LAKE GEORGE -- It's an exciting time to be a craft brewer, according to John Carr.
The owner of Adirondack Pub & Brewery in Lake George is overseeing a major expansion of his brewing facilities and is hosting a festival Saturday with special edition barrel-aged beers.
Meanwhile, the craft brewing industry is experiencing rapid growth.
According to Carr, consumers are increasingly turning to local brewers for flavorful options and locally produced products.
"Consumers right now really are recognizing quality, despite the marketing efforts of mass-produced beers," he said.
At his pub and brewery on Canada Street, Carr is making a major investment to keep up with demand.
The business is in the process of building a 4,000-square-foot addition behind the restaurant. It's four times the size of the current brewing area and will be home to new brewing tanks and a bottling operation.
The $500,000 investment will dramatically increase the company's brewing capacity. And it could boost full-time jobs from six to 14.
Adirondack Brewery will be able to make 8,000 to 10,000 barrels a year, a far cry from the 2,000 barrels it brewed in 2011 or the 700 the year before that. Each barrel contains 31 gallons.
About 15 new brewing tanks will also allow more types of beer to be made at once, and more time for each to age.
A bottle processing area will relocate from a small facility a mile down the road to the second floor of the addition. Carr said he's looking forward to consolidating operations under one roof.
"I had it in my head for about 10 years," he said of the expansion.
The pub and brewery opened on Canada Street 13 years ago, but Carr was a craft brewer long before then. He said he's seen the industry go through cycles, but the recent surge has been more pronounced.
According to the Brewers Association, a national trade group, craft beer sales have climbed as overall U.S. beer sales have declined.
As of November, there were almost 1,930 breweries in operation, up from 1,750 breweries in 2010 and the highest total since the late 1800s.
"Craft brewers continue to innovate and brew beers of excellent quality," said Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association. "America's beer drinkers are rapidly switching to craft because of the variety of flavors they are discovering. And they are connecting with small and independent craft brewers as companies they choose to support."
At any given time, Adirondack Pub & Brewery may have a coffee stout, black lager, Scotch ale or wheat beer on tap.
On Saturday at the Festival of Barrels, Adirondack Brewery will debut six barrel-aged beers, including a double dry-hopped IPA and a cocoa smoked porter.
Adirondack Brewery isn't the only business capitalizing on craft brew's popularity these days, though.
Two Saratoga Springs tourism groups have partnered to organize a weekend festival for beer enthusiasts in the city next month called Saratoga Beer Week.
And Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., called attention to the industry in December by announcing an "I Love NY Brews" campaign.
Schumer asked the New York State Restaurant Association to encourage its membership to offer local beer; he also reached out to the National Association of Convenience Stores and Fuel Retailing about putting more local options on store shelves.
"Our local breweries provide good-paying jobs and help draw tourists and visitors to the Empire State," Schumer said. He cited 77 craft breweries across the state, including 11 in the Capital Region and North Country, that support 60,000 jobs; another 40 New York breweries are in the planning stages.
Looking forward, Carr hopes to grow Adirondack Brewery's footprint up toward Plattsburgh and south to New York City. Its beers are currently in 350 restaurants and stores from Albany to Warren counties - a number that has grown since partnering with DeCrescente Distributing in Mechanicville.
While it will take years for the brewery to take advantage of the new facility's full potential, Carr said he is thinking long-term with the expansion.
"This is going to be here for a long time," he said of the business.