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Aging some beer & cider.

Movember is Coming…

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Edible New

It’s that time of year again. The time when bearded men transform themselves into unrecognizable baby faced boys. When glorious mustaches get shaved off for a greater good. Of course, we’re talking about Movember.

In case you aren’t familiar with it, Movember is a fun way to raise money and awareness for prostate/testicular cancer and mens mental health, while not having to shave for the entire month of November. The cause isn’t limited to men, as women are also encouraged to participate (no mustache required). Every year Blue Point Brewing Co. assembles a team of hair growing fundraisers and this time is no different.

The month kicks off tomorrow with shaves at the brewery and will culminate in a Movember wrap party with prizes, drinks and general good times. Kevin has participated previously and is part of team Blue Point this year as well (his link can be found here). It’s a great cause that brings awareness to mens health and we encourage you all to participate by either joining the team or donating what you can. And as leading fundraiser last year, Kevin is looking for some challengers.

Happy Movember! Oh, and Happy Halloween too.

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Written by A+K

October 31st, 2014 at 2:20 pm

A + K !

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So as you may have (hopefully) noticed, things have been a bit quiet on the Beer Loves Company front as of late. Contrary to rumors that we have abandoned craft beer and moved to Whatever USA aka the Bud Light town, we actually have happier news. We got married!

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Of course, the celebration wouldn’t have been complete without a little beer love in the mix, so we made sure to have a few favorites on tap. Founders Porter, The Bruery Oude Tart and Saison DuPont were our commercial offerings along with a couple coveted cases of Heady Topper and Maine Lunch. Bobby Rodriguez of Po Boy Brewery made a delicious apple pie cider while Andrew Luberto produced a champagne inspired mead. Both were great to offer to the non craft beer drinking crowd and show them what awesome products can be produced at home.

And of course, we made a sour raspberry/cherry cider to serve as we wanted to use something personal for our toast. The yeast was one we have been cultivating over several funky brews now and it’s taken on a smoky flavor that paired nicely with the fruit.

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Post wedding, we spent a week in Jamaica drinking nothing but Red Stripe, mixed drinks and Guiness Foreign Extra Stout, which was a more than pleasant surprise.

Long story short, we are married and back so look for some posts soon.

We’re trapped! We’re trapped! We’re trapped!

 

Written by A+K

October 24th, 2014 at 4:14 pm

Posted in Musings

Harvesting Barn Honey by Andrew Luberto

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My wife leaned in up against me on the couch, her index finger flicking across the iPhone screen like a master dealer flicking out cards at a Vegas black jack table. Although I have to admit I’m pretty indifferent to just about anything sentimental, the tiny subjects of each picture she was showing me really did have an endearing quality to them. As a self-respecting man I would never use the word “cute” to describe anything but I imagine that is the word someone much more in touch with their feelings than me would describe them as. Their furry little jackets made them look like some sort of insect Vikings or Manowar album cover and the neon yellow sacks on their hind legs shone with a vivid intensity. “We have Bees”. My Wife’s announcement was less of a statement then A STATEMENT! I imagined this was the level of excitement associated with other brief statements like “I’m pregnant” or “I’m cured” or “We won”.

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My wife and I own a house on the east end that we’re actively trying to sell. The property must have been part of a large farm that was split up into residential properties at some point because there was a massive 600 square foot barn in the back yard. I say “was” because last winter the entire barn unceremoniously collapsed in on itself like some sort of farmyard neutron star. I let the clean up go for a number of months for a couple of reasons, first because I knew it was going to be a fortune in just dumpsters alone to get rid of this disaster and second trying to hire general contractors out east is an absurdly complicated process. I grew up in the middle of Suffolk County, or as people out east refer to it “up island”. I was used to opening up a phone book or searching the internet and finding about 35 people who all offered the same general services and then having that person at your house that afternoon to fix whatever needed to be done and then politely rob you blind. Not so out east, there you have to track down one of the various rumored contractors whose information you can only find by word of mouth and then get ignored as phone calls and appointments go by the wayside. It’s what I imagine living in a socialist third world country must be like all the time.

The interesting part came when I received a phone message from the real estate agent that the clean-up estimate went well but did I know there are bees swarming around the barn, furthermore he was pretty sure they were honey bees. A trip out there by my wife and several dozen artistic iPhone pictures confirmed that we did indeed have bees and that they were in fact genuine honey bees. So I figured get some cheap cans of hornet nest killer and cover the suckers with deadly chemicals like the jungles of Vietnam right? Wrong. When I called an exterminator, he informed me that honey bees are a protected species and killing them is against the law and carries massive fines. So somehow I had to transplant the bees from the barn and then hand them over to some local bee keeper, or at the very least re-enact the entire movie of Candyman. So like anybody who is faced with something they know absolutely nothing about I took to Youtube. I have to say I was pretty surprised at the way many of these guys man handled large swaths of bees, simply banging a bench teeming with bees over a bucket to let large chunks made up of dozens of them drop. It looked fairly simple so I was about to give it try when I remembered that my friend, farmer, and National BJCP judge Matt Bobiak had started raising bees on his farm in Pennsylvania and maybe he could shed some light on the situation.

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I emailed Matt and told him of my ambition to take out the bees myself. Matt wrote back some sound advice but also added “Even as someone who has now had hives for 6 months, I don’t know that I would take on this project… Handling bees is not always the most intuitive behavior. When you get the first sting, things can go haywire quickly.” It was that phrase “things can go haywire quickly” that scared me a bit. When I was young I saw a kid who accidently stepped on a hornets nest at the local park get rushed away on a gurney toward a frantic ambulance core on its way to the emergency room. Matt’s choice of words somehow evoked that memory enough that I knew I didn’t want to try the removal after all.

