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Brews on tap as St. Lawrence Brewing Company prepares distribution

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CANTON — The beer is flowing at the St. Lawrence Brewing Company.

Kegs filled with beer line the floor, each emblazoned with a peace sign and labeled with the company’s logo. Shelves are piled high with sacks of barley and hops. The five-person staff has just finished a busy week of brewing and kegging, in preparation for distribution, which will begin soon.

“This is where the rubber meets the road,” said owner Kenneth M. Hebb.

On Monday the team arrived at 5 a.m. and did not finish the day’s brewing until midnight.

Four towering metal fermenting tanks dominate the brewery. They were created by local metalworkers, and each can hold 930 gallons of beer, enough to fill 30 barrels.

The equipment can produce 35,000 barrels a year. Future expansion is possible, but Mr. Hebb said he wants to wait and see how things go.

The company has spent the last few weeks shifting its focus from construction and the early stages of production to distribution. It’s a tricky transition, according to Mr. Hebb.

The company is in talks with about 50 bars and restaurants around the north country, including places like Saranac Lake and Plattsburgh. The beer will be available in many of these places within the next couple of weeks.

“We’re just trying to get our beer into the hands of anyone who will take it,” said David L. Parker, of Canton. Mr. Parker handles the company’s sales.

The company plans to begin bottling this fall to expand their reach onto grocery store shelves. The brewery will experiment with seasonal recipes, but right now the focus is on the four year-round essentials: a maple porter, a bock, a pilsner and an IPA.

“We knew for our year-long brews, we wanted to stick with the classic styles,” said brewmaster Stephanie M. Russo, who helped develop the recipes.

The brewery will hold a launch celebration and beer tasting at the Parkview, located above Mr. Hebb’s Blackbird Cafe, tonight from 7 to 10 p.m.

“Now that we’re kegging and everything is on tap it’s so good. It feels so rewarding,” Ms. Russo said.

Mr. Hebb has been planning the brewery for almost three years. He sells beer at the Blackbird Cafe, so he knows what drinks are popular in this area.

“We can see every day what kind of beer people are moving,” he said.

The brewery, located at 19 Commerce Lane, also has a tasting room for those who want to get their brews straight from the source. The tasting room will open some time in mid-July, but Mr. Hebb said a date has not been decided yet. The team also plans to have offerings at some of the region’s upcoming festivals.

The company tries to buy locally and brew sustainably when it can, but finding enough of the right ingredients nearby is impossible, Mr. Hebb said.

The problem is one of volume. Brewing enough beer to fill a single fermenting tank takes 1,800 pounds of grain.

Jeffrey Hill, a Canton farmer, plans to grow barley to sell to the brewery, but his first batch was unusable. He will try again, Mr. Hebb said, and the company will continue to strive for a local focus.

“I think it’s good for the community, and a really interesting way of doing things,” he said.

For now, most of the ingredients come from distributors in Champlain and Providence, R.I. Now all the company can do is wait to see what thirsty north country residents think. Mr. Hebb remained cautious, but he said he feels optimistic.

“The batches are good. In theory, this is going to work,” he said.



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