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Long Island Craft Brewers to Look for in 2015

We’ve got several new breweries opening in 2015 in Long Island. We’ll be looking for them at local bars, restaurants, beer distributors, and in tasting rooms. Here’s where it’s all happening:

Farmingdale, New York

A Taste of Long Island, a specialty private-use kitchen, and now brewery, will be home to three nano-breweries who will be crafting at the location. They include 1940’s Brewing Company with brewer Charles Becker, Po’Boy Brewery with brewer Bobby Rodriguez, and The Brewer’s Collective with brewers Sarah Dougherty, Tim Dougherty, Mike DePietto, Brad Kohles, and Dan Russo.

Logos for 1940s Brewing, Po Boy Brewery, and The Brewers Collective


Bellport, New York

Bellport BrewingBellport Brewing Co. with brewers Brian Baker and Chris Kelley. This brewery has been quietly working under the radar and is looking for a tasting room in Bellport. We’re sure to see Bellport Brewing at upcoming beer events.


Holbrook, New York

Saint James BrewerySaint James Brewery with owners Rachel and Jamie Adams—Jamie is also the brewer. They’ve poured at many local craft beer events, but now St. James may have a possible tasting room by the new year.

Squarehead BrewingSquareHead Brewing Company with brewer Dave Jordan. We discovered its brews at the North Fork Craft Beer Festival in 2014, and we’re hoping to see more from it in the upcoming year.

Spider Bite BrewingSpider Bite Brewing Co. with brewer Larry Goldstein, just received its license to open a tasting room and micro-brewery. Spider Bite is not new brewery—you can find their beer in four- and six-packs across Long Island—but it had no official location. There’s talk of a possible future brew with ties with a certain online beer blogger.


Northport, New York

Cow Harbor BeerCow Harbor Beer Company is slated to start brewing in early 2015, if all construction goes as planned. Its first brews should be available to the public by spring.

Posted in exposition, freshly bottled.

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Craft Beer New Kids, No More:
Part 1—Yonkers Brewing

So, after two years of struggling with supplies, regulations, licenses, and the always constant outflow of money, you finally open your brewery. Congratulations! You’re the new kid in town! If you’ve done your marketing homework correctly, local media are knocking on your door to publish your story. You’ve received constant calls and emails from beer distributors, bars, and restaurants wanting to get your beer on tap. Twitter and Instagram are abuzz with pictures and good reviews. But six months later, the spotlight fades. Now what?

In this five-part series, we ask local New York breweries what happens when the spotlight has dimmed, the fanfare has quieted, and the not-so-newsworthy hard work of running a business begins. This week, we talk to Yonkers Brewing Co. co-founder, Nick Califano.

Yonkers Brewing Co.

  1. How are your relationships with those first restaurants, bars, and distributors when you opened compared to now? Do they continue to support you?

    (Nick): Bars and restaurants are very eager to be a part of “the next best thing.” Luckily, we have been embraced by our local bars and restaurants not only in the beginning, but throughout our two years in the market. It’s easy to “talk the talk,” to get on the shelves and on the taps in the beginning, but it’s that “walking the walk” that keeps you there. We work for their support every day and have produced high quality beers that people enjoy and will hopefully continue to enjoy for years to come.

  2. How important is social media to a small brewer—being engaged with your customer? Is it possible to be too engaged?

    Engagement is a top priority, and we consider it one of the perks of being a growing business. We are lucky enough to have the ability to get to know our customers via social outlets. We try and create personal connections with our consumer base so they view us as an entity beyond “just a craft brewery.” Social media allows us to get to know the consumers and allows the consumers to get to know us, so make sure you get to know us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

  3. Events are a large part of getting your brewery recognized at the beginning. Do you continue to attend them? Does the cost factor and return-on-investment become bigger concerns now that you are more established?

    Nick Califano of Yonkers Brewing Co.

    Nick Califano likes the display behind him.

    Events are essential in building your brand. We take advantage of most events in our local market as well as peripheral markets we expect to break into in the near future. We have stayed on the event path as we are firm believers in the value of face-to-face marketing. It’s not too often you get to lead a customer through the intended experience of your product. The investment mounts in both time and product, but we still believe it’s all worth it.

  4. How do you balance your current brewing situation and your future expansion needs?

    Co-Founders John Rubbo and Nick Califano

    Yonkers Brewery co-founders, John Rubbo and Nick Califano

    What’s balance? (Laughs) It’s hard to imagine a true balance between current needs and future needs. It’s very easy to get caught up in tomorrow and forget about the sales needed today to get you there. We work hard every day to build the foundation for tomorrow. Sure, we think about our growth constantly and are always planning the next steps, but you have to stay grounded and take it one day at a time. Plus, it helps when you have a good business partner so you can split the focus!

  5. What is the most important thing for your business right now?

    Our community is the most important thing to us right now. They have been our biggest fans throughout this whole process. They see the power of a small business like ours and how it can jump start our neighborhood and our city, and they have championed the brand like no other. They are our biggest cheerleaders and without their support we would not be where we are today.

