Saturday, June 17, 2006

Three Ain't Exactly a Crowd: Malt River to Brew No More

As recently as two years ago, the Capital Region boasted six brewpubs:

The Current

Albany Pump Station - Albany
Brown's Brewing Co. - Troy
The Van Dyck - Schenectady

The Former

Big House Brewing Company - Albany
The Original Saratoga Springs Brewing Co. - Saratoga
Malt River Brewing Co. - Latham

Big House never really had too much in the way of good beer, or service. It was, first and foremost, a club. They first stopped brewing their own beer (they had a contract deal with Brown's) and then sold the three story building on Pearl Street, now known as the Skyline Lounge. No great loss on that count, we say. In a related note, the former owner of the Big House (which, to be fair, really did play an important role in the transformation of the Pearl Street corridor in Albany from mostly deserted after dark into an annoying, crowded, collar poppin' scene) is currently renovating a building in downtown Schenectady, scheduled to open in fall 2006, which city officials hope will help to do much the same thing for lower State Street in the Electric City. We are not aware of plans to brew on premesis.

Original Saratoga Springs Brewery should have had a lot going for it; great location just off the main drag in a tourist town, cool, Victorian style brick building, guaranteed summer time Saratoga crowds with money to burn. But it never seemed to be run very well, the food was inconsistent at best and, most importantly for a brewpub, so was the beer. We recall it being somewhat difficult to tell the Pale from the Amber from the Wheat. Still, it's always sad to see even a mediocre brewpub leave the scene, and we do miss the $1 beer special on Thursday nights.

Now, with the recent announcement that Malt River will no longer be brewing, the number of brewpubs in the region has been halved since 2004. We were never a big fan of Malt River on the handfull of occasions we visited, despite generally solid reviews. None of the beers stood out to us, the food left plenty to be desired, and it is located in a dying mall in Latham. The news was actually encouraging for a couple of reasons. First, Latham Circle Mall is currently scheduled for a multi-million dollar refurbishing. Sprucing up the joint and adding stores to a place that is now anchored by a Burlington Coat Factory stuck in 1991 can only be a good thing. Secondly (and, of course, foremost to us), Malt River Brewing Company is not going anywhere, just dropping the Brewing Company part. They are actually greatly expanding their beer offerings! We are of the opinion that going from six or eight marginal beer selections to twenty-six imaginative and varied beer choices is certainly a positive move. The plan is to focus on European ales and American craft beers, rotating the taps seasonally. Summer should feature as many as eight wheat beers. We like the sound of that! Despite being in a dead mall, Malt River actually occupies an enjoyable space, and it is easy for one to forget the surroundings soon after entering. The area that formerly housed the brewing equipment will be turned into a "VIP lounge" with leather couches and flat screen telly. Oh, my! We shall endeavour to visit in the near future and report our findings. We surely have high hopes.

Editor's Note: The three remaining brewpubs in the immediate region will, without doubt, be reported on extensively in future posts. Near future posts...

1 comment:

Bill said...

So I'm a little confused. The Malt River beer is going away, but the actual place where they used to serve it will remain? But now with other, non-micro beers? Is that correct? Can we go? Huh? Can we?