Microbiology Meets Microbrewing
Jessy Jolicoeur turned a longtime hobby into a career when he opened Oval Craft Brewing in May 2016. Jolicoeur studied microbiology in college and used that knowledge to begin homebrewing.
“I figured I could make better beer than I could afford to buy, so that’s how it all started,” he said.
After about 15 years of homebrewing, he enrolled at the Siebel Institute in Chicago to learn the business side of the craft industry. Jolicoeur eventually got some of his own brews into the hands of people in the field. They thought he could make it.
“That was kind of the kick in the pants that made me say, ‘All right, I’m gonna give it a shot,’” he said.
Jolicoeur’s favorite part of running OCB has been interacting with the patrons and fellow brewers. According to Jolicoeur, the brewing community in the Plattsburgh area is tight-knit.
“We basically have four other breweries close to here,” he said. “I think especially with us being kind of isolated in the northeast corner of New York state, we have learned it is easier to work together than it is to work against each other.”
As well as working alongside fellow members of the craft industry, Jolicoeur enjoys pairing up with other kinds of local vendors.
“I try to do a lot of collaborations with other businesses in the area,” he said.
Jolicoeur has worked with Chapter One Coffee and Adirondack Coffee Roasters to make unique cold brews. He worked with Rulfs Orchard to brew a hard cider as well.
Not only does he collaborate with other local businesses, he supports them too. To build the pergola over the beer garden, he went to a local lumber yard rather than support a national chain.
Jolicoeur’s main goal is to have a balanced draft list. At any given time, there are eight brews on tap. Most change along with the seasons. However, there are four staple brews Jolicoeur has offered since opening: Prom Night Cherry, a blonde ale; Rockeater, an IPA named after a Saturday Night Live skit; Simple Man, a brown ale; and Hop Session, a hoppy session ale.
Jolicoeur enjoys experimenting with his brews, but there are some he chooses to craft according to industry guidelines. Two brews that fit these stylistic guidelines are Protocol 001, a Vienna lager, and Simple Man.
“These are beers that I want to be right in those parameters,” he said. “And then there’s other beers where I want to be outside the parameter.”
While Jolicoeur’s beers are rich with modern spin, OCB’s walls abound with history. Built in the 1890s, the building attracts many history enthusiasts. The building was used by the U.S. Army to house their horse-drawn fire carts. The red bricks and big white doors preserve the building’s traditional firehouse look.
Inside, a hardwood bar and tables, metal chairs and warm lighting offer patrons a comforting atmosphere. And it’s there, with a hand on the polished beer tap handles, that you’ll find Jolicoeur, ready to pour an ice cold craft beer.
Story by Luca Gross
Photos by Clarice Knelly