Thursday, March 29, 2012

Oishi: Brooklyn Brewery's 1st Release of The Worshipful Co. of Brewers

The Worshipful Company of Brewers is the name of the London brewer's guild founded in 1438 -- it's also the name of a new program that the Brooklyn Brewery has initiated which allows each of the various brewers at the brewery to craft their own custom beer on the old 25-barrel system in Brooklyn.

On Friday March 23, 2012 the first beer of the program, brewed by Brooklyn Brewery veteran brewer Tom Villa, was released. The "Oishi" was served up inside the brewhouse to a lucky gathering of NYC beer scene insiders and industry folk. Garrett Oliver, the Brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery, addressed the group, explained the program and introduced Tom's creation. As Garrett promised, Tom is a man of little words, and what words he does offer are very quiet! We thought that we'd squeeze enough words out of Tom to make an interview out of the meeting, but, alas, the man prefers to let the beer speak for itself.

(We tried to interview Monster about the beer, but all we could get out of him was some gentle purring -- taken as a sign that he approves of Oishi!)
Dan bows to Brother Tom -- quiet as a monk!
The Oishi, which is Japanese for "delicious", is a 3.9% abv session version of the Sorachi Ace, which normally clocks in at 7.6% abv. We love the Sorachi Ace, and we also found Oishi to be an incredibly tasty, refreshing treat. Hazy golden in color with a light, white lacy head, it had a nice lightly citrus hop note mixing with some pleasant yeast aroma. While fairly light, effervescent and well carbonated, it offered a body that was light yet substantive. The flavor hinted at something of a mix between a Belgian pale ale and malty saison, with a faint citrus note in the flavor as well. The hops seemed to add to the citrus quality, melding nicely with the yeast flavor, and there was a nice bitterness to enhance the almost wheat-like pilsner malt flavor (the main malt used is German 2-row pilsner malt). This is a beer that will be very easy to drink by the liter on a warm spring day!
Inspiration, along with Avril.

Tom told us, off mic, that he was aiming for an even lower abv for Oishi. But anything under 4% seems sessionable enough! He also tried to convince us of some imperfection in his creation, but we wouldn't hear any of that! Everyone present was raving about the brew, including some very opinionated beer critics. I don't know how many times we heard, "I love this beer!" that night!

While Tom was too modest for the microphone, he was gracious enough to answer some questions about the beer via email, which we appreciate very much.

The inspiration for Oishi was Avril and Sorachi Ace -- really, just an interest in making a sessionable beer that's tasty. The possibility of a table Sorachi had been floating around in my head for awhile. It just seemed that if done right, it would be a beer that people would enjoy.

To hit my target ABV I just used a lot less malt, and to give it a little more body I added some floor-malted Munich dark malt. This malt doesn't add color -- just a little malt backbone. And since the beer was so light, I felt that it needed that.

The yeast and fermentation were the same as Sorachi. The yeast is our house Belgian yeast. I did lower the bittering hops proportionately, but then further reduced that amount slightly more, because I really wanted the hop aroma to be the focus. The Sorachi Ace hop has a beautiful aroma, and I felt that it should be the first sensation that the drinker experienced. As for the dry hopping, I dry hopped it twice because after the first dry hopping it just wasn't popping enough ("hopping enough"-ed). And there are some hops in the dry hopping other than Sorachi Ace [ed. Simcoe and Amarillo], but the Sorachi was by far the central hop.

I did consider brewing a smoked helles, but I could only choose one style this time, so, maybe next time. Who knows what I'll be into on the next go around.

Also, to answer your question, I do enjoy low ABV beers -- I mean, I still drink the strong stuff, but it's nice to find the delicate and subtle nature of a session beer. So, am I eager to do it again? Yes -- but now I understand a bit of what Garrett goes through with the Brewmaster's Reserve series. It is slightly stressful putting a new beer out there to be judged.

Over all, it was a fun experience and it was nice to have all the people show up for the release party.

