Monday, July 29, 2013

Brooklyn Brewery: I Wanna Rye It

Brooklyn Brewery's I Wanna Rye It! podcast
How the hops were selected for I Wanna Rye It! podcast

On July 26, 2013 the Brooklyn Brewery released the seventh beer in the Worshipful Company of Brewers series, an Amber Rye Ale designed and brewed by Brooklyn's Production Manager Jimmy Valm.
I Wanna Rye It!
The 7.4% ABV ale pours out clear as glass and has an enticing deep mahogany/garnet hue beneath its ample frothy head. The aroma is subtle, with a touch of spiciness under the dry malty nose. Brewer Jimmy said that he wanted his beer to be more focused on the rye rather than the hops, and he clearly achieved his goal with all of the rye character that this ale exhibits. The hearty body is rich and chewy. As far as taste goes, the dry, peppery rye malt flavor dominates, along with a mild roasty note, but is balanced out by a healthy dose hop bitterness, courtesy of Chinook hops.
Born in Brooklyn but having grown up in Seattle, Jimmy had been pining for a return to Kings County for a long while. But before he'd return he would earn a brewing degree at the reputed International Centre for Brewing and Distilling at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. He then worked at Heineken's U.K. operation, brewing Fosters on an industrial scale before learning of an opening at the Brooklyn Brewery and applying for the job. After working at Brooklyn for less than a year he got his chance to design and brew his own creation as part of the on-going Worshipful Company of Brewers program. The program gives Brewmaster Garrett Oliver's staff an opportunity to make one batch of a beer of their own design for limited release at the brewery's tasting room.

Jimmy chose the challenging rye beer style, and made a little history with Brooklyn Brewery's first rye malt ale. Hear about the details in the two-part podcast about I Wanna Rye It!
The Brewmaster.

Jimmy Valm.
Jimmy's parents and wife.

  [I Wanna Rye It! podcast]

  [Hop Selection For I Wanna Rye It! podcast]

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Yeastie Boys At The Festival

Yeastie Boys Sam at The Festival podcast

Friends since high school, New Zealanders Sam Possenniskie and Stu McKinlay discovered craft beer in college and began experimenting with homebrewing. They got rave reviews from their friends and acquaintances who tried their Pot Kettle Black American style porter. Some years down the road, after they had established careers -- Sam in banking and Stu in internet technologies -- they decided that they had the skills, recipes and, most important, the passion for making great beer. So why not share that with the world? Thusly, Yeastie Boys was born.
 After only one year in business, their Pot Kettle Black porter won top awards for that category at the New Zealand Brewers Guild 2009 awards! They continue to impress, as last year they scored three important brewing trophies: Champion Beer at The Asia Beer Awards (for Pot Kettle Black), People's Choice at The Great Australasian Beer SpecTAPular (for Gunnamatta), and Morton Coutts Trophy for Innovation at the Brewers Guild of New Zealand Awards (for Rex Attitude).
Yeastie Boys are a tenant brewer, like Pretty Things, Grimm Artisanal, Mikkeller, and many others who don't own a brewing facility, but basically rent out a brewery from batch to batch. The Boys brew at Invercargill Brewery in Invercargill, NZ, which is at the very bottom of the South Island, about 500 miles from Wellington on the North Island, which is where the Yeasites are based.
Golden Age of Bloodshed, made with beets.
Pot Kettle Black, their flagship beer, biggest seller and most awarded brew, is augmented by a roster of great variety, including their Digital IPA, specifically geared for the U.S. market, and the Gunnamatta, an IPA-base beer in which four types of New Zealand hops are complimented by a huge addition of Earl Grey Blue Flower leaf tea! They've made beer with beets -- Golden Age of Bloodshed -- and a 100% peat smoked malt beer called Rex Attitude, which, in terms of smokiness, makes Schlenkerla taste like water! In other words, they're not afraid to make some extremely unusual, challenging brews!

About 500 miles from YB HQ to the brewery.

