Central New York songwriters Mike Powell and Chris Merkley will celebrate the connection between craft beer and music this October with their first mini-tour of local breweries, fittingly in their home region, which at one time produced 90% of the hops in the U.S.
Since the passing of the Craft New York Act in 2014, more than 400 licensed breweries have opened across the state. Not only did this act create many new places to sample craft-brewed beers, but it also created almost as many new performance spaces for musicians. Powell and Merkley have chosen four of these breweries for their 4-pack micro tour, dubbed Original Gravity.
In brewing terms, original gravity refers to the specific gravity of the wort prior to fermentation, which is the process that produces the beer. The name of this mini-tour fits perfectly within that theme. The two friends are embarking on the first of what they hope will be a continuing series of brewery stops. This tour will measure the original gravity of this type of endeavor.
They’ll be exploring different perspectives on the idea of craftsmanship, taking a closer look at the similarities between songwriters and brewers while documenting their travels as part of a collaboration with NYSMusic. The folk, blues and Americana-inspired songwriters will make stops in Rome, Penn Yan, Warners, and Pompey between October 10 – 13.
Singer-songwriters spend countless years honing their craft and exploring the endless possibilities and nuances of pairing lyrics to music. When these songs finally make it to the microphone, they impact listeners with a wide range of thoughts, feelings, and emotions. In similar ways, a craft brewer can enter into the tradition of brewing beer and spend as many countless years refining their recipes and process to create just the right balance of flavors and notes for that first sip.
The first stop of the tour takes Powell and Merkley to Copper City Brewing Company in Rome for a Thursday, Oct. 10 show. Established in 2016, Copper City is Rome’s first brewery since the 1940s. With 11 beers on tap and a selection of hard ciders and wines hand-selected from the region, Copper City has dedicated itself to bringing brewing back to the community and is proud to be the first local microbrewery in over seven decades. Music starts at 7 p.m. and admission is free.
The second show of Original Gravity takes the songwriters west to Abandon Brewing in Penn Yan on Friday, Oct. 11. Perched atop the Finger Lakes, Abandon Brewing Company is a geothermal-powered craft brewery located in a reused farmhouse overlooking Keuka Lake. Visitors can enjoy tastings in the taproom, a pint in their beer hall or out on the deck overlooking the grapes, apples and hops of Abandon Acres. Music starts at 8 p.m. and tickets to the show are now available through the Facebook event and through Eventbrite.
For the third show of the tour, Merkley and Powell travel to a brand new brewery in Pompey called Heritage Hill Brewhouse. With farm-to-table dining options and an expansive property that features multiple playgrounds and patios, a pumpkin patch, and numerous gardens, Heritage Hill offers views as far as the Carrier Dome and across nine counties on a clear day. Powell and Merkley are scheduled to perform on their outdoor stage at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 12. In the event of inclement weather, music will move indoors in Heritage Hill’s event barn.
The fourth and final show of the micro tour brings the songwriting duo to Warners for a performance at Local 315 Brewing Company. Growing their own hops at Fawn Crossing Hops Farm, and supplementing other ingredients from as many New York State products as possible, Local 315 Brewing has made it a mission to keep it local in the 315. Music starts at 3 p.m. on the 12th and will take place on the outdoor stage weather permitting.
With a vintage voice and a chest full of hauntingly heartfelt songs, prolific storyteller Mike Powell is the underground messenger of blue-collar soul. Each night the lights go up, this pioneering poet lets his guard down and allows the fervently fearless stories to come to life. His comfort behind a microphone and unique brand of atomic folk creates a vibe that warms the room like a long-ago fire burning hot inside a cabin in the woods.
Armed with a pair of homemade wooden boxes, resonator guitar, and a suitcase full of harmonicas, Chris Merkley has performed over a thousand shows from the streets of Paris to venues throughout Europe and across the United States. He has released nine albums with a variety of groups which include the songwriting duo Merkley & Morgan, his high-octane country/blues belting band of globetrotters called The Crooners, and the swampy blues rock trio Digger Jones. In addition to an extensive career of recording and touring, Merkley has composed and produced catalogs of original music for Cinemax and HBO and has had his songs featured in numerous independent films and television broadcasts.
Throughout the duration of Original Gravity, there will be regular updates at NYSMusic featuring blog-style entries to document tales of their tour. Accounts of the shows as well as perspectives on the unique characteristics of each brewery, and their approach to brewing will be covered along with stories from the road. More information on the music of Powell and Merkley can be found on Facebook or by visiting their websites at MikePowell.co and ChrisMerkley.com.