Brown’s Brewing Co

By Kathleen Willcox / Photography By Liz Lajeunesse | December 09, 2015
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Brown’s Brewing Co., which predated the craft beer boom, opening in a 150-year-old warehouse on a lonely urban corner of then-dismal and dumpy Troy, has managed to remain true to its hyper-local, easy-going, humble roots while gracefully enjoying the new-found enthusiasm for all things beer and Troy.

Since its inception in 1993, Brown’s has been a magnet for thirsty hipsters, now offering more than 35 styles on tap every year, says Lee MacCrea, a brewer at Brown’s. Eight brews are part of Brown’s core lineup, with four getting wider distribution in bottle form, but at any one time there are a dozen or so fresh ales and lagers available at the taproom.

“We use as many local ingredients as we can, but there is a scarcity of local ingredients,” MacCrea says. “Luckily, the government is incentivizing growth and in a few years we hope that there will be local barley and malt that we can depend on and utilize, but until then, we are tapping our local farmers for other options.”

Brown’s seasonal and experimental beers always provide a brimming brew of terroir. The Maple Brown Ale appears every spring in celebration of the local maple run, tasting as smooth, mellow and indulgent as the first spring barbeque on the deck. This year, Brown’s aged their ale in used Heaven Hill Distillery bourbon barrels, with additional lashings of cinnamon and vanilla for a decidedly adult, French toasty flavor.

Last summer, Brown’s included black currants from a local farm for their play on a classic German style. While there are no plans to resurrect that particular recipe this summer, chances are some form of fruit beer will appear, bearing a bouquet of freshly plucked local  strawberries, raspberries or stone fruits.

Come fall, all of the hops in their Harvest IPA will be sourced from fresh wet hops plucked from local vines and used within 24 hours in the brew, MacCrea says.

“It’s always a mad scramble to get them in,” he says. “It’s such a small window of time in August or September. We try to get as much local malt as we can for the Harvest IPA. Our Pumpkin Ale may be the most popular locally sourced brew though. We use 150 pumpkins from a local farm. We wash, gut, roast, skin and purée them with spices. It takes us three times as long to make that particular beer because of the pumpkins, but we wouldn’t consider using just spice or canned pumpkin. The difference in taste with really good, local pumpkin is worlds away.”

The Uncommon Porter, a staple at Brown’s, uses coffee from Saratoga Spring’s Uncommon Grounds. In honor of the most plentiful ingredient in Brown’s beer, they created Tomhannock Pilsner, after the Tomhannock Reservoir, the body of water from which all their beer is sourced. A portion of each pint goes to the Rensselaer Land Trust, to strengthen their watershed education programs.

Terroir funding terroir. Meta.

Brown’s Taproom, 217 River St., Troy

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