By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor
There’s a Lake George Brew House?
Yes, but: “We’ve had a bit of an identity crisis,” admits its manager, Bob Craven.
For the record, last year they produced about 4,000 barrels of craft beers, and it operates a large drop-in tasting and sales room, all in a converted cineplex on Route 9 in Queensbury, next to The Fun Spot.
But it’s been a name game for the business almost from day one. It opened in 2014 as Davidson’s Brewery — separate from the original Davidson’s Restaurant and Brewery in downtown Glens Falls — built to produce Davidson ales on a large-scale in bottles and kegs for supermarket, restaurant and bar sales.
Two years later, Davidson’s sold it to Northern Eagle Beverages of Oneonta, not to be confused with Saratoga Eagle, the local beer distributor.
Northern Eagle renamed the business the Lake George Beer Hub, but they changed it again in August 2017, when a company in Florida also calling itself a “Beer Hub” objected to their use of “Hub.”
So, now it’s the Lake George Brew House.
Then there’s the question of — what do they make? It started with Davidson’s beers, using the open fermentation British brewing system specific to Davidson’s.
Early on, still as Davidson’s, they took on contract brewing for Cooperstown Brewing Co. of Central New York, which also uses the British system.
Cooperstown is owned by Northern Eagle, which is how that connection for the brewery’s subsequent sale was made.
Today, the Davidson’s line is a smaller part of the picture, Brew House manager Mr. Craven says. They make only two Davidson’s beers, the IPA and the Brown Ale.
He dismisses rumors they’ll discontinue those, too. “We will keep making Davidson’s as long as people and restaurants are buying it,” he said. “People want it.”
Note that Davidson’s Brothers Brewpub downtown still makes a full line of its own beers, in smaller batches, for sale in-house, as they have since the 2016 sale.
Now the Brew House is about to launch its own line of in-house beers.
You’d think those would be called Lake George Brew House beers, right?
No. Mr. Craven said that was the original thought but they decided it was better to avoid confusion with either Adirondack Pub and Brewery in Lake George or the Lake George Distillery (in Fort Ann).
So the new beers — due March 1 — will carry the label Northway Brewing Co., alluding to the Adirondack Northway.
‘Regrouping,’ new craft beer
Mr. Craven said he believes that will change everything. He said 2017 was a year of regrouping and laying plans for what he hopes will be “a great year” in 2018.
He pins a lot of his hopes on the Northway Brewing label, which he believes will bring people to their tasting room, and “finally” create a local identity for the venue.
This year, the Brewery installed two 100-barrel closed fermentation tanks, a more common system, to produce the Northway line, as well as other contract beers for smaller breweries.
They also added a 38-barrel testing system for designing recipes or making small batch brews, “unique, crazy ideas,” Mr. Craven suggests, that they can feature and tout in their own taproom.
He said he expects to double production this year, from 4,000 to 8,000 barrels, in large part based on the Northway brand.
Three new beers, in cans, planned
Northway Brewing Co. will start with three new beers, all available in cans (not bottles) and kegs for individual sales, in-house draft and restaurant taps.
Matt Conroe, a Lake George Brew House sales manager, describes the three initial offerings:
Perfect Day Pilsner is a lighter German-style beer with medium hops and only 4.9 percent ABV, or Alcohol By Volume.
Burly Beard Nitro Oatmeal Stout is a lumberjack-themed fuller bodied brew, inspired in part by the Chapman Historical Museum’s annual Wild Whiskers Beard Contest fund-raiser at the Brewery. Nitro brewing adds a softer mouth-feel, Mr. Conroe explains, similar to a Guinness beer.
Sunrise Session IPA is their contribution in the style of drinkable “session” beers, again lighter in ABV, dry hopped with Mosaic and Mandarina hops that give it a citrusy, juicy taste, Mr. Conroe says.
What else do they brew?
Meanwhile, with the new closed fermentation system, the Brew House has added some “Curve Ball” beers to the Cooperstown line. “It’s a different flavor profile,” Mr. Conroe says, “literally throwing our customers a curve-ball.”
Other contract brews offered on tap in the tasting room include “Winner’s Circle,” a session IPA created by a Saratoga entrepreneur who aims to break into the Saratoga and Belmont racing markets, and product from Harlem Brewing Company, based in New York City.
Mr. Craven said R.S. Taylor & Sons in Hebron is collaborating with Lake George Brew House to produce larger batches of their Coconut Cream Stout for wider distribution beyond Taylor’s tasting rooms in Hebron and Saratoga.
“We like building relationships with the smaller local brewers,” Mr. Craven adds.
They are also collaborating with the Adirondack Thunder hockey team to make a themed pilsner to sell at the Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls.
Looking to ‘up’ the taproom
“We make our best profits selling our own beers right here at the taproom,” Mr. Craven said. He says a brewery in New Hampshire “funded two brewery expansions on tap room sales alone. They do almost no distribution.”
He said he hopes the new Northway beers will break into public consciousness and grow the tasting room business.
They added a raised platform stage, and did away with the brew-tour theater. They’ll convert it into a private event room with its own taps and space for 25 people.
They plan more live music events with local bands. Mr. Craven said a New Year’s Eve show headlined by Joe Mansman and the Midnight Revival drew more than 60 people. Mostly they’ll focus on quieter acoustic shows, and perhaps bring back trivia nights, he said.
“Growth on this part has been slower than we wanted,” Mr. Craven said. “We’re trying to get it more out there. The new local brand is more the key for us I think.”
At GF Brewfest, March 3
Northway Brewing will launch the new beers launch on March 2 at the Craft Brewers Association gathering at the Desmond Hotel in Albany. The official local launch will be at the Glens Falls Brewfest, Saturday, March 3, at the Queensbury Hotel.
Already they are distributing posters touting the beers, and had their first low-key tap release of the IPA at a handful of area restaurants earlier this month.
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