SOUTH GLENS FALLS — Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul gave Common Roots a top grade for its use of a state economic development grant.
“I’m very impressed,” Hochul said. “I’m glad to see you put the money to good use.”
The company, run by father and son, built an automated canning line and an outdoor bulk grain silo to make the brewery more productive.
Previously, Bert Weber and his son, Christian, had to buy milled grain. Now they can mill their own, which is much less expensive, and they store 60,000 pounds of it — about enough for six weeks of brewing.
They also used to pay a Vermont company to can their beer every two weeks. Now they can it themselves.
Hochul came to see whether the state’s $100,000 investment had paid off.
She was delighted.
“This is exactly what I want to see,” she said, adding that she has seen many other small businesses expand with help from the economic development grants.
“I see it all over the state of New York,” she said, adding that the program is designed to find businesses that need a boost to get to the next level.
The program’s goals are to help a business add workers, expand to a new product line or add productivity. She was pleased that Common Roots is hitting all three. The company also put another $400,000 into the expansion.
“You’ve already demonstrated your success. This took it a little bit higher,” she said. “I’m going to leave here saying this is an overwhelming success.”
She toured the brewery with Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake. Both tasted an American wild ale, Foraged Fruit, and said it was delicious. But Hochul was also impressed by another beer she saw.
“Ooh, coffee cup,” she said, picking out one of the brewery’s popular beers.
She was very familiar with what breweries could do, telling the owners, “This isn’t my first brewery.”
But she was surprised by one rare item: a special room father and son had built with a simple metal trough in the middle.
They fill it with beer and let it cool overnight, then pour it into barrels.
Only 30 breweries in the United States make beer this way, Christian Weber said. He is the brewery’s head brewer.
“This is so impressive,” Hochul said, adding that the brewery has created “a sense of character” with its more inventive brews.
Those uncommon beers don’t sell as well as the popular IPAs, but Weber loves to make them and finds enough customers to make it worthwhile.
Before Hochul arrived, Weber said he also actually enjoyed the grant process. Among other rules, it required him to spend 30 percent of the money on businesses primarily owned by women or minorities. They ended up spending more than 40 percent of the money on businesses in that category.
“We found people we really liked, and we’ll probably keep doing business with them,” he said, adding, “We thought it was a successful process. I’m hoping I’ll get the chance to tell her that.”
He did indeed get the chance to chat with her — over glasses of beer. Hochul ended up staying twice as long as her itinerary had allowed.