Thursday, October 27, 2011

Barrier And Bluepoint At Brewer's Choice

WFMU's Beer Hear! Blue Point and Barrier podcast
The Brewer's Choice event of Craft Beer Week was a boon for Beer Hear -- with all the breweries and their brewers on hand, we could have done a year's worth of shows! One of the breweries we spoke to was BLUE POINT of Patchouge, Long Island, NY.
Steve of Blueweiser... I mean BLUE POINT!
Blue Point was founded in 1998. At the time it was the only microbrewery on Long Island. Their original 25-barrel brewhouse produced the well known Toasted Lager (their #1 seller) and Hoptical Illusion (#2 seller) with a collection of equipment bought from a variety of other breweries, including a gorgeous direct-fire brick-encased kettle.

She's a brick (brau) haus.

They've since upgraded to a modern, more efficient custom-made system, on which they brewed the beers featured at the Brewers' Choice: a Sour Cherry Imperial Stout (10%abv) and a White IPA (6%abv) made with wheat malt, considered by some to be a Wit/American IPA hybrid.

Steve, a sales manager overseeing sales in five states, said that their beer is available from Florida to New England, in Pennsylvania and, just recently, as far west as Michigan. I think that it's somewhat available "from Montauk to Manhattan" as well!

Another Long Island craft brewery on hand was Barrier Brewing, of Oceanside, NY. Barrier is a fairly young enterprise, having been founded in 2009. Craig said that while there are about 9 breweries on Long Island, Barrier is the only one in Nassau County. (In consideration of that, I wonder if they'll brew a Dutch beer...)
BR, Craig of Barrier, Bob, and Bob's new haircut.
Both Craig and founder Evan worked at Sixpoint Brewing before Barrier, where they gained valuable brewing knowledge and experience. Prior to that, it was homebrewing, as is so often the case with craft brewers.

One of the beers that they featured at the Brewers' Choice was a delicious German style Rauchbier/Smoke Beer (5.4%abv) that they call Frau Blücher. 65% of the malt bill for the brew is imported German Rauchmalt (from Bamberg, we presume).
What better to go with LI oysters than LI beer?
He said that the brewery currently brews 27 different beers! We'd imagine that at least one of them would go well with some L.I. oysters -- though perhaps Naked Cowboy, Peconic Bay or Tomahawk oysters, more so than Blue Points!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bitter & Esters

Thanks to Clara for snapping this photo!
Bitter & Esters is a new shop in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn which does three distinctly different but connected things. It is:

1. a homebrew supply shop;
2. a brew on premises business;
3. a classroom, teaching people how to make beer, and other things that ferment.

We met John and Douglas at their shop located at 700 Washington Ave. in Brooklyn to check out the store, their equipment and ask them some questions. Because there is so much information, we broke the podcast up into six different mini-podcasts. The title header of each is a link to the podcast concerning that topic.

Their bright, airy, friendly shop is in an up-and-coming neighborhood, very close to the C-train and 2/3-train, not too far from the G-train, and very close to Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Museum.
View from back to front.

There are some interesting looking bars in this cozy little area, and a beer retailer/wholesaler, Brooklyn Beer and Soda at 648 Washington Ave., with an incredible selection! It's no New Beer, but still worth checking out.
These were the hops for the brew
that they were making that day.
On the wall there's a list of about 40 different hop varieties for sale -- mainly whole flower -- including 10 different organic hops.They boast an impressive list of yeast strains, including 2 different strains of Brettanomyces. Their malt selection is quite extensive, as well. Chances are -- whatever you want to brew, they can sort you out!

Just some of the specialty grains they offer.

And the shop is well appointed with a multitude of homebrewing accessories and necessities, as one would expect.

One of the cool things that they offer for the urban homebrewer is a compact kit which is simple enough for a first time brewer and small enough for the studio apartment braumeister. The 2.5 gallon kit fits in a cooler and makes a case of beer.

