Craft breweries abound at all points on the compass

Adirondack Pub & Brewery has been open in Lake George since 1999. (photo provided)
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Adirondack Pub & Brewery has been open in Lake George since 1999. (photo provided)

By Joanne E. McFadden

As the craft beer industry continues to grow, with sales up 8% last year, more and more people are making craft breweries a destination.

There are more than 500 craft breweries in New York, representing 18% of the national number. That’s good news for Capital Region residents who want to plan a day trip to a craft brewery and enjoy a meal. You can hop in the car and be at the following breweries in two hours or less, and this is just a sampling of what the area has to offer in terms of craft beverages.

TO THE WEST

Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, the area’s largest craft brewery, celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. The name originates from the parade that took place when the Holy Roman Emperor King Charles V visited medieval Brussels in 1549 with his royal court. The locals welcomed the entourage with a parade, which became known as the “Ommegang,” meaning “coming together.” A pair of Belgian brewers partnered with two Americans to build and open the Belgian-style farmstead brewery in 1997.

Today, the brewery remains a place for people to come together to enjoy a craft beer and a casual meal with friends or family, and even to celebrate life milestones such as a college graduation.

The setting is idyllic — a former 140-acre hop farm in the Susquehanna River valley. A large, grassy field provides a backdrop for eating, drinking and playing.

Ommegang’s beer menu features year-round drafts in a variety of styles as well as a robust selection of limited drafts, all brewed on site.

There is a bar area with high- and low-top tables as well as a long wall of restaurant seating inside the main building. This opens onto a large, covered patio with tables and chairs, as well as picnic tables where people can order food from Café Ommegang. The restaurant’s fried chicken sandwich is a favorite, as is its chicken and waffles. A special “frites” menu offers house-made fries with poutine made with cheese curds from the Palatine Cheese Company. Many other menu items feature local ingredients.

Hundreds of people come to enjoy the brewery every day in the summer season, but the place is open year-round.

“We didn’t want people to have to spend a ton of money to have fun,” said community and events manager Tim Holmes.

To that end, there’s the opportunity to play a game of cornhole or disc golf on a 9-hole course, the latter being something Ommegang added in spring 2021. “We’re seeing a lot of good participation out there,” Holmes said.

When COVID-19 hit, Ommegang built a massive fire pit made of layered stone and began hosting free “Fire Pit Fridays,” inviting musicians from New York and the surrounding states to perform on a small outdoor stage next to the patio.

This year, Ommegang’s ticketed concert series is back, with seven scheduled. “It is new and exciting for us to bring back a full series,” Holmes said, noting that in 2020 and 2021, Ommegang was only able to hold one concert because of the pandemic. There is even camping available on the outskirts of the property for concertgoers. While guests cannot bring in their own food or alcohol for these ticketed events, there are plenty of food trucks available.

Tip: Checking the website, ommegang.com, before making a trip is advisable. That way you’ll be aware of any special events or closures that could affect your visit.

Cooperstown is actually a two-fer when it comes to craft breweries. Just down the road from Ommegang is the Red Shed Brewery taproom, which opened in 2017. There is an indoor seating area and bar, and a biergarten outside with a food trailer that offers pub favorites with vegetarian options. There is also a grassy area for playing cornhole, and pets are welcome.

Red Shed brings in musicians to play live music every weekend, and it offers trivia on Thursday nights and karaoke on Friday nights. The beer itself is brewed in Cherry Valley, about 20 minutes away, where there is a small tasting room. Visit redshedbrewing.com for information.

Cooperstown beckons a weekend visit, with the Baseball Hall of Fame, Fenimore Art Museum, Farmers Museum and Glimmerglass Opera. If there are wine or whiskey lovers in your group, Cooperstown offers the Cooperstown Craft Beverage Trail that includes wineries and distilleries as well as breweries.

Find information at www.cooperstownbeveragetrail.com.

TO THE SOUTHWEST

Woodstock Brewery, a farm and microbrewery, opened in 2018 in Phoenicia, Ulster County, in a 8,000-square foot building that now houses its brewery and a 200-seat restaurant.

Founders Rick Shobin and Scott Shimomura started the brewery after years of home brewing for the simple reason that they love beer. Woodstock Brewing offers a wide range of beer styles, including pale ales, porters, stouts, sour ales, IPAs, double IPAs, lagers, saisons, lagers and pilsners. Its flagship pale ale, “Baby Dragon,” is one of its most popular beers, along with “Endless Cycle,” an IPA brewed with flaked oats and flaked wheat. The brewery keeps 15 beers on tap, and also serves local cider and spirits made in New York state.

The brewery’s restaurant features a full and eclectic menu with appetizers such as lager-battered onion rings and taquitos, unusual tacos, and other entrees with Asian, American and Latin flavors. The menu also includes vegan and vegetarian options. There is seating and table service both indoors and out, with several fire pits outside for customers to enjoy.

Shobin points out that Woodstock is just 13 minutes away and the brewery is close to hiking trails.

“We have a lot of people that come, and go hiking in the morning and stop in for lunch, or have lunch and go hiking in the afternoon,” Shobin said. Rail Explorers, a company offering rail bike excursions, is also located in Phoenicia.

For information, visit www.drinkwoodstock.com.

TO THE SOUTH

Subversive Malting + Brewing in the village of Catskill sets itself apart from other breweries because founders Max Ocean and Zane Coffey do their own malting — a rarity — turning the grains with a rake and shovel.

