by Christopher Matthews
We all know that size matters, and that bigger isn’t always better. This is especially true with breweries and beer. A local case in point is Chatham Brewing, located in a back alley off Main Street in the Village of Chatham, NY. Don’t call it a microbrewery – it’s not big enough – rather, it’s a four year-old “nano-brewery”, diminutive by design, that turns out a proportionately large selection of flavorful, artisanal ales.
Home brewing enthusiasts who both worked in bona fide breweries in their twenties, CB owners Tom Crowell and Jake Cunningham, now in their mid-forties, met via their wives and kids in the Chatham area. (A third original partner, Chris Ferrone, is no longer associated). While they both longed to brew on a more professional scale, serious day jobs and family obligations presented major constraints. They had also observed the micro-brew craze in the mid-to-late 1990s—and the ensuing shakeout—and wanted to avoid similar miscalculation. So, to proceed, they needed to find a smaller scale brewing system, and to start out modestly, in test market fashion.
Fortune soon smiled on them. Through their home-brewing network, they heard of a bankrupt brew pub in Albany selling off its brewing assets. The system’s capacity—and price—fit the plan. So, with lots of local good will, including professional help to haul the brewing system from Albany, and to establish the refrigeration system in the back alley location, Chatham Brewing hung out its shingle in February 2007. “It’s amazing what people will do for beer,” said Crowell.