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3 Schenectady County brewers team up for 'SummerNight Ale'

3 Schenectady County brewers team up for 'SummerNight Ale'

Blues Traveler headlines Friday block party
3 Schenectady County brewers team up for 'SummerNight Ale'
From left: Billy McDonald of Mad Jack, Harry Whalen of Great Flats, Brian Conley of Mad Jack and Pete Bednarek of Wolf Hollow.
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER

Summer nights mean summer beers.

Friday's SummerNight 2017 means three beers — each one created by a Schenectady County brewer.

The special "SummerNight Ales" have been brewed by the Mad Jack, Wolf Hollow and Great Flats brewing companies. The suds are part of the block party that will take place on State Street between Broadway and Barrett Street and on the Jay Street pedestrian mall.

One possible problem: The National Weather Service in Albany said rain is a possibility for Friday.

"It looks like there's going to be some showers around, maybe some isolated thunderstorms, primarily during the afternoon hours," meteorologist Joe Cebulko said. "There could be some lingering showers or thunderstorms heading into the overnight hours as well."

None of the weather is expected to be severe.

Schenectady County spokesman Joe McQueen said SummerNight will go on rain or shine.

"Everything will be out, it does look like we have a chance for a little bit of rain, but all the vendors, all the activities, all the entertainment will all still play," he said. "All the stages are covered so the entertainment will be able to continue to play."

The big night out begins at 5 p.m. Bands Stockade Kids, Lucy, Up All Night and Happy Daze will be among the performers. The headliner on the GE Main Stage will be Grammy-nominated Blues Traveler, scheduled for an 8:30 p.m. start.

A fireworks show will begin about 9:45 p.m.

Brian Conley and his beer friends will appreciate the red, white and blue in the sky. But they really want to see the light gold-colored beer in their cups.

Conley, brewer at Mad Jack — based at the Van Dyck restaurant in Schenectady — said the three "SummerNight Ales" are alike.

"All three beers are created to be as similar as they possibly can be," Conley said. "We all used the same grains, same exact yeast. It's made to be the exact same recipe. The only difference is supposed to be a single hop, so we used a lemon drop hop, that's the only hop we used. It creates more of a citrus-like flavor."

The idea for a "SummerNight Ale" first showed up in 2016, when Mad Jack and Wolf Hollow teamed up for the night's special brew. Great Flats, which opened in March, was invited to participate for the 2017 venture.

Summer beer, Conley said, should be lighter and more refreshing than beer brewed during other times of the year. Summer brews should have a "sessionable" quality.

"That's something you can have more than one of, something you can drink pretty much throughout a session, throughout an entire afternoon," Conley said.

Mad Jack produced 10 barrels of the summer beer. Barrels that are not finished Friday will return to the Van Dyck and make the restaurant's beer menu until supplies run out.

Harry Whalen, co-founder of Schenectady's Great Flats, said his company chose New York state-grown cascade hops for its special additive. Citrus will be part of the flavor.

"I only tasted it Wednesday, so we're excited to put it on tap and chug it," Whalen said.

He added there will be subtle differences in each summer beer.

"That's the fun of it," Whalen said. "You have a recipe and have three people brew it and you get to see what one ingredient does. It's rare you get that opportunity. Otherwise, we'd have to brew a batch, drink it all, brew another batch, drink it all. Rarely do you get the opportunity to try all three."

The Wolf Hollow process put simcoe hops into the mix.

"They give a nice kind of grapefruit or earthy aroma," said Pete Bednarek, general manager and owner of the Glenville brewery. "I'd say it's a floral aroma with a little bit of citrus and grapefruit, which lends a little bit to the flavor. But all the beers are going to have a very similar color. They're going to be similar in flavor because that grain bill is the same across the board."

The teamwork is all about collaboration.

"That's the thing about breweries," Bednarek said. "My experience in the brewing industry is, for us competition looks like collaboration. Wherever we go in the country, we talk to other brewers. Brewers work together, we really believe the more of us there are, the better we all are because we introduce people to the world of variety in craft beer.

"We want more brewers who are making good craft beer because that expands people's horizons and expands their desire for variety and taste," Bednarek added.

Bednarek said the three Schenectady County breweries, while competitors, are really competing against the Coors and Budweisers of the world — the corporate entities.

"The more people in Schenectady County that know about and enjoy craft beer, the better all of our businesses do," Bednarek added. "That's why it makes sense for us to do this together."

Great Flats brewed 7 1/2 barrels, Wolf Hollow 7. The companies will also sell their "SummerNight Ale" leftovers.

Billy McDonald, co-owner of Mad Jack Brewing, likes the idea of bringing a craft beer product to a large audience.

SummerNight generally attracts thousands of people to downtown. He also likes the idea of three breweries working together on the summer beer project.

"The collaboration beer created by the brewers of Schenectady's breweries is a prime example of the craft beer community co-existing together," McDonald said.

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124, wilkin@dailygazette.com or through Facebook.


What you need to know

For Friday's SummerNight 2017, streets will be closed and traffic rerouted in downtown Schenectady.

  • State Street between Broadway and Lafayette Street will be closed to vehicular traffic beginning at 11 a.m. During these hours, State Street traffic will be diverted along Broadway (for eastbound traffic) and to Lafayette Street (for westbound traffic).
  • State Street between Lafayette Street and Nott Terrace will be closed to all traffic between 9:30 and 11 p.m.
  • There will be no parking on State Street between Broadway and Nott Terrace beginning at 8 a.m. Meters will be "bagged" and cars parked in violation of this restriction will be ticketed, towed or both.
  • The Clinton Street North parking lot will be closed all day, except for monthly permit holders.
  • CDTA bus routes also will be affected. People planning on bus transportation Friday should check www.cdta.org/service-advisories for the changes.
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