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Local lager: Inside Skaneateles Brewery, now open
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Local lager: Inside Skaneateles Brewery, now open

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SKANEATELES — The partners behind Skaneateles Brewing thought for awhile how to name, and brand, their new business. 

In time, though, they turned to the lakeside town where it's located. 

Open since Dec. 13, Skaneateles Brewery celebrates that town in many ways. From its beer to its bar, the brewery is as local as can be.

The idea began with John Menapace, operations manager of Last Shot Distillery in the same building. Since opening that business in 2015, he's felt it would only be natural to add beer, he said.

Menapace soon recruited longtime friend Dan Welch and his partner, Dorothy Krause, as well as Sal and Hope Strods, into the project. All live in Skaneateles. Though the five are the brewery's partners, Sal is not officially an owner, making the brewery a majority women-owned business. The brewery is applying to be certified as such, the partners said.

Planning began toward the end of 2017. By the following summer, walls at the vast 4022 Mill Road space were being torn down. The partners worked with several artisans to transform the humble drywall office across from Last Shot's tasting room into a bar with rustic and industrial finishes. The bar itself is lined with thick steel cable, which Menapace said was leftover from milfoil removal efforts at the creek behind the building. Chandler Dickinson of Old School Forge welded the cable to the bar, while Jim Heuber fabricated the structure's copper surface. 

"We put a lot of time and craftsmanship into making it happen," Sal said. "Making this feel like a warm and inviting environment, versus just a box you sit in." 

The taproom gives way to a second seating area with a shuffleboard and a view overlooking the brewery. There, the brewery's look becomes more modern.

Friend Mary Wiles, a beer industry veteran who now works for Brooklyn Brewery and F.X. Matt Brewing Co. (Saranac), steered the Skaneateles Brewery partners through their buildout. On her recommendation, they installed a "state-of-the-art" 7-barrel Prospero system, and the floors and walls were coated with urethane so as to minimize the risk of any bacteria infecting the beer.

The partners also heeded the advice of local brewers and built a spacious cold room that sits below the seating area overlooking the brewery. 

Dan and Sal, who has home-brewing experience, make the beer. They're aiming for a variety of light-drinking styles, which include Hunsiker Hefeweizen, Lightning Lager and Short Line Stout. 

"There's a lot of demand for just a nice-drinking lager," Sal said. "We're trying to get something that's going to draw in people who may not go to a microbrewery because they think it's all IPAs."

Those beer names pay tribute to Skaneateles as well. Hunsiker was the name of a brewery located a mile away in the 1800s, Lightning comes from the popular sailboat built in the area and launched on Skaneateles Lake in 1938, and Short Line references the rail line behind the brewery. The partners plan to build an outdoor seating area there with a view of the creek, they said.

Skaneateles also has an India pale ale, Willow Glen IPA, named for the hamlet where the brewery is located. That and the brewery's other beers are also local in the literal sense, as they're made with Skaneateles Lake water. Other ingredients are sourced exclusively from New York state per the terms of Skaneateles' farm brewery license.

With a Crowler machine in the taproom, customers can take beers like Lightning Lager home. The brewery also plans to distribute kegs to area bars in the near future, the partners said. Further down the line are canning and bottling, plus adding more fermenters. The brewery currently has a few, including one 15-barrel fermenter for double batches.

But before Skaneateles Brewery focuses on bringing its beer to people, it wants to work on doing the opposite. The partners feel their location away from the bustling village gives it an advantage with locals who want to go someplace quiet, with ample parking. When its creekside area opens, the brewery will offer one of the few outdoor drinking spots in the town as well.

The brewery currently offers snacks like pretzels and Chex Mix, though customers are welcome to bring takeout. Other menu items and food truck visits are in the works, Krause said. And in addition to its own beers, the brewery pours a few guest taps that include 1911 Hard Cider, and wines from local producers Anyela's and White Birch.

Taproom visitors will probably notice a wooden floor inlay, crafted by Ryan Goetzmann, that features Anita Dore's lake-inspired logo for the brewery. But the serene logo doesn't just evoke the setting of the business, Krause said. It also sets a tone the brewery wants its customers to feel as soon as they walk through the doors, she said.

"It's really important to us that people enjoy coming here and relaxing," Krause said. "It's just got that warmth." 

Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or david.wilcox@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @drwilcox.

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I edit The Citizen's features section, Lake Life, and weekly entertainment guide, Go. I've also been writing for The Citizen and auburnpub.com since 2006, covering arts and culture, business, food and drink, and more.

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