In addition to providing all the materials one requires for homebrewing, they also take to heart their role as assistants, consultants and advisers to their customers. When asked, they'll even create a custom recipe for you, if you have an idea for what kind of beer that you want to brew, but you're not certain about how to do it.

View from front to back.

Bitter & Esters offers classes on both extract (twice a month) and all-grain brewing (once a month). The classes are $55 each, and are capped at 12 participants. They last between 2 and 2 1/2 hours, feature a powerpoint presentation on everything about homebrewing, a question & answer session, a homebrew tasting portion, and, on top of all of that, the entire class participates in brewing a batch of beer during the session! They also offer classes on wine making and other fermentative materials. Additionally, they're planning on organizing tasting classes in the future.

 And now the thing that really got us interested in Bitter & Esters -- THE BREWING! John and Douglas told us that theirs is the first ever brew-on-premises (BOP) business in New York... not just NYC, but NY STATE! Whoa! I can't believe that nobody else gave it a try until now! If you're not familiar with the concept, a BOP is a business that has everything that you need to brew your own beer. Typically, you make an appointment to brew, give the shop your recipe needs, come in, brew your beer with their equipment, then come back at a later date to bottle or keg it, leaving all the cleaning, maintenance, equipment storage, etc., for the shop to worry about. SWEET!

Bitter & Esters use a brand new system custom made by The Electric Brewery. It's similar to a three-tier RIMS system, but it's 100% electric and is called a HERMS system, because the wort doesn't come in direct contact with the heating element during mashing. There are three 30-gallon stainless steel kettles, each with built in thermometers, sensors and valves, all connected via a closed system of specialized tubing and utilizing magnetic drive pumps.
L-R: boil kettle, mash/lauter tun, hot liquor tank, John.
The kettle at the far right is the hot liquor tank. It's used to heat the strike-water for mashing-in and for controlling the temperature of the re-circulating wort during mashing. The middle kettle is the mash/lauter tun. Once you've mashed in, the wort is circulated through a section of coiled metal tubing in the hot liquor tank (HLT), and the temperature is adjusted to increase the temperature of the mash to whatever levels you need for whatever lengths of time required for your conversion steps.

The brewing brain! Not as complicated as it looks.
There is a controller that manages the temperature of the HLT and the boil kettle, and allows the brewer to set the target temperature and see the target and actual temperatures side by side. Adjusting the temperature up or down is as simple as tapping a button. And the brewer can also set a timer, which will sound an alarm when it's time to step up the temperature, mash out, etc.  John and Douglas say that it can hit the target temperature and hold it, within 2 degrees.

Once you've mashed out, then water that's about 170-degrees is pumped from the HLT into the lauter tun/mash tun, with its screened/false bottom, to sparge the sugars off the grains, as the wort is simultaneously pumped into the boil kettle. You have the option, while mashing, to recirculate the wort through the mash, or divert it directly to the boil kettle.
Boil kettle.
Once all the wort has been pumped into the boil kettle, the boil can begin. The controller is set to 220-degrees and the timer set to remind the brewer when to make the first and additional hop additions, as well as when to end the boil. Douglas said that they can go from mash-out temperature to a boil in half an hour! The kettle has a massive screen to keep solid material out when drawing the wort out of the kettle.

Then the finished wort is pumped through a plate chiller, bringing the temperature of the wort down to around 72-degrees in a very short time before it's further pumped down to the temperature-controlled fermenting room in the basement, into a large food-grade plastic fermentation tank, getting some aeration as it enters the fermenter. The yeast is pitched, and the magic begins!

After primary fermentation is complete, the beer is pumped into a stainless steel Sanke keg for carbonating and bottling or kegging. The beer can be put in corked bottles, too, if so desired. By the way, at all times when being transferred from kettle to kettle, through the chiller, to the fermenter and into the Sanke kegs, the beer is in a closed system of tubing, keeping it protected from infection.
What they were brewing when we visited.
The grain mill.

