I used to describe Binghamton, New York, as the only place more depressing then Scranton. I’m not sure that’s true anymore, first off because it’s been proven that Scranton IS the happiest place on Earth, and secondly because Binghamton is not so shabby itself.
Binghamton’s only about a forty minute drive from where I live in Northeast PA, and in fact what I most associate it with is Feduke Motors, a car dealership my father worked at during the majority of my childhood. It’s only a forty minute drive up 81 from Scranton as well, and in fact the two cities have a lot in common. Binghamton gained prominence as a transportation crossroads during the industrial revolution, with many railroads, and canals intersecting here. Unlike Scranton, which died when the coal died, Binghamton retained its prominence as a center of industry and technology. IBM was founded nearby and the first flight simulator was invented in the city. However in the 90’s those industries started to die down and the city became something of a shell of itself (it was actually one of the locales considered for The Office), which is why despite it’s close proximity, I haven’t been in the actual city since my dad worked there (I think I also have negative connotations with Binghamton because I have gotten multiple speeding tickets there while to other more exciting areas of upstate new York).
Like another of my favorite PA cities, Pittsburgh, Binghamton is located at the confluence of two rivers, the northern branch of the Susquehanna River and the Chenango River. Eleven bridges are located within the city limits.
The city is, like Scranton, going through something of a resurgence, also like Scranton, helped out a ton by University of Binghamton. My dad still keeps tabs on what’s going on up there and learned that as per the trend, several craft breweries have opened in the city. With our roommate (aka my mother) out of town on a cruise this past weekend, we headed up that way to check them out last Sunday.
Upstate New York has a pretty solid beer scene (after all, it is the original home of Genny Cream Ale) and fun fact, Binghamton is was home to the New York State Inebriate Asylum, which was the first institution that treated alcoholism, as the mental disorder it is. Binghamton itself is home to three craft breweries, with two also located in the neighboring towns of Endicott and Johnson City. We planned to visit three of the five, Water Street Brewing Company, Galaxy Brewing Company, and Binghamton Brewing Company. The North Brewery in Endicott unfortunately isn’t open on Sundays and we neglected to put the Gluten Free Brewery on our itinerary, well, because we’re both fans of gluten.
The Water Street Brewing Company, right in downtown Binghamton was our first stop, and honestly probably the one I’d go back to first. Like many brewpubs, this is right in a working brewery, and I liked it best because of its size: it was big, but not overly mammoth, and I liked the beer here best. I mainly drank the Venerator, a German doppelbock. We’d just got brunch on our way up, but there menu was a mix of “fancy” bar food and German fare, which is right up my alley.
The Galaxy Brewing Company is literally right around the block, which made this brewery crawl super convenient (another thing that made it convenient was my dad driving). The Galaxy Brewing Company was a much bigger (appearance wise, at least) operation, housed in an old department store. They had a ton of different beers on tap, which in my opinion, generally isn’t the greatest thing, but they turned out to be decent. We were here for the shortest amount of time, I only had one flight, just because we’d stayed at the first place a little longer then planned, and also because there was a live jazz guitarist, which isn’t exactly my thing (apparently my dad really like elevator music, though). I will say that the staff here was super friendly, and informative, which is always great when you’re at a brewery and want to ask a lot of questions without feeling terribly uninformed.
Binghamton Brewing Company was the one ironically not located in Binghamton, but neighboring Johnson City. It’s location is also ironic, because Johnson City was initially built as a factory town for the workers of the Endicott Johnson Corporation. Johnson was famous for welfare capitalism, creating benefits, housing, and public works (libraries, parades, carousels) for his workers to offset the poor wages they were paid and to discourage unionization. Johnson was also a teetotaler and forbade his employees to imbibe. The Binghamton Brewing Company sits in the shadows of one of the dilapidated factories.
The Binghampton Brewing Company is a tiny operation, feeling more like you’re at a small house party, rather then a brewery (in a good way). We sat at the bar and got some samplers, and ended up running into some fellow NEPA residents, who were also up brewery hopping for the day, who informed us that we should try the Farmhouse Brewery, 20 minutes away in Owego, which at the time was just a little too far. All and all though, it was an enjoyable day up in Binghampton and with the advent of the Farmhouse Brewery, and knowing we missed The North Brewery, I’d suffice to say that it’ll be a safe bet I’ll be back (I also wanted to grab a few pint glasses from Water Street).