“We are finally completing one of my long-term goals of taking over the other half of this building,” Roc Brewing co-founder and co-owner Chris Spinelli said. “This will really bring the best experience possible to this neighborhood that has expanded and changed so much.”
The joint venture will be called F.L.X. Wienery at Roc. Optimistically, the entire project will be completed and open by June. Discussions for the partnership started eight months ago and were cemented after F.L.X. Wienery hosted a well-received pop-up event at Roc in November.
F.L.X. Wienery owner Christopher Bates plans to adapt its approach to its new neighborhood. The restaurant pairs various house-made sausages, hand-ground burgers and French fries with toppings like homemade pickles, kimchi and sauerkraut.
One of the few menu items that is not homemade: hot dogs. "I’m a Zweigle's man. through and through," he said.
Bates plans to augment the menu to add items geared for sharing over a beer. He thinks it's fitting that the couple's first concept would be the first to expand beyond the Finger Lakes.
“Were really excited to get this rolling," he said.
Spinelli said with the emerging Neighborhood of Play and the removal of the Inner Loop, he wants the new business to be family-friendly.
"I've watching these Tonka trucks (construction vehicles) going around all day and it has been so much fun to watch this neighborhood transform," Spinelli said. "We don't have that food option, we don't have that experience. Luckily, we were able to get connected to F.L.X."
The building, which originally was a VFW hall, had been home to an architectural firm on one side and the brewery on the other for almost the past decade. CJS Architects, which still owns the building, recently moved to a bigger space down the street.
The expansion will combine the two spaces, and Roc Brewing will expand from 2,800 square feet to 7,100 square feet. The taproom will grow from 600 square feet to 2,000 square feet. CJS designed the new space.
F.L.X. Wienery at ROC will be responsible for the hospitality side of the venture, including the restaurant and taproom, while Roc will still focus on beer production.
"They are going to make beer. We’re going to make smiles," Bates said.
The goal is to host F.L.X. Wienery at Roc pop-up for St. Patrick's Day weekend in March. Roc Brewing will remain open during construction.
Demolition should begin this week, Spinelli said. The goal is to open the newly renovated half of the business, including the kitchen, first. Spinelli is hopeful that'll occur in April. He wants a seamless transition, where Roc will be able to close its current taproom to allow construction to begin in that portion of the building. Once construction is done in the Roc portion, the wall separating the two spaces will come down and the bars will be fused in the center.
The optimistic goal is to have the renovated and expanded space ready for Roc's ninth anniversary party on June 6.
“We’re hoping to pull off this transition with very little down time," Bates said.
The current taproom bar along the southwest wall of the property will be shifted to the center of the expanded space. An expanded walk-in cooler will be constructed. There will be an emphasis on communal, family-style seating.
The kitchen will be visible as patrons enter at the new entrance (the former doorway for the architectural firm).
For the first time, Roc will feature an event space with capacity for up to 40 people. The event space will be near the former bar and will be separated from the main space by an interior garage door. The patio will also be expanded.
Finger Lakes comes to Rochester
If you were to spot Christopher Bates at one of his restaurants, you'd likely find him washing dishes or making a repair, his man bun unkempt and his beard shaggy. Despite his low key-persona, he and his wife, Isabel Bogadtke are wildly creative and ambitious. They have made a major impact on the Finger Lakes in a relatively short period of time.
Bates passed the fiendishly difficult Master Sommelier exam, the highest level in terms of wine service, in 2013. He won several sommelier competitions and was named one of Food & Wine magazine's sommeliers of the year in 2016.
F.L.X. Hospitality now encompasses Element Winery as well as three restaurants, a retail store and a catering operation.
In Geneva, the tiny, high-end F.L.X. Table, which has a single table for 12, has received numerous accolades, including being named the country's best new restaurant in the USA TODAY 10Best Readers' Choice poll in 2017. F.L.X. Fry Bird, which focuses on fried chicken, Southern fare and boozy slushies, outgrew its location at 18 Linden St., and is within days of moving to a larger new space down the street. F.L.X. Wienery, a casual spot on the west side of Seneca Lake in Dundee, was the couple's first restaurant concept. It pairs casual fare like hot dogs and hamburgers with a fine wine selection, including a "secret wine fridge" of wines available by the bottle.
Bates said that Rochester has been a "supportive, hungry and excited community" for his restaurants.
How will a Master Sommelier approach an operation in a brewery?
“Their beers are going to remain the highlight," Bates said. In addition, F.L.X. Wienery at Roc will round out the offerings for people who want to try other things. Wines will be sold by the glass and the bar, which has a full liquor license, will also offer simple cocktails. The secret wine fridge is not likely to make its way to South Union Street.
“I don’t want to turn this into a wine bar," he said. "I want to make sure there are great options for someone who wants to have a glass of wine.”
Bates expects the Weinery's milkshakes to be popular with visitors to the neighborhood, especially with the Strong National Museum of Play nearby.
Currently, Roc offers seven beers on draft. But the expanded space will allow the brewery to push draft offerings to 12, Spinelli said. They plan to install a two-tap system, so 12 additional draft lines will be available in the event space.
Roc Brewing history
Chris Spinelli and Jon Mervine (the current owner/brewer at Fifth Frame Brewing on St. Paul Street) founded Roc Brewing in 2010. It opened in June 2011 with a 1-barrel brewing system (which is roughly the size of many homebrewing setups) and then grew to its current 7-barrel brewhouse about five years later. With the expanded space, the footprint of the brewery won’t change. Instead, it’ll provide more flexibility, if Roc needs to grow in the future.
Roc Brewing helped kick-start the second wave of craft beer growth in the Rochester area. It was the just the fourth brewery in Monroe County when it opened. The city now has 11 breweries and Monroe County has grown to 25. Increasingly, consumers are seeking out the taproom experience. On-premise sales are driving growth for smaller breweries.
Spinelli said Roc needed this expansion to compete long-term.
Reporter Tracy Schuhmacher focuses on Rochester's food and drink scene and human interest stories. Send restaurant and story tips to TracyS@Gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram as @RahChaChow. Your subscription makes works like this possible. Join today.
Article written by Tracy Schuhmacher and Will Cleveland, Democrat and Chronicle