scene has been expanding rapidly over the last few years, especially after the New York State Farm Brewing Bill passed. Through this law, New York has spurred development of new breweries in our area, and now you can find one a short drive away from just about wherever you live in Monroe County.
Swiftwater Brewing opened in the South Wedge neighborhood in early 2015, and it's quickly became a staple on Mt. Hope Avenue. The brewery offers flights (four 4-ounce pours for $7), and I sampled eight of the 11 beers on tap to try and get a decent picture of Swiftwater's brewing style as it sits after a year and a half in operation.
My favorite of the group was Swiftwater's IPA 9, which is now being bottled. What caught me right away was the hints of grapefruit and tropical fruit on the nose — it reminded me of one of my favorite beers, Sip of Sunshine from Lawson's Finest Liquids. The beer's balance between the light malt, medium resiny middle, and a smooth lingering bitterness at the end all came through.
The barrel-aged sour was my second favorite with its apple notes — developed from aging in Apple Country Spirits apple brandy barrels — and a medium sour profile. The other sour beers (cherry and dry hopped) both lacked notable sour characteristics, although I did appreciate their full fruitiness and the light hop flavors respectively. Both the Thai pale ale and the citra pale ale had too much grain profile for me, but the Thai ale's ginger and lime came through nicely with a bit more bitterness than I was expecting.
The first bit of food I tasted was a baguette ($6; comes with one spread) fresh out of the oven with a crispy crust, tight tender crumb, and a bit of everything bagel seasoning. This is what most restaurants hope their bread program could be.
There were a few different ways to enjoy the loaf — Sriracha hummus, white bean spread, or as part of a cheese plate. Both spreads were delightful: laden with olive oil, lightly salted, and the white bean popped with fresh herbs. The cheese plate ($12) subbed the sauces for three cheeses (manchego, a light smoky bleu, and Murcia al vino), house candied ginger pecans, and pickles. From top to bottom, this was a well thought out plate and one worth going back to.
The Chuck Burger ($12) was an admirable effort, featuring local beef that streamed juices as I bit into it. All the details were here: a bun toasted and spread with a Chipotle aioli, aged cheddar, crunchy fried jalapeños, and the first truly ripe tomatoes of the season. Even the dill potato salad that came along with it was on point. (I'm not usually a fan of creamy potato salad, but this version's fresh dill, carrot, and onion added enough intrigue to make it worthwhile.)
A Stromboli ($10) filled with McCann's ham, soppressata, mozzarella cheese, and herbs was on the heavier side but no less well executed. It was on the salty edge, super meaty, and much better than a standard pizzeria filling when it comes to quality of meats. The sauce was acidic and a touch under-seasoned, but the combination of the richness of the filling and the sauce was spot on. The crust was crunchy all around, sprinkled with salt on top and had just enough chew.
The berry rhubarb crumble ($6) was a delightful way to end my last visit. Strawberry, blueberry, and rhubarb were cooked down to a jam-like consistency, covered with a crunchy oat crumble, and vanilla ice cream came on top. This dish was really well balanced between sweetness, creaminess, and brightness. Swiftwater is making food that isn't just good for a brewery; the small menu shines here with seasonal ingredients and well thought out dishes that stand completely on their own.
You can read more from Chris Lindstrom or listen to his podcast on his food blog, Foodabouttown.com. Share any dining tips with him on Twitter and Instagram @stromie.