It’s 6:30 am and at a time when traffic in Los Angeles would start to line up for the daily jam to work, I step out onto the streets of Hamilton New York to a town just waking up with the sunrise. As I make my way around the sleepy streets I notice two things; 1. It’s pitch black and I’ve never felt safer on a run and 2. this whole town seems to smell of apples and cinnamon.
Hamilton is a part of Madison County, an area full of robust history and bursting with revival. This area is all about, quite literally, getting back to it’s roots.
In the 1880s, the state of New York produced 80% of the nations hops, the majority being in Madison County. After prohibition ceased beer production, the area continued to thrive in agriculture and became mostly known for farming. Recently, Madison County has seen a resurgence in craft beverages and local breweries. The towns have found a way to combine their passion for good food and good drinks making it a mecca for farm-to-table AND farm-to-glass.
I got to experience this first hand at Good Nature Farm Brewery. Husband and wife team Carrie Blackmore and Matt Whalen started the brewery back in 2010 with the goal of creating an authentic farm brewery. They source all of their ingredients from local farmers and brew all of their beer on site. Between the beautiful brewery, to the lively outdoor patio, to the family friendly atmosphere, Good Nature really makes you feel like you’re part of the family.
And 30 minutes across the county, lies the largest farm brewery on the east coast; Empire Brewery. With over 22 acres of land and a 60 bbl automated brewhouse, Empire is a massive production! And yet, this farm brewery also makes you feel like you’re down home and one of the locals. I found that hometown comfortable vibe all across Madison County.
No place more so than Critz Farms. Another husband and wife team Matthew and Juanita Critz opened the farm back in 1985 with the agricultural goal of growing Christmas trees. As families began making this a holiday tradition, they wanted more seasons to come back and visit the farm. This led the duo to starting a pumpkin patch and cider mill. The cidery and brewery quickly following. For 33 years, Critz Farms has become a Central New York staple and a local family tradition for many.
Another part of Madison County’s history comes in the fact that it is the central point of the world-famous Erie Canal. At its height in 1855, over 33,000 shipments were sent along the Erie Canal creating a population surge in the area. The county keeps the spirit of the canal alive at The Chittenango Landing Canal Boat Museum where families can not only learn about the history of the canal but can also see a real life Blacksmith at work, as well as get up close and personal on the water kayaking or biking alongside the canal.
Like anywhere I travel, I am always on the search for beautiful landscape and adventure. Madison County has two of the most beautiful waterfalls in the state. Chittenango Falls is a 167-foot waterfall that cascades over 400 million-year-old bedrock. Opening in August of 2018, Delphi Falls is the state of New York’s newest public waterfall. Its a combination of two waterfalls, the lower one is 64 ft. and the upper is 51 ft. You can wade in the bottom water and get right up next to the falls.
The blend of beautiful outdoor scenery and adventure as well as its historical pride and hometown roots, make Madison County an amazing place to visit while feeling right at home.
Check out the episode below.