Thanks, Nick! We’re behind you 100%!

Next time, we talk to Barrage Brewing.

Posted in qna with dnu.

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News for Long Island Craft Beer Locavores

  • Pumpkin beers may be on every tap handle, but it still feels like summer at Port Jeff Brewing Company. Stop by the tasting room near the water, and enjoy warm-weather brews like Waterfront Wheat, White’s Beach Wit, and Peach Wheat. Pick up a growler before the cool winds blow in. Can’t wait for the official start of fall on Monday? Port Jeff Brewing also has Boo Brew on tap, a pumpkin ale made with “organic pumpkin, molasses, nutmeg, cinnamon, and our secret specialty spices.”

  • Long Ireland Brewing has been busy this summer. After releasing Trinity IPA, brewed with Magnum, Simcoe and Amarillo hops for #IPADay, it introduced it’s first lager, Polish Town Pilsner to honor the 40th anniversary of the Polish Town Festival in Riverhead. Only 300 bottles were available for sale at the tasting room, but it can still be found on tap. And then the big one:: Get ready for Long Ireland’s annual Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day party at the brewery. Admission is free, and the festival includes live music, food, and of course, fresh cold beer. The party takes place tomorrow, September 20, from 1–6 PM.

  • Our neighbor up north, The Bronx Brewery, is expanding its workforce, seeking an outside sales rep to help its business grow. The brewery is also finishing up its new brew house and tasting room. A grand opening date will be announced soon—oh, those pesky bureaucratic inspections.

  • Speaking of tasting rooms, even though Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. held the grand opening celebration, its still in the final stages of construction of the secondary, and expanded, brewing facility and tasting room in Peconic. Expect an expansion of the brewery’s beer throughout Long Island and the Tri-State Area. We have no doubt the tasting room will be a must-visit North Fork destination. We predict 2015 will be the Year of Greenport Harbor. Do whales roar?

Posted in busman’s holiday, field trip, freshly bottled, ponies and jiggers.

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The Canonic Tonic — Part 1

Were we talking about gin? My favorite subject! Or maybe it’s tied with my favorite mixer, tonic water. When I was wee, my favorite place to be was behind a restaurant or home bar. My folks were in the food-service industry, so it wasn’t like I was some urchin making coin by spit-cleaning the glasses. Rather, bars were places with hanging crystal glasses, foreign and unique scents, endless ice, and magical guns that shot out soda.

Oh, I loved soda. Cola, especially, but the occasional spritzes of orange or lemon-lime sodas were just a touch away. I loved that the letters C, O, and L on the guns woudl dispense sweet elixirs of joy. Sometimes, there was an R for root beer, or G for ginger ale. So exotic! Root beer is every kid’s go-to for the harder stuff. Vanilla and birch and sarsaparilla! Drinking it was like becoming a cowboy, howdy. Ginger ale was sophisticated stuff, my monocle set upon my upturned nose. Yes, it was spicy and sweet, like the Boer War or whatever nonsense my prepubescent brain thought was just the end-all of English class and dignity.

S was always a disappointment. What was that, salted water? Yeah, it was bubbly, but it didn’t taste good, no sweeteners or caramel colors. Eventually, I would water-down my colas with seltzer and, eventually, learn to appreciate it for itself. I’ve written an article about it. You should read it sometime.

And then there was T. Younger me hated that stuff. Spritz it in a glass, and it smelled like 7-Up with something exciting added to it. Lemony? Sure. But what was that enticing scent? Quinine? Why was it there? To help people with malaria? This stuff must be magical! Instead, it was horrible. Absolutely undrinkable.

My folks spared me the forbidden knowledge of its use for pairing with gin (or, if desperate, vodka). So I was left with this undrinkable mess that had no place on the soda gun, which otherwise brought me so much joy. Occasionally, a one liter bottle would appear in my refrigerator. Surely, I thought, it’s soda, so it must have some redeeming quality. I would open it and smell that sweet, citrusy enigma, and think I must have misjudged it the last time I tried it. A sip, and a confirmation that I had not, would teach me once again to never trust the T.

And, when in time, I became aware of the possibilities opened to me once I learned to enjoy a tasty beverage, I still was of the opinion that tonic water was nastiness in a glass, and that my dear gin was the worst of of the Big Five (vodka, tequila, whiskey, rum, and gin—or what I now refer to as the Holy Quintuplet). When it was suggested to me to try a Gin and tonic, I literally scoffed. Tonic water was awful! Gin tasted like a bar smelled!

Try it. It’s grand. Somehow, the harshness of gin completely complements the astringency of tonic water. God is infinite in His wisdom. The Gin and tonic is cool, refreshing, and bubbly. It’s everything I wanted in a drink as a child, with something for the adult in me as well. The knowledge of this was censored as I skulked behind the bars of my childhood. That’s probably for the best, because as an adult, I take the Gin and tonic as a sign that the Universe is a benevolent place, and that the English managed to stumble into a lot of luck no matter how awful they were.