Whether it's an all grain batch or an extract brew, Douglas or John are there throughout the whole brewing session to assist and advise the brewer, and to make sure that the equipment is working correctly.

Eventually, the shop plans on having two different extract brewing stations, so up to three different people/groups could be brewing at the same time, with two different sessions each day.

It should be noted, too, that all the spent grain is either composted or sent to a local farm to be used as feed.

If all of that isn't amazing enough, Bitter & Esters is planning on hosting a number of "Brew With the Pros" events, where customers can sit in during brew sessions set up by well known craft breweries! Tickets will be limited, and will cost around $65. Though I doubt that he's on the short list to participate, I'd happily pay double that amount to brew next to Jean Van Roy!
John and Douglas were generous enough to let us try a few beers that they made with their enviable brewing set up. Find out what we thought about their creations in a bonus podcast! Can they brew? Let's just say that I compared their Pale Ale to Smutty Nose Star Island Single.

We've already decided that a future Beer Hear! podcast is going to be a brewing session at Bitter & Esters, and we hope to brew there on a regular basis. We'll try to arrange a tasting party for whatever it is we end up making (if it ends up being drinkable, that is!), so PLEASE let us know what style you'd like to see us make in the comments section below, and perhaps you'll be sampling it in a few months! Maybe you'll even show up to help us brew it!
L-R: John, B.R., Bob, Douglas.
Oct. 29, 2011 is the date of the Victory Prima Pils night, when they'll be brewing that beer with the recipe and ingredients provided by the brewery's head brewer, and with Victory rep Sean on hand during the brew.

The beer that the boys were brewing throughout the podcast (you could hear the whir of the beer pumps throughout the podcast) will be served at an art opening for Emma Cotter on Nov. 16, 2011 starting at 7:30pm. She makes some very cool art from beer bottle caps.

Bitter & Ester's grand opening is on 11/11/11 at 7pm.

Eat Art New York -- on Sunday Nov. 20, 2011 they'll have an event starting at the Brooklyn Museum, then at 4pm it moves to the shop where John and Douglas with give a presentation on brewing, and then commence with brewing a batch of beer based on a recipe by Colorado artist Eric Steen, who, we believe, is in town for some other beer related activities.

All the events, and means by which to acquire tickets, can be found at their website: Bitters & Esters.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Barcade Gives Back To Local Community Radio

On Tuesday Oct. 11, 2011 Barcade Jersey City  was the site of a WFMU Meet-Up/impromptu fundraiser for the non-profit free form radio station, headquartered just one PATH station east, near Exchange Place.
Steve K., B.R. and Joe Belock (Cynthia hiding to the left).
The bar donated all tips generated from 4pm-9pm, and then added on another $250, bringing the fundraising take to $587. Not bad for something that was set up less than 7 days earlier. And the radio station ended up being introduced to a number of local bar patrons who were previously unfamiliar with 91.1FM /

Free soap?! Honey, run the bath water!!!
Patrons were invited to help themselves to WFMU stickers, soap, bottle openers and other promotional items, and then offered to take the "Beer Trivia Challenge" -- answer one beer trivia question correctly for a swank Brooklyn Brewery ball cap, a Gritty McDuff's t-shirt or another "big ticket" prize! And if the answer was wrong, participants still had a chance to win by stumping the trivia master with their own beer trivia question!

In honor of WFMU, Sixpoint Brewery (who are big fans of the station) agreed to rename two of their beers for the occasion. Specialized tap handles were created for the 'WFM-brU" beer, an american pale ale, and the "FREEDOM IS FREE FOAM" (a rif on the station's FREE FORM format), which was a Belgian style wheat beer.
Don't be surprised if Barcade JC host another WFMU event in March, during the station's annual 2-week on-air fundraising marathon!

4th from the left: "Free Foam".
4th from the left: "WFM-brU"!

Monday, October 10, 2011

WFMU Beer Meet Up Tues. Oct. 11, 2011, 4pm-9pm At Barcade JC

The fine radio station that hosts our podcast -- independent, free form, non-profit WFMU -- is hosting a Meet-Up at Barcade, Jersey City this Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011 from 4pm to 9pm! B.R. and I are your hosts!