Luckily about a year prior to this I had begun to brew mead. Through a series of moves and hand me downs I happened by about 20 pounds of orange blossom honey. The bucket it was given to me in sat and stared at me for a few months from the corner in my house before I happened to be leafing through an issue of Zymurgy and came across a mead recipe that called for the exact amount of honey I had on hand. Given it was already in a bucket I just dumped a few gallons of water on it hit the mixture with my stir whip, added nutrients, and let it do its thing. When all was said and done I was amazed to discover it tasted good, real good. I had spent about 1/10 the energy I usually exert on making a beer and I created a drink I could enjoy just as much. From that point I was hooked on making mead. Soon after I got the mead bug I located a local honey supplier off the Long Island Bee Keepers Society website after some of their members gave a talk at a Long Island Beer and Malt Enthusiasts meeting. As luck would have it the supplier I contacted also specialized in honey bee removal.

Miguel was an oddity of his surroundings, as if someone had transplanted him from a 1950s Puerto Rican farm to a contemporary Long Island suburb. He was surprising agile for someone in their 70s but it was hard to imagine him as any other age. His relaxed manner and verbal style paired perfectly with his worn flannel shirts and industrial looking suspenders. His accent was hard to work through at times and his penchant for stories and social commentary only exacerbated it. When you enter Miguel’s house he immediately ushers you to a seat and then relaxes into chair at his kitchen counter, sipping a cup of coffee or tea as if you were a friend or relative paying a visit to catch up on things. “So, what do you do for a living”, this was a peculiar first question to me since it had nothing to do with either the bees or our business. “I’m a teacher”, “ah” he leaned back in his chair and fingered his suspenders, “educated”. I wasn’t sure exactly where he was going with this; “teachers are good people” he offered and took another sip of his cup as he launched into a description of a teacher he once was acquainted with whom he felt was a very educated person. It immediately became clear that if I was going to employ his services it was going to be on his terms and at his leisure.

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After talking for some time, Miguel showed me around his work space in the lower level of his house. There was what looked like hundreds of empty buckets stacked alongside filled buckets and tanks of various honeys. Every piece of equipment or decoration seemed to have some significance as he would jump from one anecdote to the next while simultaneously offering life lessons on everything from work to women. Every so often he would get caught up describing a honey in one of the containers, then pause and nod as if he internally convinced himself of something, pull a small glass jar sample from a box onto a worn wooden work table, then produce a spoon seemingly from nowhere to offer a sample. I tried about 5 varieties of honey that day and each was intoxicatingly delicious.

Miguel seemed genuinely interested in people and a vast rolodex of past experiences. He told me he was a master bee keeper and while I didn’t know what that entailed exactly I was nonetheless simultaneously convinced and impressed. After two hours of sampling honeys and stories concerning what seemed just about every acquaintance he ever made, we were able to set a date to go out east and transplant the bees from the wreckage of the barn. We would meet up at his house in the early morning and I would ride in his truck with him and help out at the house.

The day of the removal I stood on Miguel’s driveway helping him load onto his truck an odd assortment of equipment most of which I swore I had once seen at the Mutter Museum of medical oddities in Philadelphia. After packing up various hoses, canisters, saws, and straps he produced a worn green wooden box which looked like something that had once held produce on a roadside grocery stand. He patted it with pride and proclaimed “this is the money maker”. After rumbling around in his truck for a minute he produced an old vacuum hose and confidently attached it to a hole in the front of the box. Then he produced a floor stand vacuum which looked like it had seen a lot of mileage and attached it with another short hose through a hole in the back of a box. The contraption reminded me of an old tri pod camera you see in the westerns, the ones that had a black felt cape which covered the photographer as he held up a silver handled flash. Miguel explained to me that this was a bee vacuum he constructed; the best way to extract the bees without harming them was to suck them through this apparatus and into the box which acted as a bee cage. Sort of like when the Ghostbusters trapped Slimer in the dining room of the hotel.

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Joining us that day was a young kid named Jorge that was staying with Miguel. After about an hour of packing, a trip to the post office where Miguel visited his favorite teller, and a few egg sandwiches we were finally on our way. When we hit the end of the Expressway we unceremoniously pulled over. Miguel and Jorge jumped out as if this was part of their usual routine so I followed. The two of them waded into the thicket of brush cresting the side of the highway as the wind from speeding cars crashed against me like waves on the beach. When I caught up they were breaking off twigs from a woody looking bush with tiny red fruit that beaded its branches, “The smoke from these calms the bees and makes them docile” he explained. I began to join them as I wanted to at least give the appearance of earning my keep, as I broke off branches Miguel casually added “watch the poison oak” which I realized I was standing in.

When we pulled up to the house out east we drove through the backyard and to the barn. My wife and her friend Jeanne were there waiting for us. Jeanne holds various science degrees and is interested in all things wildlife so she was eager to watch the process of extracting honey bees. As we began to set up, this was the first time I had been near the barn since I was made aware of the bees. I was acutely aware of their presence with everything I did. Jorge unraveled extension cords for the bee vacuum, Miguel started a small fire in a hand held smoker, which looked like a cross between an old silver tea pot and a small accordion. He walked towards the barn and surveyed the area around the bee hive. Not wanting to miss anything I shadowed. I was surprised to see the bees flying in and out of a hole in the side of the barn about two inches in diameter. I had hornet infestations a number of times before and I had just assumed the bees would have built one of those big hideous hives that looked like a mess of rages and old paper mache.

