Happy Hour in the High Peaks is at it again! The first Happy Hour Tour had us hopping all over the Adirondack Park on a quest for the 46 bars that best represent the diversity of the Adirondacks. By popular demand, we’ve begun a new adventure discovering the craft beverage industry throughout the Adirondacks and (just a little bit) beyond. In the coming months we’ll be reviewing the area’s breweries, wineries, and distilleries. Our first hop-stop took us to historic Fort Ann.
It’s an oft-told tale. Like beer? Make your own. Like making beer? Start a brewery. Battle Hill Brewing Company in Fort Ann, the most recent addition to a growing list of Adirondack area breweries, celebrated its grand opening on Columbus Day Weekend in 2015. Like so many others who began as home brewers, Jim Hume and Davis Wornall were compelled to take their hobby to the next level. The New York State Farm Brewing Law sealed the deal and the two became full-time brewers. What could be better than getting paid to do something you love?
Jim and Davis are just a couple of regular guys. As founders and brewers of Battle Hill Brewing Company, that simplicity, laced with pride in product and community, has led to a modest and unpretentious beer business. Sticking to the basics, from expanding sources of local ingredients to product names honoring Fort Ann’s history, the two have begun forging friendships with residents and visitors.
Located just north of the intersection of State Route 149 and US Route 4, a mere three-mile march from the Adirondack Park, Battle Hill Brewing Company’s strategic position captures beer lovers from the Vermont side of the state, within view of the site of the historic Battle of Fort Anne (the “e” was later dropped). The history of that battle and its importance to the Battle of Saratoga is a recurring theme behind the brewery. Huge windows frame a panorama of the battle site – a bump in the geography of the Adirondack foothills. The skirmish may not have been on a grand scale, but the Continental Army’s engagement with British troops at Fort Ann afforded some much-needed time for troops in Saratoga to regroup and re-supply. After all, they had to prepare for what has come to be known as the turning point of the American Revolution.
The tasting room is a taste of history. Battle Hill’s eight taps dispense seven of their own, plus one local cider (currently Slyboro Cider – Hick’s Orchard, Granville). Local wines are also featured. We’re no draft dodgers so we tried a few samples and found them all well within regulations. Flagship beers are War Whoop and Fort Anne’s Amber. War Whoop’s hoppy aroma announces the front line malt, followed by pine and citrus flavors, finishing moderately bitter and dry. Fort Anne’s Amber, dedicated to the people of Fort Ann, began as a seasonal but popularity has dictated it remain as a staple. Grains of Liberty Ale incorporates six grains and honey. Pale and light, Liberty hops add a spicy tone balanced with a touch of honey. You’re at liberty to enjoy more than one! Goodman’s Harvest Ale’s namesake is Erica Goodman, proprietor of Origin Hops at Goodmanor Farm in Fort Ann. Brewed with chocolate, brown, and caramel malts, it’s a mouthful worth repeating. Even richer is Battle Hill’s Cocoa Porter. The combination of cocoa and hops suggest bitter chocolate in a glass. Podunk Pale Ale is an aromatic, light golden ale named for the Podunk Indian tribe that settled in the area. Burgoyne’s Red is brewed with English malts and American hops, though the two are non-combative. Seasonals will roll in and out and new varieties are anticipated.
As a licensed New York State farm brewery, Davis and Jim estimate that approximately 25% of their beer ingredients are sourced from farms within New York State, boosting the brewery just a bit above the minimum requirement of 20% and will increase incrementally as regulations dictate. Honey is sourced locally in Argyle and several varieties of grain come from the Finger Lakes region and from Country Malt in Champlain, NY. Hops are obtained from Fort Ann’s own Origin Hops at Goodmanor Farm, Dry Town Hops (a hops harvesting and processing facility in – you might have guessed – Argyle), and “wherever we can get them.”
A tour of Battle Hill’s shiny new brewing facility enlightened us to the process and yielded some history of the building. Battle Hill Brewing occupies half of the ground floor and basement of an 1840 Federal style brick building that has served as a museum, The Portage Restaurant, and apartments. After considerable renovation to the building’s 1960s addition, including excavation to lower the floor and install drainage, the brewing equipment was installed and production began. A banquet space, with its own food prep facilities and an entrance directly off the parking lot, is in the works on the lower level. The upper level tasting room’s spacious open plan will accommodate a handful of troops at the sampling bar or an entire regiment at several tables either inside or on the pet-friendly deck (leashed, please).
Battle Hill Brewing, located at 4 Charles St. Fort Ann is open Monday, Thursday, and Friday from 2 to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 8 pm for tastings, pints, and growler fills. Tasting cost is 4 samples for $6 or 6 for $8 and is not limited to beer. Growlers and half growlers are available for purchase or you can bring your own for a refill. Or you can just get comfortable and enjoy a pint or two. Happy Hour is from 3-6 pm and there’s usually something warm and tasty to nibble on. The brewery occasionally hosts fundraisers, community events, and live music. Future plans include adding a pub menu. Tours will be accommodated by request when possible.
Battle Hill beer can be found on tap in a growing number of area restaurants including the Log Jam in Queensbury, the Anvil Inn in Fort Edward, and at the Beverage Warehouse in Granville. You can find Battle Hill Brewing Company on your own or on the Craft Beverage Trail, so muster up some reinforcements and get into formation! Check out the brewery’s website and Facebook page for what’s brewing.