Wait. Where was I? Ah, tonic water. It still makes no sense to me. It’s harsh stuff. Most modern versions of it are sweetened to the point of absurdity. I doubt that 98% produced actually has quinine in it. Still, stick it with speed-rack gin and it’s tastier than half the concoctions any mixologist can throw together with just three ingredients, gin, tonic water, and lime. It can’t be mixed poorly. Put in too much gin? Still tastes good. Can’t ever have too much lime.

And it’s insidious. As I learned to enjoy the Gin and tonic, I learned to enjoy gin. My top liquor in the Holy Quintuplet is tequila, but gin is just slightly below it. (Thougtful readers may know my least favorite.)

Still, I knew, instinctively, that my tonics were subpar. I didn’t know what a good tonic should taste like, but I was sure that I hadn’t had it yet. Any time I came across something new, I would try it. Eventually, I would find that cane-sugar-sweetened tonics tasted better than the tonics with corn syrup. Listing quinine as an ingredient made the tonic exponentially better, which seems obvious, but I still don’t get it—quinine is nasty stuff. What I didn’t expect was that the less sugar used (not the same as sugar-free!) the better it tasted. And then I tried Fever-tree. I think I have more to say about that.

Posted in drunken missives, exposition.

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Gin Ag’in

It’s been almost five years since I wrote about my favorite gin, Bombay Sapphire, and four years since my positive gin experiences doubled when I tried Hedrick’s gin. Then, gin was getting the short shrift in the liquor store. Flavored vodkas—as if there should be such a thing—were dominating the shelf space, with and tequila and flavored rums squeezing in. Now, whiskey is the dominant spirit, but, lo and behold, gins are proliferating at quite a clip. I imagine that the complexity of whiskey has emboldened the palates of drinkers to the point where juniper and heat no longer scare them away.

Bottles of Bulldog, Glorious Gin, Greenhook, and New Amsterdam gin

One of these things is not like the other.
Photo composite of images from originating sites.

Bulldog Gin

  • Mellow juniper with lemon peel
  • Super smooth and bright herbal note
  • Very little heat

I came across Bulldog gin at a friend’s party. Chilled and alone, it was perfectly fine to sip, and paired with tonic water, it was sublime. It’s very smooth, and the juniper is held in check by a compliment of botanicals that play well together. In particular, I was able to taste the coriander, a woefully underused spice with a sweet lemony kick. (As an aside: Coriander is the fruit of cilantro. The herb and the spice taste nothing alike, and those that despise cilantro won’t find the soapy taste within the seed. In other English-speaking countries, cilantro is called coriander and coriander is called coriander seed. Why America wants to confuse the relation between the two is beyond me.) Bulldog, an English gin, was first launched in New York, so my friend was in the vanguard when he purchased it. Now available worldwide, it’s worth looking for.

Breuckelen Distilling Glorious Gin

  • Anise and citrus
  • Rich earthy herb with ginger kick
  • Warm pine

Is New York a hub for good gin? In my limited purview, it’s a great place. Brooklyn, in particular, is producing two astoundingly good gins. Breuckelen Distilling is notable for its superb wheat and rye whiskeys—more on that at another time. But its gin is a standout, with an earthy, herbaceous flavor, from rosemary backing up the juniper berries. Citrus notes are supplied by lemon and grapefruit, rounded off with the sweet spice of ginger. Many gins boast of the amount of botanicals, implying more is better, but Breuckelen’s Glorious Gin works magic with just the five, each one providing comforting familiarity while producing a complexity of flavor.

Greenhook Ginsmiths American Dry Gin

Essential!

  • Flowery with cinnamon notes
  • Buttery with light floral sweetness and unique spice kick
  • Smooth and herbal

Then, when I ask for recommendations, there is the gin that is always named by those that know their stuff: Greenhook Ginsmiths American Dry Gin. It’s a killer gin. Smoother than a 94-proof bottle has any right to be, Greenhook’s gin is spiced with nine botanicals, including elderflower, my currently favorite flavor. It’s exotic, but not alien. It’s welcoming in scent and buttery on the tongue. It’s a gin that can get prodigal gin drinkers back into the fold, and make the gin-wary into fans. It works beautifully with lime, which is just about the highest compliment I can pay any liquor. I get Bulldog and Breuckelen’s Glorious Gin quite often, but in between each, I’ll buy another bottle of Greenhook.

There’s something that each of these gins have in common—they all start with wheat as the grain used to create the mash for distilling. Knowing the little that I know of chemistry, I can’t wrap my head around what a difference the grain makes, but corn mashes fall flat on the tongue, where as these three wheat distilled gins all have a wonderfully velvety, buttery feel. I’ve become a grain-snob because of these three. Also, I’m a fan that I can usually find each of these for less than $40. Gin’s prices haven’t spiked the way whiskey’s has.

