Upstate New York craft beers line a wall. A mountain of White Claw hard seltzer occupies one corner. A back row holds Genesee and Keystone Light 24 and 30 beer packs.
Rows of European imports fill some central aisles. The same goes for many offerings from small breweries in central New York. A few lockers have hard ciders. There is a special place for gluten-free beers. You can’t miss the stacks of Miller, Budweiser and Coors products.
And you haven’t even entered the second room and cooler of what might be the largest beer store in the Syracuse area.
the Syracuse Beer Depot opened in January at 102 Headson Drive, near Erie Boulevard East on the Syracuse-DeWitt line. Headson is the short street that strays from the eastbound lane of Erie Boulevard, just past Delmonico’s Italian Steakhouse, toward Thompson Road.
The new beer emporium is owned by Tony Singh of Vestal in Broome County. He operates two other “beer depots” in upstate New York: the first opened in downtown Binghamton 15 years ago, followed later by another in Cortland.
Singh has been in the Syracuse store every day since it opened.
“It’s mostly craft beer (fans) checking out what we have now,” he said of customers. “But I think we’ll soon be bringing in students looking for cheaper beers.”
The building housed a Signarama store until about a year ago. Singh purchased the building with a view to opening his third beer depot.
The store occupies 9,500 square feet, divided mainly into two large rooms. On Monday, Singh’s inventory list showed more than 14,000 “items,” such as 4-packs, 6-packs, or crates. And there is still unused space to fill.
Singh has been in the beer business long enough to have seen many changes, including the surge of local breweries creating styles like hazy IPAs or pastry stouts. There is also the ever-growing category of local and national hard seltzer and other flavored malt beverages.
Although he gets most of his beer supply from distributors like TJ Sheehan and Onondaga Beverage, Singh is also working on relationships with small local breweries that supply beer on their own, such as Talking Cursive and Buried. Acorn in Syracuse and Hot House Brewing in Cicero.
The biggest change Singh has seen over the years is in packaging.
Today, he said, about 80% of his supply is sold in cans, including most craft beers. When he started in Binghamton, “there was maybe a row of cans” all over the store.
“Everyone is doing cans now,” he said. “People love them for their convenience, going out. It has really changed.
Syracuse Beer Depot fills a void in the east side of Syracuse and the eastern suburbs that was left when the Party Source Beverage Center beer store closed in 2019. The Party Source, which has its origins in a small store near the Syracuse University, served customers beginning in 1977 from multiple locations along Erie Boulevard. This is the first location as the Party Source was on Headson Drive.
Today, most major grocery chains, like Wegmans or Tops, as well as local stores like Green Hills, many Byrne Dairy stores, and the Syracuse Cooperative Market, offer great selections of traditional and craft beers. Other specialty beer shops in the area include Branched bottle store in canton 5, now and later on Tip Hill, Deli Mart Fair in Lakeland and Stafford convenience store in Eastwood.
Syracuse Beer Depot also offers smoking and vaping supplies, and has a small selection of low-alcohol “wine products.”
But it’s the beer that attracts.
One of the first regular customers was Guy Hagner, a brewer from Meier’s Creek Brewing in Cazenovia, whose beer Singh carries. (Meier’s Creek also recently opened a tasting room in the Inner Harbor). Hagner is a big fan of German imports as well as craft beers.
“They really make an effort to provide a wide selection,” Hagner recently posted on the Syracuse Craft Beer Enthusiasts Facebook page. “There’s a lot of local stuff, timely national releases (my first appearance of Hopslam), the largest SN (Sierra Nevada) assortment I’ve seen. … Personally, I was satisfied with the import/German section as well as the traditional products which are often difficult to find.