About the Willow Rock Brewery
We’re focused on fresh American style craft beers with flagship beers and a rotating stock of unique and flavorful seasonal brews.
On Black Friday 2015 Willow Rock Brewing Company opened its doors. Brewers and owners, Rockney Roberts and Kevin Williams, had stocked up on beers such as Batch 1, a crisp hoppy blonde ale, IPA (later to be named Secret), a brown ale named Jim, and a pale ale called Orange 44. With Kevin and Rockney’s years of brewing together, their partnership had crafted a flavor profile for clean, crisp, and quality American ales.
Kevin and Rockney first met as a young hockey player and a Zamboni driver at the Twin Rinks in Cicero, NY, later they became friends after coincidentally becoming college roommates. On time off from school, they traveled with friends up the east coast discovering great beers and breweries. Kevin was the headman for selecting brewery destinations, while Rockney started crafting the brewery’s future flavor profile.
Kevin: “When we began the process of opening up this business we wanted to differentiate ourselves from what was going on in Syracuse and get unique takes and ideas behind some classic styles.”
Rockney: “We wanted to gain a solid knowledge of styles and then experiment from there. For instance, our Secret IPA blends techniques from west coast, east coast and northeast style IPAs to create an homage to all the different types of IPA made in America. There’s nothing inherently experimental about this, but when you start to make Saisons with lavender and hibiscus, you’re branching out a little bit more.”
When Kevin received a brewing kit one year for Christmas he quickly fell in love with brewing and started recruiting friends; Rockney quickly took up the hobby. From the beginning they took the craft seriously, educating themselves in the details on how to create high-quality beers and the brewery business. Kevin loved the process and the social aspect and Rockney dug into the science and creativity.
Kevin: “One of my favorite things is seeing the smiles on people’s faces when they’ve tasted something they like. It may be corny, but it’s the end game of a great brew day and taking proper care of the entire process from start to finish.”
Rockney: “Brewing is equal parts art and science and being able to creatively tap into both is the allure of being a brewer. There are thousands of unique and interesting herbs, spices, fruits and flavors just waiting to be folded into a good beer. For all the excellent brewers and beers out there, there’s still a lot of room for exploration and that’s very exciting.”
In 2009 the drafts of their first business plan started to take shape. That year Rockney met an audacious businessman in the Buffalo, NY area who starting planting hops for a farm that would eventually be harvested for the future brewery. In 2011 Kevin and Rockney traveled to Denver, CO to purchase their three-barrel brewing system.
The next steps were the hardest, as the two brewers searched for a building. In wasn’t until 2014, when they finally signed a lease for 115 Game Rd. location in Syracuse, NY. With its glass enclosure tasting room, anti-slip tiles, large floor drains, and solar radiant heating it was the ideal facility to start their brewery. The name Willow Rock manifested through Kevin’s last name Williams and Rockney’s first name.
Rockney: “We want to help bring more great beer to Syracuse. The dream of brewing is to make a quality product that people love to drink and that’s the goal we set for ourselves with every beer we make.
Kevin: “I wanted to share my craft and my passion with people. I always loved brewing and sharing my beer with friends and family. I wanted to take the next step, making something that I loved doing my profession and share it with more people.”
They dove headfirst into the licensing aspect of opening a brewery and starting working on their marketing identity. With some help from family and friends, the brewery took shape as the months passed. In August of 2015, they received their final approval and began brewing commercially.
In the July of 2016 the brewery started distributing kegs to local Syracuse bars and restaurants and in August the brewery will have been licensed for brewing for a full year and will have served 40 plus batches of its signature and seasonal brews.
Kevin: “It’s such a great area to live in with- so much character. It would be great for when people think Willow Rock they think Syracuse, and when people think Syracuse they think Willow Rock.”
Rockney: “Our overall goal is to be part of a great Syracuse beer scene and we’re just starting to find ourselves getting in the mix. We want Syracuse to become an east coast destination for great beer. When people want to take a beer vacation, we want them to think about Syracuse.”
Already looking to expand, Willow Rock Brewing Company is following a well-worn path from a local brewery to regional brewery and look forward to bringing packaged products to all corners of New York State.
Rockney: “Brewing is about being creative and we want that to come through in our products. Every brewer is a beer drinker too and we want to push the envelope to make new and exciting beers alongside approachable interpretations of well-known favorable styles.”