Auburn’s Craft Brewpub: Prison City
You have to love people who take full ownership of the past. Auburn is known for it’s maximum security prison—it’s where the first execution by electric chair took place in 1890— and that’s not typically the kind of legacy you tout if you run a hip new restaurant. But Dawn and Marc Schultz owned it when they built a new craft beer brewery and restaurant that’s been rapidly gaining popularity in Auburn: Prison City Pub & Brewery.
“Auburn is home,” says Dawn. “Our children go to school here and we really like this community. Ten years ago when I started planning this project, there were no breweries or brewpubs in the area. Over the course of several years, I looked at every possible location in Auburn, and I decided that 28 State Street was the perfect spot because of the downtown locale and the beautiful historic building.”
State Street is a great location; walking down its narrow cobblestoned road offers a sort of European vibe unique to other locations in Auburn. It’s tucked away from the hustle, bustle and traffic of Genesee Street, but still convenient to get to whether it be by car, bike or foot. Prison City‘s interior is lined with brick walls, with mugshot photos of customers in the “Mug Club”, a membership that includes benefits like a free beer on your birthday and invitations to try new beers before they’re released.
It has an exceptionally large bar, plenty of seating and enough room to have live performances from local bands each weekend, something that’s been happening more and more. The Pub offers a menu described by Schultz as “Gastropub (a blend between a French bistro and an English pub) with an emphasis on local ingredients, along with much of the reason of their popularity: a draft list of craft beers, several of which are brewed on site.
“Craft beer takes up only ten percent of the market,” explained head brewer Ben Maeso. “The rest is all commercial. Budweiser, Miller and all those big companies.” Maeso is responsible for combining different flavors and ingredients to create Prison City’s hodgepodge of different house beers – from IPAs to sour beers and everything in between. Maeso has a deep appreciation for the art of craft beer. “I like brewing small battens with lots of variety and surprising people with flavors. Belgian styles are my favorite craft beer to make,” he said. The Great American Beer Festival agreed, and awarded Maeso’s Belgian beer, called Bleek Wordon, a silver medal at the Great American Beer Festival in September. Maeso described the festival as “the olympics for beer.”
Still, he says that IPAs are the most popular, “It took me a while to make one, but when I did, it flew,” Maeso said. “There’s something about hoppy beers that people just seem to like a lot.”
The IPA, cleverly named “In Prison Again”, is one of the most recent house
beers on tap at Prison City along with “Lockdown Brown”, a classic brown ale and “Catch Me If You Can”, an amber. Brews coming soon include a cherry sour “Cherry Poppins” and another IPA called “Riot”. Two steel cylindroconical fermenters, nicknamed Bonnie and Clyde, assist Maeso with many of his creations, while several plastic fermenters set against the back wall of the brewing room are used specifically for sour beers. There are also a few barrels on site, with more on the way.
“We are trying to get wine aged sour beer, we want to get a good oaky flavor from the barrels as well as the flavor from the wine that was kept inside them.”
The future is very bright for this up and coming brewpub.
Schultz is very pleased with the goals that have been achieved and the progression of Prison City Pub & Brewery, as well as her personal achievement. “I started out as a dishwasher when I was fourteen. I’ve owned three other restaurants, with the goal always being to open a brewpub. The reception of the community and our sales has exceeded my expectations and budget!”
You can check out their draft list and menu on the Prison City website.
This article was originally reported by Maria Norris.