Lake George’s Christian Weber Among the New, Young, Craft Brewers
Lake George resident Christian Weber is building his new microbrewery business one drop at a time.
Since its mid-December opening, Common Roots Brewing Co. has barely kept up with demand for draft beer and ale at its 58 Saratoga Ave. tap room in South Glens Falls.
Soon the firm will begin bottling products, too, followed by distribution to a select number of restaurant and retail accounts. But Weber is in no hurry.
“For us it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” he said. “Quality is everything whether it’s by the pint, keg or bottle.”
That’s why he’s determined to introduce new products slowly. One of his first big roll-outs will be during Saratoga Beer Week when Common Roots will have a “tap takeover” at City Tavern’s third-floor bar in Saratoga Springs, giving people a chance to sample the brewery’s beer and ale lineup. The event is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 20 on the eve of a Saturday, Feb. 21 Beer Summit at the City Center, which Common Roots will also take part in.
Common Roots has quickly established a niche in the growing craft brewery industry, the only firm of its kind between Saratoga Springs and Glens Falls. It’s on the Adirondack Craft Beverage Trail and hosts “Hoppy Trails” tour bus groups each weekend organized by Sutton’s Marketplace in Queensbury.
“There’s a lot of awesome breweries in this area,” Weber said. “We’re all doing slightly different things. It’s good for the economy. It’s good for upstate New York.”
Common Roots opened on Dec. 16, two days after a new state law, the Craft Act, went into effect. Among other things, the law says craft breweries don’t have to serve “food of substance” such as burgers and sandwiches in their tap rooms. And they can offer full-size servings instead of tastings and samples.
So patrons can stop in and get beer on tap, the same as a tavern or bar.
“That was a big thing for us,” Weber said. “It means we don’t have to have a big commercial kitchen. We don’t want to be a brew pub. We’ll leave cooking to the professionals. Tap room sales has given us a major revenue stream we weren’t counting on. As a start-up you need cash.”
“It’s been really good because we don’t have a big marketing budget,” Weber said. “We rely heavily on social media and word-of-mouth advertising.”
That said, Common Roots has a unique, clear-cut marketing strategy.
“All of our beer is made with food in mind,” Weber said. “We think there’s a great beer for every food. For example, one of our dark beers might go especially well with spicy chicken. We allow people to bring food in. Or they can take a growler home. We’re also starting to bring food trucks in.”
A mobile pizza pie vendor, Pies on Wheels, was on hand for Super Bowl weekend.
Matching beer with specific types of food will also prove valuable when products start getting into bars and restaurants. Common Roots has a contract with Saratoga Eagle Sales & Service to distribute its goods.
When warmer weather arrives, plans call creating a small outdoor beer garden in front of the business, along Route 9, and an outside deck on the side.
The Webers invested more than $750,000 in their new venture. The building, a former overhead door company, had to be renovated, followed by equipment installation. The brewery has four large 20-barrel fermenters, with plans for four more.
Beer is held in oak barrels. Both the wood and its former contents — wine, rum, bourbon — gives beer a distinct flavor.
Weber developed an interest in brewing while going to Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, where he majored in biology. That training has proved extremely valuable to his new enterprise, which he described as a Belgian-style brewery.
Tap room business has been so strong that Weber’s only problem has been building up sufficient inventory.
“We can barely make enough beer to keep this running,” he said.
The business opened with four main beers. Most recently, Common Roots has come out with a farmhouse-style ale, a rustic-style ale with notes of lemon grass and a slight herbal aroma. Plans call for releasing an American-style India pale ale in the next couple of weeks, followed by a haus sour ale in mid-March.
In addition to flagship beers that will be offered year-round, Common Roots has others that will be offered seasonally or with a limited release.
“We have 30 beers in our portfolio,” Weber said. “We’re trying to do a lot of cool things here.”