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Black Button plans major expansion with move to University Avenue 

click to enlarge Black Button Distilling's new home at 1344 University Avenue is set to open in July 2023. - PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI
  • PHOTO BY GINO FANELLI
  • Black Button Distilling's new home at 1344 University Avenue is set to open in July 2023.
Black Button Distilling plans to leave its Railroad Street home for a new, larger facility on University Avenue, which the company expects to open in July.

During a news conference Tuesday where he was flanked by Rochester-area dignitaries and elected officials, founder and head distiller Jason Barrett said the new facility marks the “next chapter” for Black Button.

“We’ll be helping to renovate this historic building into a new 28,000-square foot distillery, which will be world class and cutting edge,” Barrett said.

Black Button opened on Railroad Street near the Public Market in 2012, and it’s the first distillery to operate in the city of Rochester since the end of prohibition. When it moves to 1344 University Avenue, the company plans to boost production for four barrels of spirits a day to 40. A barrel is equal to 53 gallons.

For the entirety of its existence, the distillery has called Railroad Street home. The move to 1344 University Avenue brings with it an additional $5 million in investment into the distillery, putting the total put into the operation at $25 million. The Railroad Street facility put out about four barrels of spirits per day. The University Avenue location stands to pump out 40.

Barrett said Black Button will be contributing to a growing craft ecosystem in the University Avenue corridor.

The brick building on University Avenue was built in the 1930’s and is already home to Nine Maidens Brewing Company and Mullers Cider House, which are just a few doors down from Black Button’s planned new home. Meanwhile, Living Roots Winery is across the street, in the same business park as Sager Beer Works.

“Ten years ago when we moved to Railroad Street, it was a pretty lonely part of town, and it’s been wonderful to see that grow, with the adding of (Katboocha) kombucha, Bitter Honey, all of the restaurants at the market,” Barrett said. “We really think University Avenue has the potential to do a similar thing.”
click to enlarge Black Button founder Jason Barrett. - PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • PHOTO BY JACOB WALSH
  • Black Button founder Jason Barrett.

Mayor Malik Evans said he believes Black Button can bring economic opportunity to the neighborhood.

“The fact you decided to stay here, I believe, is a vote of confidence, and it also shows a commitment you are making to the city, and we’re so grateful for that,” Evans said.

Black Button will vacate its Railroad Street distillery and tasting room entirely when it moves to University Avenue. Rohrbach Brewing Company, Black Button’s neighbor to the south on Railroad Street, plans to expand into the space. That information was first reported by The Cleveland Prost, a beer newsletter run by former Democrat & Chronicle reporter Will Cleveland.

Meanwhile, Black Button’s spirits are getting older and more complex, and they’re being regarded with increasing prestige. For example, in 2021, Black Button’s single-barrel straight bourbon tied with Kentucky’s Casey Jones Distilling for Best in Class bourbon whiskey.

The distillery is now playing the long game. The spirits now flowing through Black Button’s pipes and into barrels are not set to be released until the 2030s. In June, the distillery celebrated its 10-year anniversary with the release of its first bourbon aged in full 53-gallon barrels, the traditional vessel for aging bourbon. The juice was aged for six years.

“We’re delighted you’re staying in the city, in a great location, in a great neighborhood, and I may get in trouble saying this when I get back to D.C., but you can go toe-to-toe with any distillery in Kentucky,” said House Rep. Joe Morelle. “I’m sure I’m going to hear about it, but truth hurts.”

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