New Amsterdam Gin

Keep it corked

  • Orange peel with mild juniper
  • Unpleasant orange-ish
  • Mild, but that orange flavor lingers

And yet, I am stingy. My penny-pinching leads me astray. For $18 I picked up a bottle of New Amsterdam gin. New Amsterdam is less forthcoming about its ingredients, with its website noting that it’s “crafted with botanicals, citrus elements and a light touch of juniper.” The citrus elements taste like someone dropped a bottle of St Joseph’s chewable children’s aspirin into the gin. The sweet, not-quite-orange flavor is close to undrinkable. At half the price of the other gins, it still is not worth it. I’ve found some mixers that support, or mask, the odd flavor, but it will take me a long time to finish.

I’d almost think that it’s better to stick with what I know and buy reliable brands. But if I did that exclusively, I wouldn’t have tried the Brooklyn-based gins, sticking to my Bombay Sapphire. My world would have been smaller for it. I won’t let the one bad choice stop me from experiencing the growing world of artisanal gin.

Posted in recommendations, reviews.

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QnA with DnU: Paul Carlin from Long Beard Brewing Co.

It takes a good amount of blood, sweat, tears, and money—lots and lots of money—to open a brewery. It’s not always as romantic or glamorous as it seems, but there are still those that want to live the dream. Two of those dreamers, with their feet firmly set in reality, are Paul Carlin and Craig Waltz of Long Beard Brewing Co., established in 2012. With home-brewing experience and training in the brewing industry, Paul and Craig are ready to take that leap into starting their own brewery.

We got to ask Paul some questions about how Long Beard Brewing Co. started and where he sees it going in the near future.

  1. How did you get started and how did you get the name? Long Beard Brewing

    (Paul): Getting started was pretty much like most others—in the kitchen! I was a home brewer that, after some time, started to have luck with a few recipes. With a little encouragement, I decided to move ahead with this insane process of opening a brewery. I truly do think you have to be a little nuts to do this. Craig was easy to convince. We were working together as boat mechanics at a local marina on the north shore. We were passing each other, moving to different boats. I just asked him if he wanted to open a brewery, and he said yes. After that, we formed the company and started chopping away. We love this business. We really can’t think of anything else we want to do. The idea of being able to take a hobby you love to do and turn it into your business, to me, is the building block to the American dream. We are just lucky enough that it’s beer!

    The name came from a long brainstorming list we had going. In the end, my wife Melissa chose it. She said both you guys have beards so name it Long Beard. Then she looked at us with that “Duh” moment shaking her head. Simple as that.

  2. Do you have an idea of where you want your brewery to be?

    We are actively looking for a location in Riverhead. We feel, right now, it is our best option for a number of reasons. The first is it’s a destination spot. Riverhead has become a hub for craft beer on Long Island. You can’t argue that. We have done a lot of research and spoken to a lot of people to help make that decision. One of the more important aspects of our brewery will be our tasting room. We want people coming in droves! Being in Riverhead will make that easier. Look what’s going on there! You are in wine country, in a town that is putting effort in revitalizing main street and bringing in much needed business and tourism. The town, itself, is friendlier to our industry, and the beer tours will be always coming in with business. It just makes sense. The other reason is more in the realm of being around the other breweries. My partner Craig, besides our business, is also interning at Long Ireland Beer Co.. After conversations with Dan [Burke] and Greg [Martin of Long Ireland] about the benefits of being out there, Craig was able to convince me. Danny and Greg have been extremely helpful and instrumental in guiding us on the right path during this startup phase. They have been able to provide us with information based on experience rather then theory. To me, that is priceless. So, being close helps. Now, we just need to find the right spot!

  3. You purchased equipment before you had a location. Why in that order?

    equipment

    Equipment

    We started buying equipment last year [2013]. Even though we have not found the perfect location yet, we did not want to pass on a few great deals that happened to fall into our laps. We also bartered with another brewery for our mash tun and few other things. We figured less things to worry about later on down the road.

  4. Have you thought about what about what you’ll be brewing?

    We have a lot of great ideas and plans for our brews. In the beginning, we will be concentrating on our flagships. These, in our opinion, will be the main sellers and revenue producers in the long run. So, in the beginning will be our 90-min IPA and pale ale. For the first year, that will be the main production. We also have a milk stout and abbey weizen that will get placed into the mix from time to time. With that said, we do plan on releasing something special as a brewery release that will be in conjunction with our grand opening. A limited run. I’m actually very excited to work on this and can’t wait for the end product. We take pride in what we make and do not want to flood the market with twenty okay beers just to get a new product on the shelf every other month. We will perfect what we have and make sure quality is put in front of all else. When we are sure it is the best, only then we will bring it to the masses.

  5. Are you going to be at any future events this year?

    Paulandcraig

    Paul and Craig

    As far as future events, we do not plan on doing any until we are licensed. We would love to participate and get our beer and name out further, but in a way that is beneficial to us. Now, I understand these events are the best forum to showcase your company and product, but the way I have to look at it right now is from a business perspective. There is a cost to doing these events. Entry costs, product costs, transportation…, etc. It all mounts up. I could have the best beer, and everyone that tries it loves it. At the end of the day, there is no way to bring it to market yet. So, that great beer that everyone loved can’t be sold to them. We, at this stage, are a company that only has expenses. No revenue yet. The shows for us would be just lost money. Also, we are in the middle of an offering to bring on investors. Investors like to see money spent well and not show a trend of just needless spending. I want to be able to bring our brand to all. If there are no funds, I can not do that. However, that is this stage. Once we are licensed it is another story. As soon as operations begin, we will be out there pouring away. I look forward to it.

