The main seasonal area of the Ironrock Brewing Company showing the level of progress with the on-going construction.
by Dave Warner
Mike George has been chasing a dream. At first one that envisioned a winery, but after experimenting with grapes and the ability to grow them in this area, it turned into the microbrewery idea.
A microbrewery or craft brewery is one that produces small amounts of beer, is independently owned, and focuses on quality, flavor and brewing technique. The movement began in the 1970’s in England, and has made its way to New York in a big way.
The rumors about a microbrewery starting in Little Falls have been floating around for months, but until you actually walk into the facility being renovated by George at 56 W Mill St, you can’t really picture it. And when you do, it will blow you away.
According to George, the building consists of two areas – one that will be used seasonally because it’s not suited to being heated (the image above) and one that will be used during the off-season that will be open year round. “We do have a bar on both sides, that way we can service everyone during the winter time.”
“Ironrock Brewing will be brewing onsite and serving onsite. We’ll do glasses, growlers and eventually we’ll probably get into doing kegs and servicing restaurants and bars in the area. But, for right now, I want to take care of what’s here,” he said.
There are no plans to go into food at first. Some prepared items, packaged items, popcorn, chips and possibly some cheese based items. “The plan is to have some food trucks in the lot that we have across the street. Right now we’re looking at Thursday & Friday evenings and Saturdays being open,” stated George.
“As long as the State of New York grants me my license in time and the codes enforcer says Mike you’re ok to go, we’ll be up and running this spring or early summer.”
New York State is now home to 400 breweries, surpassing the previous record of 393 breweries set in 1876. The number of breweries has skyrocketed in New York since Governor Cuomo hosted the state’s first Wine, Beer and Spirits Summit in 2012, with 243 new breweries obtaining licenses, and beer being brewed in 57 of the state’s 62 counties.
“Once one of the largest producers of beer in the country, New York continues to lower the costs of business by modernizing laws and rolling back red tape to restore the Empire State as the standing leader in the craft beer manufacturing industry,” Cuomo said.
Despite this, George said “There’s still a lot of red tape to cut through. You really have to do your research, your due diligence and I’ve traveled and talked to a number of breweries throughout the state and they’ve all told me the same thing. The paperwork – It’s the hardest part of the whole process.”
The all seasons section of the building has a bar, room for tables, and a lounge area. “Years ago, this building was owned by Gordon Little, who started Andrew Little Lumber. He was actually a carpenter here around the turn of the century,” stated George.
“They ran a very successful operation for years. When they went out of business, Little Falls Construction rented the space from one of the descendants. The building was also occupied by a gentleman called Pit the Painter – Steven Nichols, who was a little bit of a local legend around Little Falls. Did a lot of paintings, a lot of art work and a lot of the signage that you saw around town for years,” he said.
One of the things George wants to do is a tribute beer to Pit as part of the story about the history of the building. “He’s part of Little Falls.”
The building passed through several hands before landing in George’s lap. “Low and behold, I ended up with it,” he said.
“I had this wild hair years ago where I wanted to do a winery. The climate here is really not conducive to growing wine grapes. There are some grapes now that are more tolerant of this climate, but my wife told me to do the brewery first.”
As a child, George’s father had showed him how to make dandelion wine. He remembers going out with his brother as kids, picking them, putting them in a stainless steel bowl and then waiting several days for the concoction to ferment. “It would look disgusting, but my dad would let me have just a tiny little sip of it and that was that. That’s kinda how I got my start in the brewing and fermenting business.”
In his 20’s, George was growing some grapes in his yard and making about 60-80 gallons a year and really got hooked on it. “We’d give it away at parties and for the holidays. We had a lot of fun with it.”
Now, the fun is turning into reality. The smaller area will be for people who “want a relaxed atmosphere, listen to a little music, have a craft beer or two and kick back after a hard week. That’s what this is about,” he stated.
They still have to put in the ceiling, get the furnace hung, finish the bar off, do a little bit more painting, put the floor and trim in “and we’ll be ready to move some tables in.”
The seasonal area is really split into two sections. One that will be heated and house the brewing equipment, and the larger portion that will be open from the spring through the fall.
According to George “I’ve had so much help from volunteers. I can’t say enough good about everybody that has helped me. The community has come together to help me out, my family, and the City of Little Falls has been more than gracious to me. There’s been an outpouring of volunteerism,” to help get this off the ground.
George believes that the microbrewery is going to be a destination on its own.
“Everything I’m doing, I’m doing for a reason. I’ve thought this through quite a bit. Everyone is eagerly anticipating the opening here. I want to help Little Falls. I grew up here, I love the City, I love the people, and I’ve seen so many people that I went to school with leave the area.”
George has two children and he hopes that one day, one of them is interested in the lumber business and that the other will take over the microbrewery. “I’m so fortunate that I’ve had the opportunity to work side by side with my dad and my Uncle Bob and my grandfather when he was with us,” he said.
“I really wanted something to keep the kids here. To bring something to Little Falls…to help put us on the map more.”
There appears to be plenty of parking for the business as well, with a small lot to the east of the building, one that George is leasing across the street, the public parking under the bridge and the ability to park along the street. “We should have plenty of parking down here,” he said.
George is planning a unified look between all three areas, matching the wood, wall colors and stains. “We’re going with the grays and reds. I wanted to go with a very rustic industrial look to tie in with the name and the theme. We’ve got a little bit left to do, but I’m in too deep to stop now,” he said.
If you’d like more information, you can email George at email@example.com or visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Ironrock-Brewing-Co-2070680009674693