If one travels north on I-81, following it to its terminus at Wellesley Island on the Saint Lawrence River, you reach what locals refer to as the “North Country”. Most non-natives refer to this as “Upstate” but ask any native of the North Country and the curt reply will be “Upstate is south of here”, probably followed by “Where are you from?” The actual boundary of the North Country is subject to debate but is basically comprised of Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, and Warren counties. St Lawrence County is the largest county in NY, larger than the state of Delaware. It is also the most sparsely populated with a population density of 42 people per square mile, according to 2000 census data.
I lived in St Lawrence County for the better part of a decade and still have friends there. The favorite beer of those 42 people per square mile is unequivocally the “Light” beer. Busch Light, Bud Light, Blue Light (Canadian), you get the idea. Since my departure in 2006 the craft beer revolution has swept over the county like a rogue wave over a dingy (The Small Boat)! The county is now home to…wait for it…..TWO breweries! Saint Lawrence Brewing Company located in Canton, and Adirondack Toboggan Brewing in Goveneur. A brew pub is planned for Potsdam later this year, although according to my sources they aren’t going to actually BREW beer in the pub. Of the two breweries St Lawrence Brewing Company is the crown jewel. Opened in 2013 in Canton, home of St Lawrence University, Saint Lawrence Brewing Company boasts a nice selection of beers ranging from their flagship Ruby Canoe Maple Porter to my personal favorite Skinny Dipper IPA. It’s probably worth noting that they tend to frown on disrobing in the tap room while consuming Skinny Dipper. Lesson learned!
Over the long Independence Day weekend I seized the opportunity to stop by the tap room and, much to my surprise, St Lawrence has upped their game. The brewery has revamped some of its recipes with beer offerings ranging from ciders to Saisons. Their Barnstormer Bohemian Pilsner is an easy drinking somewhat mild beer as they strive to attract and introduce the local population to craft beer, according to the tap room manager. By far the most impressive new offering was their “Barrel Roll “, an imperial IPA aged in whiskey barrels. More like a Belgian than IPA this barrel aged 10% ABV gem sneaks up on you and will slap you silly if you aren’t careful. August will mark the 3rd anniversary of Saint Lawrence Brewing which will undoubtedly be marked by special events. So if you find yourself wandering through Northern New York Saint Lawrence Brewing is a great place for a “pint stop”.
Until next time, stay crafty.