Malting their own grains has afforded them the opportunity to brew beers with a wide range of flavors inspired by the malts as well as historical styles of brewing. “It’s a ton of fun to play with from a brewing standpoint,” Ocean said.

Subversive, which opened in December 2019, uses all New York ingredients to make pilsners, lagers, hazy IPAs, sours, pale ales, stouts and saisons, providing a menu to suit a variety of tastes.

New this year is a kitchen. Ocean’s brother went to culinary school, and when Ocean and Coffey were looking to add a restaurant, he stepped in as chef. “We have farm-to-table smash burgers made from local beef on really awesome milk buns from See & Be bakery in Cairo,” Ocean said. There is also a kids’ menu. “We’re already getting more and more families over time organically as we opened,” Ocean said.

The restaurant also offers a brunch menu for “Subversive Sundays” and live music runs from 2 to 5 p.m.

The taproom is small, with plenty of outside seating in Subversive’s biergarten, and dogs are welcome. The Bridge Street Theatre is just a two-minute walk from the brewery, so you could easily make a full evening of it with beer, dinner and a show.

For information, visit www.drinksubversive.com.

Just 15 minutes’ drive from Subversive is Old Factory Brewing in Cairo, housed in a bottling plant built in 1902 that bottled soda, seltzer, mineral water and for two weeks in 1924, Coca Cola. Tim Cornelison Jr. and his father opened the brewery with a restaurant in December 2020. The inspiration to brew beer came when the father-and-son team was working in the drinking and wastewater treatment industry.

For one job, they were building a system for treating the wastewater at a brewery. Cornelison was fascinated and bought a home-brew kit.

“I made beer and fell in love with it,” he said.

He kept brewing, then had the idea to open a garage brewery, so he and his father did just that. Most of the beers’ base malt is New York-grown, and 95% of the hops the Cornelisons use are also grown in the state.

They brew 310 gallons of beer at a time and have a wide variety of beers, from blonde ales to IPAs, and pilsners to barrel-aged stouts. There is also a Belgian-style beer on tap, and house-made ginger ale and lemon-lime soda for mixed drinks or for serving straight to the kids, Cornelison said.

The restaurant has six full-time employees working in the kitchen, cooking a variety of bar food including soups, appetizers, sandwiches and burgers. Old Factory’s burger was voted “Best Burger in Greene County” in last year’s “Best of Greene County” contest sponsored by Columbia-Greene Media and the Greene County Chamber of Commerce, and its house-breaded Southern fried chicken sandwich is a favorite.

The taproom seats 195 and there is a 95-foot bar on the front porch of the establishment as well as tables. Customers can also play cornhole outside. The Cornelisons have plans to expand the outdoor seating into its garage space.

“The whole biergarten is in the shade at 5 p.m. every afternoon, so it’s nice and cool in the evenings,” Cornelison said.

In the summer there is live music every Saturday night at 6.

“We’re close to hiking trails and scenic views,” Cornelison said. “There are four golf courses within 10 minutes of here and some of the best mountain biking trails in New York are just a hop up the hill from here.”

For information, visit www.oldfactorybrewing.com.

TO THE NORTH

You cannot go wrong with a trip up to the “Queen of American Lakes,” Lake George. Adirondack Pub & Brewery has been a Lake George staple since founder John Carr opened the establishment in 1999 with the aim of offering customers great craft beer paired with food.

With four seating “zones,” customers can choose what kind of dining and drinking experience they want. There is traditional indoor seating in the Adirondack-style lodge building either at the bar or at tables and booths.

Outside, there is patio seating where the breeze off the lake accompanies your meal. Two other outdoor areas are the biergarten zone, with more casual seating, a large fireplace and four smaller ones that mimic charcoal firepits.

The brewery offers several different kinds of beers. Its popular flagship beer, the first it ever produced, is the “Bear Naked Ale,” an amber beer made with caramel malt. There are IPAs, New England IPAs and pilsners as standard menu items. In addition, the brewery makes beers for seasonal tastes. It will be bringing back its well-liked “Tangerine Dream,” a tangerine-infused ale, this summer.

New to the drink menu is a corn lager made with fresh lime juice added, said Ian Quillinan, who works in design and marketing for the brewery. Adirondack is also rolling out a new product — hard lemonade, a collaboration with High Peaks Distilling, using High Peaks’ bourbon and a house-made lemonade. 

High Peaks, also owned by Carr, is just a walk across the parking lot and has a tasting room where customers can sample several varieties of whiskey. Adirondack Pub & Brewery’s menu has the pub fare one would expect, such as sandwiches and juicy burgers, but the menu also offers a healthy number of upscale entrees using local ingredients, such as steak from the nearby Kilcoyne Farm. Even its pub fare gets gourmet touches, like brie on its grilled chicken sandwich with a chipotle ranch dipping sauce on the side. Some customers like to come in for beer and an appetizer, taking advantage of the biergarten zone. 

Adirondack’s most popular appetizer is eggplant fries topped with a balsamic glaze and large pieces of shaved parmesan, accompanied by a hot marinara sauce for dipping.

There is always plenty to do at Lake George, on, in or near the water, and Adirondack Pub & Brewery provides a quintessential Adirondack experience. “For people on vacation or locals, it’s a really nice spot to stop in and get that kind of ambience,” Quillinan said.

For information, visit www.adkbrewery.com. 

 

 

Categories: Food, Life and Arts

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