Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Tecnico Rudo Tecnico Rudo Introduction Non-Flash version of the podcast Tecnico Rudo Interview with Pedro Non-Flash version of the podcast

Pedro Escobar was born the poor son of Mexican salt miners... Wait -- no! That's not right! Though it does make for a great back-story for his Lucha Libre Mexican wrestling character, El Tecnico Rudo!
El Tecnico Rudo takes on a challenger!
Pedro is a first generation Mexican American who learned the skills of maintaining and repairing large mechanical equipment from his dad, who emigrated from Puebla, Mexico as a teenager along with Pedro's mom, and is part of that mythical American Dream -- immigrants coming to America for a better life, and to help build a better America.
Pedro Escobar in Clark Kent mode.
It was while working with his dad, said to be one of the most respected vineyard and brewery technical engineers in America, that the Brooklyn Brewery and Pedro were first introduced. This would eventually lead to Pedro taking on the role of the brewery's head Maintenance Engineer, responsible for keeping all things mechanical in good working order, ensuring the uninterrupted flow of the finest beer from North 11th St. in Williamsburg.

Bob, Willy, and Pedro.
Though his first experiences with beer didn't much stir him, Pedro's concept of beer was dramatically challenged when he tasted a Stone Arrogant Bastard for the first time. That impression was tattooed on his tastebuds, and it served as the inspiration for his own brew for the Brooklyn Brewery's Worshipful Company of Brewers series -- the 7% ABV Tecnico Rudo American Strong Ale.

The Worshipful Company of Brewers program at the Brooklyn Brewery affords all manner of the brewery staff -- not just the brewers -- an opportunity to create a recipe entirely of their own choosing and brew it in the large 20 barrel commercial brewhouse. Pedro's brew was originally planned for the wintertime, but it got pushed back into the warm months, where his domineering 7.3% hoppy American Ale would either slake your mid-summer thirst, or at least make you forget about the heat and humidity entirely!

Tecnico Rudo.
The beer has a simple enough malt bill, primarily 2-row pale malt augmented by Special B and Aromatic malts. Even with a whopping 7.3% ABV there is plenty of malt sweetness left over to offer a rich body and to try to balance the enormous hop character and aggressive bitterness, provided by Chinook and Citra hops. This one may only be available at the Brooklyn Brewery tasting room, so make plans to wrestle this one down while you can!

Brewmaster Garrett introduces Pedro.
The stage is set for El luchador de cerveza.

Pedro's family.

Pedro and Purple Rage.

Garrett, Eric Brown, and Pedro.
"It's not my birthday!"

Friday, June 24, 2016

Paloma Rocket

Co-owner Graham, center, surrounded by beer reps.
Shane from Sly Fox on the right. Paloma Rocket Non-Flash version of the podcast

At first blush, "self service beer bar" sounds like a cheeky gimmick, and we weren't sure what to expect when we visited the Lower East Side's Paloma Rocket, located at 7 Clinton Street, just below Houston. Opening recently with 30 taps pouring a respectable list of craft beers, all but four domestic and with heavy representation of NY State breweries, was this just a clever way to stand out from the other craft beer joints dotting the downtown bar scene?

Maybe... but maybe not. Let's first explain what it's all about and how it works before further contemplation on the subject.

Paloma Rocket could be the name of sultry, kick-ass "Bond Girl".
Stay at the bar long enough and you may have a very Mary Goodnight!

First off, in order to get the beer flowing, you'll need an RFID card -- you get that at the horseshoe shaped bar to the right as you enter Paloma Rocket. You can put whatever dollar amount that you like onto the credit card sized plastic card -- $20 seems to be the average. Each of the 30 taps that line the back wall has a display screen with information about the beer that pours from that tap: brewery name and logo, some info on the brewery, perhaps, name and style of the beer, a brief description of the beer. You can scroll down the touch screen and see the ABV, for example. There is a place above the tap to set your "beer card" to active the tap.

B.R., aka Beer Rocket, can pour her own beer, thank you very much!

When you place the card above the tap, the video screen displays the value/balance on your card and the price per ounce of that particular beer. Prices range from 50-cents to $1.50 an ounce, and can be as high as $4 per ounce for a rare, high-ABV, exclusive brew. Next you select one of many styles of glassware stored on a shelf above the taps, give it a rinse with the upward-spraying rinsers set into the drip tray below, and you're ready to pour your own beer!

Don't forget to tip yourself!

As you pour, you see the ounces tick up (similar to a gas pump or fro-yo display) and your card balance tick down as the beer flows into your glass. You can pour as much or as little as you prefer from any tap. Want to get a one-ounce taste of an unfamiliar beer before deciding to go for a full pour? Done, and done! And if you're not sure how to properly pour a pint, Paloma Rocket's staff is there to give a hand.

