Plattsburgh Brewing Co. brewmaster Jason Stoyanoff, 33, walks across the room wearing a cotton t-shirt, jeans and Red Sox hat. He sits down and sips his beer, but as he starts talking a look of confusion comes across his face. “I’m sorry give me just a second,” he says. “Something isn’t right.” He runs into the back room and after a few minutes emerges and apologizes for the delay, explaining there is a problem with the chilling system. This is the kind of attention to detail vital to success in craft brewing. And Stoyanoff knows the business well. The beer…
- Northern Archives
- October 11, 2015
- by Ashley McKenelley
Plattsburgh Brewing Co. brewmaster Jason Stoyanoff, 33, walks across the room wearing a cotton t-shirt, jeans and Red Sox hat. He sits down and sips his beer, but as he starts talking a look of confusion comes across his face. “I’m sorry give me just a second,” he says. “Something isn’t right.” He runs into the back room and after a few minutes emerges and apologizes for the delay, explaining there is a problem with the chilling system.
This is the kind of attention to detail vital to success in craft brewing. And Stoyanoff knows the business well. The beer he sips on, Plucky Rooster Ale, is the product of a pair of unique histories: Stoyanoff’s, soaked in knowledge of grains, chemistry and amber liquids, and Clinton County’s, which holds a unique place in the War of 1812. Different, but equally important.
A self-proclaimed New England boy, Stoyanoff grew up in Massachusetts and went to the University of New Hampshire to study biochemistry.
“It was my senior year and I realized that I didn’t want to spend my whole life in a lab,” he says.
One of his roommates, another biochemistry major, was planning on becoming a brewer after graduation. And as luck had had it, their apartment in Portsmouth, New Hampshire was located right next door to the Smuttynose Brewing Company. Stoyanoff walked over and asked for an internship for his last semester. As his college career came to an end, Smuttynose offered him a summer job as a keg filler and washer. After that summer, a full-time job opened up and Stoyanoff learned everything from production to sales. After two years with Smuttynose, Stoyanoff moved over to Redhook Brewery, also located in Portsmouth, or as he calls it, Redhook University.
“I learned everything at Redhook,” he says. “They are a bi-costal $45 million company and I got to work with everyone from experienced brewers to chemical engineers, it was awesome.”
Though he loved his job, the grueling schedule took its toll and Stoyanoff wanted a change of scenery. He moved to Plattsburgh to work at the Lake Placid Craft Brewery in YEAR. But by 2009, Lake Placid Craft Brewing was getting ready to close its Plattsburgh plant and relocate to Utica, New York. Rather than get discouraged, Stoyanoff saw yet another opportunity brewing. Plattsburgh Brewing Co. part of a complex of businesses tied into Plattsburgh’s Comfort Inn was destroyed by a 2008 fire.
Owner Terry Meron could have walked away from the business, but decided to rebuild it all from the ground up. It took two years and nearly $11 million to rebuild, and the reopening was perfectly timed for Stoyanoff to make a move. Lake Placid Craft Brewing was getting ready to close their brewery and relocated to Utica, New York. “I walked in and just sold myself,” he says. “I said Terry– I can rebuild this brewery for you if you let me.”
And in the past six years Stoyanoff has done just that. Stoyanoff has used this time forging his reputation as a brewer by developing 27 of his own beer recipes. One of his biggest opportunities came knocking the summer of 2011, when the tourism council asked Stoyanoff to create an official beer for the Battle of Plattsburgh to commemorate the Bicentennial of the War 1812, which raged on the high seas and on the American continent from 1812 through 1814.
At first, he says, “I consider it a hidden gem because people who lived here their whole lives have never heard of the place,” owner Dana Poland said.
But when Stoyanoff began to see the project as a history of Plattsburgh instead of a representation of war, he became more comfortable with it. Besides, Plattsburgh Brewing Co. owner Terry Meron really liked the idea. “Historical tourism, especially in connection with the Battles of Valcour (another Lake Champlain naval conflict) and Plattsburgh, will be a big part of Plattsburgh’s tourism growth,” Meron says.
With the weight of Plattsburgh’s history on his shoulders, Stoyanoff researched the beers George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and their compatriots made.
Brewers in the 18th and 19th century used not only barley but other sugar sources such as wheat, rye, and molasses, which Stoyanoff uses. Stoyanoff also drew inspiration from soldiers who fought in the war—Americans, English and Canadian—English rye, American hops and Canadian barley into the beer. “It’s a good old middle-of-the-road, delicious pale ale.”
As Stoyanoff played around with ingredients– The Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau started their search for the perfect name.
Plucky Rooster Ale was chosen from more than 250 entries in a naming contest. Why Plucky Rooster? On the morning of September 11, 1814, a British fleet sailed around Cumberland Head and into Plattsburgh Bay, where Commodore Thomas Macdonough’s American fleet waited. Cannons started firing and falling short, except for one that struck the coop containing a gamecock that happened to be aboard the American ship, Saratoga.
A rooster jumped up on a gun-slide, clapped his wings and crowed. The crew laughed and took the rooster’s fighting spirit as a sign of good fortune, and Macdonough’s crew rallied to sink the British ships, win the battle and put an end to the war. Today, the U.S. Navy continues to have the rooster as a mascot on the USS Saratoga aircraft carrier.
The Battle of Plattsburgh ended that final invasion into the northern United States, and every year, the City of Plattsburgh commemorates it, drawing tourists from around the world. This year’s celebrations begin September 9th through the 15th, and Plucky Rooster ale will flow—as it does all year round at establishments throughout the Plattsburgh area.
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