Mud season has arrived in the Adirondacks, which means 3 things: the sky is blue, the temps are mild, and for those of us who like to get outside, most of our winter activities have ended but the woods and waters aren't quite ready for summer fun. Now is a GREAT time to check out the local breweries and soak up some springtime rays along the way!
This past Sunday, a few co-workers and I met up for a trip along what we've dubbed the 'Tri-Lakes Brewery Trail.' The plan was to start in Tupper Lake at Raquette River Brewing, head to Blueline Brewery in Saranac Lake, then check in at the Great Adirondack Brewing Company in Lake Placid, and end the evening at the Lake Placid Pub and Brewery. But first, we wanted to start with the most important part of any Sunday, BRUNCH!
For us, Saranac Lake was a good meeting point, and so we headed to McKenzie's Grille. A long time favorite, McKenzie's specializes in good ol' fashion breakfast deliciousness, served all day long! Four bottomless cups of coffee, a short stack, breakfast wrap, french toast, and Eggs Benedict later, we were on our way!
Full up on a hearty brunch, we piled into the car (a BIG thank you to Kerry, who signed on as our DD for the day!) and headed off to Raquette River Brewing. The 20-mile drive from Saranac Lake to Tupper Lake was a great opportunity to roll down the windows and enjoy some of the great spring air.
Raquette River Brewing
11 Balsam Street
Tupper Lake, NY 12986
Raquette River Brewing is a small brewery with a BIG lineup. The two room setup splits a small brew room from the tasting room and gift shop. We were greeted with a big hello from owner and host, Mark. You'll only find their beer on tap here and in bottles at a few local stores, so if you want to bring home some draft for your friends, plan on purchasing your growler here, you won't find it anywhere else! Mark was excited to tell us about the expansions planned for this summer, so depending on when you go, you might be able to enjoy a drink on their soon-to-be-built patio while enjoying some great BBQ.
With 8 beers on tap and $5 to sample the full line, Jess, Kelly, and I jumped in with our first tasting of the day. The brewery has a very full lineup, from the crisp and refreshing Pilsner to a rich, Maple Porter. Of particular note was the Raquette River Smoked Red Ale, a great example of a red on its own, smoking the beer adds a unique flavor, different, but not too strong. Definitely a beer worth checking out! If you want the lowdown on their shiny new brewing system, you can see the whole thing from the tasting room and Mark will be happy to fill you in on the details as you enjoy your samples.
Jess – Smoked Red Ale – A smokey ale with earthy hints and toasty goodness.
Kelly – Raquette River IPA – A hoppy beer, full bodied but not filling.
Glenn – Raquette River IPW – Light and refreshing wheat beer, citrus overtones combined with the bitterness you expect from a traditional IPA.
Kerry – Homemade Dog Biscuits – Crunchy and delicious (As reported by Kerry's dog, Addie. Not Kerry…).
Four happy customers with the first brewery under our belt, we headed back to Saranac Lake for the next leg of our tasting trail.
Blue Line Brewery
555 Lake Flower Ave
Saranac Lake, NY 12983
When you pull into the Blue Line Brewery, you might note the driveway which ends at a garage door that opens up into the bar. A bit of an unconventional entrance for a brewery, but an entirely conventional exit for a car wash, which is what this place was in a former life. Blue Line is not only a brewery, but a great bar with a stripped down, slightly 'industrial' feel, which comes from the original framework of the building that's been preserved. Their goal is to serve as many pizzas and beers as cars that went through the car wash, 231,266 (you can see their tally above, in the background).
Having acquainted ourselves, we ordered another round of sampler flights ($6 for 5 samples). Kerry took about 2 seconds to spot the S'mores Pizza on the specials board and ordered that as well. Blue Line has an impressive line of traditional brews, the Black Lager was a strong contender for me, but their Pumpkin beer won out. I'm not usually a big fan of pumpkin beer, but this one struck just the right balance of pumpkin, with just the slightest hint of hoppy bitterness.
For those of you that aren't in the mood for beer, don't miss Blue Line's rotating selection of home made draft soda. The flavor this day was Orange Cream, and as a connoisseur of Orange Soda, I can tell you this one was a chart topper.
Jess – Farmhouse Red Ale.
Kelly – Upper Locks IPA - A classic IPA, lots of hops and a nice clean finish.
