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Kegs of St. Lawrence Brewery beer are ready to ship out on Monday. Photo: David Sommerstein
Kegs of St. Lawrence Brewery beer are ready to ship out on Monday. Photo: David Sommerstein

Filling the kegs at Canton's first brewery

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From Glens Falls to Sackets Harbor, new breweries have been churning out local beer across the North Country.

Starting this weekend, St. Lawrence County will have its first microbrew. St. Lawrence Brewery's first beer tasting is tomorrow night at the Parkview in Canton. And dozens of kegs are going out to bars across the region on Monday.

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Reported by

David Sommerstein
Reporter/ Producer

Notice the high-tech looking control panel brewmaster Stephanie Russo uses on the right. Photo: David Sommerstein
Notice the high-tech looking control panel brewmaster Stephanie Russo uses on the right. Photo: David Sommerstein
“Ever tapped a keg before for a party or something?” asks assistant brewmaster Travis Pierce, as he walks me through the process at the brewery in Canton's industrial park. He and his crew are filling silver kegs with the first batch of bock beer. He explains that the heads are essentially the taps you get on a keg at a party, but instead of the beer coming out through a spigot, they pump beer through it.

Pierce says that the vents on kegs are filled with carbon dioxide; he says the combination of alcohol and oxygen leads to stale beer. If yeast develops, it will continue to digest and the resulting brew will have a similar taste to vinegar, and filling the vents with carbon dioxide avoids the growth of microbes.

Lance tells me the thing to do is to first rinse the kegs off, to get all the beer off the top of the barrel. Then, spray the kegs down with a sanitizer. Finally, he says to use the air gun to clear all of the fluid on the top.

Travis Pierce says kegging is basically tapping a keg, in reverse. Photo: David Sommerstein
Travis Pierce says kegging is basically tapping a keg, in reverse. Photo: David Sommerstein
Brewmaster Stephanie Russo is working on a double batch of bock, which will ultimately produce 30 barrels. She says that a couple years ago, she had quite a time starting with home brewing. She started with a small, five gallon batch. Now, the brewery is producing 465 gallon batches, "so it's quite a scale-up." Russo says she was nervous converting the recipes, but "we nailed it right on the head.”

Pierce hauls the kegs to a cooler where they await shipment. Photo: David Sommerstein.
Pierce hauls the kegs to a cooler where they await shipment. Photo: David Sommerstein.
Russo says the brewing process is a lot like cooking. She imagines that people who attend culinary art schools become really invested in working with products that start out as raw materials, and creating something from them that tastes great. She has the ability to experiment with different varieties and create new recipes and seasonal brews. Russo says, “to formulate a recipe from scratch, get the raw material, create the beer and drink the beer, it’s such a rewarding feeling.”

David Sommerstein spoke with brewmaster Stephanie Russo and assistant Travis Pierce for today's Heard Up North. Listen here, and hear more from our Heard up North series here.

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