Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Gänstaller Bräu

We all know of at least one, probably more, home brewer who successfully took his or her game up to the commercial level. And it helps to start early to get the necessary experience. Andreas "Andy" Gänstaller, who has been brewing beer for almost 40 years, started at the age of 15 -- is that early enough for you? Andy is the owner/brewer of the 35hl/30bbl Gänstaller Bräu located in the small Franconia village of Schnaid, near Bamberg.

Andy began brewing professionally in 2007. Early in his beer life he was inspired by the Weltenburg Kloster brewery, and counted wheat beers among his favorite styles. After working for others, he established the Gänstaller brewery to produce a wide range of traditional German, non-traditional German, and uber-traditional German beers. He's well known for his Smoked Doublebock Beer, the 9.6% Affumicator. But his most popular brew is the Zoigel, an unfiltered, malty Kellerbier.

B.R., Andy, and Bob at Greenpoint Brewing/Dirck the Norseman.
Zoigel is a regional dialect (Oberpfalz) variation of the word "zeige", meaning to show, or a sign. In the old days, a pub or guesthouse would have an arrow hanging out front, and if there was beer to be had, the arrow pointed up. If not, then down. And after having tasted Andy's incredibly delicious, fresh Zoigel on tap at Threes and Jimmy's No. 43 when he recently visited, you can be sure that a skyward pointing arrow is much preferred!

Gänstaller sells their beer in their own local pub/restaurant, the Zoiglstube located in Strassgiech a few kilometers down the road from the production brewery in Schnaid, and at a few other local pubs. Much of their production is sold outside of Germany, in Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and now the United States. 

Enduro, a coffee Berliner Weisse, a creation of Greenpoint Brewing.
A few things set the Gänstaller brewery apart. First, they use traditional decoction mashing, which, while utilized by many smaller artisanal brewers, is still not the norm. A bit more uniquely, though, especially for a German brewery, they cool the post-boil wort in an enormous cool ship, allowing the open air to bring down the temperature of the unfermented beer so that live yeast may be pitched in to begin fermentation. Lastly, Andy uses many ale recipes (pale ales, IPAs, stouts) but exclusively employs lager yeast. He often will ferment his ale-style beers with the lager yeast at higher temperatures. And, of course, he makes plenty of great traditional lagers, bocks, and Märzens.

Greenpoint's Jeff, Erik, Andy, Chris, and importer Joel.
Andy's wife Manuala, Joel, Greg, and Andy in the Threes brewhouse.

Andy, Threes' Greg, importer B.R., Threes' brewer Joel, and importer Joel.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Tributary Brewing

It seems like every week, another small brewery opens. Often times it's a journeyman assistant brewer or cellar man striking out on their own after a couple of years service in a small local or regional brewery. Their brewing education and experience can be wide ranging. There are even many who have opened or are opening breweries who have no formal training or experience beyond home brewing! Talk about a land of opportunity!

Front entrance.
But when the Tributary Brewing Company, a 15 barrel production brewery in Kittery, Maine, opened in September of 2014, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that this was destined to be one of the best small breweries in operation. Anywhere. The brewer/owner of Tributary is none other than Tod Mott, whose credibility, reputation, skill, and knowledge are beyond reproach. Tod was on the scene for the first big craft beer surge in the early 90s, and he's been one of the most important forces driving the quality of craft beer on the East Coast ever since.

In Sept. of 1990 Tod started a brewing apprenticeship at Vermont's Catamount, along side another New England brewing legend, Paul Sayler, who is currently at Gravity Brewing in Burlington, VT. His first full-time paid brewing job followed in 1991 at the Harpoon Brewery, then a fledgling operation. It was during his two year stint there that Tod developed Harpoon IPA, essentially planting the IPA flag on the East Coast at a time when it was only flying out west.
Olde Ale, Solstice Saison, IPA, and Oatmeal Stout.
Mr. Mott continued to journey through the New England brewing world, leading production at Commonwealth Brewing in Boston for about six years, and while there hiring former fellow Catamount brewer Paul Sayler to be head brewer at Commonwealth's expansion at 10 Rockefeller Center in Manhattan. Tod also did some brew time at Back Bay Brewing (Boston), Quincy Ships (Quincy, MA), and The Tap (Haverhill, MA), before landing at the Portsmouth Brewery for an 8 1/2 year tour of duty.

Heads up!
We first met Tod at the Portsmouth Brewery for an interview in 2011 and our antiquated MiniDisc recorder failed us (thanks to that, we got a much better recorder). Even if we didn't get to record it, it was an honor and pleasure to talk about beer with Tod, and learn about his great work at the Portsmouth Brewery. It was there where he reprised a recipe for a Russian Imperial Stout once called Boston Strangler Stout from his days at Back Bay Brewing. People tended to choke on that name, so it was rechristened Kate the Great!

When Tod finally got his own brewery, after almost a quarter-century of commercial brewing, he knew that he'd finally have the opportunity to brew and age his prized 12% ABV stout in the proper fashion. The Portsmouth Brewery, though with all its charms, was severely lacking in space. He had to be creative to attain the rich barrel aged characteristics of the beer -- without barrels. But the latest incarnation of the highly acclaimed beer, now known as Mott the Lesser, will enjoy a lengthly aging in actual oak barrels. One version will rest in former Pinot Noir barrels infused with port. Another is an apple brandy barrel infused with apple brandy. And a third is a Woodford Reserve bourbon barrel which is infused with Jamaican rum. He's still looking for one more barrel in which to age the rich stout -- an Islay whisky barrel. Another benefit of a bigger brewery for this beer is that he'll release it not once a year, as was done at the Portsmouth Brewery, but twice -- in April and October.

When asked about the name of the brewery, it turns out that Tod's partner Galen came up with the name while the two were rafting in the Colorado River. She also gave the brewery it's motto: "One tributary leads to another", which certainly has been the case with Tod's brewing career.

We sampled all four of the brews on tap during our visit, plus a special bottle of a barrel aged version of the Olde Ale. The Olde Ale was brewed with a very special and rare heritage malt, Chevalier Malt. Only 4 metric tons of it were made by Crisp Malting for just four select US breweries. But when one of those lucky brewer's (Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery) couldn't fit it into his busy brewing schedule, an opportunity arose for Mott to get some. Lucky for Tod he has malty friends in strategic places!

All of the Tributary beers were incredibly well made, full flavored, had fantastic aromas, and above all things were balanced. Balance is the first thing that comes to mind when tasting his IPA. It's no surprise that Tributary ranks #6 of the best new breweries of 2015 by the Rate Beer website, worldwide! Listen to the podcast for more on Tod, Tributary, and what may be trickling in from tributaries yet to be explored!
Bob, Galen, Tod, and B.R.
Tod is always happy to chat with patrons.
Growlers to go.
Tasting room.
Crazy looks from Billy, one of two brewery dogs.

Katie, named for The Great. That's her heard howling on the podcast!

15 barrel brewhouse.

CO2 blow off.


Mott the Lesser's chart.