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Local artist, utility manager opening craft brewery in Lowville

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LOWVILLE — Local artist Dean T. Richards is moving to a new type of “canvas” — craft beer.

“Beer has such a broad landscape of possibilities,” said Mr. Richards, head brewer and co-owner of BarkEater Craft Brewery, 5411 Shady Ave. “For me, as an artist, this is just a new medium of expression.”

He and co-owner Gerald J. Haenlin plan to open their business — considered a nanobrewery because of its small production scale — on a limited basis, beginning from 3 p.m. until early evening today.

The biggest challenge will be to ensure there is enough product to meet demand, given they are using a small half-barrel production system, Mr. Haenlin said.

“We want to make sure we have a continuous supply on hand,” he said.

Plans are initially to open only one day per week on an irregular schedule, with customers able to check hours of operation through postings on the business’s Facebook page and website — www.barkeaterbrewing.com — or by calling 376-BEER (376-2337).

Once the pair gets “more beer in the pipeline,” the business will have more regular hours, with hopes to expand soon to four days per week, Mr. Haenlin said.

“With 600-plus likes on Facebook, we know there’s interest,” he said.

While Mr. Haenlin plans to continue his day job as community and customer management manager with National Grid, Mr. Richards recently quit his job at Kraft Foods to focus on the new business.

The two are starting out with four taps and intend to feature a few standard flavors — brown ale, pale ale and stout — along with seasonal varieties.

They plan to use local agricultural products like honey and apples and are working on a batch in which all water was replaced with maple sap.

“We have no idea how it’s going to turn out,” Mr. Haenlin said.

Along with beer, the pair plans to also offer finger foods such as Croghan bologna, local cheese products and beef sticks from Ross Farms, which is using the brewery’s leftover grains as feed for its cattle.

“When we’re finished with the grain, it still has a lot of nutritional value to livestock,” Mr. Richards said.

However, they have no plans to compete directly with neighboring eateries, including Jeb’s Restaurant, which is owned by their landlord, Jeremy Kelly.

“We don’t have a commercial kitchen,” Mr. Haenlin said. “We don’t even have a microwave here yet.”

What they do have is a licensed farm brewery, a designation created about a year ago that allows small beer-makers who buy a percentage of their hops and grains in state to sell their own product in tap rooms, rather than having to start a large brew pub or wholesale their beer.

“For us to be profitable being so small, it’s very important that we can serve our own beer,” Mr. Richards said.

However, their plans also include brewing a couple of flavors exclusively for Jeb’s and Tug Hill Vineyards in West Lowville, allowing for cross-promotion with those businesses.

The opening of BarkEater — an English translation of the Mohican word Adirondack — is the culmination of about a year’s worth of renovations, most of which were done by the two owners and their wives, and a nine-month licensing process.

Mr. Richards previously operated Wildroot Bookstore and Wayseekers Studio at 7617 N. State St., with his wife, Shay, until their building was heavily damaged in a February 2011 block fire.

After mulling a brewery operation for some time, he found an interested partner in Mr. Haenlin. They received extensive assistance from Lewis County Economic Development Director Eric J. Virkler and, in particular, late county planner Renee J. Beyer, who was killed about a year ago by a drug-impaired driver.

“She was a major contributing factor,” Mr. Haenlin said, noting that a dark beer flavor has been named “Renee Rye Stout” in her memory.

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