Thursday, April 14, 2016

Old, old Schenectady and Mad Jack Brewing

   Shortly after the Dutch got things going in Nieuw Amsterdam in the 1650s, they came up the river and got things started in Schenectady, in 1661.  While most of the city is classic rustbelt, buildings emptied by General Electric and American Locomotive, the oldest part, the Stockade, is a cool section of mostly Federalist buildings. At one end of this district is the Van Dyke Club, once a jazz venue of erstwhile repute.

The Van Dyke had fallen on lean times in the early years of this century and three cousins, all MacDonalds, bought the building in 2009 and added a brewery in the back. The 7-bbl system operates under the name of Mad Jack's and brews mostly for on-premise consumption and growler fills.
The styles here run to English ales for the most part and the names reflect Schenectady neighborhoods or Union College themes (their teams play as the Dutchmen, or Dutchwomen). They do run flavor variations on the stouts and porters; I had a peppermint stout on the last visit.
(Visited Jan.-April '16)

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Argyle Brewing--for the witches of Greenwich

   OK, Greenwich, New York is about 25 miles east of Saratoga, and it really is pronounced like Green Witch, not the way they say it in England or Connecticut. Argyle is the next town north, and it has the distinction, for New York, of being a dry town and the birthplace of this little brewery.  If it is legal to brew but not to sell what you make, you had best find another town to sell in, and that was Greenwich.  Now the whole physical side of the operation is in the wet town and only the legal address remains in Argyle.
"Dry town, wet basements" was the banner the three owners, Chris, Matt, and Rich unfurled at the NYS Brewers Festival in Albany last month, and they did get some mileage out of the prohibition angle, as well as the diamond pattern of argyle socks.  What they are really about is several good styles, with local ingredients where they can get them.  They are a Farmstead Brewer and adhere to that minimum percentage of in-state grains and hops.  Local maple syrup (New York is second only to Vermont as a producer of this pancake perfecto) goes into their porter (5.4% abv and just a titch of hops to balance the sweetness. The alt ("straight outta Dusseldorf") tasted really fine to me and to a friend from my substitute teaching days around here, and Greenwich resident,  Kim Littell.  Same 5.4% abv.

  Chris gave us a tour of the production area in the back of this building--he stands by the 4-bbl brew kettle in which he runs double batches to fill his 7-bbl fermenters. Business has gone well enough that he has a 15-bbl system being made in the area, upstate New York. What really impressed us was the bottling system built by a local engineer who has prospered making ball valves to precise tolerances--a fan of the beer, he just volunteered the work to build this system for Argyle, so they are now putting their regular beers in 12 oz. glass.
   Growler fills still matter for a fledgling brewery (Argyle turns two years old today, April 2).  They sell and refill the standard half-gallon growlers; they also have the half-growler (a/k/a the growlette, the howler, the grunt, the barker, etc.) which is picking up popularity in the Northwest but seldom seen here.  The "Amber Boston Round" is a formal term used in the industry for the 32-oz. brown bottle. Good term for a couple of Red Sox fans like us, especially on Opening Day weekend.  Let's Go, Red Sox!
(Visited 03/31/16)