SCHENECTADY — Frog Alley Brewing officially opened its taproom Friday, reaching a milestone notable even within a season of milestones for the rapidly growing downtown craft brewer.
The temporary taproom that the brewery had run downstairs for months was promptly decommissioned as per state requirements as the license came through for the expansive upstairs taproom — which is a 40-tap room, to be exact.
When that last state approval was received, the staff flipped the switch and started pouring beer there Thursday, 24 hours before the grand opening.
On the next-to-last day of summer 2018, the young brewery poured its first beer, an India Pale Ale brewed by nearby Mad Jack Brewing because Frog Alley’s plumbing and electricity connections weren’t complete. Frog Alley owner J.T. Pollard reeled off a list of achievements reached in the seven months since:
- Volume of beer brewed has grown in every successive month.
- Nearly 80 area establishments now have Frog Alley on tap.
- The brewery’s canning line went live a month ago, though Frog Alley hasn’t started retailing its own beer off-site yet.
- Fabrication of the bottling equipment is complete, though it isn’t on-site yet.
- The brewery is brewing and canning on contract for other brewers; a limited-edition tea was coming out of the tank and going into cans Friday for industry giant Anheuser Busch.
- Five colorfully painted shipping containers are in place for use as guest taprooms for other breweries and training space for aspiring craft brewers.
Frog Alley Brewing is essentially a showcase of beer production and consumption, a high-tech, high-capacity brewery with an expansive and visually striking taproom.
Fitted out with $100,000 worth of laboratory equipment, equipped with a separate small-scale experimental brewing system, and run by two veteran brewers, it is designed to produce high-quality beer, train students from nearby SUNY Schenectady County Community College, give startup brewers an incubator space to learn about the retail business, and be a host site for smaller commercial craft brewers seeking to spread awareness of their products.
The brewery is the first component completed in the Mill Artisan District, Pollard’s $30 million transformative project at the foot of State Street, which had stagnated in recent years as State Street boomed in the heart of downtown.
“I felt like I really needed to do something to give this part of town a heartbeat,” he said Friday afternoon, reclining against the bar in a bit of downtime before the opening-night celebration.
Pollard is an architect by trade and training, and says he’ll remain primarily an architect even as he sits at the helm of the brewery (and soon a distillery next door).
The entire project shows the aesthetic touches distinctive to buildings designed by Re4orm Architecture, Pollard’s firm.
The bones of the former department store that houses the brewery were reinforced with massive steel beams to meet modern standards for seismic resistance … so guests might spill their beer in the event of an earthquake, but the building won’t collapse on them.
The taproom has an industrial aesthetic with exposed beams, heavyweight glassware and heavy forged table legs, plus those five steel maritime shipping containers for the guest brewers.
Bricks salvaged from demolished Massachusetts factories cover many of the vertical interior surfaces, while expansive rollup steel-and-glass doors form the outside walls.
While the inside of the brewery is complete, the outside remains a patchwork of steel and sheathing as the finishing work continues.
Upstairs, the first residential units will be ready for occupancy in two to three months and a large office suite will be ready for software developer Jahnel Group in about three months.
Schenectady restaurateur Tim Trier will open a barbecue restaurant on site this autumn, and Frog Alley will set up a smaller taproom adjacent to it.
In the new building being built next door, Bountiful Bread has begun fitting out its new storefront space facing onto State Street.
And as all this construction continues in, above and beside Frog Alley, the brewery is helping another craft brewer rebuild: Two big tanks of Common Roots beer — one each of Pillow Gossip IPA and Last Light IPA — are fermenting in Frog Alley's brewhouse as the South Glens Falls brewer works to recover from a disastrous late-March fire.