Adirondack Pub & Brewery, lessons from the past to present by Paul Leone
A serial entrepreneur, John Carr spent the first part of his life working for, and owning several businesses. During that time he was home brewing and discovering all of the greatness of craft beer made at home. Since opening the Adirondack Pub & Brewery in 1997 in Lake George New York, he has continued to work hard everyday to focus on making the highest quality beer possible.
The road for John and Adirondack Pub & Brewery hasn’t always been easy, but he’s learned from the past, and has embraced the future. Anyone who knows him in New York State (which is almost everyone in the brewing community), knows his passion for the industry is larger than life, so we had a few questions for him with the hope he can pass his wisdom on to you.
When did you start Adirondack Pub & Brewery and why – what was your motivation?
I opened Adirondack Brewing in 1997. I found brewing beer to be fascinating while I was home brewing and working for various businesses, but the idea of brewing beer and pairing it with food, I thought, this is a neat thing, so I did it.
What were some of the challenges in those early days?
Most people didn’t like craft beer and distributors wanted nothing to do with it. People were drinking macro beers and watching Sex and the City and wanting martinis at that time. So, we really focused on making quality beer, having really good hospitality, and getting people involved in the Lake George Adirondack experience, and that’s what kept us afloat in those early days.
Describe the craft beer space before the growth we are seeing now.
To be honest, it was not much different then it is now. You have macro breweries selling “craft beer” and selling a lot of their own beer as well. You’ve got large craft breweries acting like macro breweries and taking up a lot of shelf space. The drinker certainly has a lot more options now then they did before, that’s the biggest difference.
What are the biggest challenges you face today now that you’ve grown?
We’re sustaining growth and local is becoming more hyper local. When we opened there were maybe 40 breweries in New York State, and today there are 300, so the competition for shelf space and tap handles has become far more competitive. Managing a sales staff and distribution is also a challenge with growth, its more complicated than just making great beer. Trademark issues are another complete headache, and it never used to be before. There are old and poorly written trademark laws that are not applicable to today’s growth and it’s damaging the industry. The big macros are OK with us fighting with each other. With growth we’re also seeing more regulation, which has also added layers of challenge.
What advice would you give anyone considering opening a brewery today?
Be very conservative when you first get started, at least for the first 3 years. Keep your expectations low and don’t barrow to much money. Pay for as much as you can up front to keep your debt load down. It should be about how much fun you’re having. If you are passionate and you are you paying your bills, you’re going to increase your chances of success.
What does the future look like for Adirondack Pub & Brewery?
Slow steady growth, continue to improve the quality of our beer every day, and continue to have fun and be passionate about this industry.
Adirondack Pub & Brewery
33 Canada St
Lake George, NY 12845