Lions

Hops and Hopes for Pam Pradachith-Demler ’04

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On Valentine’s Day 2020, Pam Pradachith-Demler ’04 and her husband, Brett Demler (who entered the College with the Class of 2002), opened the doors to Bound by Fate Brewing, the first brewery in the small upstate town of Schuylerville, N.Y. (pop. 1,408). Less than a month later, the pandemic shuttered the doors of their historic 1860s building: “We had a choice to make,” says Pradachith-Demler. “Get really angry, or keep smiling and pivot.”

They chose to pivot. The brewery was originally opened to serve the beer that Demler creates in the couple’s barn (Pradachith-Demler is CEO of Bound by Fate’s operations while Demler is head brewer; Demler’s brothers, Evan and Ryan, also helped with the founding and opening). When Covid-19 hit, they borrowed a crowler (a 32-ounce aluminum can) machine and started canning their beers; they were later gifted one of their own to help them keep up with sales. “We just set up a ‘ye olde lemonade stand’ outside the taproom and sold cans of beer as people drove by during the three months of shutdown to keep our lights on,” Pradachith-Demler says.

But that three months turned into more than just keeping the lights on. The couple realized that the world was changing, and the tiny taproom they had dreamed of needed to change, too. They used the lockdown time to expand Bound by Fate’s interior so they could meet social distancing guidelines, tripling the brewery’s indoor seating capacity by expanding into the building next door and adding a back deck.

When restrictions lifted, they started serving bar snacks alongside beer in the newly expanded space. But the Laotian-American Pradachith-Demler wanted more, and decided to bring some of her Southeast Asian culture to Schuylerville. Her sister, Seng Luangrath, a two-time James Beard Award nominee, visited from Washington, D.C., in March 2021 and hosted a weekend pop-up in the brewery serving Laotian food; there were lines out the door. Seeing the community’s interest, Pradachith-Demler and Demler built a kitchen and hired a chef. The brewery’s restaurant, Haan Lao, opened a year later to rave reviews in the local news and has been drawing crowds ever since as New York State’s only Laotian restaurant outside of New York City.

Pradachith-Demler was born in a refugee camp and grew up in Berkeley, Calif. She and Demler met at a play in Brooklyn through mutual College friends and shared an instant connection; they moved to the West Coast in 2009 but felt called back to New York. In 2016, they stumbled upon the perfect house for their growing family (they now have three young children) in Demler’s hometown of Schuylerville. The couple kept an eye out for a place where they could open a taproom and, in 2019, found a spot just blocks from their house.

As part of the licensed New York Farm Brewery program, Bound by Fate uses local hops and other grown-in-New York State produce in all of its products (like the raspberries in Pradachith-Demler’s favorite beer, the TART’LiT sour ale). In exchange for supporting the area’s agriculture and farming infrastructure, they are given licenses to sell other New York State products, creating a supportive, symbiotic relationship with local farmers and businesses. “The New York State legislation was the reason we came back here to open the brewery; we really believe in it as a policy stance,” she says. “It provided a great opportunity for craft beer.”

Pradachith-Demler laughs when asked what’s next, saying they’ve plowed through their five-year plan in their first two years. But the couple has no plans to slow down; they used pandemic relief funds to invest in a larger brewing system made by a local steel company. Once installed, it will dramatically increase their capacity. “It’s about welcoming people into our family,” Pradachith-Demler says of their success. “We’re brewing the beer that we like to drink and serving the food that we like to eat in a space that’s like our living room.”