Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Great Northeast Brewery Tour

Interview with Ben Keene, author of The Great Northeast Brewery Tour Non-Flash podcast

It seems like more and more quality beer books are being published these days. In the past, aside from Michael Jackson's works, beer books tended to fall into one of two categories:  the more technically-inclined style books aimed at homebrewers and fluffier, basic "beers are either ales or lagers" coffee table books. But in the past few years, the quality of beer writing has greatly improved and there are now plenty of books geared to those with more than a rudimentary knowledge of beer and brewing yet which don't alienate the newcomer. A recent entry into the field is The Great Northeast Brewery Tour - Tap into the Best Craft Breweries in New England and the Mid-Atlantic by Ben Keene with a forward by Brooklyn Brewery's Garrett Oliver.

Ben and his photographer, Bethany Bandera
In his book, Ben profiles 62 breweries in 11 states and the District of Columbia. The profiles give a brief history of each brewery, list the annual production, and provide a list of some of the year-round and seasonal beers. In addition, there are more in-depth descriptions of some of the beers. But what makes this book unique is the well-researched information about things to do in the vicinity of the brewery, making it a hybrid beer book/tour guide.

If a brewery has an adjoining restaurant or is a brewpub, Ben suggests beer and food pairings. If there is no food to be had at the brewery, he lists local bars and restaurants nearby where you can try the brewery's beers. And because life is (surprise, surprise) not all about beer, the suggestions for other activities to do in the area should appeal to a range of interests, whether it's sea kayak tour before or after visiting Marshall Wharf in Maine, Civil War national battlefields near Flying Dog in Maryland, or a visit to poet Robert Frost's farm near the Woodstock Inn in New Hampshire.

If you want to make more than a day trip. Ben also lists a lodging suggestion near each brewery.

There are some notable omissions - Tröegs in Pennsylvania is profiled but not Victory, for example - but at 240 pages, it's not meant to be a comprehensive listing and is slim enough to throw into your overnight bag. I'd suggest doing a bit of your own research on one of the many on-line forums to find out about other breweries nearby and then hitting the road.

As for me, as many times as I've been to New Hampshire, I had no idea that there was a NH Dairy Trail. I know what I'll be doing on our next trip up this summer.  Beer floats anyone?

Each state section has its own map

An example of the profiles found on each brewery page

Monday, March 10, 2014

Peekskill Brewery

Our homebrew club, the Malted Barley Appreciation Society, recently took a trip up the Hudson to Peekskill, NY to visit the Peekskill Brewery. The brewpub is located a short walk from the train station and is an easy day-trip from New York City via Metro North.

We started with some liquid refreshment (hey, that hour-long train trip can take a lot out of you) and lunch before touring the brewery. Most everyone chose a sampler of 4 beers to start off.

My first selection was their Hop Common, a nicely hoppy amber California Common, or steam beer, hopped with Segal Ranch, Nugget, and Cascade

Skills Pils, on their rotating seasonal pils tap, was described on the menu as a winter pils with dark German malts and Polish Lublin and Magnum hops. In reality, it was a malty, roasty schwarzbier and not a pilsner.

Styriana, a Gypsy Lager fermented with Brettanomyces and hopped with Styriana Goldings, was described as "a pale rustic beer" and it did indeed have an earthiness to it along with a citrus finish and low level brett character.

Slow and Low, a smoked lager with German malts and Polish Lublin hops and boiled overnight, had a smoke character which was fairly faint, particularly in the aroma. The light smoke flavor was pleasantly complemently by caramel notes from the malt.

Other crowd favorites on tap that day included the award-winning Amazeballs pale ale and the always refreshing Simple Sour.

All of the beers at Peekskill are unfiltered and head brewer Jeff "Chief" O'Neil tends to use very little bittering hops. instead focusing on late addition hops for their flavoring and aromatic properties.

Refilled beer glasses in hand, we then made our way to the brewery with tour guide Ed and assistant brewer Mike Benz. The current brewery, which they've been in since December 2012 having made a short move down the street, is a 15 barrel system with three 15 bbl fermenters and four 30 bbl fermenters. The brewing vessels and fermenters are located on the ground floor but every batch of beer gets pumped up to the top floor and into a coolship to cool for 1-2 hours. Peekskill Brewery has one of only around 10 coolships in the country. Once in the coolship, a plate circulates the wort and then it rests so that the sediment can settle out and heat from the hot wort is vented out. Once cooled, the wort flows back to ground level and into the fermenters.


The coolship

Most of the beers are fermented with standard ale and lager strains but they also have a dedicated brettanomyces tank. Once ready to serve, the beers are either kegged or put into one of the seven serving tank. The futuristic cool box sends the beer to the downstairs bar and upstairs tap room.
Cool box dispensing beers to both bars
Bill "Salty Dog" Coleman looking happy with his Pruneau

Aside from their regular line up, they plan to have quarterly releases of special beers. The first one in 2013 was with NYC brewery Other Half, Nuggy Num Num and the first release of 2014 will be a pale all, NYPA, brewed with Citra and Mosaic hops. An upcoming release that we were able to try out of the tanks is Pruneau, an IPA brewed with 300 pounds of fruit.

You can find several of the Peekskill beers available on draft at better beer bars in New York City but it's definitely worth the trip to the brewpub to try their other beers that are only available on premise. They do plan to start a barrel-aging program and have a bottle corking machine so hope to have bottles available at the brewpub in the future.

Peekskill riverfront. Not a good day for swimming.