We immediately set to work peeling away the shingles attached to the side of the barn and chop down branches that interfered with our access to the hive. I got to wield a machete and would alternatively chop and pose for my wife who would roll her eyes as I asked “this turning you on baby?” As we successively tore away at the layers of the barn, peeling back the shingles and prying off the wooden slates, the swarm circulating around the immediate area grew exponentially. Soon the air was thick with them, we even had to yell in order to talk to each other.

As we continued to work, Miguel and Jorge gave no indication that they were going to take even the slightest safety precaution in terms of covering up. I found this a bit worrisome but still followed suit since I a) didn’t want to look like a wimp and b) was fairly certain they didn’t bring any protective coverings anyway. As the swarm circulated, bees began landing on my arms, face, shoulders, and torso. I remembered Matt Bobiak’s heed that “things can get out of control quickly” and I gave a concerned look back over towards my wife and Jeanne who were standing a safe distance away. Miguel must have sensed this because he turned over his shoulder and offered, “Andrew, don’t be afraid”, which I found reassuring until he added, “or you might die!” and then chuckled privately to himself.

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Miguel started up his bee vacuum and began sucking down bees into the box as Jorge and I continued to pry off the wood from the side of the barn. Beneath the layers of worn and dilapidated wood siding reveled enormous stalagmite looking sections of comb. Miguel pointed out the different parts of the comb that were used for various functions by the hive. It was a miracle machine of nature to me, each tidbit of information more compelling than the next.

Afterwards, he pulled a stainless steel tray from the back of his truck and began effortlessly cutting through sections of comb with a hot knife. He extracted comb sections that held the honey like a butcher pulling off large slabs of meat from a hanging carcass. Each section made a dull slap as it was tossed indifferently into the tray. He then cut off a few small pieces of the honey filled comb and handed them to Jeanne and my wife to try. “Would you like to try some?” he asked, I refused being a tad bit picky about eating something that came from a moldy collapsed barn but he just gave a look that seemed to say “what’s wrong with this sissy?” and then cut me a piece anyway.

The honey was dark amber and glistened in the sunlight. I closed my eyes and popped it in my mouth. The taste was surprisingly rich and sweet but not cloying. There were notes of dark fruit like fig and raisin with touches of caramel and it was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted. I knew that the sweat equity that was involved in order to extract the honey from the barn must’ve heightened the taste perception but it didn’t matter to me. I felt fully immersed in that moment as tens of thousands of bees swarmed around blocking out any signs of humanity with the volume of their wings. For the first time I can remember I felt like a part of my natural surroundings instead of an intruder outside looking in. This imagined integration generated a sense of safety even as I was aware of the sheer absurdity in thinking this way. My breath and my mind slowed to a crawl. I looked down at my bare hand which was nearly covered with honey bees calmly carrying on their way of life, oblivious to our presence, and I somehow felt at peace; that this was simply the natural order of things. I almost sensed that I was somehow being pitied; my severance from nature, begun eons ago by ancestors long since forgotten, which robbed me of the simple pleasure of interacting with my natural surroundings.

The Dalai Lama wrote that anxiety is fear of the future and depression is regret of the past so we must cherish our continual existence in the present. At that moment with honey lingering on my tongue and the bees engaging my every sense I felt that I was truly in the present.

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A few months later I was at Miguel’s house when he presented me with a gallon of the barn honey, here’s the recipe I used to make a traditional sweet wildflower mead. (3 gallons)

12 lbs wildflower honey
2.25 gallons reverse osmosis water
10 grams Lavlin D-47 yeast
11 grams Go Ferm (for rehydration)
3 teaspoons Fermaid K/Go Ferm 50:50 mix

Mix water and honey with a drill attached stir whip, chill wort to 62 degrees. Rehydrate yeast with Go Ferm as per instructions on yeast packet and pitch. Combine and stager nutrients, adding ¼ per day beginning after the yeast has gone through the lag phase (about 8-12 hours after pitch). Aerate/de-gas with a stir whip twice a day for first two weeks. Rack after about a month, cold condition for two to three more, and clear with Super-Kleer or Sparkolloid if needed.

Written by A+K

August 15th, 2014 at 12:50 pm

The Secret’s Out: Rocky Point Artisan Brewers & Secret Engine Brewing Release Collaboration Beer Sticke Handwerker

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Mike Voigt of Rocky Point of Artisan Brewers, left, and Mike Mare of Secret Engine.

“Sometimes the beer just tells you when it is ready,” says Mike Voigt of Rocky Point Artisan Brewers about their recent collaborative brew with Secret Engine Brewing of Brooklyn. Mike Mare, brewer and co-owner of Secret Engine, is currently trying to find a permanent home for the brewery while still getting his beer out there. Though the original plan was to wait until later this month, Sticke Handwerker, the Long Island debut from Secret Engine, will be released this Friday at Tap and Barrel, The Black Sheep Ale House and a to-be-determined location in Brooklyn.

Mare has been brewing for more than 10 years and decided to make the leap to commercial brewing about three years ago. However, as the guys at RPAB know all too well, finding a suitable home for your brewery and an agreeable landlord is not the easiest task. While the search for a headquarters for Secret Engine in Brooklyn continued, Mare decided to reach out to established breweries for some advice and a possible collaboration. As a former touring musician, what Mare missed most about being on the road was the ability to connect with people from all areas and backgrounds, so he sent out e-mails to about 600 breweries. One of the few responses he received was from Mike Voigt of RPAB.

