Back in the dark ages — circa 1990 — Hudson Valley beer lovers had nowhere to go. Craft breweries were sprouting on the West Coast, but back east, the only good brew was imported. New York State, once a beer-making mecca, was bereft.
Then, a photojournalist and a flight attendant went on a cross-country journey in search of the real thing. Garry Brown introduced his airborne girlfriend Kelly to craft beer, and she was hooked. They bought an abandoned warehouse on Troy’s waterfront, spent years rehabbing it, and in 1993, with a partner, opened a small brewery and pub called “Brown and Moran.”
They couldn’t possibly know that they had just built the template — rehab a run-down building, start a brewery, revive a sagging urban or rural locale — for dozens of breweries to follow. Brown’s Brewing Company (they dropped the Moran partnership a couple years after opening) fostered the craft beer boom by helping many other brewers get their start, setting the collegial tone that still permeates the regional industry.
A quarter-century later, Garry and Kelly have since married and have children who they hope will eventually step into the family business. Over the years, Brown’s has expanded from a mom-and-pop business to about 150 employees, working at both the original Troy brewpub and the massive, 19th-century former paper mill in North Hoosick they turned into a production facility and tasting room in 2013. In Troy, brewers Lee MacCrea and Daniel Cramer concoct the small-batch seasonals and experiment with new recipes, while the production line cranks out upwards of 5,000–6,000 barrels annually of their signature beers that are now distributed in Vermont, Massachusetts, and in 30 counties in New York.
It’s been a gratifying trip since they made their first home brew for their wedding in 1990, which they called Wedding Feast Ale and was, according to Kelly Brown, “completely awful.” But they are hardly resting on their laurels. “Our 25th year has been more innovative than ever,” Kelly says. “We always want to be brewers first, and this year we are hitting the mark.”
Indeed. A new, New England-style IPA series called HashtagIPA has been selling out. Another fairly recent addition, a session golden lager called Krush, was so beloved it has become a core brand.
The secret to their longevity, she says, is in growing slowly and organically. “We have been able to keep in sight the fact that we needed always to be brewing amazing beer, always investing in talented people, upgrading equipment and buying the freshest ingredients.”
The Browns have seen many fundamental changes in the industry since 1993. The biggest change, Brown says, is the transition from bottles to cans. Once despised as carriers of cheap suds, cans “are now like a mini-keg,” she says, and better than bottles for preserving freshness and taste. The Browns invested in high-tech German canning equipment that can roll out 200 cans a minute.
With eyes toward the next 25 years, the Browns’ plans for the future include, perhaps, farming their own ingredients in North Hoosick, adding music festivals like the ones held at Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, and even — get this — building their own hydro-power station. The Hoosick property has a waterfall and dam and once produced hydropower. “My husband aspires to recreate a hydroelectric power plant,” she says.
First and foremost, though, comes the beer. And Kelly Brown says that, even after 25 years, making and selling beer is a nice way to make a living. “I’m not gonna lie — it’s a damn fun job,” she says. “It’s been an amazing run.”
417 River St, Troy, 518.273.2337
Garry and Kelly Brown paved the way for the region’s craft beer industry.