Capital Region

Outlook 2021: After twists, trends — and now, a pandemic — Minogue’s Beverage Center celebrating 100th anniv.

President John "Jack" Minogue Jr. standing in the Saratoga Springs store on West Avenue holding a photo of his grandfather's M.T. Minogue beer truck
PHOTOGRAPHER:
President John "Jack" Minogue Jr. standing in the Saratoga Springs store on West Avenue holding a photo of his grandfather's M.T. Minogue beer truck

Published Feb. 25, 2021 in Outlook

Minogue’s Beverage Center, with locations in Saratoga Springs, Malta, Wilton and Queensbury, is celebrating 100 years in business.

“We are the oldest continuously running family beer business in New York state,” said John “Jack” Minogue Jr., company president.

Minogue’s Beverage Centers sell a large variety of beers (including craft beers and hard ciders), soda, tobacco products, snacks and beer-related accessories, such as cold plates and taps for kegs, as well as an assortment of beer glasses.

The centers are also a popular place to pick up a Lottery ticket. The newest beverage center on Route 9 in Malta, not far from the huge GlobalFoundries computer chip fabrication plant, was in the news last September for selling a winning Powerball ticket worth $94 million to a Malta man.

“Grandpa started the business in 1921,” Jack Minogue said.

Rich history

“Grandpa” was Michael Thomas Minogue, who launched a soda bottling plant in the Washington County community of Granville.

He operated the soda plant through the Prohibition era and the Roaring Twenties. Minogue said that during the era, it was rumored that the plant produced beer as well as soda.

“I was a bootleg operation, delivering beer along with soda,” he said.

In 1933, when Prohibition ended and the sale of alcoholic beverages once again became legal in the United States, the business was issued the 34th wholesale beer license in New York state.

“The Queensbury store still operates under that license, making us the oldest standing beer business … continuously owned by the same family in the state,” he said.

Outlook 2021 Index: The Gazette’s annual guide to business in our region

Minogue’s father, John Michael Minogue Sr., joined the business after World War II in 1947. “We had no stores and operated as a beer wholesaler out of Granville,” said Minogue Jr. He noted that the company sold Dobler beer and other regional brands no longer in existence.

The Albany-based Dobler Brewing Company dated to 1865. Other Albany breweries of that era included J.F. Hedrick and Beverwych. An old photo of one of Minogue’s trucks has the Dobler beer and ale name painted on it.

John Michael Minogue Sr. continued to operate the business as a wholesale operation. In about 1960, he acquired the license to sell the then-popular Carling Black Label beer from Canada. But by the late 1960s, Carling fell from being one of the top selling beers in the country as giant beer companies (including Miller) out of the Midwest began to flood the market.

Minogue said his father sold the Carling rights to Saratoga Springs businessmen Fred and Bill McNeary in about 1967.

Minogue’s father retained his wholesale beer license, and in 1967 opened the first Minogue’s Beverage Center on Quaker Road in the Warren County town of Queensbury, just north of the City of Glens Falls.

“My father built that [beverage center] on virgin land,” Minogue said of the then-still-rural area of Queensbury.

Later the Minogue’s Beverage Center on West Avenue in Saratoga Springs was opened, and eventually a beverage center on Route 9 (Marion Avenue) in the town of Wilton followed.

The most recent beverage center to open is the 13,000-square-foot location on Route 9 in Malta. This store opened in 2012 with state-of-the-art, glass-fronted, walk-in display coolers, making it one of the larger beverage centers in the state.

Minogue said the Malta store’s business has grown by “leaps and bounds” as the town of Malta has become a growing technology hub with the opening of the GlobalFoundries computer chip manufacturing plant and its thousands of employees.

Outlook 2021 Index: The Gazette’s annual guide to business in our region

When the COVID-19 pandemic closed down or greatly reduced business at many bars and restaurants in March of 2020, the beverage centers experienced a significant “bump” in their business, according to Minogue.

“It’s not something I like. I would like to see them [bars and restaurants] come back,” he said.

The pandemic has caused a nearly 30 percent increase in business at the beverage centers, he said. The four stores employ about 45 full- and part-time employees.

