While Adam Elbrecht is a new brewer, fresh from Schenectady County Community College’s Craft Beer Program, he works in a very old establishment.
Schenectady’s Van Dyck Lounge was established in 1947, and was a place where some of the most legendary names in jazz performed, including Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk. The Lounge, like Schenectady in general, experienced a revitalization when it was bought and reopened under the ownership of the McDonald family in 2009. Two years later, the McDonald’s reopened the defunct brewery onsite, naming it after an uncle in the family.
Today, Mad Jack Brewing Company regularly serves eight to ten craft beers on tap, made on the premises, and has a loyal following in Schenectady.
“Being a brewpub and selling most of our beer on-site where we make it, being able to get that feedback from customers really makes it their beer. It’s cool to be that closely connected to those who are drinking your product,” Elbrecht tells The Alt. He has only been working for the McDonald’s since October, but already has a strong feel for the process and a passion for what he does. “It’s nice to be able to punch out and sit next to the people who are enjoying your product.”
Mad Jack has strong Schenectady roots, which is reflected in the naming of the beers. (“Bellevue Blonde”, “Union Street Irish Red”, “Electric Hefe” — sense a theme, here?) And those roots are only deepening, as Mad Jack Brewery is working to expand its presence in the newest entertainment venture in Schenectady — the Rivers Casino.
“Fightin’ Irwin IPA and the Rivers Rye Pale Ale are available on the floor, you can drink them while gambling,” says Elbrecht, who says that Mad Jack has “been making a ton to keep the casino happy.”
As for the most interesting beer Elbrecht has made so far? “The Washed Out Belgian White. The customers have been asking for a Belgian style white beer, which we started doing at their request. We’ve been having fun, playing around with that recipe, very much making it our own, playing around with the different fruit peels that go into it — figuring out how much of each and when we’re putting them into the fermentation process. It’s definitely the most exciting recipe.”
Elbrecht knows that, being a brewpub and a jazz lounge most of his customers are at the Van Dyke for food and music — but he considers it his mission to bring the craft beer to the forefront of the dining experience as well. “The beer is our primary focus at Mad Jack, so we want to make it a great experience for our customers!”