The hardwood floors of Patty Bethel’s Glens Falls home still hold the stories of the Friday night beer brewing sessions of more than a decade ago. There were boil-overs, bottling mishaps and of course — some spills caused from “boys being boys,” she said. Little did she know at that time, but her husband Ed’s Friday night brewing club that stained her kitchen floor would eventually lead to their livelihood.
On St. Patty’s Day 2009, they will be celebrating their 10th year in business as Cooper Cave Ale Company, a business that went from brewing 10-gallon batches for growlers only using makeshift equipment to making homemade ice cream, soda — and soon running a pub.
While brewing on a hot muggy July night now using a bigger “Frankenbrew” system made of stainless steel dairy equipment, Ed — with his trademark gray ponytail tucked under an 18th-century style cap — reminisced about the brew club and how it started from a routine trip to hunting camp.
He was a Genny guy until a trip to camp when a younger friend brought a bunch of homebrew he’d made. It was so good, the 56-year-old former hippie said, that the group drank his entire batch that Friday night. But the party wasn’t over, so it was off to the car for some of his trademark Genesee.
“I took a big swallow and I could sense the distaste immediately,” he said.
He said he looked at the can and said, “Buddy what happened to you?”
Not long after that night, the Friday night gathering where friends got together to chat and drink their Genny turned into the Friday night brew club, starting with basic brew kits and soon transforming into an all-grain operation.
“My job was to wash bottles, make pizza, spin the vinyl and keep everyone happy,” 55-year-old Patty said.
When his job as a draftsman and designer for a local paper machine parts manufacturer was being eliminated in 1995, the duo wondered out loud whether beer making could be a job for them.
They took a business class at a local community college and began looking for a building. They found a modest, metal-sided industrial type building with no character at the corner of Sagamore Street and Dix Avenue in Glens Falls.
Through much sweat, lots of renovation, paint and plantings, they transformed it into a unique little place with an ice cream window with a local paved bike path on one side and hops growing from the ground to the roof on the other.
These days, Ed brews about 210 gallons per batch of porters, stouts, pale ales, reds and browns using the cobbled system that he looks at with pride and loves showing to other brewers who can appreciate his effort.
But what about words of advice for other homebrewers who want to follow their path?
“It takes three times the amount of money you think it will and twice the effort,” Ed’s son Adrian said with a smile. “The first feeling of success for me was when someone bought my beer,” Ed said. “The next was when they came back.”