The beer cards must be returned before leaving the bar -- they expire in 12 hours after purchase. If there is a balance on the card when you leave, the amount will be refunded to you. As Kenny, one of the owners, noted, "it's probably the only bar where you get money back when you leave!"
  • Check out the beer description on the screen.
  • Activate the tap with your card, and see your card balance (upper right), and the price per ounce (lower left).
  • As you pour, the ounces go up, and your balance goes down, along with the beer bar graph on the right.
  • The cost of your pour is displayed when you're done pouring.

The absence of a bartender to pour your beer has its ups and downs. Though there's always a "bartender" there to add value on to your card, answer questions, and help suggest pouring techniques, it's obviously not the same as having Isaac mix you a daiquiri while giving you tips on finding love, or some Irish brogue crooning lad or lass charm you. The design and layout of the bar -- huge windows, very open, bright, clean, sparse -- lends itself to a bring-your-own-vibe feel. Large flatscreen TVs are there to ogle, showing soccer, hockey, or whatever other sports happen to be on. (Co-owner Graham is a proud ex-pat Londoner, so proper football is often on screen.)

But there are plenty of benefits to this new system, unique in NYC at the moment. You'll never have to wait to get your glass filled (unless there's a run on something on a crowded night, I suppose). Being able to pour any amount is a definite plus. It's conceivable that one could sample all 30 taps with 1 ounce pours, and still be able to leave without stumbling. Then there's the possibility of "beer blending" -- say, mix some Central Waters Nitro Puppy Porter with some Rodenbach Grand Cru Flanders Red? (Which was possible at the time of this posting.)

Clearly, this is not your wood paneled, sawdust floor, dark, worn in, 100-year-old oak bar, and it's not your hip, beer nerd/beer snob, $10-per-8oz-pour, served by your beer sommelier bar. It is a place where you can go learn about beer on your own, if you care to, try as much or little as you like of any of 30 beers, pour your own as you like it -- but hopefully not drink alone! It does have the feel of a sort of "beer arcade" where you can play bartender, which makes for a fun destination for a party. After riding the Paloma Rocket ourselves, we know that, while it might not suit everyone's orbit, we had fun, enjoyed some very good beers, and we'll definitely book many future flights!

Kenny demonstrates the system.
Bob rinses and pours.
NY State in the house. Oh, and Vermont.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Jack's Abby Craft Lagers Jack's Abby Craft Lagers Non-Flash version of the podcast

Though they've been selling in New York State since 2014, Framingham, Mass. brewery Jack's Abby Craft Lagers launched in New York City in mid-April this year, and we got to talk to one of the three brothers, Sam Hendler, who founded and runs the operation. We met in the backyard of Judy & Punch on 30th Ave. in Astoria, Queens.

Sam of Jack's, Gerard from Judy & One Mile House, and Jack's sales rep Chris V.
The brewery was founded in 2011 in a 6,000 sq. ft. space with a 20-barrel system. In their first year they brewed about 500 barrels of beer. Recently the brewery underwent a massive expansion, installing a 60-barrel brew house with 240-barrel fermenters in a space 10 times the size of the original brewery, 67,000 sq. ft., which includes a 200-seat beer hall!

Jack's brews lager beers exclusively, and they make an exceptional authentic traditional German Helles called House Lager. For that beer they import German malts and German hops from a Bavarian farm, employ decoction mashing, and naturally carbonate the clear golden lager with the krausening technique, in which a portion of a newly fermenting batch of the same beer is added to a fully fermented batch, boosting carbonation.

But it's not only about German style Pils, Helles, and Maibocks. Jack's Abby is dedicated to experimentation with lagers, using massive hop additions in some beers, barrel aging others, creating high ABV "lager wines", and basically defying the limited expectations that most people have of "lager beer". Their Kiwi Rising, for example, uses copious hop additions of New Zealand hops, including a dry hopping -- Nelson and Motueka -- to create a very unlikely lager. Their Double India Pale Lager (DIPL), which clocks in at 8.5% ABV and their flagship Hoponius Union (brewed with Citra and Centennial) also redefine what a lager is.

Sam of Jack's, NYC Jack's sales rep, and Adam of Forest Hills Station House.
But their 13% "lager wine" editions, which age in barrels for 9 months and take up to a year to make, really set the bar for untraditional lagers. Their Baby Maker, Bride Maker, and Brewery Maker are all named after milestones in the Hendler family.

Brothers Eric (the numbers guy) and Sam (the sales guy) of Jack's.
When asked why the brewery exclusively brews lagers, Sam explained that when his brother Jack, the head brewer and co-owner, studied brewing at the Siebel Institute, during his time in Munich at sister school Doemens Academy, he was inspired by all the amazing, fresh, classic Pils and Helles beers available everywhere. He wanted to take that back to the States. And we're glad he did! Let's hope they not only keep the old traditions alive, but also never stop pushing lager into the unexplored future!

Sarah, Sam, and Colin of Remarkable Liquids, Dan of Singlecut (and general Queens beer fame),
and an unidentified photo bomber!

Framing Ham.