Personal Best Brewery opens on the premises of the former City Health Club

ITHACA, NY – A new microbrewery and beer garden is opening on West State Street, featuring classic beers and new creations.

In the renovated building that was formerly the City Health Club gym, the brewery features an outdoor beer garden, over a dozen cask styles from classics to new creations, and several recreational shuffleboard courts.

The brewery is currently in the soft opening phase and is open four days a week on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4pm to 10pm. Fridays from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Saturdays from 12pm to 11pm; and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Opening times are subject to change and will be adjusted after opening.

Founder and owner Anthony Cesari said the idea of ​​opening a brewery came to him a few years ago.

“This building has been in our family since the 1980’s, originally it was a health club and the health club slowly evolved [fading] away,” Cesari said. “It was around that time that I had just gotten into homebrewing and we started toying with the idea of ​​maybe starting a brewery – and then the gym closed and we got started [demolishing] it in 2019 and it really became a project.”

Originally, Cesari wanted to use only part of the space and allow his brother to use the rest of the space for another project, but the COVID-19 pandemic took the project in a different direction.

“[COVID was] “One of those things that’s like a blessing in terms of the project now,” Cesari said. “It gave us a chance to rethink what we wanted to do because the original idea was to open at a smaller capacity because we could open faster if maybe we started smaller – but then COVID and all happened stopped, so it gave us the time to try to do everything at once.”

With the additional time, the project shifted to utilizing the entire 8,000 square foot facility and included a taproom and a fully operational brewery that features 10 barrel fermenters, among other things. Cesari said the facility’s capacity allows him to both serve standard selections and experiment with new creations.

“We can make 10 kegs at a time, but we also have a smaller one-keg system,” Cersari said. “This flexibility allows us to test a recipe on a smaller scale without committing to 10 casks.”

All beers served are home-brewed, with the exception of the wines, which are from Wagner Vineyards. Canning is outsourced to another company. Another benefit of the pandemic was that Cesari had more time to experiment and was able to open the store with 18 choices. In addition, customers have the opportunity to purchase draft beers for larger events off the premises.

Credit: Casey Martin / The Ithaca Voice

The project was made possible by a loan from the Ithaca Urban Renewal Agency (IURA), which aims to revitalize inner cities. Last July, Cesari applied to the agency for a $140,000 loan. Cesari said working with the city to fund the project also helped him stay organized as a new business owner.

“It was almost like a good learning exercise to start with due diligence about organization [your books]’ Caesar said. “The credit from the IURA was very helpful, especially in terms of getting us across the finish line.”

The company is currently in the soft opening phase as construction on the facility is still ongoing, but Cesari is looking forward to the grand opening, hopefully in time for the new school year. Cesari also hopes to rent out the taproom more regularly for private events once the renovations are complete.

“We have taproom furniture that’s still being built,” Cesari said. “Think of a little more comfort and a lounge atmosphere [is what we’re aiming for].”

For Cesari, opening a business is a tribute to his family’s long history of running small businesses in upstate New York.

“My great-grandfather Rossi opened a bowling alley in Elmira in the 1950s, hence the name [of my favorite beer] “Rental Shoes” is a reference to him,” Cesari said.

Correction: In the original version of this story, an incorrect loan amount was reported by the IURA.

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