Adirondack Craft Beer Business Chugging Along
by Lisa Bramen
In the March/April issue of Adirondack Life I wrote “Keg Party,” a look at the booming beer industry in the Adirondack Park. The long-established breweries within the Blue Line were either planning or had recently completed expansions, one new microbrewery had opened, and four more were in the works.
A year later, it appears the party is far from over:
Last week Adirondack Pub & Brewery, in Lake George, announced a five-year, $5 million expansion that will triple its output and add a distillery and event space to its operation. Owner John Carr says the brewery had already outgrown its earlier expansion, completed in 2012, which allowed it to bottle and distribute its beer to 32 New York counties. That space will now be used for brewing smaller specialty batches. The distillery, which could be the first in Lake George (Fort William Henry also announced plans for a craft distillery last summer), will focus on single-malt whiskey. Carr says recent state legislation has made it easier for craft breweries in New York to expand their offerings.
Chris Ericson says his Lake Placid Pub & Brewery has been consistently busy since an expansion completed early last year. “In 2013 we brewed 220 batches of beer, including 37 seasonal beers,” he says. “We are looking to brew 275 batches this year.” The next step is to install a 10-line tap system to increase the number of beers available on each of the brewpub’s three floors.
A little over a year after opening in a former car wash in Saranac Lake, Blue Line Brewery is also looking at expansion. Owner Mark Gillis is doubling the size of his facility to add cold storage, a commercial kitchen and indoor and outdoor seating, where he plans to serve pizza, burgers and other simple fare. He recently hired his first full-time employee, and continues to self-distribute, delivering his product to establishments as far south as Saratoga Springs and as far north as Plattsburgh.
Some of the fledgling brewers I profiled have found that getting the doors open has taken longer than expected. The team behind Paradox Brewery, in Schroon Lake, had hoped to launch before the profitable summer season but didn’t get up and running until fall. Since then, though, business has been good, says Paul Mrocka, one of the owners. “We signed with a distributor in December, Saratoga Eagle. Orders are picking up and we are looking forward to a busy summer.”
Mark Jessie and Joe Hockey, proprietors of Raquette River Brewing, in Tupper Lake, also saw delays in getting off the ground. More than a year after receiving town board approval, their “nanobrewery” started serving up samples on March 15. “We had a soft opening with no advertising other than Facebook and it was crazy busy,” Jessie says.
Jim LaValley, a partner in Big Tupper Brewery, says they have received federal approval of their IPA “Eh” label, and expect state approval soon. “Our hope is to be on the store shelves and in pubs before Memorial Day,” LaValley says. Meanwhile, they’re working on the recipe for a coffee porter using their own brand of coffee beans (which are already available in stores), and have secured a downtown space where they plan to develop a brewpub.
Up in Keeseville, Dan and Dylan Badger’s Ausable Brewing Company is on track to open in late spring. The Badgers, who have both farming and brewing experience, plan to grow a portion of their own ingredients. Though they won’t have a full food menu in their taproom, Dan says, they plan to sell freshly baked pretzels with house beer mustard, as well as cheeses, meats and other products from nearby farms.
Meanwhile, Ken Tucker, of Ticonderoga, has continued his efforts to turn the Adirondacks into a beer mecca. He says he has been in contact with brewers on the West Coast and the United Kingdom about the possibility of locating satellite breweries in the park.
For a taste of some of the region’s best brews—including Adirondack Pub & Brewery, Lake Placid Pub & Brewery and Paradox Brewery—head to the Glens Falls Brewfest, April 5th at the Queensbury Hotel. Proceeds benefit the Adirondack Theatre Festival and the Feeder Canal Alliance.