  [link to podcast page]

(L-R) Sam and Stu. (Photo courtesy of Crafty Pint)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Andechs In New York

Interview with Alexander, the brewer of Andechs podcast

In late June we met with Alexander Reiss, the Brewmaster of Andechs Klosterbrauerei (Monastery Brewery) and Lars Dahlhaus of St. Killian, the importer of the beer. Alexander was in town to participate in two Andechs launch parties, one at Zum Schneider in the East Village, and the other at Z.S. Montauk. Sylvester, the proprietor of Zum Schneider, who grew up near Andechs in southern Bavaria south of Munich, has been trying to get the beer imported to New York for over ten years -- and it's finally happening! For now it's being offered on draught exclusively at both Zum Schneiders. In a few months time it'll begin to appear in New York shops and bars in bottles.
Alexander, Lars and Bob.
Andechs is the German equivalent of Chimay, Orval, et al -- a functioning commercial brewery owned and managed by a monastic order of Benedictine monks. Alexander, the Betriebsleiter/brewer, is a layman, but the monks control the brewery and make all the decisions, as they have since its founding in 1455. That's the earliest record of the brewery, though it's well established that brewing there took place as early as the 12th century.

Weißbier Hell, Doppelbock Dunkel, Vollbier Hell, Weißbier Dunkel.
The current modern brewery has a brewhouse of approximately 200 bbl, with annual capacity of 150,000hl (127,000 bbl). Alexander explained that they could probably increase capacity to more than double that, but only at the expense of their traditional, time consuming, quality producing brewing techniques. And it's quite clear -- that's not going to happen!

Andechs uses Hallertau hops for all their beers, for both aroma and bittering. Hallertau is a nobel hop used primarily as a flavor and aroma hop. It has less alpha acids than most commonly used bittering hops, and thus is more expensive to use for bittering (less alpha acids means more hops needed to achieve bitterness). But the Brewmaster explained that it's one of the things that sets Andechs apart from other breweries -- that and their use of the time-, heat- and labor-intensive traditional technique of decoction mashing. While they are distributed throughout the whole of Deutschland, 20% of their sales are from exporting. Brewer Alexander, a 23-year brewing veteran, has been with Andechs for 8 years, and he learned the trade at the famed Weihenstephan Staatsbrauerei, one of the oldest, most established, most respected brewing institutes in the world.
The monastery on the "holy hill".
We sampled four of the Andechs beers which are soon to be imported to the U.S. for the first time ever, while sitting beneath the shady trees in the backyard of Spuyten Duyvil in Williamsburg.
Pouring Doppelbock Dunkel.
The Doppelbock Dunkel is a strong, dark, sweet, rich malty lager, historically brewed to help the fasting monks get through lent. It's mashed utilizing triple-decoction, while the other clean, traditional, rustic beers of Andechs are single-decoction mashed. 
Doppelbock Dunkel.
Weißbier Hell.
Their unfiltered Weißbier Hell is a classic Bavarian wheatbeer, with almost no banana esters, but a healthy dose of pleasant clove aroma, and a yeasty tang.
Pouring the Weißbier Hell.
The Weißbier Dunkel uses 30% dark malts in addition to wheat malt and some cara (crystal) malt. The dark malts really dominate the aroma and flavor of this very sturdy yet complex beer.
Pouring Weißbier Dunkel.
And lastly, the Vollbier Hell -- one of the most thirst quenching, elegant, beautiful beers on earth. It's got that classic Bavarian lager bready malt aroma, clean malt flavor, and a perfect medium body which satisfies without leaving a heavy feeling.

Vollbier Hell.
For now they're only bringing in Andechs draft exclusively for the Zum Schneider restaurants, but later this summer they'll be importing bottles of the four above described Andechs beers, in the same 500ml bottles that they use for the German market. Finally, you won't have to travel abroad to enjoy this extremely sought after, highly regarded, traditional yet unique German classic!
The Braumeister.

  [link to podcast page]

Andechs Vollbier Hell vom Faß at Zum Schneider.

Full line of bottles.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Beyond Kombucha Ale

Mava Roka 7% kombucha ale.

Interview with Sprio of Beyond Kombucha podcast

Until recently we associated the word "kombucha" with "health food". But our concept of this mysterious beverage was altered and our interest was considerably piqued after we were introduced to the Mava Roka, made by Beyond Kombucha. It's a 7% ABV "Maple Vanilla Rooibos Kombucha Ale" regularly on draught at the Queens Kickshaw. On first taste we knew that it had much more in common with lambic beer than anything like wheat grass juice!

