Monday, May 20, 2013

Big Alice At MBAS Meeting

  [link to podcast page]
Big Alice Brewing podcast

Big Alice Brewing's brewers were the guest speakers at the Malted Barley Appreciation Society on May 8, 2013 at Mugs Alehouse in Williamsburg. You can get the long story about how they got into brewing on their website, but the short story might begin with a homebrew contest hosted by Heartland in 2011. Kyle and Robbie entered two of their homebrewed beers into the contest -- a light Belgian ale and a dark Belgian ale. And while they didn't fare well with the judges' panel, one of the beers won the "people's choice" award, which gave them the encouragement to start talking about brewing professionally.
Kyle and Robbie.
In 2013, they applied for licensing and started up Big Alice Brewing in Long Island City, joining fellow tiny Queens breweries Rockaway and Bridge and Tunnel, and the not-so-tiny Single Cut. They brew on a .333 barrel Sabco system. That's just ten gallons! When planning the enterprise they thought, "we don't need to brew huge quantities, but we want to be able to play around with recipes a lot, and have other people pay for our hobby."
Their concept is to brew unique one-off recipes using organic and local ingredients as much as possible, often incorporating seasonal ingredients in the recipes. Rather than offer one consistent product, they will brew something different each and every time! Operating a ten-gallon system certainly allows for unlimited experimentation. They plan on making 72 different batches this year.
Kyle, Felice and Robbie.
There's got to be some serious hurdles for a brewery that brews a different style each batch, including having to design, print and register a unique label for each 48-bottle run of 25-ounce bottles. The labels alone could be very costly. So they devised an interesting answer to their labeling issues. They have the same exact label for all their beers, except for a blank space in which the batch number is indicated. To find out what kind of beer that batch actually is, one must refer to the brewery's website.

So, batch #0001 is a red ale brewed with Cinderella Pumpkin in the mash, and fermented with Belgian ale yeast. Batch #0002 is a Belgian I.P.A. with the addition of citrus fruit in the fermenter. #0003 uses barley, wheat and rye in the mash, and Flame Raisins, and is fermented with multiple Belgian yeast strains.

Even their sales concept is one of a kind. They operate a community supported agriculture model (CSA) for sales, selling "subscriptions" to their brewing projects direct to individuals, offering 2 bottles per month for six months. Their plan is to sell two-thirds of their production through "beer shares", 30% of which has already been sold to individuals who have been early supporters of the brewery. They're going to release the other portion of beer shares to the general public very soon. They hope to sell another third of their production through retail outlets.

One of the beers they poured at the meeting -- their second batch -- was a Belgian style I.P.A. featuring a unique ingredient: Buddah's Hand. The Buddah's Hand, which is a Far Eastern citrus fruit, is introduced in the fermenter, and imparts an exotic citrus quality to the beer. They also poured a wheat malt based coffee stout (50% wheat), which was dark, rich and roasty, utilizing Gorilla coffee beans ground up and added in the fermenter. 

Wheat malt coffee stout.

By the way, the brewery is named for the iconic Ravenswood No. 4 electrical power station which is located in their neighborhood. The plant was built in the early 60s by the Allis-Chalmers company -- thus nicknamed "Big Allis" -- and was the world's first million-watt generating station. The brewery's homepage has a very comical comparison of Big Allis to Big Alice!
Big Allis.

The brewhouse.

Setting up the system.

This is what nano brewing looks like.

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