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The Five Beers of Thanksgiving

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It’s almost time for Thanksgiving. Get ready to sit around a table with family, give thanks for all the wonderful things in your life and eat and drink an absurd amount. Everyone knows what foods a traditional Thanksgiving feast consists of, but what would an all beer meal look like? Think Violet Beauregarde in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, only instead of her whole meal being in the form of bubble gum yours is more on the liquid side. And hopefully minus turning blue and having to be rolled away from the table, but we make no promises there.

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Thanksgiving Dish: The star of the show. The big kahuna. Of course, we mean the turkey. Probably the only time of the year most people pop a 20 pound bird in the oven and get carving, but it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving with out it.

Wonka Beer: You anxiously wait all year for Southern Tier Pumking come out and when it finally does you may overinduldge a bit. It’s one of the staples of the fall holiday season, but once April rolls around it somehow seems a little less appealing. Don’t worry though, if you get a hankering again it will be back in August.

Thanksgiving Dish: Canned, chunky, citrus infused, homemade from organic berries…cranberry sauce can be as basic or fancy as you please. However, the version most people picture is still shaped like the can it sits in on grocery store shelves, just waiting for its big day.

Wonka Beer: There’s 90, 120 and now even 61, but Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA is the classic many have come to know, love and expect. Sure you can get a little more wild with it, but today is not the day to break tradition and be the one who shows up with something too out there for the rest of the group. 8 Minute IPA Abs can wait until one of those crazy holidays, like Easter with all it’s bunnies and eggs. Unless of course you’re our next combo…

Thanksgiving Dish: The kind of weird side dish your kind of weird aunt brings over; you either love it or hate it. A bizarre mix of canned beans, canned soup and pre-fried onion, the green bean casserole usually only appears once a year.

Wonka Beer: The Bruery Sour in the Rye with Kumquats is a bit elusive and you’re either really excited to see it or kind of skeptical about the ingredient combo. Unless you’re a huge fan, or a bit of a maniac, you’re probably never going to drink a whole bottle of this by yourself and will instead reserve it for sharing on a special occasion with friends and family. Get ready for some mixed reactions.

Thanksgiving Dish: Because straight up baked potatoes don’t scream “special occasion”, those babies are getting mashed in honor of turkey day. Mashed potatoes are a food that you, a refined gentleman (or woman), probably don’t make all that often. But when they’re part of a Thanksgiving spread you can bet you’re grabbing a scoop or two and making a little gravy volcano, for old times sake.

Wonka Beer: Sam Adams Boston Lager is a familiar go to when “fancier” options aren’t available. Sure, it’s no longer in the same league for you as your favorite craft beer, but you probably enjoyed it during a younger, simpler time. It’s welcome at a holiday feast but goes just as well with some leftover meatloaf and a side of nostalgia.

Thanksgiving Dish: After an insanely filling meal that was probably prefaced with a couple hours of picking on appetizers, what you really need is a pumpkin pie. All season you’ve been teasing yourself with lattes and candles and now it’s finally time for the real thing. A delightful treat that’s a little rich, a little over the top and doesn’t make it’s way to your dinner table every night.

Wonka Beer: Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout is a beer for when you want to treat yo self. Strong yet sweet and though you know you probably shouldn’t, you keep wanting to go back for more. Oh, and we’d imagine it would be pretty delicious with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, just like it’s Thanksgiving counterpart.

 

Written by A+K

November 26th, 2014 at 11:36 am

Hops, Who Needs ‘em? A History of Gruit Ales.

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First published on Edible East End

The Mash Recirculating with Frank Filachione and Zippy

The Mash Recirculating with Frank Filachione and Zippy

“Gruit? Did you mean to write fruit?” was one of the edits we received after writing about a Taste of Long Island for the fall issue and the herbal gruits the Brewers Collective plans to make there. Similarly, when we brewed a gruit for the Spring Craft Beer Festival at Nassau Coliseum about half the patrons ordered the “herbal fruit”, which admittedly does have a nice ring to it. So all this confusion raises the question: What the heck is a gruit?

Today beer and ale are often used as synonyms, but there is a distinct difference between the two. Ales do not contain any hops, a key ingredient in beer for bittering and preservation. Hops are the female flowers of Humulus lupulus and were introduced to ale around 1079 in Germany although they did not truly catch on until the 13th century. Prior to hops becoming an integral ingredient in beer, ale was flavored with what is known as gruit. Gruit is a mix of herbs, flowers, seeds or other flavoring components used to balance out the malty flavor of an ale. Heather is the most traditional ingredient, but brewers can get creative and use any mixture they desire.

As homebrewers our favorite gruit that we brewed along with Frank Filacchione of Long Island Beer & Malt Enthusiasts used spruce tips, rosemary and citrus zest. The idea to brew a gruit developed slowly; we originally just knew we wanted to do something that would stand out among the hundreds of other brews at a beer festival. Since many breweries are producing beers with more and more hops, we thought it would be interesting to go another way. As Filacchione put it, “Regular beer can get boring sometimes. Where else can you taste and smell herbs in a beer?” The brewing process is very similar, with the only difference coming at the point where hops would normally be added. Otherwise most homebrew recipes can be adapted to include herbal bittering and flavoring agents instead of hops. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to try something new Williams Brothers Fraoch Heather Ale, The Beer Diviner Ancient Gruit (made upstate) and Professor Fritz Briem 13th Century Grut Bier are all commercial examples available on Long Island.