You could tell that Tom was very excited, proud and nervous about his beer. Tom started with the brewery over 10 years ago in the warehouse, moving boxes around, and has worked his way up to being one of the key movers of the entire organization. Garrett noted that Tom's the hardest working guy in the brewery, and that's easy to believe, given the result of his work which we enjoyed by the mugfull.

Oishi will be available exclusively at the Brooklyn Brewery tasting room, so we're told, so make sure that you visit soon to get a taste of this very limited supply of extremely delicious beer! Domo arigato, Tom!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Blind Tiger 15th Anniversary/Vermont Beer & Cheese Night

When Dave Brodrick, the founder of the Blind Tiger Alehouse, addressed the crowd at the 15th anniversary party for the downtown NYC craft beer pioneer, he said it felt more like 15 seconds since it first opened its doors on Hudson and W. 10th St. Much has changed since then. The original location is now a Starbucks (the Tiger moved a bit east a few years ago and is now on Bleecker and Jones). And there's certainly a lot more craft beer to choose from than there was in 1997.

But one thing that has been consistent throughout Blind Tiger's history is Dave's commitment to creating a warm, friendly bar atmosphere and finding the best brews to share with his devoted following of regular beer compatriots.

Giving back has always been part of the Blind Tiger credo. At the party, which took place on Sunday March 25, 2012, he provided an endless supply of Chef Tommy's tacos and enchiladas and all the delicious fixin's for the crowd, free of charge (including vegetarian options, thank you very much). And while the Tiger can often be mobbed with an after-work crowd that opts for cask over Coors, and though the bar has become a craft beer Mecca for many from afar, there's always a little love for the local regulars. That goes all the way back to the beginning and the Connoisseur Club, in which members who logged at least 51 different beers at the bar were given special happy hour privileges, a t-shirt, and their name engraved on a brass plaque which was mounted on the wall. You still get bragging rights, a t-shirt, and a plaque but the cards are history.
Your Carte Orange for beer travels.
In this week's bonus podcast, Dave tells us about the start of it all. A note about the podcast, though -- the sound quality is quite bad, because we recorded it on a Blackberry's "voice notes" program, which is not meant for high quality audio. So, we'll probably avoid that in the future.
Dave thanks the devoted Tigerites, just before opening a
3-liter bottle of Sly Fox to share with everyone.
In addition to it being the anniversary of the bar, it's also the 14th anniversary of the Vermont Beer and Cheese event. This Wednesday March 28, 2012, the Blind Tiger will offer up some very special kegs from the Green Mountain state, including 4 special kegs from Hill Farmstead, a 50-liter keg of Heady Topper, something from Zero Gravity, and much more. Oh -- and cheese!
Jen, Dave and Connoisseur B.R.
Congratulations to Dave -- a great person and a tireless supporter of good beer and of the people who make good beer possible -- and congratulations to the Tiger and all of its capable, friendly, helpful staff! We all wish you good luck and great success long into the future!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Smuttynose and the Portsmouth Brewery

Part 1 of 2
Part 2 of 2
If you don't want to download the podcast, you can STREAM IT HERE.

On December 29, 2011 we visited JT, the Minister of Propaganda for Smuttynose Brewing and the Portsmouth Brewery, and Tod Mott, the head brewer of the Portsmouth Brewery in Portsmouth, N.H.  Thanks to a too-full minidisc, the informative and interesting interview that we did with Tod did not properly record. We'll need to meet up with Tod again, and this time have a blank disc on hand.
J.T., B.R., T.M. and B.W., in the Jimmy LaPanza
lounge of the P.B.
Though the interview with JT thankfully took, and he told us about both the 7-barrel brewpub in downtown Portsmouth and the 50-barrel brewery on the outskirts of town. The brewpub was founded in 1991, four years after the Northampton Brewery in central Mass. -- both started by siblings Peter and Janet Egelston.
At one point they split the business and Janet took control of the Northampton Brewery, the oldest brewpub in New England, and Peter got the Portsmouth Brewery. Being from N.H. I can tell you first hand that the pub was an immediate rage -- and for good reason, too. It wasn't just a novelty as the first modern brewpub in this food-centric New England port town, but it was a very impressive brewery, offering extremely well made beers and very interesting atypical styles.