1-barrel system.

You may be wondering, "what exactly is kombucha, and what does it have to do with beer?" For the detailed history and an in depth explanation, you can refer to the very informative What Is Kombucha? page at Beyond's website. It's also addressed in the podcast. But, in short, kombucha is a raw, fermented, probiotic, and naturally carbonated tea. Like lambic beer, the beverage is fermented by different strains of yeasts and bacterias. It has been brewed in China since at least 220 BCE. Most kombuchas are very low in alcohol (.5% to 1.5% ABV), and are touted for their health benefits.

We spoke to Spiro Theofilatos, the founder and brewer of Beyond Kombucha, about his brewery. He started brewing in Astoria, near Steinway and Broadway, in 2010, and no less than two days after founding the company the federal government made an industry-shaking decision that would dramatically affect his business plans. The government decided that it would treat kombucha makers who brewed beverages with more than .5% ABV -- one half of one percent -- the same as brewers of beer. The choice was either to change his carefully constructed recipe, which created a beverage of .8% ABV, or get a brewer's license. Spiro went all in, got licensed, and, according to the QEDC and the Greater Astoria Historical Society, became the first brewery in Queens since Prohibition!

Obtaining the brewer's license allowed Spiro to, indeed, go beyond kombucha. He devised a recipe for a guten-free, sorghum malt based, 7% ABV, naturally carbonated beer. He named it Mava Roka. The beer has a dedicated line at The Queens Kickshaw, and it drinks more like a sorghum lambic than anything else! The name is an abbreviation of its ingredients:
MAple syrup, VAnilla, ROoibos tea KombuchA.

Its creation begins with a finished kombucha, which is used in place of water in the mashtun and for sparging. The beer is made from high quality sorgham extract provided by Briess Malting, vanilla, organic maple syrup from upstate N.Y. and three varieties of hops -- Challenger, Legacy and Cascade. Obviously, the probiotic aspect of the brew is eliminated after boiling the wort, but all the wonderful qualities of the kombucha -- such as the sour flavors -- are imparted to the beer. It is by far and away the best tasting sorghum beer we've ever had (and we generally have an immense dislike of sorghum beers).

B,R., Spiro, and Bob.

Spiro is working on a few new all-grain kombucha ales, including one called Y.P.A., an I.P.A. inspired bitter pale ale using his Yerba Mate kombucha in the brew. He's also soon to release his Lovers Saison, which uses his Love Potion kombucha, and is brewed with Belgian aromatic malt, Santium hops, New York City honey, and nine different aphrodisiacal herbs. 

Some noted breweries to have experimented with kombucha include Goose Island, which makes a Belgian Style pale ale called Fleur, brewed with hibiscus and kombucha tea, and Dogfish Head, which brewed Fungus Tea’Mungus for the one of the Beer Advocate Extreme Beer Fests. 
There are a few other American kombucha-beer brewers include Unity Vibration (Michigan), Deane's Kombucha (Minn.), Invisible Alchemy (Oregon), and CommuniiTea (Washington).
Inside an oak fermenting barrel.
Beyond Kombucha operates a one-barrel brewhouse, for brewing both the kombucha and ales, using electric heating elements in the brew kettles. Spiro considers himself a staunch environmentalist, and his brewery operates on 100% solar energy, provided by photo-electric solar panels on the brewery's roof. He said that even when his brewery is operating at it's peak level of energy consumption, he's generating surplus electricity which is sold back to the grid! 

Small batch fermenting.
Beyond Kombucha is available on a limited basis in bottles, and also on tap at places in New York like Pure Food and Wine, the Todd English bar Olives in the W hotel, The Queens Kickshaw, Eastwood, The Strand, Colicchio and Sons, Tandam Bar, and This And That.

60-gallon barrels.
5-gallon test casks.

Sixtels of Mava Roka.

Soon to be released kombucha saison.

Inconspicuous entrance to Beyond.

Sixty gallon barrel.

Delivery truck.

Warehousing room.
Straight up kombucha products.

  [link to podcast page]