Founded in 1888, the brewery is now a fourth-generation family business in Utica, New York.
During Prohibition, the brewery branched out to, among other things, soft drinks to stay in operation. The shift worked: of the dozen-odd breweries in Utica before Prohibition, only FX Matt survived. You can read more about their current sodas here.
The main fermentation room runs on a twelve hour day starting at 4 or 5 a.m. The brewery has its own dedicated train tracks for shipments of grains and hops, the latter of which come from the West Coast, England, Germany, and the Czech Republic. As New York State hops become more widely available, the brewery aims to integrate them into their brews. (New York used to be the country's hop-growing capital, but a blight in the 1950s killed off the hops, which are just starting to return.)
The very top of the mash cooker that extends far down below. Here's where the grain is first broken down before it runs through a cloth-lined accordion-shaped mash filter, which leaves a clear starchy-sugary liquid for the wort.
Both 500-gallon kettles can come to a boil in about fifteen minutes. They cook the wort for five to seven hours to ensure even starch breakdown. Why copper? In addition to the metal's conductive properties, the brewers think it adds a flavor to the final beer that you can't get any other way. Note the size of the steam stacks, which pipe out into chimneys. When it's brewing time, the air smells a lot like oatmeal.
If you think these regulator consoles look like something out of the Apollo 13 Mission Control room, you're not alone. They were custom-built for the brewery and, despite the oh-so-sixties aesthetics, are able to maintain the precise temperatures the brewers are after.
Each malt gets its own silo, which range in capacity from 150,000 to 260,000 pounds each. Most of the brewery's malt comes from the Dakotas, but they also source specialty malts for particular beers.
One of five fermentation rooms, each with five tanks that house 1,640 barrels of young beer over five days. Here's where they add the yeast and scrub out excess CO2, which is used for bottling their soft drinks. When the beer finishes fermenting, it's centrifuged to skim away the yeast, a sample of which is kept in storage for records purposes. Some of the yeasts in the archives date back to the 1880s.
Some of the brewers are tinkering with special aging in Jack Daniels barrels.
The beer then moves to the aging tanks for a second dose of yeast and dry hopping. Depending on the beer, aging lasts four weeks to a couple months. This is just one of fifteen aging rooms on-site.
After aging the tanks need to be cleaned—by hand. And this is how the cleaners get in there: a small porthole-sized door that our own Chichi would have trouble getting through.
Once a team of chemists and microbiologists have signed off on the aged brew, it's ready for bottling in this labyrinthine warehouse space.
Down the Rabbit Hole
To the canning line, which is handled separately. The Utica Club line of beers still primarily appear in cans, not bottles.