Being first isn’t always best. Except, of course, in the case of Brown’s Brewing Co.
This year’s Bestie-winning brewery happens to be celebrating a whopping 30 years in business, having opened in an era when breweries weren’t yet scattered throughout the Capital Region (and world), and Troy hadn’t yet made its big comeback.
“I often describe myself as a 1980s homebrewer,” says Garry Brown, who owns Brown’s with his wife, Kelly. “We made beer in my original partner’s parents’ garage in Schenectady. It really was more geeky than cool back then.” After a trip to the west coast to check out the microbreweries that had begun popping up, Brown and then-partner Jim Moran were inspired to open a brewpub back home in a historic building in Troy. “Troy real estate was cheap back in 1990, and I thought that owning a building less than 100 feet from the Hudson River would be special,” Brown says. “It is.”
While Brown saw Troy’s potential, not everyone was keen on a night out in a city that at the time had a reputation for being dangerous: In the early days, he remembers being told by fellow Troy business owner John Hedley to put more lights up surrounding the brewery so people would feel safer. In the years that followed, Brown’s served as a harbinger of what was to come. “Troy has successfully managed to promote its beautiful architecture and walkability,” Brown says. “We’ve come to realize the value and beauty of the river. From our deck, you can now look across the river and see apartments where tank farms stood back in the 1990s. Revitalization of the riverfront is key. It’s why the city is here.”
In addition to Troy’s transformation, Brown’s Brewing’s success can also be attributed to a massive boom in the craft beer industry. When Brown got his start, he was one of just a handful of brewers in the state. Now, there are more than 500. Even the types of beers that were popular have changed. “Back in ’93, we were making mostly ale styles—pales, porters, stouts,” Brown says. “Hazy IPAs didn’t exist. Now, anything goes. But I still like seeing brewers making lagers and other styles where the simplicity of the recipe reveals the brewer’s talent.”
Thirty years in, Brown’s original brewpub has become a Capital Region destination for its beer, food and waterside location. But Brown didn’t stop there—since 1993, he’s opened a second taproom on the Walloomsac River in North Hoosick, as well as private event spaces Revolution Hall and The Malt Room next to the Troy location. As his business has expanded, so too has Brown’s passion. What started as a love for brewing beer has transformed into more. “I can stand in an undeveloped space for hours dreaming about how to renovate it for our business,” he says. “These old buildings have so much more to offer, and I could spend the rest of my career restoring them.”