Not so long ago "Give us some air!" meant cranking the window handles counterclockwise until their gears groaned and speeding up to push a slipstream to the deepest recesses of the back seat. Even an Adirondack car trip could be brutally uncomfortable in those pre-air conditioned days, and this frosty mug of Utica Club could have seemed a mirage to the parched traveller through Lasellville on Route 67.

Perhaps the lettering has simply weathered off this sign, but there has never been a need to direct anyone from the western Mohawk Valley to the free tour. Although its flagship brand is now "Saranac", the former West End Brewery at Court and Edwards Streets still has the gigantic red letters that spell "UTICA CLUB" mounted on the roof. And while the tour is no longer free, it is still costs less than a draft of Bud Light. It includes a Victorian-decor museum with its fantastic collection of graphically-exquisite labels and other brewerania dating back to the brewery's founding by F.X. Matt in 1888. Surprising, the display shows that the "Utica Club" label first appeared on the ginger ale that the brewery produced to survive Prohibition. There is even a multimedia exhibit devoted to those iconic talking beer steins, Dooley and Schultz, who star in their own video with Officer Sudds and Farmer Mugee.

As you walk through the brewery, you hear the story of a Utica beer-drinking first whose 70th anniversary was celebrated with a parade this spring. Prohibition effectively ended on April 7, 1933 when production and consumption of 3.2 wine and beer became legal. Within an hour of repeal, the Hotel Utica became the first establishment in the nation to (legally) serve commercial post-Prohibition beer by serving Utica Club in its dining room.

After the tour winds up at the brewery's Victorian tavern, you can exchange your admission coupons for 2 drafts of beer or Matt Company soft drinks. Although the Saranac line is now the brewery's lifeblood, it seems a shame to sample anything but Utica Club, which is now regularly distributed only within a hundred mile radius of Utica. It still tastes as good as you remember.