  6. What makes your beer vision different then the others already on Long Island?

    My vision is pretty intense right now. We know what we need to do to make a successful brewery. We have been given great advice and education from people who are doing it in this great business, like Danny and Greg from Long Ireland. Also, Mark from Brewtopia, now the Port Jefferson Hop Shop, has guided and given us a wealth of knowledge on doing great business within the brewery business. We want to put out brews that are going to be creative and packed with every ounce of our brand, but quality. That’s the goal. We want you to taste the pride we put into it. We want it to be about the beer and not the hype. If we can do that and continue to listen to the right people, our kids will have a brewery waiting for them. That’s my vision.

Thanks Paul! We can’t wait to try a Long Beard brew! Long Beard Brewing Co. has a brand-spanking-new website and can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted in qna with dnu.

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Ponies and Jiggers

We’ve got a lot of exciting events and premiers this summer on Long Island. Come visit, if you’re not local. Besides our wonderful beaches, we have great local crafters:

Mike McQuade and Jason Laan sit at a bar with a bottle of Old Whalers Style Sag Harbor Hand Crafted Rum

Mike McQuade and Jason Laan of Sag Harbor Spirits, courtesy of Flickr.

  • Sag Harbor Spirits, founded by Mike McQuade and Jason Laan, is Long Island’s newest distiller. Mike and Jason describe their Old Whalers Style Sag Harbor Hand Crafted Rum as “aged in old bourbon barrels and lightly infused with a blend of spices, fruits, and other natural flavors. This unique combination is inspired by the practice of old whaling ships storing the rum in barrels that had previously been used for coffee, exotic spices and fruit.” Long Islanders can find the rum at select bars and liquor stores. We’re eagerly looking to try a sample of this local elixir very soon.

  • Melba makes beer-brined pickles from her little garden for the past 2 years, but that won’t stop us from picking up a jar from Backyard Brine Pickle Co. Created by husband and wife team Randy and Cori Kopke, its pickles “…are hand packed in small batches using fresh, all natural, and local ingredients, some right from our own ‘backyard’ garden. No artificial preservatives, chemicals, or any of that weird yellow number 5 stuff…” It recently held a beer and pickle pairing event at The Lark Pub and Grub of East Northport, New York, and there have been rumors of a possible beer collaboration with our friends at Blind Bat Brewery, its soon to be neighbor in Northport.

  • Speaking of friends in craft beer community, Barrage Brewing has decided to do a bit more construction at its brewery at in Farmingdale, New York, building a new tasting/growler fill-room, away from the working brewery area. Soon, customers will be able to taste beers, fill growlers, and buy swag in a relaxing area with a bar and tables. Look for an official announcement soon.

  • We’re thrilled that Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. announced its 5th Anniversary/Grand Opening Peconic Event. Greenport Harbor has been building a secondary, expanded brewery location in Peconic, New York, for quite some time. Its original location, in the heart of Greenport Village, will still remain open. The anniversary event will take place on July 12, from 3:00–8:00 PM.

  • So how does one open a craft brewery? Start with homebrewing and make “The Perfect Keg.” Beer expert Ian Coutts, author of “Brew North,” shares his adventures, misadventures, and missteps as he proves that it is possible to brew the perfect keg of exclusively natural beer in a single year in The Perfect Keg: Sowing, Scything, Malting and Brewing My Way to the Best-Ever Pint of Beer. We’ve got our own copy and will share a review as soon as we finish this entertaining, educational book.

  • Hopslist But it can be difficult to find the proper ingredients to brew a great batch of beer. That’s why Julian Healey, self-described “guy from Melbourne, Australia,” created the The Hopslist. The Hopslist is a free resource listing over 260 different hop varieties. These listings include informative descriptions and a combination of tasting notes, analytical data, and retailer information. The style guide suggests what hops will make what specific type of beer, such as using Bramling and Vanguard hops for a rye ale. Helpful and extremely easy to navigate, The Hopslist is a great resource for both the beginner or seasoned craft brewer.

  • An interesting infographic was created by the folks at the Online Business Degree Guide, called The Business of Craft Beers and Microbreweries. Starting with some stats on the business of microbrewing, the infographic then walks through steps on how to homebrew. It’s a pretty slick infographic from a relatively odd source.

  • The burgeoning craft beer industry is the jumping off point for Bills and Brews. Host Matt Laslo couldn’t help but notice both the growth of craft beer in every state and the rising partisanship in our nation’s government. Finally having enough of the partisanship, Matt said, “Hell, why not pour some local hops on today’s bitter national political discourse?” and created a successful Kickstarter campaign. As the website states: “Bills and Brews is a chance to get to know lawmakers, their regions, and craft breweries through Laslo’s chats at pubs and breweries. It’s a place to check the talking points at the door. We want to celebrate what America’s doing right, in spite of our politicians doing so much wrong.” Cheers, Matt!

