Pouring Quality Craft Beer In Keeseville
It all started with a pair of brothers who enjoyed a cold and boozy-beverage. Dan Badger taught his younger brother, Dylan Badger, the art of homebrewing on Dylan’s 18th birthday in 2007. Dan was 23, and Dylan was only months from beginning his undergraduate studies at The University of Vermont. The duo had found a loophole in the law prohibiting anyone younger than 21 from buying alcohol: It was perfectly legal for them to brew it themselves.
Four years later, in May 2011, the brothers were rooming together in Burlington. Dan, a recent graduate student of The University of California Davis, had studied brewing. Dylan graduated from UVM with a degree in plant and soil agriculture. With their newfound knowledge, the brothers wanted to dive into business. A couple of months later, the brothers bought their first small-scale brewing system, a 30 gallon vessel for sale from a brewpub that had closed. They bought it “just to play with,” Dan says. But when they moved to New York during the summer of 2012, the Badgers decided to make a real go in the brewing industry.
On Mace Chasm Road, half a mile from downtown Keeseville, stands their rustic red barn housing specialized brews. The Badger brothers renovated their barn over the span of two years and transformed it into a brewery, the Ausable Brewing Company. Its property sits in the heart of Keeseville, a strategic location that lacked only one thing: a brewery. The small farm town was the perfect setting for two young entrepreneurs to bring the trend of microbrewing.
At Ausable Brewing Company, guests have the opportunity to gaze at summer green grass as cows roam the unmowed pasture. They may be greeted by either of the Badger brothers or their furry cat companions Vorlauf (a german word that refers to recirculation, an essential part of the brewing process,) or her sister Sophia. These cats can often be found sitting perched on wooden posts stuck into dirt where they gaze upon visitors and await affection.
In the fall, lucky customers can watch as the leaves change from burgundy to brown and pale orange. Visitors can view the foliage under the shelter of a spacious wooden pavilion. It was built by Ryan Weidenbach and his partner Lizzy Bazzano of Dubb’s BBQ who are two very close friends of the brothers.
On inviting fall evenings like this, the brothers welcome vendors from surrounding areas to fill the grumbling stomachs of their guests. Last summer, Thursdays were taco nights, Fridays BBQ was served and Saturdays featured crepes.
Taco nights were hosted by the brothers’ good friends Asa Thomas-Train and Courtney Grimes-Sutton who own Mace Chasm Farm across the street. In the spring and summer seasons, the Train and Sutton couple mince their off-cuts and leftover rations into savory taco meat, selling fresh tacos straight from the local butcher. The smell of seasoning from the shredded taco beef envelopes guests sitting at wood picnic tables, inviting them to a cream-colored food truck to grab a serving or two. Dan recommends the Plowman’s Lunch beer — a serving of 5.3% alcohol by volume, to wash down their fresh tacos.
Dubb’s BBQ of Peru grills and smokes pork slabs. Their fresh, home raised pork and locally grown vegetable side dishes pair well with a drink. Dylan recommends the Jungle Hustler Hoppy Red Ale— a serving 5.8% abv. The hops of the rich red ale bring out the natural flavors and char of the meat.
Marla Gilman, owner and chef of Northern Feast Catering, spends many hours serving up toothsome crepes. The crepes are made from 100% New York Organic Buckwheat Flour. This treat is gluten-free, dairy-free, and can be filled with veggies, cheese or fruit. While devouring savory crepes, one might decide to drink the Wayne Legitzky American Pale Ale. It has a serving of 6.0% abv. This is one of the brothers’ best-selling beers. The smooth dark brew washes down easy thanks to its hoppy finish.
The inspiration for these crafts originated from Dylan and Dan’s desire to create something missing on most tap lists. They want to serve homage to a brew’s ingredients and its creative process.
“If we’re going to brew a new beer, it has to make sense on a menu. It has to fill a niche that we’re not already hitting. We don’t want our tab list to be redundant,” Dan says. “What ingredients do we want to showcase? What are we trying to achieve with this beer? What ingredients do we build around this flavor that we’re trying to create to make a well-rounded, balanced beer?”
They continue to create batches their loyal guests know and love. The only worries are burnout and fatigue from an endless press of customers and the long hours spent brewing and serving.
“In the summer, when it’s nice here and everyone else is enjoying themselves, all the tourists are here. We’re working our asses off every day,” Dylan says. “We put in a lot of hours… But we’ve molded our business into exactly what we want it to be,” Dan continues. “We do every facet of it.”
The reward comes from wearing all those hats: from brewing, serving and watching the reactions of their customers. This fuels their drive to continue expanding, adding new barrels, new vessels, and creating a space to accommodate more visitors.
“You have a project that’s three months, six months, sometimes two years in the making to produce a beer which started as a concept. Then we have a beer packaged in hand, and we get to sell it and see people’s reactions to it… it’s nice to see the fruits of your labor and see the direct response,” Dylan says.
In light of the ongoing pandemic, the Badgers changed the way their taproom ran. Their vast outdoor space provides a socially distanced and safe space for customers. With an insulated trailer and a tap running through it, they were able to learn and adapt to unpredictable weather. They switched gears and focused on packaging and canning beer, allowing them to open for special holidays and sell their products curb-side, (or barn-front) during COVID.
They want to offer guests the opportunity to buy their same as usual quality beer. The Badgers now sell growlers of their ales year-round — on a pop-up basis. Between the deep tap list, and their desire to create, tinker and explore funkier beers, the brothers have experienced a high rate of success. With this, they continue to change and adapt to the growing customer base in their eccentric market. Their products are truly unlike the ones filling liquor and grocery store shelves.
Ausable Brewing Company is traditionally open from the beginning of May, before Cinco De Mayo, until December 23rd. The traditional seasonal hours are 12 through 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 12 through 5 p.m. on Sundays. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the business was forced to adapt to COVID guidelines. Call ahead of time.