Big Birds and not big, but Interesting, Beers
I mentioned on Twitter yesterday a long-closed bar and restaurant in Plattsburgh, New York called Brodi’s. That was in fact the spelling, not the more common form of Brodie or Brody.
Benefitting from digitized newspaper and other resources I’ve pieced together its history pretty well. First though, why write about Brodi’s? I grew up in Montreal, about 70 miles the north of Plattsburgh over the international border. On some weekends we drove down to Brodi’s to see the bands and drink a beer, as Brodi’s was known for live music. Even their recorded playlist was great as it was a golden era for rock and roll. You couldn’t miss.
At that time, traffic was much lighter than now, we did the trip in about an hour and half allowing for the border – usually just a wave-through. We might leave at 6:30 pm., spend a couple of hours in Plattsburgh, and be back by midnight. We would eat something first, or after say at Plattsburgh’s McDonald’s, so actual time at Brodi’s may have been just an hour, or ninety minutes. We didn’t have McDonald’s in Quebec then, so we often stopped at the Golden Arches after leaving the bar.
I still remember that first taste of pink mayonnaise from the Big Mac.
To get to Brodi’s from the centre of Plattsburgh you had to drive over a bridge, past the Air Force barracks on South Peru Street. Brodi’s was on McKinley Street, an area today is fully urbanized but then quite sparse in buildings and amenities.
Brodi’s was a hangout for airmen of Plattsburgh Air Force Base, a Strategic Air Command base for the “big birds”. Of course the war was on and there was a lot of activity in Plattsburgh.
I recall driving to Plattsburgh to go to Brodi’s only with Charles, a Montreal friend who now lives in Las Vegas. He knew about it and told me. This was between 1970 and 1973. After I got married I don’t think I went there again, maybe once or twice. We still made the drive to Plattsburgh, but usually during the day to shop and to try different restaurants. That Mexican place on South Peru, say, with its child-dusted corn cobs.
My early interest in beer was definitely kindled at Brodi’s. The reason simply was the different beer range there – beers like Genesee, Piel’s, Utica Club, Ballantine, Schaefer, Budweiser, Pabst, was different than in Montreal. The glowing curved signs made an impression as well.
I can’t recall drinking a dark beer at Brodi’s, but even regular lager and ale seemed noticeably different to Canadian beers. Unlike today when similar-tasting mass market brands are available everywhere, each region had its own brands. Eastern Canada as a whole had a different style of beer than lager or even ale in the U.S. In fact, an early beer writer, Michael Weiner, in his 1978 Taster’s Guide to Beer, wrote that “Canadian sparkling ale” was a distinctive type, worthy of notice.
Brands like Molson Export Ale, Labatt 50, O’Keefe Ale, Labatt India Pale Ale, and Molson Stock Ale. But one always wants the new, the different, so I tried the different beers at Brodi’s and liked them for that reason alone. Schaefer was particularly good with a lingering bitterness in the throat.
Brodi’s was originally owned by Mike and Beatrice Brodi, now deceased. It started as a ranch-style bar and steakhouse, outside the centre of Plattsburgh, and later built an addition for dancing, which became the nucleus of the club.
According to this 1975 news report in the North Countryman of Elizabethtown, NY the founders sold Brodi’s in 1969 to two brothers in a band, Deane and Dale Tremblay. In turn they sold it in 1973, so the time I recall at Brodi’s was under the brothers’ rule. It makes sense as the music was particularly good and clearly it is their house band that I recall.
Here is something I have no recollection of, but in retrospect may have helped stimulate my interest in beer history. The North Countryman stated that Dale Tremblay liked Genesee Beer and,
While playing at Brodi’s, [Dale] and bass player Spencer Bosworth (also a staunch Genesee man) would often do important spoofs of the Genny ads.
I must have seen their skits, and would have known of the ads since Plattsburgh TV shows could be seen in Montreal with aerial antennas and Rediffusion, an early cable TV.
It was a way of looking at beer differently, anyway. It’s funny the things you remember after 50 years.
On Google Maps you can see well the geography of Plattsburgh well and how we travelled down from Montreal. Plattsburgh is between broad Lake Champlain (Vermont on the other side) and Interstate #87, which wended down to our destination. The big airfield still shown in the centre was the U.S. Air Force’s, and is now Plattsburgh International Airport.
Where Brodi’s was is now a dance school. As far as I can tell, the buildings are original.
For a second part to this post, see here.
Note re image: the image above is from the April 25, 1970 issue of the Press-Republican in Plattsburgh, NY, sourced via Fulton Newspapers, see here. All intellectual property therein belongs to solely to its lawful owners, as applicable, and is used for educational and historical purposes. All feedback welcomed.