The two met at Voigt’s house to enjoy a few beers, play guitar and get to know each other. That same night they started throwing around ideas for a collaboration and over the next month Sticke Handwerker was born. “We have majorly different brewing styles,” says Voigt. Though they both feel Sticke Handwerker truly reflects the two breweries. RPAB tends to brew to style with small tweaks, while Secret Engine is more outside the box. Together they created something unique. So unique, in fact, when we asked what type of beer it is we were told, “You have to delve around to find out what the secret meaning of the secret beer is.” Thus leaving everything to the palate of the taster.

We were able to try this mysterious beer right out of the fermenter at RPAB and can attest it is one of a kind. Sticke Handwerker hasa velvety mouthfeel and gobstopper-like array of flavors and aromas. The first release this weekend will be in firkins, with kegs to follow. This cask-conditioned version of the brew will be lightly carbonated and served close to cellar temperature allowing the flavor to shine through. Voigt and Mare are already brainstorming their next brew, which is rumored to include mint, so this won’t be the last Long Island sees of the Secret Engine Brewing/Rocky Point Artisan Brewery partnership.

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First Appeared On Edible Long Island

Scrapple and Beer – Our Best of Baltimore

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We recently paid a visit to Baltimore for the second time in the last few years. The first was to see a baseball game and go on a The Wire inspired tour. Well, it wasn’t so much a tour as it was us making a few wrong turns out of our hotel and seeing terrified cops on every street corner. But among the crabs, crack houses (just kidding…) and coastline we also found a ridiculous amount of craft beer. Though the city of Baltimore doesn’t really have any major breweries, it is full of unassuming looking bars that boast some of the more impressive tap lists we have ever run into. So when we saw that Neutral Milk Hotel was touring and playing shows in both Brooklyn and Baltimore, we decided to roll the dice and go to the Charm City stop for a weekend indie rock and beer extravaganza.

Like we said, Baltimore is full of awesome bars and at the top of the list is Max’s Taphouse. Max’s doesn’t look like anything special on the inside, with a bit of a “bro bar” vibe,  until you notice the 100+ taps along the wall. And just in case there is nothing to your liking on tap, they have a bottle menu that is the size of a small novel. We were able to sample a few rarities here and even though we were only in the area for a short amount of time we made three or four trips to Max’s. Oh, and it is located in the heart of Fell’s Point which means it is walking distance from Stuggy’s; the spot where we were able to obtain a crab mac and cheese hot dog after perhaps one too many The Bruery Smoking Wood’s. And by we, we mean Alicia. Also nearby is the Thames Street Oyster House which is a great place for a bit of a classier seafood dinner. If you can, sit upstairs and try the clam cakes which are basically delicious hush puppies that come in their own little paper bag. Or get wild with it and sample the blood clams from the raw bar. Yes, they are exactly what they sound like. On the other end of the spectrum is Bad Decisions, a bar we stumbled upon before noon on a Monday. A bar that has changed hands many times, the main attraction here is their extensive liquor selection. Seriously, it was the most liquor we have ever seen in a bar. Due to our off time visit, we were the only patrons so we had the pleasure of chatting with the owner who was eager to present us his handwritten menu which read more like a drink journal. After intently studying it we finally just said, “make us something good,” and we were not disappointed.

Baltimore also has it’s share of farmers markets, including one in Fell’s Point and the much larger Farmers Market & Bazaar that is walking distance from the inner harbor and under a highway overpass. We were unaware of the walking distance fact and instead boarded a bus that took us on our second The Wire themed tour of the city. Really though, the bus driver was overly nice and helpful and dropped us off right at the entrance to the market. Highlights there included pit beef, tiny donuts and Millstone Cellars Cider and Mead, whose products we got to try earlier at Of Love and Regret. Hey, that’s another awesome place in Baltimore. Created by Brian Strumke of Stillwater, this multi story hangout features two bars, ample seating, a kitchen and a small bottle shop. Plenty of Stillwater beer and collaborations are on tap, but other breweries make their way into the lineup as well. Beer isn’t the only libation served, as they have a diverse and curated liquor collection, even offering a small “beer and a shot” menu. Kevin of course jumped right on that train.

There are way too many hit spots in Baltimore for this post, so we plan on tackling the beer destinations in more detail one by one. But we will leave you with two more great things about Balitmore: The Brewer’s Art and crabs. The Brewer’s Art is a bit of a hike so we opted to take a ten dollar cab ride there, but it’s worth it. If you are coming in by train, it’s walking distance from their Penn Station so it’s not a bad idea to visit first or last on your trip. They have an upstairs, fancier restaurant and bar where they serve their beer but all the fun happens downstairs. It has more of a dungeon vibe, and we mean that in the best possible way. Their menu is seasonal, rotating and on both trips has been delicious. They also sell bottles and cans to go when you are done there for the evening. And no trip to Baltimore would be complete without going to a restaurant where they cover your table in paper and dump a mess of crabs all over it. Armed with just a tiny hammer, it’s a bit of a challenge to get your meal out of there but once you do it’s quite the sense of accomplishment. Long story short, if you like beer, food, water, walking, scenery, markets or music you should probably visit Baltimore.

