Ithaca Root Beer
The Ithaca Beer Company was founded by Dan Mitchell in 1995 and is named after Ithaca, NY…a city at the south end of one of the “finger lakes” situated in the west-central portion of New York State.
Mitchell had a job tending bar after attending Cornell University, but knew he was meant to own his own business. His first success was establishing an agreement with the Chicago Brewing Company to brew and bottle the first versions of Ithaca Beer. After some initial success and occupying some shelf space in nearby stores, Mitchell wasn’t satisfied that his beverage was brewed in Chicago and was looking for options. As the concept and distribution started to pick up, the Chicago Brewing Company went out of business. This allowed (and forced) Mitchell to seek other avenues to produce his product, and in 1997 he was able to find and purchase a used brewing system from Austin, Texas. His goal was then to create a brewery that would exemplify “The Spirit of the Finger Lakes.”
The purchased system was shipped to Ithaca, NY, and after five months of renovation, the equipment was turned into a functional brewery. The operation started small with only a couple of people (Dan and Brew Master Jeff Conuel) doing everything that needed to be done to get the business off the ground. This included making the beer, the packaging, the selling, and the mountains of paperwork necessary to operate a brewery. In December of ’98 the brewery officially opened. Eventually the company added a soda line, and now bottles both Ithaca Root Beer and Ithaca Ginger Beer. Tours are provided, and a taproom restaurant offers their beverages along with a menu of burgers, sandwiches, pizza and ice cream.
Sources: firstwefeast.com, lifeinthefingerlakes.com and the company’s website