Right or left, we can all agree that summer is better with tasty beverages. Let’s concentrate on the real pressing matters at the family barbecue: Is there enough ice? We firmly stand on the side of “No, there is never enough ice.” Share your opinion, press release, or event by sending a link to Fervere.

Posted in ponies and jiggers.

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Hoptron home brew store to become Back Alley Brew Shop.

Patrick McHale

Photo courtesy of Rob Fleming (Facebook)

Hoptron Brewtique, in Patchogue, NY, recently finalized a deal to sell its home-brew store to Patrick McHale, who currently runs craft beer/home-brew sales at Hoptron. Patrick will become the owner around the beginning of May.

I asked Patrick for a statement about the change of hands and his new title, owner of the future Back Alley Brew Shop.

“I was super excited when the owners of Hoptron [Brewtique] approached me about the sale of the home brew store. They had initially hired me to manage the home brew aspect of Hoptron in addition to the bar, so I’ve been with it from the start. We were able to do a lot of great things for new, local home brewers, but the success of the bar was demanding more and more of their attention, to the point where I think they were [un]able to focus on the growth of the home brew store.”
“Knowing that the home brew store was my passion from they start, they kindly suggest selling to me, and luckily we were able to work out a deal that worked for both sides. Now that I can focus solely on Back Alley Brew Shop, I hope to make some improvements that will help strengthen and grow the local home brew community. Things like expanded inventory, more classes and lectures, a monthly bottle share for home brewers to meet and share brews and feedback, and a new website/blog (hopefully done soon!) to keep home brewers informed about local events as well as providing brew tips. I’d also like to start selling gifts for the beer enthusiasts that don’t home brew—bottle openers, shirts, glasses, books, even hop lip balm.”

Posted in freshly bottled.

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St-Germain

St-Germain

Essential!

  • Honeysuckle, citrus peel, green herb
  • Viscous and sweet. Floral, honey, and a touch of grapefruit
  • That floral sweetness intoxicates more than the alcohol

40 proof

The promise of spring and beautiful weather is captured in a bottle of St-Germain. The elderflower liqueur is sweet and floral with a bit of citrus peel and is unique amongst liqueurs in flavor and scent. Its a favorite of Mrs. Ferment, who voraciously hoards her bottle from eager seekers of St-Germain cocktails.

750 ml Bottle of St-Germain

The Precious. St-Germain.

It was out for a while before Mrs. Ferment and I came across it at the annual Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra Jazz Age Lawn Party two years ago. St-Germain sponsors the event and, therefore, is a major ingredient in the cocktails found at the soiree on Governors Island. There were two types of cocktails, the elegant St-Germain cocktail and the fruit-filled Sangria flora.

St-Germain cocktail

  • 2 parts dry, sparkling wine
  • 1½ parts St-Germain
  • 2 parts seltzer
  • lemon peel
  • ice
Fill a Collins glass with ice. Pour sparkling wine, St-Germain, seltzer, and stir. Twist lemon peel over glass, drop it in, and enjoy.

Sangria Flora

  • 1 bottle dry white wine
  • 1 cup St-Germain
  • 2 peaches, pits removed, sliced, skin on
  • 6 strawberries, sliced
  • 6 raspberries, whole
  • a bunch of grapes, cut in half
The fruit, while necessary, need not be these particular choices, so feel free to experiment. Put all ingredients into a carafe and refrigerate for 15–30 minutes. Pour over ice-filled Collins glass.

After the event, having enjoyed the cocktails immensely, both of us and our companions, Mr. F~ and Ms. P~, were eager to pick up a bottle as quickly as possible. We found a liquor store nearby that sold St-Germain for $50. This, to Mrs. Ferment and me, is the singular problem with St-Germain—its price—hence Mrs. Ferment’s previously noted hoarding. But we’ve found the liqueur worth it. It has a pleasant viscosity that matches its light golden color, like a honey syrup. There’s honey in its taste profile, too, along with floral honeysuckle and a hint of grapefruit. St-Germain is meant to be an ingredient, though. It’s a touch too sweet to have it as a singular apéritif. But lemon rind and a spritz of bubbly seltzer complement the liqueur so well that they’re both included in many of its cocktail recipes.

750ml bottle of Llord's Elderflower liqueur

The impostor. Llord’s Elderflower.