2012 Otsuchi Old Stock Ale

2012 Otsuchi Old Stock Ale

Bad Decisions = Good Times

Bad Decisions = Good Times

Classy Tiger Loving Life

Classy Tiger Loving Life

Fell's Point Cobblestone Streets

Fell’s Point Cobblestone Streets

The Brewer's Art

The Brewer’s Art

Sour Plum Goodness

Sour Plum Goodness

Crack Donuts at the Farmer's Market & Bazaar

Crack Donuts at the Farmer’s Market & Bazaar

Sunday Market Under the Overpass

Sunday Market Under the Overpass

Late Night Crab Mac & Cheese on an HD

Late Night Crab Mac & Cheese on an HD

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Shot & Beer

Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Shot & Beer

Beer Sign Car/Art

Beer Sign Car/Art

Fell's Point Farmer's Market

Fell’s Point Farmer’s Market

Millstone Cellars Cider & Mead

Millstone Cellars Cider & Mead

Crab Massacre

Crab Massacre

Written by A+K

August 4th, 2014 at 10:36 am

2014 American Homebrewers Association National Homebrewers Conference – Grand Rapids, Michigan

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The 36th annual American Homebrewers Association National Homebrewers Conference (AHA NHC) was held June 12-14 in Grand Rapids, Michigan which is appropriately nicknamed Beer City USA. To be perfectly honest, when we were sitting at the 35th annual NHC last year in Philly and they announced this year the homebrewers would be “mashing in Michigan”, all we really knew to expect was Founders Brewing Company. Turns out, Grand Rapids is way more than just Founders and this years NHC had a few surprises up it’s sleeve as well.

2013 was the first year we attended the NHC, so that is our only point of comparison, but  DeVos Place where the convention itself was held did a great job of accommodating the homebrewers. We were able to stay at the adjoining Amway Grand Plaza in the NHC block of rooms which was great, especially because the hotel was either across the street from DeVos Place or could be accessed by a covered walkway adjoining the two buildings.  We stayed for the entirety of the convention plus a few days to explore the area, but did skip the banquet dinner as quite frankly we were underwhelmed by it last year. So instead of a long, boring recap of everything we did during the conference, here is the good, the bad and the ugly of the NHC 2014.

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The Good

The Homebrew Expo & Beer City Social Club. Much nicer this year and felt more like an actual convention, rather than handful of vendors shoved in a room. There was also more professional beer on tap which was nice and the homebrew clubs that were pouring had their own little beer garden-esque area

The seminars. We attended one given by Jeff Mello of Bootleg Biology where he detailed how to harvest your own yeast strains with minimal equipment. He is on a quest to “create the world’s most diverse library of microbes for the creation of fermented foods and beverages.” The goal is to eventually obtain a yeast strain from every zip code. We look forward to returning from our next trip with a suitcase full of beer and a purse full of test tubes. We also enjoyed the talk about sake production given by Edward Hoskin. We were originally hoping sake making would be a little less time consuming than homebrewing (spoiler alert: it isn’t), it does seem like something we eventually want to take on. There were also a couple of his homemade sakes floating around which were enjoyable, yet bizarre, to sample in a conference room at 9 am.

The city itself. Grand Rapids is full of breweries and guess what? Most of them are really, really good. One of the more remarkable things was that Hopcat owner Mark Sellers purchased the name Grand Rapids Brewing Co. and reopened the brewpub on the same street as Hopcat, no more than 50 feet away. Surprisingly, they were both packed and there seemed to be more than enough craft beer fans to fill both establishments. Guess they don’t call it Beer City USA for nothing.

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The Bad

Pro Brewers Night. Well, to clarify, we didn’t actually attend Pro Brewers night because we thought it had been axed from the lineup this year. They renamed it something else that was super easy to overlook in the schedule and it wasn’t advertised nearly as much as club night. Even trying to search the website for it now is proving unsuccessful. To be fair, club night was the more interesting of the two last year but it still would have been nice to check out.

The seminars. Though we won’t name names, and we know talking about homebrewing can sometimes be tedious at best, there were a few that were so dry (ha ha) they were difficult to sit through. Obviously all the speakers were extremely knowledgeable and it must be intimidating to present to so many people, but there are still ways to jazz up boring information.

The great glass scandal of 2014. Though we checked into the conference upon arriving in Grand Rapids, our room was not yet ready and we didn’t feel like lugging around our goodie bag full of SWAG around while exploring the city. We opted to pick it up the next day, but when we arrived at the table they were totally out of tasting glasses. It wound up being no big deal since disposable cups were readily available,  but you do wonder how they run out of glassware at a liquid themed event.

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The Ugly

We were led to believe that every faucet in Michigan only pours KBS. Sadly, not true. You have to pick up a special treasure map at Founders that shows you how to get to the KBS faucets. A lot of work if you ask us.

Barrage Brewing Company Tasting Room Grand Opening – July 19, 2014

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Barrage Brewing Company has had their doors open since January of this year, thanks to a lot of hard work by owner Steve Pominski and a little help from Kickstarter, but there is now a new addition to the brewery: a place to enjoy the beer. Pominski and longtime friend Al Nappi have had the brewery under construction for the past couple months and the tasting room is now (softly) open for business. The official grand opening celebration will be on July 19.


Barrage Brewing Company's New Tasting Room

Barrage Brewing Company’s New Tasting Room

New, expanded hours include Friday from 4-8 pm, in addition to their current hours of 1-5 pm on Saturday and Sunday. Instead of waiting in the brewery for growler fills, customers will be now able to both fill their growlers and enjoy pints and sample glasses from the 8 tap system in the new tasting room. Though the area is small, seating is available and there are even some bar stools upholstered with horse hair, we kid you not. The personal nature makes it feel like a true garage bar aka bar-rage. Hey, that’s the name of the brewery.


