Thursday, May 24, 2018

High Peaks Happy Hour: Bolton Landing Brewing Co.

It isn’t often a brewery is borne of a desire to live in a particular location. In most instances, a long-time home brewer’s obsession propels him or her to that outcome. Not so for Brendan Murnane of Bolton Landing Brewing Company. He knew where he wanted to live. His quandary was finding a way to make a living. Oh, and he’s never really made beer, except in a class once. So naturally he decided to open a brewery.

Brendan, who is from Westchester County, has spent summers in Bolton Landing with his family since 1988 and wanted to find a way to live there year-round. A love for the craft beer scene turned his thoughts toward opening a brewery. It was his first idea and he felt it was the perfect fit, just what the town needed. Following three years of meticulous research and planning, he came up with a business plan to do just that. His father, John Murnane, was impressed enough to become a partner.

The Murnane family has put itself behind Brendan and John. Siblings Ryan and Justine can be found behind the bar or anywhere else they’re needed. Their mom, Terri, serves as CFO. Brendan focuses his attention on marketing, social media, and managing a growing business while leaving the brewing to resident head brewer, Shawn Kerr.

Shawn, an experienced Buffalo area brewer, was brought on board to carry out the beer making. Shawn has worked in a number of breweries – most recently as head brewer at 12 Gates Brewing Company in Williamsville – and has a background in biology and chemistry, something that comes in handy when brewing a wide range of beers. We anticipate Shawn will build on his sturdy foundation.

What’s on tap, you ask? A diverse collection of beer styles assures there is something for everyone, but IPAs occupy about half the taps.

Paradise Bay DDH IPA is a double dry-hopped American IPA. A little piney, a little citrusy, and easy on the bitter.

Tight Squeeze New England IPA refers to the close quarters in the brewery.

Double Fishing IPA, at 9.3% abv, is a handful of a hazy New England style apricot, peach and citrus.

John Thurman’s Vermont Vacation IPA is dry-hopped with Simcoe and Idaho 7 hops with subtle peach and tropical notes. We were a little surprised that to find a beer named for John Thurman. Bonus history lesson: John Thurman once held most of the land in Warren County. The roughly 800 square miles included present-day Bolton, Chestertown, Warrensburg, Johnsburg, and Caldwell (Lake George Village), making up the vast frontier known as the original Town of Thurman. These areas broke off one by one and formed separate towns, leaving the present Town of Thurman. John Thurman is also notable for having met his untimely death at the horns of a bull.

Sweetbriar Belgian White is styled after a traditional witbier, with the addition of rye, oat, and barley.

Three Brothers American Red Rye balances spicy rye malt with American hops.

On the heavier side, Heron Go Bragh Irish Stout is full bodied with roasted barley, bittersweet, dark chocolate, and coffee notes.

Black Mountain Porter is a London porter with chocolate, coffee, and licorice flavors, brewed with cold brew coffee from Krü Coffee in Saratoga Springs.

Brendan plans to keep flagships Paradise Bay and Sweetbriar in the rotation year-round and the popularity of Tight Squeeze may dictate that it stays as well. Expect short-run seasonals to make regular appearances. This winter, Saison de la Glace was brewed for Bolton Landing’s Winterfest. The Saison de Lac will make a summer debut. A pilsner is in the works, as well as a special Memorial Day release for The Sagamore Resort, 1883 Kölsch, named for the year The Sagamore was founded.

Bolton Landing Brewing Company also collaborated on Pollinated IPA with Paradox Brewery in Schroon Lake. They brewed a batch with Paradox then brewed a batch at the Bolton Landing brewery using the same recipe, two different systems, and two water sources. It wasn’t about competition so we’ll just say both were excellent.

Production at this seven-barrel brew house is constant and Brendan is ramping up for the busy summer season. He’s already experiencing an early spring boom in business and considers future expansion a possibility, whether he adds on or sets up additional brewing operations at another location.