But we’re frugal here at DnU HQ, to say the least, so I kept a lookout for a generic substitute for St-Germain, another mythical but inexpensive elderflower liqueur. I found one with Llord’s Elderflower Liqueur, at a mere $9. Clear, and less viscous, Llord’s version has none of the subtleties of St-Germain. It smells and tastes like a cheap, sweetened vanilla rum, the type of vanilla flavoring that comes from burnt trees and not vanilla beans. Still, since St-Germain is more of an ingredient than a stand-alone, I decided to conduct a blind taste-test. I mixed two batches of the St-Germain cocktail, one with real St-Germain and the other with the generic. Then I walked away as a helper poured each version in to small cups; only she would know which was poured into which. She distributed these cups to six people, including me, four of whom had not ever tried either version before. Four of us, including Mrs. Ferment and me, preferred, by a wide margin, the St-Germain version. Mrs. Ferment and I were also not fooled by the impostor, since we had the real stuff in the past. Two of our testers actually preferred the vanilla-ish flavor of the LLord’s, specifically calling out the vanilla against the more citrusy flavor the St-Germain. Due to this, those two will never be invited to another DnU taste-test as I can no longer trust their judgment. (Only kidding. We love our testers, no matter how unsophisticated their palates may be.)

Mrs. Ferment and I had to concede that there was nothing like the real thing. We’ve since found St-Germain as cheap as $40 for a 750ml bottle. It’s liquid gold, so we try to stock up on it as we can. The dear sister of Mrs. Ferment gifted her a bottle for her birthday, slightly relieving our self-imposed embargo on making cocktails with it.

There’s a wonderful story behind the origin of St-Germain, and the French artisans who pick fresh elderflowers in early spring and hand-press them to release the flowers’ essence. And the marketing for it makes it seem like a drink popular during Prohibition. It’s all a bit hard for me to swallow, having a bit of knowledge about how anything mass-marketed is made and advertised, but, thankfully, St-Germain itself is not at all difficult to swallow, so I’m happily caught in its fantastic, romantic allure.

Posted in bar essentials, recipes, recommendations, reviews, taste tests.

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R-E-S-P-E-C-T: InBev Buys a Brewery

Photo from Blue Point Brewery from Facebook.

Blue Point Brewery courtesy of Facebook.

When news broke that Anheuser-Busch InBev was buying Long Island’s Blue Point Brewing Co., I was blindsided like many people. As this was the biggest story in the past ten years for our local beer community, there was much debate that quickly devolved into extremes. On one side, Blue Point was the Antichrist, selling out to the devil; the other displayed a Pollyannaish attitude that all will be well. With arguments exploding in every online discussion, I stepped back from the fray, since it looked like there was nothing left to say. But after reading more articles and blog posts on the subject, I felt that many people were wildly missing the point. You know what they say about opinions and specific body areas, but I’m still sharing my own.

Yes, the customers and fans of Blue Point may feel sad and maybe a bit angry about the merger. Blue Point fostered the current “us against them” attitude within the craft-beer culture. That built customer loyalty and helped build a large fan base. Blue Point pushed that message on bottles, labels, banners, and other media. It was their brand identity. Was the fallout that came afterwards really that surprising? The lack of a statement from the owners, Mark Burford and Peter Cotter, didn’t help. Had they said something, it might have quelled the tide of venom. Possibly, they knew what was coming and are waiting to give their customers a chance to vent. The onslaught of opinion, even negative opinion, shows how much passion there is about Blue Point, its beer, and its business.

I, too, have concerns about this venture. I’ve had a personal experience with a corporate takeover that still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. AB InBev has a dubious track-record of recipe changes and plant closings. People who know the industry point to the example of AB InBev‘s purchase of Goose Island, a craft-beer aficionado’s favorite, which, so far, has not been entirely negative, but there’s a whole ’nother debate on the pros and cons of that acquisition.

So maybe it’s okay to be sad and ruffled, but it’s not okay to belligerent, hateful, or spiteful. Niko Krommydas, a columnist for Long Island Pulse, expressed this perfectly:

Stop. Everyone. Please. Stop. The New York Times wrote “Terms of the deal between Blue Point and the United States arm of Anheuser-Busch InBev were not disclosed,” so presently, we can only speculate.
MUST WE ALSO SPECU-HATE, THOUGH?

Unfortunately, there has been much hate, ignorance, and overall vitriol flung about, without considering the context of Blue Point— its history, and what it means to Long Island and the craft-beer industry as a whole.

As an example, Danny Fullpint of The Full Pint had this to say about the takeover:

[A]fter having the amazing, illustrious Heady Topper, I made up my mind that I would not be going out of my way to get a delicious Double IPA when I can get plenty, fresh, in my back yard. So why care about a portfolio of beers way below the caliber of Hill Farmstead, Maine Beer Co., Tired Hands, and other amazing North East craft breweries.
So when AB-InBev sets their sights on other mediocre to average craft breweries, I say they can have them, and they won’t be that missed.

Did those mentioned craft breweries just pop up into existence out of a fantasy vacuum where the market and consumers were magically there? Don’t modern craft brewers reap the benefits of pioneers like Blue Point who were around for 15 years, long before any of these new brewers made their first batch? Mark and Peter got in their van, driving bar to bar, restaurant to restaurant, distributor to distributor, asking them to give craft beer a chance, paving the way for micro- and nano-breweries to reach the same audience. Didn’t Blue Point’s business model give banks and local townships a reason to invest in small craft breweries? Didn’t it help convert the general public, one Toasted Lager at a time, proving that there was something else, something more then Bud-Miller-Coors? Surely, that long road wasn’t paved by craft-beer fairies.

