By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor
The Lake George Brewing Company will be the new name of the former Davidson’s Brewery on Route 9 in Queensbury, south of The Great Escape.
It was purchased last year by Northern Eagle Beverages, an Oneonta beer distributor, which currently uses it to make and bottle Davidson’s various ales.
Separately, the original Davidson Brothers Brewery and Pub in downtown Glens Falls — still owned by the Davidson brothers — continues to brew its own beers for on-site consumption.
The Queensbury brewery — next to The Fun Spot — also makes and packages all of the ales marketed by Cooperstown Brewing Company, which Northern Eagle also owns.
Northern Eagle is owned by Lou Hager, who’s described as a direct descendant of the Busch family of Anheuser-Busch.
Bob Craven, who is now managing the Queensbury operation, said Northern Eagle plans to invest significant capital here.
He said it will launch a new line of traditional craft beers under the Lake George Brewery name, and will upgrade the tap-tasting room as a tourist destination.
Mr. Craven has 20-plus years in the local microbrew business, much of it with the Saratoga Springs brewery most recently known as Old Saratoga Brewing Company. He was with Schmaltz Brewery in Clifton Park when Northern Eagle hired him.
Licensed Davidson’s brand
Northern Eagle has licensed the Davidson’s Brothers brand, including recipes, logos and distribution, Mr. Craven said. Any bottled or kegged Davidson’s product is now made by Northern Eagle in Queensbury, with the Davidson brothers receiving a royalty.
“John and I couldn’t be happier with this,” Rick Davidson told The Chronicle. “It opens a lot of new markets for Davidson beers that we would not have necessarily even sought out. They have a tremendous amount ofapital behind them to modernize, upgrade the canning and increase capacity.”
Owns Cooperstown beers, too
Even before Northern Eagle bought the Davidson’s Queensbury brewery, it was already making all of Cooperstown Brewing Company’s beers under contract, after Northern Eagle opted not to rehab its aging brewery in Milford, N.Y.
Cooperstown Brewing sells much of its baseball-themed product at its destination tap room in Milford, just south of Cooperstown, Mr. Craven said.
He said they expect to now market the Cooperstown line more aggressively to restaurants in this region as well.
The beers to be made and sold under the Lake George Brewing Company name will use a more traditional closed fermentation brewing system, whereas both Cooperstown and Davidson’s beers are made in the English Ale style, using a particular brewing system designed by Peter Austin.
Mr. Craven said, “In this day and age of Heady Topper [the cult-IPA brewed in Burlington, Vt.] and crazy IPA’s, its fine for a lot of people, the English-style ales, but hard to capture the wave that people are looking for.”
Planning to can beer, too
He said the Lake George Brewery name, logo, facade and signage should be up in a month or 60 days, and that they aim by May 1 to be producing the Lake George Brewery’s “juicy” IPAs, double-IPAs, pilsners, farmhouse ales and such.
Also planned, Mr. Craven said, is a canning line for packaging beers. He said that’s another craft beer industry trend.
Mr. Craven said that making, packaging, labeling and distributing its own Lake George, Davidson’s and Cooperstown beers will be the thrust of the brewery’s business moving forward, not contract brewing for firms that Northern Eagle doesn’t own.
Mr. Craven said the Queensbury brewery’s current capacity is 10,000 barrels annually and that the new system for Lake George brews will add another 5,000-barrel capacity. This year, though, he thinks they’ll produce more like 8,000 barrels overall, depending on demand.
Despite the similar names, Mr. Craven said that Northern Eagle has no relation to Saratoga Eagle, although he said that Saratoga Eagle — a beer distributor based in Saratoga — has a “silent” 25 percent ownership stake in the Queensbury brewery.
Upgrade tap room as destination
As for upgrading the tasting room, Mr. Craven said, “The taproom is the new epicenter of brand building,” quoting an article he was just reading. He said some breweries get as much as a third of their sales revenue from the taproom. “I think about the potential of this with Route 9 and the Northway right here.”
Mr. Craven said they plan to add “some level of basic food,” more special events and live music on weekends.
Eventually, he said he wants to expand the tasting room into unused brewery space and install large glass walls so visitors can watch the brewery in action from the taproom.
He said they’ll also add more interactive elements and videos to the balcony viewing area above the brewery room. “We see a lot of potential here,” Mr. Craven said.
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