Opportunity Brews out of Adversity – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Opportunity Brews out of Adversity

When fire ravaged one of the brewery buildings at F. X. Matt Brewery in Utica, NY, it was a blessing in disguise for Hobart alumnus and the company’s Brewing Company Vice President of Marketing and Sales Fred Matt ’81 and his family’s brewery. “For as devastating as it’s been for us, life goes on,” said Matt. The fire occurred in a building that housed canning operations. Within hours the fire was under control and put out. The only injuries were to two brewery employees who were treated for smoke inhalation at an area hospital but were reported to be in satisfactory condition. Production went relatively unharmed, and the major damage was done to the building itself. “What was lost was material,” said Matt. “And material can be replaced, rebuilt and even improved. Being forced to experience this challenge, we’re certainly better for it.” Just weeks after the fire, Matt was on campus for Reunion 2008 with a smile on his face and cases of Saranac in tow. “The beer tasting that we do every year is a lot of fun,” said Matt, who didn’t miss a beat even after the recent fire. “I had four very memorable years at Hobart and William Smith, and it’s nice to be able to give back to the Colleges in this way.” Throughout the afternoon, Matt led alums through a brief history of F.X. Matt Brewery as well as an instructed sampling of some of Saranac’s most popular flavors, including pale ale and pomegranate wheat. What did alums enjoy most about their Saranac afternoon? “The beer is just great,” said Bill Yaffa ’73, P’01. “It was nice to meet and have a conversation with Fred Matt,” Tom Currie ’73 said. So what kept Matt so jovial and optimistic? “When the fire was blazing, I was standing on the roof of another building looking down at the flames,” said Matt. “There was a rainbow stretching across the sky and ending right in the burning building. It reminded me of the saying, ‘There’s gold at the end of every rainbow.’” With his eyes on a brighter and brighter future for his family’s brewing company, Matt concluded that, “We really view the accident as an adversity that will become an opportunity for us.” Only the future will reveal the next innovation that this family brewery will bottle next.