 

Blue Point was, and still is, an inspiration to breweries on Long Island, New York State, and the Northeast, because it showed potential brewers, yes, it’s possible—you can make a living at this. While beer snobs scoff at Toasted Lager, it was revolutionary and award winning. Future brewers, sitting in a bar, looked up and saw that tap handle, a shining beacon stuck between the big, macro-brews. The Danny Fullpints should be thanking Blue Point for helping grow the craft-beer movement for those sweet Heady Toppers or whatever beer du jour they fancy this millisecond.

The Brooklyn Beer Bitch took the sale this way:

“Here’s the thing… You could drink a different good beer every day for the rest of your life. Period. And this expansion works in both directions. For every job that is lost on Long Island (and whatever Mark and Pete are saying—possibly in earnest—jobs will be lost at Blue Point), NY will gain a job [sic] thanks to Bell’s expansion (distributors are people too!). Not to mention the jobs that will be created in Michigan, which probably needs them more than we do anyhow.
…In the meantime, I’ll take Bell’s and AB can take Blue Point. It’s all good.

Bell’s Brewery, from Kalamazoo, Michigan, just starting distribution in New York, is the brewery of the moment. How many breweries has the craft-beer community ooh-and-aahed only to toss them aside for the next big thing? It’s not about the beer; it’s about community! And Blue Point has long been entrenched in the Long Island community. The angry mob seems to have to forgotten the time when eight local breweries met at Blue Point’s brewery to brew Surge Protector Sandy Relief Ale, after Hurricane Sandy sucker-punched Long Island and destroyed Barrier Brewing Co. It was one of the largest collaborations in craft-brewing history. All of it brewed, labeled, and packaged at Blue Point Brewing Company. $58,000 dollars was raised, and half the proceeds went to help Barrier rebuild, and the other half given to Long Island Cares. Let’s not forget about the Blue Point Cask Ales Festival, started in 2005. The festival has introduced many up-and-coming Long Island and New York regional craft brewers to the general public, acting as a catalyst for many small breweries—getting their brews known and becoming successful in their own right. Mark and Peter are ambassadors of the Long Island craft-beer community. They’ve offered insight, time, and help to many brewers, sharing their experiences and the challenges they’ve faced owning and running a business. They have donated much to local charities and their hometown, Patchogue, New York. So tell me what Bell’s Brewery has done for Long Island and its brewing community? It’s ok, I’ll wait.

The best article that I have read about this is from Jason Nottee, a reporter writing for TheStreet.com.

Blue Point was founded in 1998 and, along with Brooklyn Brewery, it was one of the few New York-area craft brewers to make its presence felt in the New York metro area during the early 2000s. Blue Point signage and tap handles found their way into bars, bodegas and liquor stores around New York City, Long Island and New Jersey. Its Toasted Lager and Hoptical Illusion became fixtures in bars where craft beer previously hadn’t ventured.

But what happened to Blue Point along the way is becoming a familiar tale in a growing craft beer market that has little respect for all but the oldest of its elders.

I recommend reading the entire article. It’s fantastic. It looks beyond the sale, describes the impact over the craft-beer market, and doesn’t engage in speculation. The last line in the article struck a chord.

As Blue Point made clear, all it takes is a tired, fading brewer to make such a sale possible.

Blue Point may appear like the old guard to a craft-beer community that has 2,500 breweries to choose from, but if we take a little time away from the beer-rating sites we can see them as they truly are—ahead of the curve, consistent, and winner of many medals. White IPAs are starting to gain in popularity—Blue Point released one in 2011. Their award-winning brews include: Hoptical Illusion winning in 2005; and, RastafaRye Ale winning in 2009 and again in 2013. There are many more awards to choose from.

Jason Notte and I conversed over Twitter:

 

 

He’s right; I wish more beer drinkers would admire these traits. Blue Point hasn’t changed that much from its early days, but its consumer base has changed. Newer, crazier, hoppier, rarer are the modern-day brewery hallmarks. Craft beer is becoming all about over-the-top and over-hyped. It’s a time where beerophiles show off their anointed brews on Instagram like they’re showing off their children on Facebook. Blue Point Brewery didn’t cater to that audience. Its focus was on hard work, craftsmanship, and consistent quality—not hoopla.

I don’t know why Blue Point Brewery sold to AB InBev, and, while money seems to be the major factor, we may never know all the reasons. I have my own suspicions, but, whatever I know or suspect, I wish Mark and Peter the absolute best. They have worked hard for this and have given their absolute all to Long Island and the craft-beer community for the past 15 years, and they deserve to reap the rewards. As Lauri Spitz, brewer and co-owner of Moustache Brewing, aptly put, “It’s the end of an era.” Indeed it is, but let’s have some patience and show some damn respect.

Posted in drunken missives.

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