Christian Weber with his wife and son

“It’s important for students to see that there’s a lot you can do at a young age, and just because you went to school for one thing doesn’t mean you can’t do other things.”

—Christian Weber ’09

Christian Weber ’09, ’13G Stays True to PSU Values
Common Roots Brewing Company in South Glens Falls, NY, is a phenomenal success story in many ways, with a much-admired product, family teamwork, and community commitment its touchstones. It’s emblematic of an alumnus staying true to the values that were sharpened and validated at Plymouth State University.

“Our goal is to be woven into the patchwork of this community,” says Co-Owner and President Christian Weber ’09, ’13G. “One thing that Plymouth really instilled in me is the importance of community.”

Christian and his dad, Bert, a retired teacher, co-founded Common Roots in 2014. They rehabbed an old building and learned to build and fix complex brewing systems, producing 500 barrels of beer in their first year.

Production now surpasses 8,500 barrels and a new facility will push the total toward 10,000 next year. It’s a testament to clearing many steep hurdles, as Common Roots was put to the test in 2019 when an accidental fire devastated its original brewery. The firm prioritized paying staff while it rebuilt, and strong support locally and within the brewing industry helped keep the company afloat. Weber is all about paying it back.

One way is through the Common Roots Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit whose logo sports a phoenix honoring the company’s fiery rebirth. It has helped foster independence and work skills in disabled adults, organized river clean ups, and supported a youth center food program, among other initiatives.

In the highly competitive world of craft beers, Common Roots wins praise from Beer Advocate, the New York Times, and Thrillist, but the firm’s bottom line involves more than recognition and financial progress. “It’s just as important to us to be a community-focused business, and we’re extremely cognizant of the amount of resources that we use,” says Weber. The firm is located on the Hudson River and supports its protection. It also prioritizes sourcing supplies locally as much as possible, partners with area colleges to offer brewing certificates, and conducts an annual fundraiser for a local high school.

The life of fast-paced beer entrepreneur was not what Weber anticipated when he went to college. “One of the reasons I chose Plymouth State was its proximity to outdoor resources like rock climbing and skiing, and the iconic New England setting,” he says. “What kept me in school were the people who kept me excited about learning, and who got me engaged in what you can do.”

Weber credits his First-Year Seminar leaders, Professor Emeritus Katherine Donahue and Professor and Director of the Office of Environmental Sustainability Brian Eisenhauer, with the initial shaping of his undergraduate experience. After completing his bachelor’s in interdisciplinary studies in 2009 he went on, with Eisenhauer’s continued mentorship, to earn a master’s in environmental science and policy in 2013.

“Brian saw potential in me and definitely challenged me with my master’s research and working on community projects,” says Weber, who served as executive director of the Lake Placid Land Conservancy before launching Common Roots. “My background in the environmental program definitely translates to what we do in our business.”

Weber loves returning to campus. “It’s important for students to see that there’s a lot you can do at a young age, and just because you went to school for one thing doesn’t mean you can’t do other things.” He praises PSU’s Integrated Clusters emphasis on interdisciplinary collaborations. “At Common Roots, everyone has experience that lends to the greater purpose. You need those social skills to work with others.”

In true family fashion, Weber’s mother does the books and his sisters and brothers-in-law help as volunteers. His wife, Melanie, is chief executive officer of Fronhofer Design, a Glens Falls family firm that specializes in fabricating brew house equipment, including the tanks used at Common Roots.

In recognition of the mentors at PSU that inspire, guide, and shape the lives of so many students, the Christian ’09, ’13G and Melanie Weber Sustainability Scholarship was established earlier this year. The scholarship provides deserving PSU undergraduates with opportunities to heighten their understanding of environmental science, sustainability, or human dimensions of natural resource management.

Weber received an alumni association award last year in recognition of his good works and was proud to host a PSU gathering at the brewery. He spreads the word about PSU wherever his burgeoning business takes him. “I talk about Plymouth State often—I can’t say enough good things about my experience. It set me on a path and allowed me to challenge myself to see how much I can accomplish. I’m always excited when I hear a parent or kid say that they’re going to Plymouth State.” ■ Peter Lee Miller