By Christine Graf
After years of planning, Bound by Fate Brewing Taproom opened its doors at 31 Ferry St. in Schuylerville in February 2020.
Just six weeks later, bars and restaurants were restricted to offering takeout only as a result of the COVID shutdown. At the time, the taproom served no food and did not package its beer.
“We had a very small operation and were selling beer by the glass,” said CEO Pam Pradachith-Demler who co-founded the business along with husband, Brett Demler, and his brothers Evan and Ryan Demler.
Evan and Ryan have extensive industry experience but are not involved in day-to-day operations. Brett serves as head brewer and brews the beer in a barn located on the couple’s Schuylerville property.
During the shutdown, the taproom invested in a crowler machine, which enabled them to package their beer in 32-ounce cans. Because of pandemic-related law changes, they were allowed to sell their craft beer on the street outside of the taproom.
“We were hand-filling the beer and selling it on the corner. That’s how we got through those first three months. We did pretty well, and that’s what kept our lights on,” said Pradachith-Demler. “We survived the pandemic because the community of Schuylerville really embraced us and supported us through that time, and the operating overhead of starting a business here is so accessible.”
When the state’s reopening guidelines required strict social distancing guidelines, Bound by Fate’s taproom simply wasn’t large enough.
“We knew that our initial space wasn’t going to cut it and that we weren’t going to make it through,” she said. “Fortunately, the business next door to us was moving.”
After signing the lease on the adjoining space, they expanded their taproom from 840 to 3,000 square feet. A new bar was constructed and the outdoor deck was expanded.
In order to comply with mandates that required bars to serve food, a small menu was created.
“What the pandemic did for us was that it escalated our business plan to year two—the expansion of the taproom and the adding of a full kitchen,” said Pradachith-Demler. “Doing all of that work is what we had to do to survive.”
A graduate of Columbia University with a degree in urban studies and sociology, she and Brett, also a graduate of Columbia, settled in California after they got married. It was while living there that he started brewing beer and managing a home brew shop.
When the couple decided to pursue their dream of opening their own craft brewery, they were drawn to New York in part because of the state’s farm brewing law that was passed in 2012. It was designed to increase demand for locally grown products.
Obtaining a farm brewery license requires beer to be made primarily from locally-sourced ingredients, and Bound by Fate sources at least 60 percent of its ingredients from around the state. Because they have a state farm license, they can also serve arm ciders, wines, and spirits in addition to their craft beers.
After finding a home in Schuylerville—which happens to be where the Demler brothers were born—Pradachith-Demler gave up her career in the nonprofit world to devote herself full-time to opening the brewery while raising three young children. Her daily commute now involves walking one block from their home to their taproom.
In March 2021, Pradachith-Demler’s sister Seng Luangrath was visiting from Washington D.C. She is a chef and offered to do a pop-up restaurant (a temporary restaurant hosted in an existing space) featuring Lao food.
“I was thinking, ‘We’re serving Lao food in Schuylerville. Who’s possibly going to come?” said Pradachith-Demler. “But people came from as far away as Rochester, and we had a line out the door and around the corner every day of the pop-up. She has a very big following.”
Based on the success of the pop-up as well as the Demler’s realization that expanding their limited menu was essential in order for the business to survive, they decided to open Haan Lao at Bound by Fate Brewing. The restaurant specializes in Laotian food and is the only one of its kind in the state outside of New York City.
According to Pradachith-Demler who was born in a refugee camp in Thailand, she was initially hesitant to specialize in Laotian food. Her family is from Laos, and they were among the thousands who were forced to flee the country after their government was overthrown during the Vietnam War era. She was 3 years old when they emigrated to the United States by way of California.
“As a refuge to this country, for me, assimilation was always my coping strategy to transitioning to American life. It was hard for me to imagine that rural America would embrace Laotian food. We barely even knew if they would embrace craft beer. But once we decided that would be the concept, we went full in,” she said.
“Our food is rooted in traditional Laotian cuisine with an American/pub-style brewery approach,” said Pradachith-Demler. “We have fries and wings, but they are spiced with tamarind and fish sauce. Our dishes really run the gamut from traditional to cauliflower with spicy tamarind sauce. The spicy, citrusy, salty flavors of Southeast Asia are present in everything we make.”
Kitchen hours are Tuesday through Friday 4-8 p.m.; Saturday, noon to 8 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. Bar and taproom hours are Wednesday through Friday, 4-9 p.m.; Saturday, noon to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. For more information, visit www.boundbyfatebrewing.com.