Ontario County's newest brewery prepares to open on Canandaigua's South Main Street

CANANDAIGUA — Ontario County's newest brewery is where you used to grab a gallon of milk and an ice cream.

The large, mostly windowless Byrne Dairy space along Canandaigua's bustling South Main Street was purely utilitarian, but today it has new life and a brand-new look.

It's now the home of Frequentem Brewing, 254 S. Main St., a welcoming and airy brewery slated to open in coming weeks as the seventh brewery in this small Finger Lakes community. All of the breweries have opened since 2010.

“This was a much bigger project to jump into than we were thinking. We even thought about brewing on his half-barrel homebrewing system and having a small little taproom," said co-owner Meagan D'Allesandro, who is opening the brewery with her husband, David. "And then we saw this building. What are you going to find on Main Street in Canandaigua with parking and a prime location? It was possible, and we just jumped in with both feet."

Kicking it old school

They say that all the best band names are taken. The same can be said for brewery names, but the D'Allesandros wanted to brand the brewery as a space that would welcome and encourage community gatherings.

The name Frequentem emerged.

"We’re defining it as a high-energy gathering," David said. "We want this place to have good vibes and for people to come hang out. Going for more of the public house vibe than the sports bar, with a heavy industrial feel."

To accomplish that, the building was extensively reimagined and renovated. The original building, with only two small front-facing windows and two doors, felt more like a convenience store.

But a year of construction completely altered the identity of the space. A garage door was added to let in natural light and fresh air during warmer weather. The roof and ceiling were rebuilt, and a row of windows now encircle the upper edges of the building. Other floor-to-ceiling windows were added. There are also two separate patios.

Needless to say, the property has a new spirit. And the owners chose the name to reflect it.

"The nerd side of me likes the energy of the word," David said. "Frequentem is the word that frequency is derived from, but back when frequency meant a gathering.

“That has always been the idea of this place — to be somewhere people can come and hang out,” added Meagan, a native of Stafford, Genesee County. “Social drinking is a big part of our family, so we want to bring a part of that here.”

The couple has been actively planning for the project for more than two years. Meagan's father, Gerald LaMendola, purchased the building in late 2018. The D'Allesandros are leasing from him. After receiving approvals from the city, major construction began in September 2019. The couple now live in Farmington, and have been married for four years.

Always having fun

Especially during a pandemic and an economic slowdown, the entire process of opening a brewery hasn't been sunshine and rainbows. But you wouldn't know it from the permanent smiles on the D'Allesandros' faces.

Sure, there has been a fair share of hurdles and issues, but the couple is still having fun together. “You take those with a grain of salt and you keep moving,” David said.

And they're still able to sit back and share a laugh. Because at the end of the day, the D’Allesandros are pursuing a dream, and they’re doing it together.

They're also making their own luck. Like how they were able to acquire a 10-barrel brewing system before construction started. While they wouldn't have been able to fit the system into the building before construction, they were able to finagle the system into place while ripping everything else apart.

While both have maintained full-time jobs during this process, they each have roots in the service industry.

"I always tell everyone: Bartending was the best job I ever had," said David, a Greece native. "It’s fun and it’s fresh every day."

Meagan echoed those sentiments. So this brewery venture was a way to return to their roots.

"After we got our day jobs, we would go to a bar and say to each other, ‘This was the most fun we ever had.’ We both loved it," she said. "And then we got our jobs after college and thought, ‘Why did we do that?’ We were making good money and could’ve kept having fun. And this is the result of that."

They're not chefs, so opening a restaurant wasn't an option. Instead, as David dove deeper and deeper into brewing, it became clear that a brewery would be a fitting venture.

"We love throwing around ideas and we both have an entrepreneurial spirit," Meagan said. "My dad has his own business and that’s what I went to school for. ... This felt so right. Everything has been so much fun."

An enterprising homebrewer

David joked that he bought his first homebrewing kit after some time spent at a brewery. He walked into a homebrew supply shop and bought a $60 brew-in-a-bucket kit.

“The purchase was probably influenced by the few beers we had before,” David joked.

That initial purchase led to more than just a hobby. He upgraded his equipment, refined his recipes, learned the importance of fermentation temperatures, and practiced his sanitation skills. (The old joke goes that brewery is 99% janitorial work.)

"I’m an engineer. It seems to be a common thing in the brewing world," David said. "This seems to be a great balance between the science side of things and the physical labor side of things at the same time. Our brewhouse is very manual, and I think that’s fun. You’re actually doing stuff. I fell in love with brewing, and we’ve always looked at doing something together."

With the community-gathering-space vibe in mind, David said he wants to craft supremely drinkable beers, with an emphasis on offerings with lower alcohol content.

David said New England-style hazy India Pales and sours are currently his two favorite styles. He envisions having two of each on draft when they open. The brewery will feature eight beers on draft and one wine. David said there will also be a cream ale (made with 100% New York-grown ingredients) and coffee brown ale on tap.

"Drinkability is what I'm going for," he said.