Craft beer in Central New York is taking a turn toward the sweet.

F.X. Matt Brewing Company President Fred Matt acknowledges that, in order for the craft beer business to remain viable, it must pay homage to what is happening in the mainstream world of adult beverages.  The next generation of beer drinkers has grown up with a multitude of sweet beverage choices, and therefore more sugar-loving palates.

"That 21 to 34 audience right now," he says, "really is craving sweet."

The Matt family began to realize this, and came up with the idea to do a hard root beer about five years ago.  But, despite the fact that the Matt family's non-alcoholic Saranac sodas are known almost as much as their Saranac beers, Fred Matt says that they sat on the idea.  That is, at least until another company produced a hard root beer of its own.

Sweet alcohol is not entirely new to F.X. Matt Brewing.  Fred says they were the first, under their "Jed's" label, to introduce hard lemonade into the market.  But, he says, his own company was unable to retain a strong market share with hard lemonade as the liquor companies ran away with that market.  He thinks they will be more successful with hard sodas.

The company whose spurs pressed into Saranac's sides is Illinois-headquartered Small Town Brewery.  The company's "Not Your Father's Root Beer," debuted this past spring, and propelled the craft brewer into the big time with national sales and a now in-demand reputation.

WIBX post by Jeff Monaski, June 10, 2015

Not to be outdone, the Matt family wasted no time putting not one but three hard sodas into production.  So as not to confuse the adult sodas with their non-alcoholic counterparts, Saranac's hard sodas will be branded under the Jed's label.  Jed's root beer, orange cream, and black cherry flavors begin shipping on Tuesday, October 27, 2015.

Photo Credit: Kristine Bellino
Photo Credit: Kristine Bellino

Fred Matt says he welcomes the competition, and the success that he thinks the new line will bring his business, which is still family-run after 127 years.  He says that both the company and family recognize the next generation of brewers and clients, and believes that the Matts' willingness to think - and act - outside of the box has contributed to their success.

And sometimes that need to act is quite literal as Fred and his junior cousin Nick (whose father is the elder Nick Matt, C.E.O. of the company) recently unveiled an MTV-style parody video, proving that they can keep it real, even for the post-MTV generation:

Matt is hoping that the profits are real as well.

[EDITOR's NOTE: More from the interview with Fred Matt can be seen on "The Beer Next Door," produced in partnership with WIBX First News with Keeler, and airing on WUTR on Thursday, November 12, 2015.  For more information on the Syracuse Beer Fest visit: America on Tap: Syracuse.]

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