Friends and former Canandaigua volunteer firefighters open Square Knot Brewing

CANANDAIGUA — Nate Crane and Paul Newhook both grew up in Canandaigua. They met about 15 years ago when both became volunteer Canandaigua firefighters.

They both have three kids, and both enjoy brewing and yes, sampling craft beer.

So the knot was tied on their friendship some time ago, well before they decided to make and sell their own craft brews.

Although it’s been open since earlier this month, Square Knot Brewing is set to have a grand-opening celebration at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, on Pleasant Street, at the former site of Peacemaker Brewing and Twisted Rail Brewing Companies.

“This gives us an opportunity to do that together and share it with other people, at the same time creating a fun environment, here in the taproom,” Crane said.

Square Knot has a few different pieces of symbolism to it. The square is a symbol in freemasonry, and both are members. Newhook, who is a career firefighter in the Albany area, is a member of the ropes rescue team, so a good strong knot is critical to a successful climb.

The square knot is as nautical a knot as there is, which works well with Canandaigua Lake nearby, said Newhook, who also was an Eagle Scout.

And Scouts and knots are as tight as Simon and Garfunkel used to be, before their rock-and-roll partnership frayed.

No worries of that here, as Newhook and Crane remain good friends, but there are differences between the two — even when it comes to beer. Newhook said he is a big hoppy IPA-type guy; Crane is not.

So their first beer brewed together is a compromise. A Frayed Knot is an IPA, but without the over-the-top bitterness, making it a transition beer for people to get into craft beer, Crane said.

“We met in the middle ground,” Newhook said.

Their love of history is all tied up with their love of beer and so the names of their beers on tap have some significance.

For instance, one is named after Crane’s oldest daughter, the Caiolann’s Irish Red ale. The Onnalinda Oatmeal stout is named after the old steamboat, which operated on Canandaigua Lake in the 1800s and early 1900s and had ties to the McKechnie family, owners of the Canandaigua Brewery.

They are brewing a special orange citrus IPA for the grand opening, but the name will remain a secret until opening day, Crane said.

“We do want to have a nice variety and options for everyone’s preference,” Crane said. “We’re going to have a lot that are true to style and tradition and some that get to be a little more on the experimental side — some stuff we put a twist on and have a little fun with.”

Newhook, who is an Army vet, said 1 percent of Square Knot’s earnings will be donated to the community. Already they have helped out the Knights hockey program and they are planning to brew a beer special for the Shootout for Soldiers lacrosse competition later in the year.

Both of the owners of the building’s former occupants have reached out to the Square Knot people, Newhook said, answering questions, offering encouragement and help, and asking the same question everyone else is: When are you opening?

“The nice thing about the brewing community at this level, it’s so tight-knit,” he said. “It’s kind of like coaching the new guys on the block, which is nice.”

Newhook has a personal tie to the space, which once served as the New York Central Railroad Depot. He has a copy of a photograph in the late 1910s of his grandparents when they were first married, boarding a train headed for New York City for a New York Yankees baseball game.

Crane and Newhook said some aspects of the former breweries are remaining; the rails from Twisted Rail and tables from Peacemaker.

But they are giving the space their own touch, with photos of professional climbers who are friends of Newhook’s — including one climbing Mt. Everest. An old topographical map of Canandaigua Lake and various ropes with square knots give the place a rustic feel.

“We’re trying to make our own name and stand out from a bunch of good breweries in Canandaigua,” Newhook said.

Square Knot Brewing, 20 Pleasant St., Canandaigua, is open from 3 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, noon to 10 p.m. Saturdays, and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays. Mondays are brewing days but it's open by appointment.

Fire & Ice food and drink

Square Knot Brewing will be among the local breweries taking part in the downtown Canandaigua Fire & Ice Winter Festival’s craft beer tasting event.

Young Lion, WeBe, the Other Half, ReInvention, Irish Mafia, K2 Brothers, Rising Storm and Brew & Brats at Arbor Hill are the others.

The tasting will be at one location, which is a new feature this year. The event, which will be held at Skip’s Flooring, 61 S. Main St., will run from 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday. Cost is $20 per person.

Earlier in the day, the Comfort Food Chef Challenge will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Nick’s Chophouse, the Green Front, Casa de Pasta, Rio Tomatlan, Simply Crepes, Ferona, Nolan’s on Canandaigua Lake, Thai by Night, New York Kitchen, Finger Lakes Barbecue Co., and Il Posto will be preparing comfort food dishes for judging.

Cost is $10 per person.