Brewing In History

Old stone barracks turn in to
modern inn and brewer

(DoNorth/Kody Mashtare)

Overlooking Lake Champlain, Valcour Brewing Company resides in the Old Stone Barracks. Inside, the air is rich with the smell of freshly brewed beers. Visitors mingle around the U-shaped bar and enjoy burgers and sandwiches while washing it down with their favorite microbrews. The aged limestone walls create a warm atmosphere steeped in history.

Soldiers marched through Plattsburgh from 1812 to 1825 without a base for shelter. They often found refuge only in decrepit log structures left over from the War of 1812.

In 1838, the Army constructed two buildings: an officer’s barrack and an enlisted barrack. The Air Force acquired the buildings in 1953, but a fire ravaged the officer’s barrack, and the Air Force tore it down in 1963. The remains of the building, known as the Old Stone Barracks, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. After the Air Force pulled out of Plattsburgh in 1995, the building remained vacant for nearly 20 years.

In 2014, retired Army Cols. Mary Theresa Pearl and her husband, Terry Shmaltz, bought the 180-year-old building in pursuit of their longtime dream of owning a brewery.

The basement, a military infirmary years ago, is now home to Valcour’s brewing operation — the heartbeat of a thriving building.

“To see that someone took the building and turned it into something so beautiful, it’s something the whole community can enjoy,” Valcour Inn and Brewing’s Event Coordinator Meghan Weeden says.

Amongst the massive beer tanks, each named after the owners’ grandchildren, brewmaster Chad Taylor creates an array of microbrews from light, crisp options, such as Lakeside Lager, to darker beers, such as Enigma with a light smooth finish.

Taylor cares deeply about the drafts he produces.

“This is my passion,” he says. “My wife would tell you, on my nightstand is all books on brewing.”

He started with a small home brewing kit his wife bought him. Now, he works with the stainless steel equipment gleaming beneath the Old Stone Barracks.

This is his first time brewing on a commercial system.

“The first batch was a little scary,” Taylor says.

To the left of the bar, a list of the daily beers on tap lines a chalkboard, offering a brief taste description, alcohol percentage and bitterness rating of each. Taylor rotates the beer list as the seasons change, including a stout for St. Patrick’s Day, pumpkin flavors in the fall.  He is considering a pale ale saison beer for the spring and summer because of its increased carbonation and mix of fruity and spicy taste.

Taylor sets aside kegs of beer to experiment with flavors and extracts to concoct unique new blends. He has blended Magnetic North with mango and Lakeside Lager with blueberry, creating fresh and fruity brews that pair perfectly with a hot summer day.

The Copper Nails red ale is a Valcour staple Pearl and Shmaltz began brewing years before they opened the business. The somewhat caramel malt-flavored beer creates a perfect balance of hops.

Valcour Brewing also offers a cozy and old-fashioned seven-room inn. Each room costs about $100 per night but rumors of a paranormal entity surround room six.

“Growing up,” Weeden says, “This was the creepy haunted building everyone hears about.”

Some believe the presence is a woman named Arlene.

“Her old lover Joe used to work on the base,” Weeden says. “Now, she’s here looking for him,”

 As the story goes, Arlene would sneak onto the base to visit Joe. One day, he never returned home. She now lingers about the property hoping to reconnect with her lost love.

“I never cared about history,” Weeden says, “Until I started working here.”

Issue 11: Summer/Fall 2018

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