A few years after the Portsmouth Brewery was underway, another local beer business, the Frank Jones Brewery, was started by a descendant of one of the most successful and wealthy entrepreneurs of the 1800s, Frank Jones, who in the late 1800s was one of the largest producers of beer in America. Unfortunately, the gene for business acumen didn't make it down the line, and the enterprise was soon bankrupt and its assets sold at auction.

As the story goes, Peter went to the auction just to "check it out", but came away with a new business -- the Smuttynose Brewery.

In this week's podcast you'll hear the details about the history of both breweries, their relationship to one another, and also the exciting new plans for a new Smuttynose brewery to be located on a farm in Hampton, New Hampshire!
At the Portsmouth Brewery.
The Smutty bottling line from afar.

Smutty barrel aged beers.

I can't hear you -- can you make it LAUTER?!
These tanks held the 2011-12 Winter Ale.
Hey beer nerds -- my eyes are up HERE!
Pat F.'s motorcycle gang has a long reach.
This bridge is history.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Kuhnhenn Dark Heathen Triple Bock Lager

If you don't want to download the podcast, you can STREAM IT HERE.

I noticed a lot of bottles of the Kuhnhenn Dark Heathen Triple Bock Lager on the shelf in the cooler at Good Beer the other day. I've heard of Kuhnhenn and I might have had one of their beers once at Barcade or somewhere else, but I wasn't that familiar with them.

"Triple Bock" got my attention, as did the 12.5% avb listed on the 12-ounce bottle. The $8.99 price tag seemed a bit steep, but why not give it a go?

B.R.'s famed horsehead bottle opener.

This bottle was brewed some time in 2011. The label offered the following information.

"First brewed as a collaboration in 1999 with Erik Harms of the Dragonmead Microbrewery which is also in Warren, Michigan."

"This Dark Heathen Triple Bock is a ruby red lager beer. Made using the decoction process. Munich and Vienna malts make it taste very malty, smooth and complex. Serve at 35-42F (2-6C).

It was hard to see any red highlights in the color of the beer, which looked very dark brown/blackish. It had very little foam -- just a trace of a dark tan head along the side of the glass.

The aroma was very malty, a bit sherried, a little alcohol all mixing with dark dried fruit aromas, a sweet malty toffee note and some estery notes.

The beer drank very thick and viscous, with a good dose of bitterness through the sweet malty backbone, and that pleasant sort of oxidation that adds more to the beer than it takes away.

This is a nice sipping beer or desert treat. Though it might benefit from a few years of mellowing -- to round out the flavors a bit. $9 for a 12-ounce bottle might seem pretty steep for this one, but perhaps in 2 years time that price will seem justified!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Norway or No Way!

On Saturday March 11, 2012 a courageous band of homebrewers set out to attempt to replicate two different beers devised by one of the most reputed international craft brewers we know, Nøgne Ø of Norway.

Because they were using the state-of-the-art HRMS system at Bitter & Esters, it made the daunting challenge a little bit easier.

The morning crew brewed a clone of the Nøgne Ø porter.
While the afternoon group took on the Nøgne Ø Sunturnbrew. 
For now, the photos tell the story better than words, though not as well as the finished (or Norwished) product will in a few weeks!
It ain't brewin' if there ain't beer!

Grind over matter.

Run of the mill.

Charlie says, relax, have a homebrew.
B.R. inspects the kettle for Kjetil.

Hop salad.
Kind cones.

Mash mash mash...

mash mash mash...

get your mash on...

stir your mash pot!

Flavor hops, added with flourish.

Get those grains outta that pot!

Wort up.