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MORAVIE – Dillon Langtry knew he wanted to make a living before he was of legal drinking age.
Today, about a decade after the fermentation class at Moravia High School where Langtry discovered his passion for the process, he is opening a brewery in his hometown: Owasco Lake Brewing.
Perched on Rockefeller Road, with picturesque views across the lake valley, the 2-barrel farmhouse brewery will open to the outdoors shortly after Memorial Day, Langtry told The Citizen. The barn that houses the taproom is expected to follow shortly, as the brewery only needs its certificate of occupancy from the town of Moravia. Additional plans for the space include live music and barbecue chicken.
Langtry wants families to feel welcome at his brewery, he said. With his list of basic styles like dark and lager beers, he wants all types of beer lovers to feel welcome as well. But he and his brewing partner Doug Nelson also want the humble Red Barn to become a destination for the toughest of those fans, especially those looking for hazy New England-style Indian lager beers.
“We want to push the boundaries on everything,” Langtry said. “Beer evolves so quickly that when new things come along we don’t want to be afraid to try them.”
“We don’t want to stop tweaking our beer,” Nelson added. “As soon as you say, ‘This is it,’ you’re falling behind.”
If history is any indication, Langtry won’t tell for a while. He bought his first brewing kit in high school, after learning about fermentation in an elective science class. By the time he graduated from Moravia in 2011, he was telling friends he wanted to open his own brewery. Playing soccer and baseball before his age gave him several older friends, so he tested his beers on them.
“The beer was horrible,” he said with a big laugh. “But I had so much fun doing it – the whole process, the anticipation.”
Soon after graduation from Langtry, Cayuga County’s craft beer scene began to take shape. He reached out to Dawn Schulz of Prison City Brewing in Auburn, Sallee Ten Eyck of Summerhill Brewing and Mark Grimaldi and Joe Shelton of Aurora Brewing Co., among others, in hopes of finding his niche in the business locally. He even offered to babysit Ten Eyck’s children, he joked.
Without success, Langtry moved to Colorado. But his efforts have not been easier. Competing with people who had a lot more brewing experience, he limited himself to bus tables in a few places.
When Langtry returned to Moravia around 2017, he applied to Good Nature Brewing in Hamilton. He detailed the system he used to brew in his application, as well as his passion for the craft. Finally, he found his place. Over the next few years, Langtry shifted from handling casks to being head brewer. A longtime friend, Nelson, joined him when a job as an assistant brewer opened up.
“I learned so much (at Good Nature). A lot of things to do, a lot of things not to do. It was exactly what I needed to get on the right track,” said Langtry, designating his new brewery.
Langtry didn’t just open his brewery in his hometown: he opened in his home. He has lived on Rockefeller Road Farm since he was 2 and grew up among horses and cows. Likewise, Owasco Lake Brewing is a family affair. His father, Rick, helps Langtry; mother, Judi Nelson; stepfather, Stann Nelson; and his girlfriend, Amanda Horton. Stann and Doug are also cousins.
Doug helps Langtry brew on a 2 barrel system he bought from Aurora Brewing. It is much smaller than the system Langtry used at Good Nature, which was comparable to the new 20 barrel system at Prison City. But that’s his system, so he and Doug are not limited by anything other than the requirement for an agricultural brewery license that 60% of their ingredients come from New York State. Even though they like to support local farming, they can apply for a second regular brewing license so they can also make beers that don’t meet this requirement, like hazy IPAs with New Zealand hops like Galaxy.
“The biggest compliment I get is when someone who’s a light beer drinker tells you, ‘These hazy IPAs are pretty good,’” Langtry said. “They’re not like your grandfather’s IPA where they’re super sharp.”
If Langtry wants a bigger system, he has plenty of room for it. His family owns 45 acres on the brewery side and 60 acres on the other side. He eventually hopes to build a post barn tap room on the other side, which offers a better view of the lake. But that’s in a few summers, he said. This will be dedicated to building the Owasco Lake Brewing name instead.
The brewery has opened for a few hours a few times, including a weekend last fall that saw around 150 people occupy the outdoor seating area. Langtry has also sold kegs of its beer to restaurants like 10-10 BBQ in Moravia and Gilda’s in Skaneateles. But there are better margins selling beer by the glass, and with eight taps running all the time, he’s happy to be in business.
Langtry isn’t the only one who is excited: neighbors often stop to see if the brewery is still open. That’s part of why he named the brewery after the lake, he said. It is his home in more than one way.
“The people of the lake have been a great support. Anyone on a fire route comes looking for something to do,” he said, then added with a laugh: “Not that they need anything to do, they live on a lake. “
Gallery: Inside Owasco Lake Brewing, opening soon