Outlook 2012: Brewing is booming

Production is up at the Olde Saratoga Brewing Co. in Saratoga Springs, the region’s largest brewer,

Production is up at the Olde Saratoga Brewing Co. in Saratoga Springs, the region’s largest brewer, as well as at local brew pubs in Schenectady, Troy and Albany.

But in most cases, the numbers of employees involved in the increased beer making has remained about the same.

Keith Ricciardone, operations manager at Olde Saratoga Brewing Co., said there hasn’t been much of an increase in workers at his brewery since 2008.

The Saratoga Springs brewery is a wholly owned subsidiary of Mendocino Brewing Company in Ukiah, Cal. The brewery does contract brewing for a dozen craft beer labels and brews its own award-winning Saratoga Lager and Saratoga IPA.

The company added two new 250-barrel fermentation tanks just before Thanksgiving last year. These gleaming stainless steel tanks will allow Olde Saratoga Brewing to make an additional 12,000 barrels of beer each year.

In 2010, the company produced 35,000 barrels of various ales, lagers and pilsners, Ricciardone said. The tanks were made by Feldmeier Equipment Inc. in Little Falls and have a special steel jacket around them that allows the brewers to control the temperature of the fermenting beer inside.

Olde Saratoga Brewing employs 25 people, including salespeople, in Saratoga Springs.

“We are the fourth largest [brewery] in New York state,” Ricciardone said.


Craft brewers — which include brew pubs like the Mad Jack Brewing Co. at the Van Dyck Restaurant and Lounge in Schenectady and Brown’s Brewing Company in Troy — currently provide an estimated 100,000 jobs in the United States, including serving staff in brew pubs, according to the Brewers Association (www.brewersassociation.org).

Growth in the craft brewing industry — smaller batch beer products as opposed to large international breweries —was 11 percent by volume and 12 percent by dollars in 2010 as compared to growth in 2009 of 7.2 percent by volume and 10.3 percent by dollars, according to association fi gures.

Overall beer sales in the United States were down about one percent in 2010 while craft brewer sales were up 15 percent in the first half of 2011, according to the association that has 1,300 smaller breweries in the United States as members.

“Craft beer has really taken off big time,” Ricciardone said.

He said some of the craft beers that Old Saratoga Brewing Co. makes on contract have increased sales dramatically. He said the local brewery has gone from operating three or four days a week to a fi veday-a-week production schedule.

“We are constantly getting calls [for new contracts],” he said.

Shmaltz Brewing Co. is an example of one of the companies for which Olde Saratoga does contract brewing. Shmaltz’s Coney Island Craft Lager was voted the best craft beer in America by Beverage World Magazine.

“That’s brewed and packaged in Saratoga Springs,” Ricciardone said.


The Mad Jack Brewing Co. at the Van Dyck in Schenectady just started offering its 10 styles of craftbrewed beer in May.

“Business has been very good,” said Drew Schmidt, Mad Jack’s brewmaster.

The McDonald family, which owns the Van Dyke and two other restaurants in Schenectady, bought the brewing equipment at auction three years ago. Schmidt said the Mad Jack Brewery can produce 1,000 barrels of beer each year.

He said he does all the brewing himself with help from other employees of the restaurant.

One of his most popular beers in recent months has been McToberfest pumpkin-spice beer. But in recent days, Jack Frost, a winter beer with an alcohol content of 5.2 percent, has become a big seller.

George DePiro, brewmaster at the C.H. Evans Brewing Co. at the Albany Pump Station at Quackenbush Square, said business gets better every year.

“Craft beer is growing double digits each year for the past 10 to 12 years,” DePiro said.

He said Evans also brews about 1,000 barrels each year. “It’s all hand done, there are no computers, no automation,” he said.

He said Evans makes 16 styles of beer and has seven or eight types on tap at the Albany Pump Station at any given time.

DePiro said he and another person do all the brewing, but the restaurant has a staff of about 50 people.

He is also planning to open a brew pub in Saratoga Springs later this year. What has been called Martell Brothers brew pub is planned at 381 Broadway. The plans have been approved by the city.

DePiro said the actual name of the brew pub will be announced in the coming months. This will be Saratoga Springs’ only brew pub (except for the tap room of the Olde Saratoga Brewing Co. at 131 Excelsior Ave.).

DePiro said he is currently interviewing construction companies and hopes to break ground this winter and open in early June.

Brown’s Brewing Co. on River Street in Troy is the region’s oldest brew pub, opening in 1993. Gary Brown and his family operate the popular pub in an old printing plant.

Gregg Stacy, Brown’s marketing manager and a company vice president, said the Tap Room at the Brewing Company and now the renovated Revolution Hall next door have seen regular growth every year since they opened.


Stacy said that Brown’s was ranked the 33rd largest brew pub in the United States in 2010.

Brown’s started bottling some of its more popular beers and ales in 2007. Many Price Chopper and Hannaford markets carry the product.

He said even with all the expansion, there are just four people, including brewmaster Peter Martin, involved in the beer and ale production.

The company also sells kegs of the hand-crafted beer to bars and restaurants in the Capital Region.

Brown’s Brewing Co. currently brews 4,000 barrels each year, but production will increase dramatically when a new production plant is opened. Brown’s has plans to open a production facility in a converted 19th century mill along the Walloomsac River in Hoosick in mid- to late 2012.

The brewery plant will be able to bottle beer and fi ll kegs. Stacy said this operation will be able to produce as many as 20,000 barrels of beer each year.

But he said Brown’s is not planning to get into the contract brewing field, the way Olde Saratoga Brewing Co. does.

“We will stick with our own brands,” Stacy said. Brown’s has won awards for its beers and ales in recent years.

Stacy said Brown’s employs nearly 90 people, counting the restaurant staff of full- and part-time workers.

“We are growing like crazy. There is a great demand for the beer,” Stacy said.

He said Brown’s would eventually like to be selling its beers and ales in Syracuse, western Massachusetts and the New York metropolitan area.

The Olde Saratoga Brewing Co. is also expanding its reach. Since 2001, the company has been brewing Kingfisher Premium Lager, an Indian beer, for the United States market. The local brewery has been the sole brewery for Kingfi sher in the Northeast but is also taking on production for Canada so it will become the Kingfisher producer for all of North America, Ricciardone said.

He said this will be a big challenge for Olde Saratoga, and the parent company may allow him to hire another employee or two.

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