In the magical land of craft beer, NY’ers are pretty lucky. We have a bunch of craft breweries and each has a unique goal that they’re aiming to accomplish.
Right in Saratoga Springs, New York we have Olde Saratoga Brewing Company. At a quick glance you might miss it, but on a side road, behind the hustle and bustle of downtown Saratoga you will find yourself a large scale brewery with charming tasting room ready for you to visit!
Olde Saratoga Brewing Company is a subsidiary of Mendocino Brewing in Ukiah, California, and has been in action since 1997. Olde Saratoga not only brews, bottles and kegs Mendocino’s brews for the East Coast, but is also a contract brewery for Kingfisher (the Indian Lager). Plus, Olde Saratoga has a nice lineup of their own and it's constantly growing.
During my visit with these guys, I was able to help with a batch of Kingfisher while utilizing their large-scale brewery equipment. Let me tell you, from the outside of their building with their neon signs and all, you know you’re heading into a brewery, but you have no clue how substantial it is until you head inside. Some of the fermentation tanks were large enough for 500 barrels! It was fun to see the same basic, small brewery tools just on a much larger scale and to be able to understand the size of each of the batches. For example, a batch of Kingfisher can yield almost 165,000 bottles!
I am pretty craft heavy so I was excited to see some of the experimental brews that the guys of Olde Saratoga were doing. CASKS!!! The answer to my prayers (ok, maybe the answer to my taste buds) and always exciting to experience. The crew at Olde Saratoga is lucky to have the freedom to experiment and learn from their own hands. Part of the brewers’ reward for their hard work is getting to use their creativity on a batch or cask of a brew and see how it pans out.
Mendocino Brewing’s fall seasonal is a Pumpkin Ale with Cocoa Nips, which is delicious on its own, but today it was taken to a whole new level. On the table I saw Cocoa Nips, Bourbon Extract, Bourbon Soaked Madagascar Vanilla Beans, and good old Brandy. I would have been happy to have any one of these ingredients alone, adding them to a Cocoa Pumpkin beer was just crazy! Alright, let’s do this!
Four different cask combos were created out of these ingredients. Now it's time to wait… thirstily wait. But I didn’t have to. Being the gracious hosts that they were, the guys at Olde Saratoga had two casks previously made and ready to sample. Both were Mendocino Pumpkin with Cocoa Nips as the base, but one included raspberries and the other peaches. Hmm… this could go either horribly wrong or extremely well. No matter the outcome I was and always am, ready to be the taste tester! Rest assured – both brews turned out perfect. I left a very happy visitor.
Melissa Hildreth is a German fräulein and loves her beer and bratwurst. Melissa is an advocate for following your passions in life, no matter how ridiculous. She will dance the night away if the moment is right. Some have said she has an unhealthy relationship with chicken wings, but is there even really such a thing?! She also happens to be a Certified Cicerone/Mother of Dragons in case anyone’s asking.