Free beer – today! There’s no sign making that claim, but Paradox Brewery in Schroon Lake gives away beer samples all day long. Try one. Even better – try them all!
Located at 154 State Route 9, the Paradox Trail is well marked. A giant trail marker is tacked to the front of the log building and a roadside trailhead sign informs the distances to both the brewery and the tasting room. The brewery, a short hike of .015 miles from the edge of Route 9, occupies the ground floor. The “best climb in the Adirondacks” (the tasting room) is upstairs in the back, an additional .004 miles up, though no specialized gear is required to make the ascent.
It takes a group to make things happen. Paradox Brewery is owned and operated by three couples that spent many summer nights sipping beer on Paradox Lake. Each owner brings unique skills and expertise. Joan and Paul Mrocka run the day-to-day activities. On the day we visited, Joan was managing the tasting room while Paul gave us a tour of the brewery. Paul started as a home brewer after returning from Germany.
Jennifer and Vaughn Clark own the property and the building that now houses the brewery. David and Vicky Bruce are year-round residents of Paradox Lake. David has been known to dabble in mead. Maybe that expertise will become more prominent in the future. Father-in-law Leo makes the tap handles used in the tasting room and by retailers of Paradox Brewery beer. Each wooden handle is simple and unique, giving the tap fixture the appearance of a row of walking sticks casually leaning against the counter.
Paradox Brewery opened on July 22, 2013 following a year-and-a-half renovation of the former South Schroon Lake Post Office, and, more recently, a bait and tackle store. The site now accommodates state-of-the-art beer brewing. Besides learning just how valuable each owner was to the business, one of the surprises in starting up a brewery was the realization of just how complicated and lengthy the permit process is. Since opening, the owners have also learned that they are already in need of expansion. On the day of our tasting and tour, the overflowing tasting room necessitated the use of the adjoining deck where dozens of thirsty beer enthusiasts gathered and gabbed. Future expansion plans include a larger gift shop and a more spacious tasting room.
Thirteen tanks, their bellies brimming in various stages of conditioning and fermenting, occupy a majority of the spotless brewery. Three starter tanks boil, extract sugar, or drain water before moving on to ferment. The tanks are currently steam operated but Paul hopes to eventually convert to solar water heat. The brite tank cleans, conditions, and carbonates the brew. Carbon dioxide levels are monitored and tested constantly. Different beers have different fermenting temperatures, all controlled by an intricate panel of buttons, and installed by Vaughn Clark. Vaughn’s talents as a mechanical engineer, welder, electrician, and plumber were key in the original design of the brewery, but his capabilities are used on a regular basis and will be put to the test again when proposed expansion is approved.
Supporting a cycle of sustainable local production, Paradox Brewery has applied for a New York State Farm Brewery license, which means a regulated (and incrementally increasing) percentage of grain and other ingredients must be produced in New York State, and it just so happens that a new hops farm is beginning operations in nearby Pottersville. In keeping with this cycle, the brewery repurposes its spent grain as feed for local livestock.
The beer. Isn’t that why we’re here? Three core styles are currently being brewed – IPA, pilsner, and red ale. Paradox Triple is a Belgian style IPA (10.5% abv) that’s lively and aromatic, clean and bubbly, with a fresh, slightly sweet flavor and unfiltered golden color. In contrast, the Beaver Bite IPA (6% abv), an Adirondack style dry-hopped IPA, is a little more buttoned-down. More hoppy than malty, Beaver Bite sports a copper complexion and a caramel aroma. The malty Paradox Red Ale (5% abv) is a year-round staple with an unimposing flavor that won’t compete with your summer barbecue. Paradox Pilsner (6% abv) is a Czech-inspired lager with an “everyday” versatility. The Schroon Summer Ale is a low(er) alcohol beer (4.8% abv) that’s the perfect thirst quenching “lawn mower beer” on a hot summer day. It’s available exclusively in Schroon Lake. Paradoxian Wheat IPA and Effingham Steam beer are coming soon and porters will be back in the fall. Most apparent, and without exception, was the “clean” taste and finish of every beer we sampled. Paul attributes this to the exceptional well water on the property. Beer is typically 90% to 95% water, so the quality of this simple ingredient makes all the difference in brewing efficiency and, most importantly, flavor.
Paradox Brewery beers can be found at nearly 50 (and growing) restaurants, pubs, and retailers throughout the Adirondacks and the Capital Region, though we think it is best enjoyed at the source. Stop by and enjoy the friendly hosts, fine brew, and good banter any time of year. Pick your favorite beer and take home a growler for yourself and one to share with friends, which will be gone by the time you see them, so you’d better get another one. Get a punch card to buy nine growlers and get the tenth one free! Who says there’s no such thing as free beer?