Big Birds. And Interesting Beers.*
Brodi’s was a bar and restaurant in Plattsburgh, New York, closed now for many years. That in fact was the spelling, not the more common form of Brodie or Brody.
Benefitting from digitized newspaper and other research, I’ve pieced together its history, as best I can. First, why write about Brodi’s? I grew up in Montreal, about 70 miles to the north over the international border. When I was in college, on some weekends we drove down to Brodi’s to hear music and drink some beer. Brodi’s was known for live music. Even the recorded music was great as it was a golden era for rock and roll. You couldn’t miss.
At the 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 Brown’s, say at McDonald’s in Plattsburgh.
The actual time at Brodi’s may have been just an hour, or ninety minutes. We didn’t have McDonald’s in Quebec at the time, so we often stopped at the Plattsburgh location 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, then go past the Air Force barracks on South Peru Street. Brodi’s was on McKinley Street, an area that today is fully urbanized but then was sparse in buildings and amenities.
Brodi’s was a hangout for airmen from 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 used to go to Brodi’s with Charles, a Montreal friend who now lives in Las Vegas. He knew about the place and told me about it. This was between 1970 and 1973. After I got married I don’t think I went again, maybe just once or twice. My wife and I still drove to Plattsburgh, but for the day, to shop and to try different restaurants. There was a Mexican eatery on South Peru, whose chili-dusted corn cobs I still remember. And a Lum’s in town, too.
My early interest in beer was, I think, kindled at Brodi’s. The reason simply was the different brands there – Genesee, Piel’s, Utica Club, Ballantine, Schaefer, Budweiser, Pabst – compared to what we had in Montreal. The curved neon beer signs made an impression, as well.
I can’t recall drinking dark beer at Brodi’s, but even regular lager or ale seemed noticeably different to Canadian beer. Unlike today when similar mass market brands are available everywhere, each region had its own brands. To some degree, they had their own character.
Eastern Canada as a whole then had a different style of beer to anything in the U.S. An early beer writer, Michael Weiner, in the 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, and Labatt India Pale Ale typified this type. One always wants the new, the different, so I tried the beers at Brodi’s and liked them, just for being different, I think. I recall Schaefer being particularly good with a lingering bitterness.
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. Later, an addition was built for dancing, which became the nucleus of the club.
According to this 1975 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, the Tremblays sold it in 1973, so the period I recall was under the brothers’ ownership. It makes sense as the music was particularly good and it must have been their house band 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 those skits, and would have known the ads since Plattsburgh TV was viewable in Montreal via aerial antennas and Rediffusion, an early form of cable.
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 the geography of Plattsburgh and how we travelled down from Montreal. Plattsburgh is between broad Lake Champlain (Vermont on the other side) and Interstate #87, which wended to our destination. The big Forces airfield is still visible in the centre, 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.
*Lightly edited March 2021 for stylistic adjustments.