Saratoga Springs

Saratoga breweries sell bluesy beer for a cause

'I wanted to create something where everybody wins'
Max Oswald, general manager at Saratoga Brewing Co.
Max Oswald, general manager at Saratoga Brewing Co.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — An otherwise miserable day in January was interrupted by an upbeat caller from New Mexico.

Max Oswald, general manager at Saratoga Brewing Co., said the call was unexpected. The guy on the phone promised “this great idea for the summer.”

Oswald proceeded with caution. 

“Normally that stuff means somebody has an angle,” he said. “They’re looking for something. They’re gonna suck you in and try to make you pay tons of money — but I listened to him.”

He liked what he heard. 

The caller was John Nichols, who founded Craft for Causes and wanted to know if Saratoga Brewing would be a part of the charity’s first national undertaking. 

He wanted Saratoga Brewing to create a beer inspired by Tedeschi Trucks Band in advance of the Jacksonville, Fla., blues-rockers’July 3 stop at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. And he wanted to know if the brewery would give $1 for every beer sold to the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, a nonprofit that donates instruments to underfunded music programs in schools nationwide. 

“I didn’t even hesitate,” Oswald said. “I said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it,’ because we love that band anyways and we love doing anything we can to promote music.”

The Saratoga brewers have since created a light-tasting beer that “almost anybody will like,” Oswald said. Called Summertime Blues, it’s a variation of the brewery’s summer ale with lemon and “a hint of blueberry,” he said, and 5-percent alcohol by volume. 

“It’s kind of cool, and it kind of matches the band,” he said. “We came up with the name of the beer and made the beer to fit it.”

Saratoga made a limited batch of 10 barrels, or about 300 gallons, of the bluesy beer and has been selling it in the taproom on Excelsior Avenue and at two Phila Street bars, Bailey’s Café and Harvey’s, since June 2. Oswald said the beer is selling well and he expects to meet his goal of $1,000 to $1,500 to help the charity raise $100,000 for the national foundation. 

Saratoga is one of 41 craft breweries selling beer inspired by Tedeschi Trucks Band across 20 cities where the band is bringing its Wheels of Soul summer tour.

“I wanted to create something where everybody wins, and we will leave behind, literally, a trail of musical instruments for children in these cities,” said Nichols, the founder of Craft for Causes. 

Breweries like Smuttynose in Hampton, New Hampshire, and Narragansett in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, have brewed beers for the tour, and Saratoga Brewing isn’t the only Spa City brewery taking part. 

“It’s a Belgium wit,” said Kurt Borchardt, co-owner of Artisanal Brew Works on Geyser Road, of the Wheels of Soul Wit now on tap. “It tastes about the same as an Allagash. That wasn’t our intent, but side by side … it’s hard to tell the difference.”

Like Saratoga Brewing, Artisanal brewed about 10 barrels of the beer, which has 4.6 percent ABV. 

Borchardt said that, as a brewer who also teaches at Saratoga Springs High School, he couldn’t turn down the chance to contribute. He teaches biotechnology, electronics and a woodshop class, but is leaving teaching behind after 13 years this school year, at least for now, to focus on the craft brewery that opened last July. 

His partner at the brewery, Colin Quinn, also happens to teach French at the high school.

“I think it’s great that they’re doing something where the intent is to help out kids,” Borchardt said. That’s awesome. That’s what I’m all about.”

He added, “For every beer you sell, a dollar gets donated to a charity for underprivileged kids. That’s a no brainer — why wouldn’t I do that?”

Oswald said he’ll be at Tedeschi Trucks Band’s show at SPAC, and he’s encouraging customers to text “summerblues” to 24587 for a chance to win tickets. He started listening to the band, led by wife-husband duo Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks, just last year and fell in love with Tedeschi’s powerful voice and Trucks’ show-stopping guitar licks.

“And then this thing came about — now I’m a true fan,” he said.

Categories: -News-, Schenectady County

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