Glenn – Pumpkin - A lighter pumpkin ale, good pumpkin flavor with just a little bite and a smooth finish.
Kerry – S'mores Pizza - It's a pizza...and a s'more....need we say more!?
A quick wash to get the s'mores off our fingers and a stop at the drive through ATM conveniently located across the street, and we were off to leg three of our trek.
Great Adirondack Brewing Company at Adirondack Steak and Seafood
2442 Main St.
Lake Placid, NY 12946
Located on Main Street in the heart of Downtown Lake Placid, the Great Adirondack Brewing Company is a warm and inviting brewpub. You can pull up a stool at the cozy feeling bar or sit down in their dining room for a three course meal, accompanied by a large variety of brews made in-house. We met up here with our staff photographer, on break from a day of shooting Springfest at Whiteface Mountain, and headed for the bar. Flights here ($13 for 8 samples) come in their own little birch handled carrying cases, a nice Adirondacky touch.
The Brewing Company serves up a great assortment of beers, including very well done versions of a Cream Ale, IPA, Pale Ale, Red Ale, and Stout. They also feature a Belgian Style 'Abbey' Ale and and the less common, and more hoppy, Imperial IPA. This was the only place on our tour we found these styles.
And because we are people who enjoy food nearly as much as we enjoy beer, we ordered a cheese plate as well. Three cheeses, a warm baguette, and smoked meats; what's not to love! I'm a sucker for Blue Cheese, and this plate included one to be reckoned with, creamy and much milder than most, it was my top pick. The raspberry cheddar was also a big hit.
Jess – John Brown IPA – A hoppy beer with strong hints of pine and citrus.
Kelly – Whiteface Stout – A large helping of roast and chocolate malts make this beer...chocolatey and malty...and delicious!
Glenn – Adirondack Abbey Ale – A Belgian Dubbel which utilizes Belgian malts and yeast for a unique combination of flavors.
Kerry – Draft Root Beer – Made with 'pure mountain water' and 'Kane' sugar, a perennial classic.
One more trip out the door and a quick ride down the street for the last stop on our brew trail!
Lake Placid Pub and Brewery
813 Mirror Lake Dr.
Lake Placid, NY 12946
Last stop of the night! The Lake Placid Pub and Brewery is particularly cool because it's a 3-story pub and bar with each floor having a different vibe. If you're looking for a friendly neighborhood pub (and a peek at their brewing facilities in the back), check out PJ O'Niells on the first floor. For a roomier bar and seating area check out the second floor, and for more of a restaurant style atmosphere with a dedicated kids' play room, head all the way up! For those of you who like to see how the 'sausage is made,' The Pub also offers Tours of the Brewing facilities upon request. They offer a weekly pre-scheduled tour at 4:30PM on Saturdays.
Our trip took us to the large second floor bar and our last round of flights ($8 for 6 samples). I had thought the Smoked Farmhouse Red at Raquette River was a one of a kind experience, but turns out the Pub does a different but equally delicious Smoked Ale. A bit like a 'campfire in a glass', the smokiness is strong up front, but with a very smooth finish. We topped off the evening with a sweet sausage and apple flatbread pizza and a baked pretzel with cheddar sauce and spicy mustard.
Jess – 3-Putt Porter – A traditional porter providing a very 'smooth, quaffable offering'.
Kelly – Highlander Ale – A Scotch style ale, distinct smoky head followed by a refreshing finish.
Glenn – Moose Island Ale – Golden ale with a clean finish.
Kerry – Flatbread Pizza with Sweet Sausage and Apples
4 breweries, 6 hours, 4 shared plates of food, and 26 samples later, we headed home a band of happy campers. This route was a bit of an experiment, and a BIG success. Four great breweries just the right distance apart to make for a nice leisurely afternoon in the Tri-Lakes! If you want to experience our "Tri-Lakes Brewery Trail" for yourself, here's the quick summary.
Tri-Lakes Brewery Trail
1. Raquette River Brewing - 11 Balsam Street, Tupper Lake, NY 12986
2. Blue Line Brewery - 555 Lake Flower Avenue, Saranac Lake, NY 12983
3. Great Adirondack Brewing Company - 2442 Main Street, Lake Placid, NY 12946
4. Lake Placid Pub and Brewery - 813 Mirror Lake Drive, Lake Placid, NY 12946
Total Distance: 32 miles
Find a place to stay in Saranac Lake and make it a weekend!
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