Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Into the Woods

New York—the words, themselves, conjure certain images. Yellow taxi cabs and canyons of steel; graffiti sprayed walls and zooming subway trains. Hookers and humps, Wall Street power-brokers and Upper West Side "housewife" divas. That's true—all of that is a part of New York. However, there is another part, in fact, a much, much larger part. A part that includes vast, flower-speckled meadows, stretching out under the shadow of greenish-blue mountains. It's the part with deep, dark lakes dotted with miniature, brushy-bushed islands. A place that is crisscrossed by trails winding alongside murmuring creeks—over waterfalls and running through hemlock scented glades. An amazing home to chocolate brown houses with kelly green roofs and meandering back roads, lined with snow-covered pines in the winter, and daylilies in the summer.

No, that is not the corner of Houston and Broadway.
There is a misconception about New York—one that assumes all of it is glass and stee, from Manhattan to Buffalo. Fortunately, that's wrong, and the 6.1 million acre (or nearly 10% of the entire landmass of the United Kingdom—for you lot across the pond) Adirondack Sate Park, proves that. The park occupies a good portion of the northern section of the state, and is larger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Glacier and Great Smokey Mountains National Parks, combined. Within the park lives a variety of wildlife—from the the ubiquitous springtime black flies to the increasingly, less-shy American black bear. The thousands of lakes and waterways, in the park, make the Adirondacks the perfect city-folk getaway. The area has been the host to vacationers—be it to the ornate and grand Adirondack Camps of the 19th and early 20th centuries, or just with the family at a rented campsite—for more than 150 years. The park is home to 130,000 year-round residents and has seen upwards of 10 million visitors during some years.  However, as beautiful and pristine as the Adirondacks are, they also happen to be great beer territory.

That took long enough to get to, huh?

This could totally happen
in the Adirondacks.
The Addies are underpopulated, to say the least (about 14 people per square mile). So, it's a bit surprising that there are as many brewpubs and/or breweries operating within the park (or just on the border as is the case with Glens Falls) as there are. There are five, by my count—Cooper's Cave Ale Company and Davidson Brothers, in Glens Falls; Lake Placid Pub & Brewery and Great Adirondack Brewing Company in Lake Placid and Adirondack Pub & Brewery in Lake George. Because of distribution, the two best known of the five are, Lake Placid Pub & Brewery—brewers of the new classic, Ubu Ale (although I'm partial to their winter brew)—and Davidson Brothers, the slowly-but-surely-winning-over-the-Capital-Region brewers of, what I think is, some of the best beer made in New York. Not to mention, Davidson Brothers' Glens Falls location is a fantastic place to visit—great food and a really cool atmosphere. Along with Davidson and Lake Placid, Adirondack Pub & Brewery has recently begun to bottle their beer, and they've been popping up across this area, of late. To be honest, I've actually never beer to the pub. I'm fairly sure they've been around for a while but, and I know this sounds bad, they're in Lake George. No offense to Lake George, I love it up there, but the village can be a tad touristy, and tourist towns can be trendy—and there ain't nuthin' trendier than a brew pub. Yeah, I know, Lake Placid is a tourist town too, but they've been bottling for quite a while and Ubu, at least, has been in this market for years. I made an assumption—sorry. There's a first time for everything.

Since Adirondack is now bottling and being distributed, I've gotten the chance to try a few of their beers—Dirty Blonde Ale, Bear Naked Ale and Beaver Tail Brown Ale. The Dirty Blonde is what Adirondack refers to as a unfiltered American Wheat Ale, but to me, it seems to be more of a hazy APA. It pours an orangey gold with a big hop nose of Cascade-ish American hops. Taste-wise, it's definitely hop forward—tart and a citrusy, but there a little malt sweetness with some wheaty notes. It's a good all- around drinker. The brewery's Bear Naked Ale is a copper colored ale, smelling of bready caramel and citric hops. Whereas the Dirty Blonde was on the hoppier end of the scale, the Bear Naked leans maltier. It's sweet almost graham crackerish with a slight Fruity Pebbles tartness. I enjoyed the Dirty Blonde but, I might like this one a little more. Lastly, the Beaver Tail Brown Ale is a mahogany hued, American Brown ale. I should have guessed going in, "American" meant hoppy, but I have to be honest, I was hoping for something a little different. What I was wishing for was dark, smooth and malty—what I got was a snoot full of Amarillo hops. Not bad, just typical. All said and done, however, Adirondack did a pretty good job across the board.

As far as the rest of the beer in the Adirondacks goes, take a clue from the leaf-peepers* heading north this time of year—go with the colors of the season. Grab a Davidson Brothers' Red Ale or a Cooper's Cave Bumppo's Brown or how about a pint of Lake Placid's Barkeater Amber. In any case, if you get a chance to visit the Addies, be prepared for some spectacular views, a little peace and quiet and some really great brews.

*Leaf peeping is an informal term, commonly used in the United States, for people who travel to view and photograph the fall foliage in areas where foliage changes colors—Is there anything not on Wikipedia?


  1. I read recently that NY was once the dominate hops region in the US. eg, 'In 1859, seven-eighths of the nation's hops were harvested in New York state'.

    Do you have any knowledge of NY breweries using NY hops?

  2. Breweries all over the world, let alone the state, used NY hops. I would imagine that every brewery in the state used mostly home grown hops—at least until the first hop blight just after the turn of the century. It was at that point that hop growing really moved out west.

  3. I'm planning a post for next week on a 19th century Albany, NY brewery—so keep your eyes peeled!

  4. I will continue to tune in [and read past-post (?per-post?); I now will be on the look out for Latitude 48 IPAs-Deconstructed]
    you should notify Jeff Alworth to add a link to your worthy blog (NY) to his list of National Blogs.

  5. Thanks mate! I appreciate the patronage!