Homebrew club members planning to open brewery in Canton

·4 min read

Sep. 20—CANTON — The nearest brewery to Canton is nearly 15 miles out of town. That's unacceptable to Joseph Erlichman and a few of his beer-nerd buddies, who plan to open Bent Beam Brewing at 41 W. Main St. in July 2023.

Mr. Erlichman, a biology professor at St. Lawrence University, has honed the science of brewing for decades. He started making beer with a kit back in grad school, and now teaches a brewing class at the Canton university.

"Everybody starts out the same way; they get a kit," he said. "I first got a kit in grad school, and I started brewing a lot of beer. But I've always brewed something. For a long time it was a lot of hard cider."

He likes brewing because he likes beer, and making it is a science. "It's just not exactly like the science I usually do," he said.

For him, it's a form of art as well as a food group — one he defends against what he sees as narrow-minded prejudice.

"Anyone who says they don't like beer just hasn't had the right one," he said.

Mr. Erlichman also runs the Canton Brewers Club, for home brewers to get together to taste each other's creations.

"It's a homebrew club where we share beer, but mostly Joe's beer, because his is the best," said Gary S. Hammond, who will serve as chief financial officer of the brewery.

Both the club and the class helped Mr. Erlichman gain a sense of the local palate, as well as a customer base.

"He'd let people try beer at the club, and they'd give it to their friends, and then their friends would give it to their friends, and all of a sudden he had a following," Mr. Hammond said.

"The class was just a different demographic," Mr. Erlichman added. "I had to know what the average 21-year-old wanted because they're also going to be part of my market base."

The brewery will have beers that appeal to all preferences, but don't expect to see Bud Lights or anything that could be mistaken for lake water.

"The main focus is that it's really, really good beer," Mr. Erlichman said.

He's particularly obsessed with New England style IPAs, and making ones that stand out even in a market flooded with them.

"I don't want to be good," he said. "I want to be the best."

"We'll also have some entry-level beers like Belgian French farmhouses and blondes. Later on we'll have some lagers, too," he said.

Mr. Erlichman and Mr. Hammond expect to offer four to six mainstay beers, and then rotate more creative ones in the menu, for a total of eight to 12 beers at a time.

"They're all going to be really well crafted, that's the priority," Mr. Erlichman said.

It's almost a requirement that good drinks be accompanied with good food, so they plan to evolve into a gastropub serving elevated fare.

"We started out looking at a lease model for only brewing beer, but Canton is void of food options, and it pairs very well with the drinks," Mr. Hammond said.

The food, he said, will be fresh, seasonal, and farm-to-table, with rotating options. It will be comfort food at its finest. "There isn't going to be a chicken wing or pizza in sight," Mr. Erlichman joked.

The plan, they said, is to start serving beer by July, and have the restaurant operational sometime in 2024.

In the meantime, they're renovating the century-old barn that will become the brewery. The name, Bent Beam Brewing, refers to bents in the architecture that give the barn its open space.

The goal is to make it a "welcoming place where people can have conversations, play games outside, and listen to acoustic music," Mr. Hammond said.

Everyone is welcome, but they're catering to a demographic of people who aren't exactly interested in fraternizing at college bars.

"The Cascade was sort of the haven for local college faculty, staff, and craft beer enthusiasts, and our brewery will try to replicate that environment on a bigger scale," Mr. Erlichman said.

The Cascade Diner and Motel, 4 W. Main St., had operated since the 1950s before it closed in December.

"It will serve a purpose that I don't see any other place in Canton doing right now," Mr. Erlichman said.

Canton's lack of dining options persuaded them to do the brewery in the village.

"We wanted to do it here because this place needs something," he said. "I mean, we're the county seat and we don't have anything cool."

Mr. Hammond agreed.

"We know we're going to have excellent beer, and we're going to do what we can to bring something new to Canton that I think it really wants and needs — and not just Canton, but the whole surrounding area," he said.