Brewing A Business: The Story Behind Schroon's Paradox Brewery

Photo Slideshow: Schroon Laker Collection/Paradox Brewery

Paul Mrocka, the founder of the Paradox Brewery in Schroon Lake, is hopping mad (pun intended) that he can’t get his first batch of beer brewed.

He is at the mercy of the weather, National Grid and some last minute paperwork  -- not necessarily in that order --  before he and his team can start filling barrels, glasses, growlers and the bellies of a thirsty crowd of craft beer lovers in this part of the North Country.

“We need Phase Three power, which got delayed because Hurricane Sandy tied up National Grid. Then the winter came. Now we have to wait for the ice to melt and the ground to thaw out before we get the power,” Paul told Schroon Laker.

The brewery, housed in the building next door to Frank’s Wood Sculptures on Route 9, is right near exit 27 off the Northway.

“We have some details to take care of with the State Licensing Board and the APA (Adirondack Park Authority) We hope to be open in June, before the big summer rush.”

So is the opening of Paradox Brewery the realization of a long held dream of a home brewer?

“That’s exactly what happened. I home brewed for 27 years. I made my last batch in November,” Paul said with a laugh.

“I have been brewing up there at the lake (Paradox) for the last ten years and was taking it very serious".

Paul --  a pilot for Honeywell out of Morristown , NJ,  when he is not concocting his next wort --  got the brewing bug in the motherland of beer -- in the 80s when he was stationed in Germany.

“When I went back to college I  started brewing in New Hampshire, so I was just huffing around with it. Then 12 years ago I started taking it seriously.

“I bought the lake house and started brewing beer and everyone was drinking it and people started saying: ‘Why don’t you do this for a business?’

“I said yeah, yeah, yeah. Finally at work, one of the guys said: ‘Either you do it now, otherwise you are going to get way too old to do it'”.

That’s when he joined forces with fellow Laker David Bruce.  “I said: ‘Should we do it?’ And then I asked my friend who owns the building, Vaughn Clark – who doesn’t  even drink.

“Vaughn is a master welder, a draftsman and is very mechanically inclined and loves a good project. So we said, ‘Allright, let’s see if we can do this. So we got some investors”

That initial idea was hatched back in October of 2011.  Since then practically every waking moment -- when he’s not flying Gulfstream jets --  has gone into thinking about every aspect about the brewery.

Knowing about beer and what he wanted to brew came easy for Paul. Learning the business side has required a lot of study -- often times in the cockpit while waiting to take off.

“I was brewing 300 gallons a year at the lake . (For the non beer drinker – that’s one heck of a load of suds).

“We threw parties on the island, I’d supply beer for that. People would come up in boats, we’d have beer for them . It just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

And the home beer brewing operation was the real deal. “My father, my brother and I built  an electric brewery, which we might use for a pilot brew”.

The more Paul brewed “the consistency got really great, actually it got too good because the beer became a lot stronger. That got going pretty well”.

Besides studying about the business side of opening a brewery, there has been plenty of elbow grease  and sweat equity put into refurbishing the brew house – which in its former life has been a general store, a gas station and a bait and tackle shop.

“We have done all the work ourselves. We’ve had a few people helping us, but other than that we have done everything, from modifying the building to every possible thing you could imagine. We blew foam in there, we put new sheet rock in there. It’s a new polymer floor. You can bang it with a hammer and light it on fire. It’s indestructible!

"We wanted to make sure it’s a showcase, that when you look inside you’l ll see how nice it is. And if it looks that good, then we thought people might say: "Well they must make pretty good beer!.

“We are just trying to do it all right. We could never afford to have done it any other way so that's why we did all the work ourselves.  We are not rich guys.”

But they are smart. They have decided to hire a professional brew master.

“I’m not an idiot. This is a business”.

Paul said most of the brewing equipment came from China. His team in Schroon made a lot of modifications to the equipment. He was unsuccessful at sourcing what he needed locally. The high cost of new and used equipment was prohibitive because of the strong demand for brewing equipment as a result of the resurgence in  the craft beer movement. Also, the equipment had to fit perfectly into the space and finding the exact sizes state side was also another barrier to getting what they needed here.

As a result of their efforts, they will open without a penny of debt.

“What we are doing is bringing jobs to the area and having fun. We really thought it would be a fun thing to do.”

So what beer is Paul and his crew planning on brewing and where can you get it? And why is the water in Schroon so perfect for brewing beer?  Find out that --  and a whole lot more -- in Part Two of our series, published on Thursday.