Owner and Brewmaster Steve Pominski Contemplates His Work

Owner and Brewmaster Steve Pominski Contemplates His Work

Not only does this give people an awesome place to hang out in Farmingdale, but it also frees up time for Pominski to produce more Barrage beer. Turns out it’s kind of hard to brew and fill growlers at the same time, but with the brewery and tasting room now separate it allows him to produce beer while someone else mans the taps. Don’t worry though, he will still be popping his head in from time to time to say hello. He is excited about the addition saying, “we’d like this to become a destination,” and a tasting room is a big step towards making that happen.


Steve Pominski Owner and Brewmaster

Steve Pominski Owner and Brewmaster

The grand opening party kicks off Saturday, July 19 at 1 pm. All eight taps will be flowing, with a few rare releases making an appearance. Most notably is the Yada Yada, a Seinfeld themed brown ale that is fermented with Snickers bars and as Steve put it “is Snickering as we speak.” Do you think he cut them with a fork and knife? Stop by to check it out, try the barrage of selections and most importantly, do it all while relaxing under the same roof where your beer is made.


Steve Pominski Owner and Brewmaster

Steve Pominski Owner and Brewmaster

Written by A+K

July 18th, 2014 at 5:28 pm

Ed Hahne and Mexicali Blues: an LIBME & Great South Bay Brewery Collaboration

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Our friend and fellow Long Island Beer & Malt Enthusiast and Brewers East End Revival Member Ed Hahne passed away on July 11th, 2014. We found out when we woke up the next morning after receiving a text from another friend and homebrewer Frank Filacchone. He sent us an odd message saying, “I’m sure you heard the bad news by now,” which we thought meant the beer both men recently brewed together, along with Mike Napolitano and Ed’s wife Lee Ann, at Great south Bay Brewery had turned out poorly. We never expected to get this news; in fact we thought Frank was just overreacting about a batch that had gone sour. We knew though when he followed up with another text reading “Call me now,” things were more serious.

It’s a shock when the first thing you hear when calling someone is that your friend is dead. When something like this happens so suddenly it jolts you, almost putting you outside of reality. We felt for the first few minutes after getting off of the phone with Frank that he couldn’t have been right, the information he had was wrong and he would call back any second with good news: Ed was ok. When this feeling wore off we both talked about how good of a person Ed had been to us and to those around us.

Ed Hahne was one of the most welcoming people we have met in our life. From the moment we met him both he and his wife Lee Ann treated us like friends. Ed was willing to take his time to ask us about how we were doing and how our wedding plans were coming along within the first few times of meeting us. He was that kind of person: warm, caring and wearing a big heart on his sleeve.

Ed was also a teacher and we felt honored to have many discussions with him about his life with Lee Ann and the many different experiences they had shared together. Alicia remembers vividly when Lee Ann told her about a surprise trip to California she booked for them both to visit breweries they always wanted to see. To go somewhere together, experience and taste life as a couple.

Now Ed is gone but we will never forget him and neither will his comrades in local homebrewing clubs LIBME & BEER. In fact, Long Island has a chance to taste the fruits of Ed’s brewing efforts and the result of winning the recent LIBME “Chopped”-style homebrewing competition, brewed in collaboration with Great South Bay Brewery.

Lee Ann Hahne, Ed Hahne, Mike Napolitano, Frank Filacchione and Andrew Luberto

Lee Ann Hahne, Ed Hahne, Mike Napolitano, Frank Filacchione and Andrew Luberto

Mexicali Blues is a stout brewed with Mexican chilis, cinnamon and vanilla. According to Lee Ann they “didn’t stuff the ballot box,” to end up with the perfect ingredients for a stout and were “very happy with each item they pulled”. Ed agreed with Lee saying that the beer is, “all about the Mexican Chilis. They are the ingredient X.” Frank Filacchione and Mike Napolitano wound up finding the chilis for the homebrewed version in a bodega in Brooklyn. However, the original vanilla extract they used didn’t provide the certain something they were looking for so a “secret concoction from home” was added, boosting the flavor.

We had the chance to taste this DIY version of Mexicali Blues June 4th at the monthly LIBME meeting. That night the “Chopped”-style competition was judged through a popular vote by those in attendance. Members tried each competing team’s beer then voted for the one they liked best. We both found Mexicali Blues to be our favorite and cast our votes for it. The beer was a nicely balanced stout with hints of vanilla, traces of cinnamon and a building but never overwhelming presence of Mexican Chili peppers. Frank, Mike, Lee and Ed made a wonderful beer together and deserved to have it declared winner.


GSB's Greg Maisch, Frank Filacchione, Lee Ann and Ed Hahne

GSB’s Greg Maisch, Frank Filacchione, Lee Ann and Ed Hahne

Mexicali Blues was produced by the Boil in a Bag (BiaB) method where the grain and full volume of water are added to one kettle, rather than two, to create the beer. This is sometimes seen as a short cut by other brewers and team Mexicali Blues felt a little heat when brewing their beer in a group setting at fellow club member Chris Kelley’s house. “We were mocked by the other brewers throughout the day,” said Ed Hahne. But with the win the old adage “He who laughs last, laughs best” was proven as the group was able to kick back and relax while all the other teams were still brewing or cleaning equipment. Ed called it, “A great irony.” (work smarter not harder instead?)

We hope that the beer the group brewed at Great South Bay with head brewer Greg Maisch hits the same subtle notes their winning beer was so gracefully able to play. The GSB batch was made on their one barrel pilot system and will be released this Saturday at the brewery. This beer, labeled an under dog in the competition by team Mexicali Blues, is something we are both very much looking forward to trying. In conjunction with the release Great South Bay will be honoring the memory of our friend Ed Hahne.

