"A conversation I recently had with a brewer at Troegs Brewing Company affirmed
that if you take the recipe for any beer, drive sixty miles out of the way, and brew that
exact same recipe, it will taste totally different just because of the water chemistry.
—Derek, of Bear Flavored Ales
Featuring . . .
|The North Country, like the Deep South, has no clear political or
geographical boundaries. It is a region shaped by a combination of characters
distinct to the landscape that define the North Country's quintessence. As
steamy baldcypress swamps, tupelo honey, and cotton fields are emblematic
of the Deep South, clear, cold, crystalline skies, stony cow pastures, and
sugar bushes define the genius loci of the North Country. It
is a harsh and rugged territory, characterized by North Country
native Frederick Exley, in his award-winning novel A Fan's Notes
as "very northern or Russian—almost steppelike."
Cold is perhaps the North Country's most defining characteristic. On a still, clear January morning the air is paralyzing. Under a mass of arctic air descended from the North Pole, snow crinkles underfoot, trees burst open with rifle-cracks, and frozen-over rivers moan and creak with the settling of ice. Such temperature extremes are the subject of lively discussions in North Country gathering places, the laws of thermodynamics no obstacles in these battles of one-upmanship over the superlatives of frigidity.
Just where is the North Country? My idea of the North Country is an area of New York State bounded on its south by the snow belt just north of Syracuse, on its west the St. Lawrence river, on its east Vermont, and on its north Canada. Others have their own ideas. The North Country according to native Howard Frank Mosher, in his book North Country—A Personal Journey, is about a 100-mile wide band of land bordering Canada stretching from Maine clear across to Washington. Mosher characterizes this band as "an immense, off-the-beaten-track sector of America inhabited by remarkably versatile, resilient, and, most of all, independent-minded people, most of whom are still intimately in touch with the land they live on." New York City residents, who don't know a deer from a cow, consider any territory north of the Cross-Bronx Expressway as the North Country, while out-of-staters simply peg the North Country as "Canada."
Now in Syracuse, I was born and raised in the North Country, in St. Lawrence County. I've alway thought that many upstaters, under the long shadow of New York City, felt a need to justify living in the northern hinterland. But North Country life needs no justification. The spector of vacation homes, resorts, and retirement homes mushrooming the region illustrates how prized the North Country's rural setting really is. But as vacationers and retirees have come north for its lazy pace and its idyllic character, many North Country natives, in the face of a withering economy, have been forced to uproot and move south in search of work. It is a reluctant and wistful departure; North Country roots grow deep and are difficult to pull up.
Indeed, it is pure, raw, undeveloped beauty that draws me to the North Country. Someone once said that if America had been settled from West towards the East, the New England landscape would still today be as remote and unsettled as the far reaches of Labrador. Long, unforgiving winters, hardscrabble soils, and a depressed economy have hewn the tough, fiercely independent spirit of those who endure the hardships and austerity of North Country life. Penetrating the north country personna is like trying to crack the nut of the hardy black walnut tree. You have to penetrate the hard, coarse, protective shell in order to access its rich, textured kernel within. One can, of course, interpret my comparison of upstaters to nuts in other ways.
The photos that follow are of many of my friends and acquaintances in the North Country. Many of them, especially those in the bar room photo galleries, appear to be having a good time because they've been drinking some John Barleycorn. When the photos were taken, a long, hard winter had finally passed, the air was redolent of spring, and folks were in a celebratory mood. During the three hour drive north from the city, I reflected on a passage from Frederick Exley's A Fan's notes, in which the tortured, drunken genius pondered his beloved North Country on a train ride home after an extended drinking spree: "I began to experience the oddly comforting sensation of ascending to the very top of the world, of rising to some place apart from the fitful concerns and harsh sorrows of men, to a glacial and opaline haven where a man, having been hard-used by the world or having used himself hard, might go and ask himself where things had gone wrong."
The Great Vowel Shift
The North Country plays host to 23 prisons, and are home
to about 71,000 inmates. Here's what they're doing time for:
Source: Jerry Jenkins, The Adirondack Atlas
The Adirondack Regional Tourism Council's snowmobile map notes
that the state's tourism agency "does not support riding snowmobiles and
drinking alcohol." The map lists several places to eat, among them:
Ga-Ga's Bar & Grill
Lisa G's Ear, Drink and Play
King Neptune's Pub
Vrooman's Bar and Restaurant
Captain Carl's Sunset Grill
Tiffany's Bar at Goldberries Restaurant
Trailside Restaurant and Bar
—Adirondack Explorer Magazine,