Whet (or wet) your appetite with a pint, then order some tasty bar fare (and another pint) prepared by Dustyn Zaccagnino. Dustyn’s creations go beyond the usual: really good chicken wings in buffalo or sweet chili sauce, bratwurst simmered in Sweetbriar Belgian White, crab dogs, and homemade hummus.

Amid a unique collection of galleries, shops, and restaurants, Bolton Landing Brewing Company’s independent, family-run business fits nicely in this hamlet’s upscale profile. Situated in a home built in the 1890s, the site has accommodated a number of businesses – most recently Mikado Sushi.

In order to create a more spacious, open atmosphere where beer aficionados wouldn’t feel cramped in the modest space, and to house the brewing operations, Brendan had the entire place gutted, removing apartments upstairs to open the tasting room all the way to the rafters. Reclaimed wood stained in soft blue-grey tones and a corrugated metal ceiling with exposed joists and ductwork are complemented by woodwork in finer finishes.

The bar top, handcrafted by Bolton Landing furniture maker Tom Brady, (not that Tom Brady) is made of sapele, a wood similar to mahogany, and features the iconic silhouette of Lake George embedded in the surface. A deck occupies the front and side of the building, providing additional space for soaking up the sun or people watching.

Plans are underway to add live entertainment on Wednesdays and on holiday weekends. John recently attended Brew New York, where Bolton Landing Brewing was well received. Brendan looks forward to more tasting events to help get the name out there. He hasn’t competed for any awards or medals yet, but the brewery’s tap handles received the American Graphic Design award.

The brewery self-distributes locally to restaurants in Bolton Landing (Frederick’s, Cate’s Italian Garden, The Huddle, Lakeside Lodge and Grille), Lake George (The Garrison, 163 Taproom), Queensbury (Farmstead Flatbread), and also in Saratoga Springs, Troy, and Buffalo.

We recommend an in-person visit to Bolton Landing Brewing Company where a flight of four samples is $8 or sip a pint for $7. Non-beer drinkers matter too. Several wines and Irish Whiskey, Kentucky Bourbon, Scotch, and other spirits are available as well. Grab a crowler to go for $14, or fill your own growler for $21. (Prices may vary.) Visit the Bolton Landing Brewing Company’s Facebook page for frequent specials.

If a brewery tour is a must on your list, Brendan is happy to indulge by appointment or when time permits. Brendan tries to adhere to a schedule, but will be flexible during quieter times in the tasting room or when the brewing isn’t in full-speed operation. A drop-by from the Hoppy Trails Brew Bus will frequently warrant a brewery tour and fill the tasting room with excited Hoppers.

Bolton Landing Brewing Company is open every day from noon to 11 pm from Memorial Day to Labor Day and Thursday through Monday during the off-season. Hours may vary, so call ahead.

Brendan Murnane has found his home and his vocation. The brewery’s exceptional location and solid beer selection will carve a niche in this pretty little hamlet on the lake. Brendan’s dad, John, has yet to set foot in another brewery. Not because he doesn’t want to, but because he doesn’t need to. He’s content to stay put and enjoy, as he puts it, “Always delicious beer – brewed on Lake George.”

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In 2013, sisters Kim and Pam Ladd self-published Happy Hour in the High Peaks: An Adirondack Bar Guide and a companion Happy Hour Trail Passport. As they continue to market and distribute their current book, they are back on the trail doing research for their next project – a guide to breweries, wineries and distilleries in and around the Adirondack Park.

In 2014 they created their own drinking event, a bartender competition they call “BARRED!”, which they expect will become an annual event held in the early spring in collaboration with Basil & Wick’s in North Creek.

With the lofty goal of becoming the Adirondack "Drinking Authority," Kim and Pam report on drinking-related topics and events inside the Blue Line here at the Almanack and at their own blog. You can also visit their website, follow them on Facebook, and Twitter.

The pair have spent most of their lives in Warren County. Pam has a degree in Computer Science, but her passion is mixology. She and her family live in Warrensburg. Kim is a freelance photographer with a degree in Advertising Design and lives in Thurman with her husband.

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