Ray Brook brewery on tap … maybe more

Clinton Green, brewmaster at the upcoming Ray Brook Brew House on state Route 86 — across the road from Tail O’ the Pup — welcomes a shipment of 350-gallon brewing tanks Monday as they arrive from a manufacturer in Oregon. Brewery owner Paul Tatro says he expects it to open sometime this fall. (Enterprise photo — Glynis Hart)

RAY BROOK — Craft beer lovers have one more reason to raise a glass — and more reasons may be in the hopper.

On Monday, a truckload of shiny stainless steel brewing equipment was delivered to a glass-fronted building that used to house the Ray Brook Frog, a rustic furniture store. Paul Tatro, who owns the Owl’s Nest Pizza Parlor and Saranac Lake Wine & Liquor in downtown Saranac Lake, bought the building in February and is renovating it for his newest enterprise, Ray Brook Brew House.

The Brewers Association reports that the total number of U.S. breweries increased by roughly 1,000 in 2017, coming in at well over 6,000, and that 83 percent of adults 21 or older now live within 10 miles of a brewery. That trend is quite noticeable here in the Adirondacks, despite the sparse and scattered population. While Lake Placid had two small breweries start up in the 1990s, Tupper Lake saw two open in the last few years, and Saranac Lake’s local brewpub recently opened a second location in Potsdam. A Schroon Lake brewery is building a bigger facility in North Hudson, and a farm brewery in Keeseville invites people to sample its wares on site.

And more are coming.

In addition to Ray Brook, new operations may be in the works in Bloomingdale and Saranac Lake. Two men who want to open a farm brewery in Bloomingdale are expected to address the St. Armand Town Council at its monthly meeting at 6:30 this evening, according to town Supervisor Dean Montroy. And Johnny Williams, owner of the Bitters & Bones tavern in Saranac Lake, says brewing beer is part of his long-term plan.

New stainless steel brewing tanks are unloaded from a truck Monday at the future home of the Ray Brook Brew House, formerly the Ray Brook Frog furniture store, on on state Route 86 in Ray Brook. Owner Paul Tatro says he expects the brewery to open sometime this fall. Pioneer Tank & Vessel in Portland, Oregon, made the tanks. (Enterprise photo — Glynis Hart)

Tatro said the Ray Brook Brew House won’t open until September at the earliest, but it’s well underway here on the busy road between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, clustered among a barbecue restaurant, ice cream stand, fishing shop, cabins, campground and state offices. He’s hired some key staff members, such as head brewer Clinton Green, who previously filled that role for the Great Adirondack Brewing Company in Lake Placid, and chef John Warchol. Tatro has applied for the brewpub’s state liquor license and hopes it won’t take long since he already has a license for the liquor store.

He described the building as “extremely solid” and fairly large, with 3,200 square feet plus another 3,200 in a full, clean basement. He plans it to seat 60 people and have 27 parking spots out back. He expects to serve pub fare, prepared “a little differently,” and 12 beers on tap. He hopes to offer Ray Brook brews at other local bars and restaurants, and down the road he’ll consider bottling or canning. He’s excited about the new 10-barrel brewing system he ordered from Oregon and plans to have part of the floor cut out, with a railing at the edge, so customers can look down on the brewing tanks below.

A brewery goes through plenty of water. The Ray Brook Brew House’s incoming water comes from the village of Saranac Lake, but its wastewater will have high quantities of suspended solids and can’t go in local sewer lines. Instead, Tatro said, it will have to be pumped into a holding tank and hauled away periodically. Meanwhile, the grain that is “spent” from the brewing process will be given to local farms as animal feed.

Tatro, 54, grew up in Constable, at the north end of Franklin County, along the Canadian border. He bought Owl’s Nest 20 years ago, and in January he sold the Owl’s Nest’s building for $395,000 to Adam Harris, who owns the pub that shares the building. The pizzeria will stay there as a tenant, and Tatro said he used money from the sale to put 30 percent down on a business loan.

He plans to keep the pizza and liquor shops, but now he gets to launch a business instead of take one over.

“I always wanted to design something of my own,” he said. “I’m liking what I’m seeing out there. It’s going to be sharp.”