Frank Filacchione, Andrew Luberto, Mike Napolitano and Ed Hahne

Frank Filacchione, Andrew Luberto, Mike Napolitano and Ed Hahne

Last night we attended his wake. It was a sad yet somehow uplifting occasion. With around two hundred people gathering to pay their respects from all periods and facets of Ed’s life it became a celebration of our friend rather than just a chance to say goodbye. Throughout the wake there were many speakers sharing there wonderful memories of Ed. One of Ed’s friends, Bob, spoke and a point he made hit home with us.

He noticed that Ed had brought all of the people in attendance together. Ed touched so many diverse people throughout his life who now have a connection and learned so much from him. Bob suggested that is what Mr. Hahne’s legacy is: friendship, caring and community. We could not think of a more fitting legacy for someone who was so open and welcoming. We will be thinking of you when we sip Mexicali Blues on Saturday, Ed, and are going to cherish our memories and what you taught us always.

We will miss you Ed

We will miss you Ed

Greenport Harbor Brewing Company Grand Opening of Peconic Brewery & Fifth Anniversary Party

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First appeared on Edible Long Island


The GHBC Team, Triumphant

The GHBC Team, Triumphant


Greenport Harbor Brewing Company celebrated their 5th anniversary and grand opening of their 13,000 square foot brewery on Main Road in Peconic this past Saturday. Since purchasing the building in April of 2012 co-owners and friends Rich Vandenburgh and John Liegey endured “about a year of tearing our hair out,” before gaining traction and being able to start construction. Hundreds of Long Islanders joined them at the festivities which included local food trucks Noah’s & The Roaming Fork, music and of course, plenty of GHBC beer. 

Lots of Mobile Eats & Drinks Being Served at GHBC

Lots of Mobile Eats & Drinks Being Served at GHBC



Most notably on tap was #5, an anniversary Belgian Dubbel fermented with tart cherries. Liegey accurately described it as “clean, nice, refreshing; didn’t hang on the palate.”  Bitter Monk, a wheat beer using trappist yeast, was the first offering from new brewer Joe Hayes and a crowd favorite. Later in the evening, a keg of their Baltic Porter that had been aged for two years was unveiled as a treat for those who had stuck around.

Augie Hoffmann Serves the VIP Crowd

Augie Hoffmann Serves the VIP Crowd



Though Peconic just officially opened, the large scale brewing system is already in place and brewers DJ Swanson and Joe Hayes have begun to test it out. On Saturday, two fermenters were housing beer and they hope to continue with production at a rapid rate. Leaf Pile, their fall seasonal, is slated to be brewed within the next couple weeks in addition to the rest of their lineup. As attendee Greg Woody put it, “Anything that allows them to pump out more stuff like the Black Duck Porter I’m all for.”

Tim Holden and Greg Woody Take in the Festivities



The overall celebratory mood of the event was really solidified by speaking to both owners who shared the sentiment that they couldn’t have done it on their own. Vandenburgh remarked that, “we’ve been just so lucky to have friends, fans, investors, accounts and everybody that’s been behind us the whole way,” with Liegey adding, “our backs alone have not been enough to get this place open.” They received congratulatory calls from national breweries Lagunitas and Ballast Point as well as their local colleagues, citing the sense of community has been great. 

Rosemary Martilotta & Emily Parrella Pouring Some GHBC

Rosemary Martilotta & Emily Parrella Pouring Some GHBC



The original facility at Carpenter Lane in Greenport will remain open as a tasting room and brewery, with its brew system used for smaller, experimental batches. Peconic is not done growing yet either, with plans to add an on site restaurant within the next year. Big things are coming from Greenport Harbor Brewing Company and it’s all beginning with the new tasting room and brewery.

Attendees (plus pooch) enjoying GHBC

Attendees (plus pooch) enjoying GHBC



Peconic is currently open 12-7 pm on weekends with weekday hours coming soon.

Enjoying GHBC Beer

Enjoying GHBC Beer



 

Written by A+K

July 15th, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Holy Hops, the Dynamic Brewmaster Duo of DJ Swanson & Joe Hayes Team Up at Greenport Harbor Brewing Company

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The North Fork of Long Island fixture Greenport Harbor Brewing Company will be hosting the grand opening of their new Peconic brewery on July 12, 2014. While this massive brewery growth (which will eventually include a restaurant) is big news, there’s an expansion going on behind the scenes too. DJ Swanson, head brewer since Greenport’s inception 5 years ago, is being joined on the island’s east end by Joe Hayes, former brewmaster at Black Forest Brew Haus in Farmingdale. To say the pair is happy about the union might be a bit of an understatement.

DJ_Joe_GHBC_BLC_Joe_CU

DJ_Joe_GHBC_BLC_DJ_CU

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recently we stopped by both the new GHBC Peconic location and the original downtown Greenport outpost. The goal was two-fold for us-check out the new brewery and have a chance to talk with two of the most entertaining people brewing on Long Island: DJ and Joe. Listening back to our “tape”, there was an obvious air of excitement in the brewery. In fact, the majority of our recording was filled with Swanson and Hayes telling stories, laughing and tossing playful sarcastic barbs toward each other. We knew getting to talk to these two pillars of the Long Island brewing scene would be educational as we traced their paths from start to joined finish, but the sheer joy these two exude makes us extremely excited for what Greenport Harbor Brewing Company has ahead of them.

