By Anthony Batson
There’s some ground-breaking news from the Paradox Brewery. A new distributor, plans for a massive brewery expansion and new tasting room, a project to give the brewery a smaller carbon foot print, new beers and, drum roll please: a canning line so Paradox Beer can be made available to a whole new audience.
I sat down recently with brewery founder and majority shareholder Paul Mrocka, in the heated beer tent behind the brewery, on a glorious fall day and caught up with all things Paradox.
First up, the new distribution deal – which means that Paradox beers are inching their way south for the flatlanders.
“Our beers will be from Kingston all the way down to Poughkeepsie, almost to the city, (NYC) towards Hunter Mountain. We hope to get into Hunter Mountain. It's a pretty good market that's not seasonal as much as it is up here, so that's pretty important to us,” Paul told me.
The deal to get the beer south came about when Paul signed a contract with the InBev Distributor for Dutchess County, Dutchess Beer, run by Dennis Cappolino. Paradox's local distributor here in Schroon is Saratoga Eagle, also an InBev affiliate.
“Now we've moved to another distributor (Dutchess Beer) that has a connection with Saratoga Eagle, so Saratoga Eagle will take our beer -- all of it -- even for Dutchess, and then Dutchess comes up to them and they pick it up from there and then it continues on down south”.
So how soon could craft beer fans in the New York metropolitan area be drinking Paradox beverages?
“We're getting closer, all right. Now, we're also trying to sign some other distributors within the area as well, within western New York and northern New York areas”.
So, more distributors, more beer, more beer making, what's phase two for the brewery?
“I think with the up-coming winter, with the amount of kegs that we can continue moving forward with, we can really ramp up and get ready for the summer time, so we have a good income coming in during the winter.
“It gives us more money to expand and then, by the time summer comes around, more tanks and brewing, brewing twice a day, and continuing moving our product”.
And part of that brewing will be taking place in a new building, which will be built to the left of the current brewery, with the ground breaking before the winder snow arrives.
“We've been approved by the APA (Adirondack Park Agency) and all we have to do is submit our plans to the Town of Schroon, once we get them. I don't think there should be any problem with that. The town works with us well. Maybe down the road, we'll put a bigger brewery somewhere in the area of Schroon Lake”.
}So stage three could possibly be a bigger facility. Where would that be, potentially?
"I want it to stay in Schroon Lake… then we'll have a lot of jobs. You know, promote business within Schroon Lake. This building would still be here. This would be our specialty building, selling beers, brewing beers still in here, brewing specialty beers and having fun. This would be our fun building. This would be where Devon can play around with experimenting and having a good time with it. The other building (Phase 3) would be for production of our core beers that are going out, hopefully, all through America one day"
But back to Phase 2 -- besides housing more tanks, the new brewery building will also have a canning row.
“We want to start canning our beer so that supermarkets can get it and everyone else can get it”.
I asked Paul why he is going with cans over bottles.
“Canning is better for the beer. Sun cannot penetrate a can. When sun penetrates a bottle, it hurts the beer. It affects the beer. Cans do not allow that, as well as the amount of dissolved oxygen in beer is reduced by canning, by the way it's canned. In other words, you fill the can with CO2, the beer comes up, the top comes down and pushes the rest out so there's limited amount of oxygen in there. Oxygen and air destroys beer”.
And of course, not to mention, that it's hiker and boater friendly.
“Absolutely. Imagine going down to the dock with a glass, you drop it in there and your buddy jumps into the water and cuts his foot. That's why we have stainless steel growlers, too. Those stainless steel growlers are great for hiking and being down on the lake”.
Paul’s business plan calls for Paradox to produce three core beers.
“What we're going to have is our Red, our IPA and then we have what we are now calling our Off Trail Series. Our Off Trail Series is a one-off. In the brewing industry, one-off means one batch only. So, as an Off Trail, it's always going to be one-off. The recent one we had was the Golden Ale. The next one we're having an ESB made with oatmeal, an Extra Special Bitter, an English style type of beer with oatmeal.
“The next Off Trail is up to the creativity of Devon Hamilton (The new brew master). Devon likes to play and likes to brew, so I'm allowing Devon to use his expertise and make something different all the time and this is going to help us. Then we're also going to have a seasonal. We have our seasonal right now which is our Oktoberfest Lager, Paradox Lager. We're coming out with our porter very shortly, by November and by December we're having our Winter Lager. Both of those are already made. They're just sitting there finishing up. By the time January comes around, we'll probably bring out our dark based stout and maybe our Paradox Triple or something similar to that and whatever the one-off thing that he decides to brew.
Tell me about the job that Devon's doing so far?.
“Awesome! I cannot be happier. The man is a clean freak, which is great. He does an awesome job and I don't know how else I can say it. He's motivated, he's young, he has ideas and he's a great asset to Paradox Brewery”.
The new brewery space measures 32x50 and will have room for a new, larger, tasting room. It will be constructed of metal and will have a log side facade to match the existing building. The building will sit on a concrete slab – but not just any slab. It goes down 4 feet and 2 feet up. It's a wall of poured concrete for a total of six feet of poured concrete.
In the meantime the current project Paul is working on is the installation of solar panels which will pre-heat the water for brewing, which will also play a key role in the new brew house.
“This way we don't have to use as much energy boiling it to get steam out of it. So, in other words, the delta factor on that is reduced. Instead of trying to turn steam into 45 degree water, we're turning steam into 140 degree water or 160 degree water or, in the summer time, 200 degree water which we don't even have to use a lot of it. So, it's going to reduce our carbon footprint”.
Paul motions over to the current brewery and tells me that the 600 gallon hot water tank will be moved to the new building “to support our hot water coming in from our solar panels”.
“Then I have two 20 barrel fermenters sitting in my garage on their side which we're going to put inside there. So that immediately increases our amount of beer that we can produce by 500 barrels a year.
“Right now, from January, since we're the distributor, we're at about ... I think we're at about almost 550 barrels. I hope by the end of the year here to have 700 barrels our first year full year.
And by 2015 Paul has set the bar high. “If I'm not at 2000 barrels, I'm going to be very disappointed”.
In terms of how you see the brewery in October of '14 compared to October of '13, what's the difference from your view back then to where you are now?
"My view is probably the same, but what's happening is people are coming in and they stop into our little beer tent in the back here and go, 'Oh, my god! What I've heard about your brewery is so awesome that I thought this was a big massive brewery! You guys have no idea what the hype is going around with your brewery.' I was very surprised that these guys were saying, 'Wait, I work at so-and-so. Everybody says oh, you have to get to the Paradox Brewery. You got to have this beer.' And they came up here thinking it was this big restaurant or a big brewery and they came and saw this little tiny brewery here with a tent in the back. So it was pretty impressive to me. That made me feel good".
154 Route 9, Schroon Lake, New York 12870 518-351-5036 (Exit 27 from the Northway (coming south) Exit 28 from the Northway from the North!)