Outlook 2013: Breweries and restaurants following consumers’ desire to buy local

Saturday, February 16, 2013
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Pictured is the brewing system at Druthers, a Saratoga Springs restaurant that brews its own beer.
Photographer: Patrick Dodson
Pictured is the brewing system at Druthers, a Saratoga Springs restaurant that brews its own beer.

Restaurants want to give you beer made nearby, which in some cases means they’ll brew it themselves.

“Restaurants becoming microbreweries or buying local beers … this is becoming very, very popular,” said New York State Restaurant Association President Rick Sampson. The trend can be seen all over the Capital Region.

Downtown Saratoga Springs has the recently opened Druthers, which is a restaurant that brews its own beer. The Van Dyck Lounge in Schenectady recently started brewing again and its Mad Jack variety of beers can be found at restaurants in Latham, Rotterdam and Schenectady. Davidson Brothers Restaurant & Brewery opened more than 15 years ago in Glens Falls.

“The consumer today wants local products, whether it is beer or farm-to-the-table food,” Sampson said.

He said the growth of this trend seemed to start in New York City, but has spread throughout the state now. Part of the demand stems from more-sophisticated and better-educated consumers who want fresh and creative products, said Sampson.

Whether it is wine, liquor or beer, he added, “We’re making damn good products in this state.”

In some cases this means restaurants offering locally brewed beers, like products from the Olde Saratoga Brewing Company in Saratoga Springs. Its beers can be found at Saratoga Springs locations such as the Parting Glass, Max London’s, Lillian’s and the City Tavern; in Clifton Park at Salty’s Pub and Bistro and Pasta Pane; in Ballston Spa at Fifty South; and in Ballston Lake at the Good Times Restaurant.

If you want beer brewed within walking distance, one of your best bets is the Van Dyck Lounge in Schenectady’s Historic Stockade District, where the Mad Jack Brewing Company operates. The operation, which is bringing back to life a once-thriving brewery, is named after Jack McDonald, who was part of the family that still owns and operates the Van Dyck Lounge and the nearby Pinhead Susan’s and Stockade Inn.

The brewery advertises 10 beers on tap at the Van Dyck Lounge and says its list of affiliated restaurants carrying Mad Jack products is growing.

In downtown Saratoga Springs, brothers Chris and Brian Martell teamed up with brewmaster George de Piro last year to open Druthers. Not only do they offer fresh beer, they strive to serve food from fresh and locally gathered products. The Broadway spot, with its open-air and indoor seating, was an instant hit when it debuted during the peak of last year’s racing season.

Sampson said that the success of places like these are in part because of the role the owners play in day-to-day operations. They’re invested in the products, which makes the staff care, and they are then knowledgeable and dedicated.

The breweries also offer tourism opportunities.

The Davidson Brothers advertise tours of their brewing system, giving people a chance to slip behind the bar and see the magic and the brewmaster’s galoshes.

“The open-top process allows for impressive glimpses of the actual process,” they wrote on their website, also promising the humor, candor and knowledge of Davidson brothers, AJ and Rick.

Local brewers may soon have some company serving food, Sampson said: The state’s wineries are trying to add restaurants as well.

To read all the stories from the 2013 Outlook special report, click here.

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