The Strathmore Speaker Series and Onondaga Free Library‘s April 2021 event featured Eddie Brennan, President and Co-Owner of Beak & Skiff Apple Orchards. Mr. Brennan shared the story of how this fifth-generation business evolved from a small family farm into regional producer of award-winning ciders, spirits, and wine, and, finally, to a polished, publicly-acclaimed tourist and event destination. Beak & Skiff’s transformation is at the heart of all that makes Central New York agriculture great, and is a shining exemplar of Central New York’s entrepreneurial ethos.
This event was held on Thursday, April 8th on Zoom. Missed it? Watch the full video below.
About Beak & Skiff
Beak & Skiff has been growing apples for over 100 years. The operation began in 1911 when George Skiff, an onion farmer on the North Side of Syracuse, and Andrew Beak, a dairy farmer, met at the farmers market and decided to join forces and enter the then emerging apple business. They found that the hillside area along Route 20 provided the perfect conditions for growing apples and began planting that very year.
For most of the 20th century, Beak & Skiff was strictly a wholesale apple producer, selling apples to grocery stores such as Victory and A&P. It was throughout this first phase of the business that they developed the culture of creativity and innovation that would set the stage for where the business is today. At first, this culture manifested itself in technological innovations around protecting and increasing the yield of their apple crop. In 1975, the business turned outward for the first time, opening its doors to the public as one of the nation’s first pick-your-own orchards. This was followed a few years later by the conversion of an old dairy barn into the Apple Hill Country Store and the beginning of Beak & Skiff’s foray into cider production. It was during this time that a visit to the orchard first became a fall tradition for many Central New York families.
In 2001, Beak & Skiff launched their 1911 Established line of Hard Ciders, catching a nascent cider revival that was soon to sweep the country. Before long, 1911 Established ciders were available in stores, restaurants, and bars across New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. The success of their hard cider line led to a jump into wine and the spirits business via the launch of 1911 Spirits small batch premium vodka and gin and later brandy and bourbon. In 2013, Beak & Skiff renovated their Apple Hill Campus, transforming it into a major regional agrotourism destination and event venue.
Today, Beak & Skiff is in their fifth generation of family ownership and continuing to innovate. Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, the 1911 Spirits distillery switched over to the production of hand sanitizer which was ultimately sold and donated across Central New York. 2020 also saw the launch of Beak & Skiff’s industrial hemp and multi-product CBD business.