Hex and Hop Brewery and taproom in Bloomingdale is a unique place, offering not only great beers but also honey from their hives. The business, which is just about one year old, is abuzz with new happenings, including forays into new areas.
In addition to a stand at both the Lake Placid and Saranac Lake farmers markets, the main taproom has a new outdoor beer garden, where tables and shade sails provide a great place to enjoy one of their craft beers and listen to live music. And now armed with a farm brewer's license, the crew at Hex and Hop is working on mead and hard cider, as well as sharing tap space with other New York state brewers. But that's just the tip of the iceberg, as Hex and Hop is working on opening a small store in downtown Saranac Lake and has been utilizing its website and online ordering system to keep locals well stocked on their favorite brews.
Co-owner and head brewer Ethan Mikesell sat down at the beer garden as patrons enjoyed snacks and cold pints at the picnic tables to talk about what makes Hex and Hop special.
What made you want to open a brewery?
I love the brewing part of it. I've been a home brewer for about 10 years - well, I guess I'm a professional brewer now, but I'm just fascinated by it. I'm a big engineering guy, and you just get lost in the process, making things better and better. I worked for the federal government for about a decade, and I just got too close to the politics as I got promoted. So why not go out and do a project on my own, so I pretty much decided I wanted to do something like a brewery probably three years ago. And then I met my business partner - Nick Delaney - and he brought in the bee angle. And that's how we found this location, because they were putting bees all over this area.
Why did you choose Bloomingdale?
I tell people Bloomingdale chose us. We were really focused in the broader Saranac Lake area, and we were looking at downtown, looking at something with a nice view. But when it came down to it, the town here is incredibly supportive. We needed extra parking, we're renting parking space next door. It's beautiful, it's a really encouraging environment. The facility (the former Bloomin' Market) had what we needed at the price we could afford. All those reasons combined led us to this location.
What do you like about living in the Adirondacks?
Haha, I don't get out much! I grew up rural and wanted to get back to that. I like being able to just take my dog, and if we've got a spare two hours we're out at Lake Clear. Things like going to the farmers market - there's always a community. There's more people that are willing to say hi and help than I ever would have imagined. Things got really slow over the winter, and people just embraced us and made a point to come in. And when we went to to-go sales only, people were showing up every week, driving out of their way and making a point to come say hi. That sense of community is just unbelievable. I'd say that about some of our musicians, too. They're part of the family, and that's nice. In another year I might tell you hiking or skiing, but right now that's my favorite part.
Can you talk about your mead and cider making operations?
We got a new farm brewery license, so we've converted a number of our beers over to majority New York hops and malt ingredients, so now they're officially New York beers. And with that, we can now do meads and ciders, which helps us round out the original concept of the business. So we're doing those experiments right now. But now it's how we get it up to commercial scale and timeline. Most home mead makers and cider makers let things go for like six months, and we need to get it down to 30 days. So there's a little bit of science you've got to apply, and that's what we're figuring out - how to get a clean, faster fermentation so we can produce a product in three to four weeks instead of six months. I haven't done the first mead yet, but the cider is done and we might do a special release to have people come in and try it.
When will the downtown Saranac Lake shop open?
The Broadway one! It's getting really close. The biggest part is what we call the Farmers Market Every Day. We loved going to the farmers market in the winter. Kate Mountain, we have their pork here (at the taproom), we're getting cheese from these folks, we've got bread, we've got honey, so it's like a little farm store. You can get pork, eggs, noodles, you can get honey, and you can get beer - the New York farm beers, specifically. There will be a little tasting room and the biggest thing is we have so many people in Saranac Lake who really enjoy what we're doing, but that 8-mile drive might as well be across the border in Canada sometimes. So just giving that walking access and of course the foot traffic on Broadway is better than the foot traffic out here.
Hex and Hop is located at 1719 State Route 3 in Bloomingdale, and can also be found weekly at the Lake Placid Farmers Market each Wednesday and at the Saranac Lake Farmers Market on Saturdays. The downtown shop will be located at 34 Broadway, but in the mean time, the taproom has not only Hex and Hop's beers, honey, and food, but also beers on tap from Tupper Lake's Raquette River Brewing and 1911 hard cider.