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Our interview started with Hayes introducing himself as Swanson’s boss and later joking that he would be reprimanded “off the air” for the assertion (all in good fun of course). The two became fast friends after meeting saying, “we both hated everything and everybody and it just clicked.” So like Will Farrell and John C. Reilly’s characters in the 2008 epic “Step Brothers” the pair quickly bonded over a common interest, hate. The chemistry is evident even if you spend a short time around these two established brewmasters whose pasts followed parallel tracks to Greenport Harbor Brewing Company. DJ Swanson says,

“I never had one of those epiphany moments. I always liked beer”

of his brewing history. A Boy Scout trip in 5th grade took young Swanson to the Merrimack Anheuser Busch plant. This was framed as a trip “to see the clydesdales” by the boy’s fathers but today Swanson knows why they were in Merrimack: beer. He was captivated by the smell of the brewing process, starch being extracted from grain and converted into sugar. This was a memory that would stick with him.

Years later, Swanson visited Boston Beer Works before a Red Sox game with his father and was again hit with the aroma of beer being crafted, the mash steeping. These experiences grabbed a hold of him and soon after he bought a homebrew kit and was hooked. Eventually Swanson started his professional career as an assistant brewer at Union Station in Providence, Rhode Island. He spent only a year there before being offered the job of brewmaster at another part of the John Harvard’s brew pub chain, in Lake Grove, New York which he accepted.

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Laughing, Hayes says his brewing history was “nothing as regal as that”. He got to a point in his life, after the realization he was not going to be a professional drummer, where he either had to get a real job to afford beer or start making it himself. He chose the latter. “I wish I could say I was doing it for the palate in the beginning,” says Hayes recounting a trip with his brother and friends to a beer and vodka festival. What was to be a bonding moment ended with him being carried home (which sounds like bonding to us). Originally Hayes was on a quest to make the next Pabst Blue Ribbon, but fate intervened leading him to work in the tasting room of a winery/brewery near Yosemite in his home state of California.

After working there for a time, Hayes unknowingly chatted up the owner about beer and impressed him with both his knowledge and jovial personality. “You know so much why aren’t you making it?” was the question the proprietor had before he promoted Hayes on the spot to head brewer. While maybe not “regal”, Joe’s rapid accession through sheer knowledge and like ability is impressive. Even after this promotion his he was challenged by a girlfriend at the time who asked,

“If you love beer so much why don’t you do that for a living?”

Hayes met that question with a spiteful, life altering “challenge accepted.” To bring this goal to fruition he went on to study at nearby UC Davis, graduatng from the brewmaster program and working with nearby Sudworks Brewery. Shortly after, he was offered a job at the German owned Black Forest Brew Haus in Farmingdale, New York. This brought Hayes both to Long Island and eventually to Swanson.

Once on Long Island, Swanson & Hayes met almost immediately. Swanson recalled, “every festival was basically the same 6 guys pouring beer,” with the brewing community of the early 2000′s being tight-knit. Events and festivals were sometimes hosted as an excuse for brewers to gather and share their beer. Though they were not directly working together, the close friendship they formed (over hate) was maintained and occasionally a collaborative beer or two was produced. Swanson & Hayes both spent the next several years chugging away in their individual corporate brew pub settings, brewing in different methods and styles and gathering knowledge. As time passed both men yearned for a change, feeling they had done all they could in their current situations.

DJ_Joe_GHBC_BLC_Forklift

Swanson moved on first and briefly spent time in pharmaceutical manufacturing in Massachusetts. Hayes told a more colorful tale of that period saying, “don’t let him sugar coat it-he was making drugs.” Unable to sell his home on Long Island, DJ moved back to New York and was put in touch with people who were opening a vodka distillery. Swanson was able to secure employment despite the fact he had never distilled vodka in his life. He did that for a time but missed brewing beer and was put in contact with Rich Vandenburgh and John Liegey of Greenport Harbor Brewing Company by Donovan Hall (of rocky Point Artisan Brewers fame). In the beginning, DJ was a sounding board, an unofficial consultant, answering Liegey and Vandenburgh’s questions. This eventually lead to Liegey and Vandenburgh hiring Swanson as their first and only head brewer. DJ was it from the jump, cleaning and filling kegs, brewing and selling his beer (they did not have a sales guy at that point). Over the next few years staff was brought on and brewer Greg Doroski came and went leaving DJ once again as top cheddar.

Now, with the Greenport Harbor Brewing Company expanding, Swanson needed to find brewer with experience. He and the brewery needed someone who could do the job without any training, who could hit the ground running. Swanson contacted UC Davis for his search hoping to find a candidate who could handle the load and work alongside him. DJ never thought to reach out to local brewers whom he assumed were happy in their current situation. Hayes, being a Davis graduate, saw the ad and had been toying with moving on for some time. He placed a call to DJ “SWAN!” who was shocked to receive the call and the rest is history.

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Having two brewmasters under one roof could, in most cases, be problematic. Not at Greenport Harbor however, as Hayes says “This is the house that DJ built and I’m cool with that”. Coming from similar yet diverse brewing backgrounds and with a combined twenty plus years of brewing experience between them gives Swanson and Hayes the ability to fill in each other’s weaknesses while pushing boundaries creatively. One such example is this year’s fifth anniversary beer (Five), a Belgian Dubbel that has been aged on tart cherries. This limited one-off will be released at the combined grand opening/5th anniversary party on July 12, 2014 and, after having tasted it from the conditioning tank with DJ & Joe, we can tell you it is one you will want to try. With this modern day rendition of Abbot and Costello at the helm you can be sure bigger and better things are on the horizon for Greenport Harbor Brewing Company. Though Swanson may be the boss he and Hayes will compliment each other as well as malt and hops. We can’t wait to see what they brew up in the years to come.