Schenectady officialdom raised a glass to the area’s newest craft brewery Thursday, as Great Flats Brewing formally celebrated the opening of a Lafayette Street brewery converted from a garage earlier this year.
The first few months have been learning and growing experiences, as the owners and brewmaster learn what it means to run a beer-making operation.
“We opened with three beers, now we have eight, and we’re almost out of a couple of them up there,” co-owner Harry Whalen said.
He added that part of the fun is finding new combinations of flavors, and rotating new brews through the eight taps behind the bar.
“It’s full steam ahead — we’re finally getting our feet under us to where we can start to play with it.”
The brewery was a Firestone tire dealership and auto repair shop at one point, and it retains a lot of the industrial look, with lots of shining metal and full glass doors on the former service bays. Whalen and friends and family put a lot of work into the space last winter, and it’s still a seven-day-a-week job for him.
He has relocated from Greenwich to the Stockade neighborhood in the city, and likes living there.
Brewmaster and co-founder Tom Owens is also keeping busy, though with a different mix of duties beyond the brewery.
“I still have a full-time job,” he said.
This new professional role is an expansion of a longtime hobby of his — he was a homebrewer for eight years.
Several of the beers currently on tap are named for Schenectady or the nearby area, some more obviously than others.
To better research what is happening at 151 Lafayette St., The Gazette’s business news staff sampled each of these locally named brews Thursday:
- Great Flats LIPA, named for the aquifer from which the city (and the brewery) draw their water, is a light IPA with a nice bouquet and a pronounced but not overwhelming hop flavor.
- Electric City IPA, which bears Schenectady’s nickname, has a stronger bouquet and stronger hop flavor.
- Octavius Double IPA is the hoppiest beer on tap, and also the strongest beer at 8.4 percent alcohol by volume. It’s strongly flavored, as well. A tip of the hat if you knew that Dr. Otto Octavius, known to Spiderman fans as Dr. Octopus, was a Schenectady native.
- Mastodon Stout, named in honor of the skeleton unearthed in Cohoes, is deep, rich and complex, and infused with coffee flavor. Which is great if you like coffee, but the entire Gazette business staff prefers chocolate. Not to worry, Owen reassures: The soon-to-be-brewed Breakfast Stout will blend chocolate and coffee into the beer!
- Summer in Schenectady is brewed in the saison style of Belgium and aged with lees (bits of yeast and sediment that settle to the bottom of a vat of fermented wine) provided by Capoccia Wines, a local vineyard with a wine lounge right downtown. It’s a complex and delicious beer that evolves with each sip, hints of coriander and orange complementing the wine undertones. The glass is nearly empty when the reporting process for this story is complete.
Owens said there have been some hiccups. The 12-hour pale ale is so named because the process took twice as long as it should have, for example.
However, the beers have been good, and well-received, he said. Summer in Schenectady is the top seller right now, but there’s not been a dud.
“We’re getting good results so far,” Owens said.