So many brews

One of the biggest changes at the beverage centers in recent years is the ever-increasing availability of craft beers brewed in upstate New York and across the state.

Minogue said New York gave tax breaks to the “farm breweries,” smaller businesses that create small batches of handmade brews. Those brewers have grown in number and continue to grow.

“The population has taken to these local beers. … It’s interesting for beer consumers,” Minogue said.

“I think it’s great. It’s a throwback to the 1930s and 1940s, when there were local and regional breweries,” he said.

Tom Green, the manager of the Minogue’s Beverage Center in Queensbury, started at the store 13 years ago.

“The main thing 13 years ago was that there were fewer beers,” Green said. He said the only craft beers were products such as Samuel Adams from Boston and Sierra Nevada from out West. Most of the beers sold then were national favorites such as Budweiser, Coors, and Miller.

“The craft beer thing just exploded. There are dozens of new beers coming out every month, many of them local,” Green said.

“It’s an exciting shift from the national brands. It’s a renaissance,” he said.

Green said there are new styles of IPA (India Pale Ale) that come out of the West, along with east coast IPAs, all handcrafted in relatively small breweries.

He said customers enjoy the large and always-changing selection of craft beers. “It’s like people do with wine,” he said of their tasting habits.

Locally brewed hard cider has become popular along with the latest trend: hard seltzers.

Outlook 2021 Index: The Gazette’s annual guide to business in our region

“The other big change is growlers. People are able to get fresh beer and take it home,” Green said. He said the beer available on tap at the beverage centers is always changing and is often limited in availability.

Each Minogue store has between 12 and 16 growler taps. A customer can purchase 32-ounce, 64-ounce and 2-liter growlers in a variety of price ranges and alcohol content.

Green said the growler and craft beer customers are not just the young, “hip” crowd but also some of the older customers. “We have a lot of older ladies and gentlemen getting into the hip craft beer [trend],” he said.

Jack Minogue said the popularity of the growler business hit its peak about six years ago. “It has started to fall off recently,” he said. The beauty of offering craft beers on tap is that the beer is often not available in cans or bottles. “They are special brews. It keeps it interesting for growler customers,” Minogue said.

He said the large local beer distributors such as DeCrescente in Mechanicville and Saratoga Eagle offer microbrews from all over the Northeast. They also carry some of the ever-more-popular locally brewed beers in kegs and cans. “Thank God for the computer to track them all,” he said of the variety and quantity of different beers and sodas the stores sell.

Tobacco, too

The beverage centers also sell tobacco products. Minogue said the state regulates the minimum price at which a retailer can sell tobacco products. “We sell at minimum pricing,” he said.

Rolling your own cigarettes has become very popular, he said, because of the “extreme expense of regular cigarettes.” Minogue’s sells the rolling machines, bags of tobacco and other items used to create one’s own cigarettes.

Minogue said tobacco sales represent about 15 percent of the beverage centers’ business. “Beer represents most of our sales,” he said. Minogue’s does a small amount of sales to bars and restaurants, usually when they run out of a product.

“I hope the the vaccine can get us back to normalcy. Get people back to work,” he said.

What about the future of the popular beverage centers? “I don’t have a plan right now. I’m healthy and still interested,” he said.

At a glance

What: Minogue’s Beverage Centers in Malta, Saratoga Springs, Wilton and the town of Queensbury.

Website: minoguesbeverage.com

Products: Beer, soda and hard cider, as well as beer in kegs and draft beer sold in growlers from between 12 and 16 beer taps located near the front counter.

History: Minogue’s is celebrating its 100th anniversary. Michael Thomas Minogue started the business in 1921 when he opened a soda bottling plant in Granville, Washington County. John “Jack” Minogue Jr. is the third generation of the family involved in the business.

Pandemic impact: Business at the stores has increased nearly 30 percent since many bars and restaurants closed or greatly reduced their business last March.

Changes: The demand for craft beers, often brewed locally or regionally, has become very popular. People have started treating the different beers and ales as they once treated wine.

Kegs: Minogue’s carries many popular brands of beer in kegs, national brands as well as local craft beers.

Outlook 2021 Index: The Gazette’s annual guide to business in our region

Categories: Business, News, Outlook 2021, Saratoga County

Leave a Reply