Even in the bitter winter, nothing goes better with a cold beer than some salty, spicy pub fare. “Tell me about it,” says Colin Quinn, co-founder and co-owner of the Saratoga-based Artisanal Brew Works (ABW). A school teacher at Saratoga High by day, the bearded Quinn looks more the part of a beer-brewer, and took his passion pro in 2015 by starting ABW with Kurt Borchardt. Now he’s excited about adding a permanent in-house food menu. “This is the very first time in our seven-year history that we have our own kitchen,” says Quinn, who began home-brewing in his 20s. “To be able to pair beers with food items is something that Kurt and I have been talking about for a long time.”
To complete that barroom snacking dream, Quinn and Borchardt tapped culinary whiz Jason Emerson, who grew up in Saratoga and got his first taste of the food scene in high school. “I started out as a dishwasher at the Mexican Connection and worked my way up,” he says. Since then, Emerson has worked for some of the toniest restaurants and resorts in the area: Saratoga National, The Sagamore and The Equinox across the Vermont border in Manchester. He spent the previous six years as a sous chef at the Spa City’s famed artist retreat, Yaddo.
“We’re going to rotate some comfy taproom favorites,” Emerson says. “Beer cheese, pizza, panini, and Michigan dogs with chips.” His current favorite item? A marinated mix of sautéed Greek and Spanish olives, tapas style, with Calabrian chilis and garlic. “It pairs very well with our Intermezzo Italian Pilsner,” he says. “The beer complements the spiciness, saltiness and herbaceousness of the marinated olives.” For dessert, he created a chocolate mouse with ABW’s own popular peanut butter stout and plans to add a frosty sorbet utilizing the brewery’s own fruited sours to the menu.
The new kitchen soft-opened on December 17 with a small but scrumptious selection. Since then, the pair of beer-makers has rolled out a full menu, and they’re hoping to toast to a full-fledged ABW restaurant one day. “Unfortunately the slow economy has delayed our 180-person restaurant space,” says Borchardt. “For now, we pivoted to having a smaller kitchen with a focus on making super high-quality food. Our focus is on becoming a destination brewery.”
The duo’s beverages have been so successful that Quinn even gets recognized at work. He says, “I get questions from my students like, ‘When can I come in and have a beer, Mr. Quinn?’ I tell them: ‘When you’re 21.’”
For now, a bite to eat will have to do.