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From horses to hops

Sanatorium stables will be new Hex and Hop brewing site

Ethan Mikesell stands in front of the historic Trudeau Sanatorium stables building, which is currently under construction to be used as a second brewing location for his Bloomingdale-based Hex and Hop brewery. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

SARANAC LAKE — The long-vacant horse stables on the Trudeau Sanatorium property are finding new use, as a secondary brewing location for Hex and Hop Brewing in Bloomingdale, filling another building on the historic property with a new business.

Ethan Mikesell, owner of Hex and Hop, said the brewery will be leasing one arm of the “U”-shaped building to expand its beer production to include kegs and cans for distribution.

“We’re staying in Bloomingdale. We’re not going anywhere,” Mikesell said. “We need to be able to make more volume for bars and restaurants that have been asking for it since day one.”

Currently the beers with a honey twist can only be found at the Hex and Hop taproom in Bloomingdale and the farmstand bar on Broadway in Saranac Lake. Left Bank Cafe also serves their IPA. The Bloomingdale location is tapped out as far as room goes. It can’t fit any more brewing equipment.

Mikesell said he was not planning to expand, but when Sanatorium developers Wayne Zukin, Sue Smith and Brian Draper approached him last winter, he took the opportunity.

Ethan Mikesell checks out the cap of a cupola that will sit on the roof of the former Trudeau Sanatorium stables, which will become a second brewing location for Mikesell’s Hex and Hop brewery. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

“They came to us,” Mikesell said. “They said ‘We’ve got this perfect building for a brewery.’ … It provided a path to do an expansion that we never could have done otherwise.”

He said he feels fortunate the property developers are investing in installing water and electric and that he will be able to lease the property.

Draper said crews have been working on restoring the building all summer, despite setbacks brought on by the pandemic.

“We want to do it right, not fast,” Draper said.

The building — officially known as the McGibbon Stable — had fallen into disrepair after decades of no use. They are refurbishing the building inside and out, from the ground up.

The structure’s foundation was weak — the result of sitting on an uncoursed, uncut rubblestone foundation for many years — so to save it a new concrete wall, a few feet high, has been installed under the walls, “stabilizing it,” Mikesell said, pun possibly intended.

He said there are tentative plans to expand a tasting room and pub in the rest of the two-story, 4,800 square foot building in future years, but that he is not planning on that quite yet.

Mikesell said this brewing and distribution location can triple the brewery’s production and allow them to meet the demand for its suds in bars, restaurants and refrigerators. After a scary first spring season this year, in which the taproom had to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Mikesell said the separate brewing location will also provide stability to the Hex and Hop business.

“This would give us the ability to weather a shutdown again,” he said. “We would have another leg to stand on. … To me, it looks kind of like a big expansion, but it’s almost like, survival.”

When the taproom had to close in the spring Mikesell said they went from having nine employees to just him and one other employee canning beer all day, waiting for people to stop by and buy them. Outdoor seating opened up in June and the second half of summer has been busy.

“It was several, several months of low, low sales,” Mikesell said. “I’ll be cautious and say we probably made up what we lost, but we definitely took a hit.”

He said this is hard to know because they opened in August last year and do not have another year to use as reference.

Now, the new stable building has two loading docks to fill trucks for deliveries if establishments are closed.

Mikesell said some residents of the neighborhood outside the sanatorium property expressed concern about noise and traffic at a development board meeting. He said he takes this seriously and wants to route traffic to enter the property from state Route 3. He wants to keep the neighborhood quiet, he said, after all, he rents an apartment from Draper, right across the street and up the hill.

With his apartment windows overlooking the upcoming distribution location, Mikesell wondered aloud about the possibility of constructing a zipline to connect home and work.

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