Monday, September 3, 2012

508 GastroBrewery

[link to podcast page]
WFMU's Beer Hear! with Bob W. and B.R. from 9/3/2012

Tucked away in a variously named corner of lower Manhattan's west side (Hudson Square, West Soho, South Village, Printing District, etc.), 508 GastroBrewery is one of the new establishments helping to turn this once dirty, abandoned, neglected zone into a destination to visit and anchored neighborhood in which to live.
This is an exceptional gueuze.
An interesting side-note about the building housing the bistro -- it was once the home to Jonathan Larson, the composer of the music of the musical "RENT", when he was working on the play. According to Anderson, it also once housed a brewery, long, long ago.
Brewer Anderson and B.R.
This was our first visit to 508 and, while we heard good things, we weren't sure what to expect of the beers. The beer of the last brewpub in that neighborhood -- Nacho Mama's -- was, at it's best, "drinkable" (we never got a chance to visit its predecessor Manhattan Brewing, a tip of the hat to Garrett). We hoped for the best, and braced for the worst.

As I waited at the bar for Anderson to be available (he was cleaning up after a brewing session) and for B.R. to arrive, I ordered the Belgian Farmhouse Saison (5.4%) and 1/2 a dozen Rappahannock oysters from Virginia. The glass arrived filled with a dark gold, brassy colored beer topped by a full, white, lacy head. A sniff revealed a hint of yeastiness and a bit of a grainy note. A sip -- slightly sweet, very malty, a bit tangy, full body and just the right amount of bitterness to compliment the rich, malty core. Not a delicate saison, for sure -- it's one sturdy farmhouse ale! Oh -- and the $1 oysters were magnificent! Briney, plump and satisfying.
6 on tap, 9 in the bottle, all brewed on premises.
B.R. arrived and tried the Lil' Bitter Session IPA, which we believe is not on regular rotation -- it's a specialty brew. At 4.4% abv it appears to be the most sessionable beer in the stable. It's nice and malty with an assertive, but not over-the-top, hop profile. We also saw a gueuze in bottles on the menu and, though having very low expectations, we had to give it a try. What poured out was probably the best American made gueuze that either of us had ever had! It was perfectly sour, tart, effervescent, refreshing. Where we expected to find unpleasant funk and off flavors we found brilliance. The 1/2 liter bottle was $13 -- and worth every penny!
Antique bottle on display.
When Anderson joined us, he had the Cluster Common, a California Common style beer, with Cluster hops. Anderson has a running series of single hopped versions of his Common beer. Using the same recipe for each batch and alternating only the hops, each batch is brewed with just one variety of hops. He's done single-hop Commons with: Cluster, Galaxy, Simco, Motueka, Cascade and Citra.

The podcast is an interview with Anderson, and it provides a lot of information on the brewpub's history, philosophy and operation, but it's worth noting a few key points here. Anderson started as a homebrewer. He wanted to study brewing in college, but there was no pure brewing course of study at the time in Brazil (Anderson was born and raised in São Paulo). Eventually, after discovering homebrewing while a chef in the restaurant that he and his wife Jennifer owned and operated, he ended up studying brewing at Siebel Institute and continued his research and studies at home. Anderson designed and built -- from scratch -- his first and second brewhouses.

His one-barrel (!) system was built with three 300-liter (80 gallon) stainless steel wine fermenters, with professional custom fittings, utilizing an electric HERMS system (Heat Exchange Recirculating Mash System, the same concept as Bitter & Esters). He ferments in 60-gallon food-grade cylindrical-conical vessels and then kegs the beer in 5-gallon soda kegs, and bottles in 1/2-liter bottles. A usual brew day consists of 2 brewing sessions to fill one fermenter.

Anderson and Jennifer plan to open another brewpub in Brooklyn very soon, this one with an even greater focus on the beer, with serving tanks and a very beer-friendly menu.

Bottle and keg fridge.
Miscellaneous hoses and brewing implements.
Misc. brewing supplies.

The grains.
Grain mills.
Controllers for kettles.
Mash tun false bottom.
Sparging arm of mash tun.
The 1-barrel system only looks small because Anderson is 8 ft tall!
Tanks made from 300l wine fermenters.
Boil kettle.
L-R: mash tun, hot liquor tank, boiling kettle.
This chiller is used to feed the ice cold water to the counter-flow plate chiller.
Kettles for brewing yeast starters.
A new batch of yeast.
Yeast strains.
Climate control for the fermentation room.
60 gallon cylindrical-conical fermenters.
Plate filter.
Bottle filler.
Bottle capper.
Keg stash.

View from the back of the bar/bistro.

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