We're going to give away some WFMU goodies and some craft brewery swag, and host a short beer trivia contest. If you want to participate in the contest, find the sign-in sheet when you arrive at the bar, or email Bob stating that you'd like to join in. bobw AT wfmu DOT org.

There's a Facebook page for the event, too, HERE.
Barcade Jersey City is very easy to get to from the PATH train. Just take it to the GROVE ST. station -- it's at 163 Newark Ave. at Barrow in Jersey City, NJ.

The bar manager, Michael, is a big fan and supporter of 'FMU, and he is donating all the tips generated during the Meet-Up to the radio station -- AND having the bar match the amount! It's all for WFMU's "Shock and Awetober", the stations very low-key, on-line-only fall fundraiser.

There's a link below which will bring you to the "donate" page for WFMU.The station is nearly 100% listener supported, and takes no corporate money, there are no "underwriting" messages (ie. ADS) -- basically, they don't take money from any entity which has strings attached. So, why not send $20 their way? I did!

Garrett Describes A Return To Normality

Garrett Describes A Return To Normality podcast
Brooklyn Brewery's Garrett Oliver was the keynote speaker at this year's New York City Craft Beer Week -- the Brewers' Choice event at the City Winery on Sept. 22, 2011. He addressed a very enthusiastic crowd of the vanguard of the craft beer scene in NYC and reminded them that things were not always so beery even just 15 years ago.

What happened to beer in NYC between 1920 and 1980? Surely something horrible, something that had brought low the once vibrant beer culture that flourished in our fine city. When beer was outlawed, only outlaws had beer, and it's been a long, hard, difficult journey back from the beerless abyss since the repeal of the Volstead Act.

What was lost was more than just suds and saloons. The social fabric of the city, which incorporated immigrants from beer-centric (and wine-centric) locales such as Germany, Ireland, Italy, Eastern Europe, etc., had been upended. Spirits, which were an important part of early American culture, were banned which, in effect, made culture itself illegal! And as went the beer, it could be argued, so went other aspects of social culture, both of the homegrown American sort and that of the Old Country, too. We entered an era of factory food, mass production/mass consumption, television zombies and a general disregard for and apathy about the very things that make life worth living: good food, good company and good beer.

Garrett sounded nearly triumphant in his assertion that good beer, good food and more meaningful social interaction had returned to New York City -- not as a bold, new age of enlightenment, but, rather, simply as a return to the way it was, the way it should be and the way we like it. Real. Natural. Honest. Healthy. Fun.

By the way, if you've never heard Garrett croon before, you'll be treated to a bit of his mellifluous, dulcet tones at the beginning of the podcast! In closing Garrett promises: "We're going to live well!"

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

NYC Craft Beer Week 2011

NYC Craft Beer Week 2011 podcast
New York City Craft Beer Week 2011 took place all over New York (well, Manhattan and Brooklyn, primarily, though also Queens and the Bronx -- sorry S.I.! Next year?). It ran from Sept. 16th to the 25th, with possibly the biggest and best event, the Brewers' Choice, taking place at City Winery on Thursday Sept. 22. It was there where we caught up with Josh Schafner, the Director of New York Craft Beer Week, who told us of the event's founding, it's incredible growth and it's bright future.
S'Cuzme while I toast this guy!

The Hef of Craft Beer, Jimmy.

Craft Beer Week NYC Organizer Josh (right).

Josh Schafner (left).

Check subsequent blog posts for more on New York City Craft Beer Week 2011 and the brewers who we managed to interview!
From behind the Dieu Du Ciel table.

How does that Mike Lovulo do it?!?

Patrick of Smuttynose in the foreground of a big crowd.
B.R. works the DDC table, next to Sixpiont.
Mke and Maia exchange shocked glances.
We wear black.

All you can eat oysters? I ate all that I could!!!