The Mash of our Gruit Ale

The Mash of our Gruit Ale

Blond on Blonde : November 20 at The Lark in East Northport

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Blond on Blonde

Back in May, the Brewer’s East End Revival hosted their 18th annual home brewing competition. Each year beers from around the country are sent in to the B.E.E.R. Brew-Off with the hopes they will receive positive feedback and perhaps take home a prize. Nearly 200 beers were judged in multiple categories at this years event with prizes being given out for best stout of the day all the way to best in show, but there was no award coveted more than the Brewer’s Cup.

“Why?” you may ask. Each year the Brewer’s Cup winning beer, which is selected by a local Long Island brewery, has their homebrew recipe scaled up and professionally brewed. Last years winner was Bobby Rodriguez, who is now getting ready to launch his very own venture: Poboy Brewery. His award winning Imperial Force was brewed by Port Jeff Brewing Co. and has now been aging for over a year, with a bottle release coming soon. At 2014’s brew-off, Greenport Harbor Brewing Company selected and would ultimately brew the wining beer. After a long day of deliberations where DJ Swanson, head brewer of GHBC participated in the judging, a winner emerged: Jim & Jean Thoms’ Belgian Blond Ale.

The Thoms’, who have been brewing together for years, frequently show up to monthly B.E.E.R meetings and festivals across Long Island with delicious and meticulously crafted homebrew. The Blond was no exception and a couple months ago it was recreated at the new Greenport Harbor Brewing facility in Peconic. In case you’re wondering about the spelling difference, J&J spell their Blond the Beglian way (no “e”) while Greenport went with the Americanized version Blonde.

The Thoms are avid fans of Belgian style beer trying everything from Blond Ales, the lightest brews, to Tripels, the strongest, and even sour ales. Like the brewmasters of Belgium they have razor sharp focus when it comes to brewing, always striving to make a better beer. Each ale they create is brewed again and again the recipe being tinkered with each time in an attempt to come close to their ideal. Since the competition, Jim & Jean have brewed their Blond five more times at home based on the winning recipe. They have cultivated and used the same yeast bed for each batch, making small tweaks along the way to perfect the beer.

Thursday will offer patrons a unique opportunity to taste both the homebrewed and professional versions of J&J Blond(e) Ale side by side at The Lark in East Northport. Additionally, Greenport IPA and 2014 Cuvaison will be on tap. Cuvaison is brewed using local wine grapes and this will be one of the first times it’s available this year. Specials for B.E.E.R members will be running throughout the event, and Karp’s was generous enough to donate grain for a raffle. We will be there, will you?

A Taste of Long Island Craft Brewery Launches

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This story first appeared in the Fall 2014 edition of Edible East End.

Taste of Long Island Blonde

Taste of Long Island Blonde

Jim Thompson and daughter Courtney Citko, co-owners of Farmingdale’s specialty food market A Taste of Long Island, have spent the last two years growing their business and their shared commercial kitchen. Their vendors and kitchen clients include everyone from gourmet bakers to food photographers; they are now venturing into new territory: brewing craft beer.

Thompson and his group of “pioneer brewers,” as they’ve affectionately become known, spent months converting the room under his storefront into a space suitable for fermentation. Brewers will use the existing commercial kitchen to brew, package and distribute their beer; it will then be poured for the market. Charles Becker of 1940’s Brewing Co., The Brewers Collective and Bobby “Po Boy” Rodriguez are the first tenants. Thompson will be host brewer.

Picture Day for Taste of Long Island, The Brewer's Collective, 1940’s Brewing and Po Boy Brewery

Picture Day for Taste of Long Island, The Brewer’s Collective, 1940’s Brewing and Po Boy Brewery

Jim Thompson, a home brewer in the ’90s, re-discovered his one-time hobby just a few years ago. After seeing the booming beer culture across the country, he thought, “I would love to see Long Island become a regional powerhouse of craft beer.” He set out to make it happen. After seemingly never-ending paperwork, his Farmingdale brewhouse is now Long Island’s first alternating proprietorship brewery. Thompson’s beer, Farmingdale Blonde Ale, is clean and accessible, which allows him to tweak it and add adjuncts. He plans to keep the same base recipe while creating variations based on the season and his mood—maybe a strawberry blonde? Thompson says he hopes to put out “something that has more mass appeal and will get those people from the Miller/Coors world to try craft beer.”

Charles Becker’s 1940’s Brewery grew from his family’s long-standing love affair with beer and brewing. His father was a part of the industry in— you guessed it—the 1940s. He and daughter Anne Marie frequently brew together and serve their creations at craft beer events across the island. Their shared hobby led Anne Marie to a job in the beer industry while Charlie decided to make the leap from home brewer to professional. Playing on his family’s heritage, Becker’s lineup is German inspired and will include a hefeweizen, roggenbier and bock.

EEE Photo Editor Doug Young 00Wrangling the Collective

EEE Photo Editor Doug Young Wrangling the Collective

If you’ve been to a craft beer festival on Long Island, chances are you have run into The Brewers Collective. A homebrew club turned professional outfit, the collective is a motley crew that collaborates on recipes and runs its brewery like a commune. They have become known for unique beers such as Bronze Age–inspired herbal gruits* and Fallout Stout, a dry Irish-style stout that uses hand-smoked malt, courtesy of members Tim and Sarah Dougherty. Useful Idiot, a more traditional IPA and their flagship brew, will see its fair share of production at a Taste of Long Island. The IPA will likely be brewed every other batch and alternate with sours, wild ales and experimental beers.

Bobby Rodriguez of Po Boy Brewery & Jim Thompson of Taste of Long Island

Bobby Rodriguez of Po Boy Brewery & Jim Thompson of Taste of Long Island

Bobby Rodriguez, of Po Boy Brewery, began home brewing in 2008 and has been honing his craft ever since. A certified beer judge, Rodriguez has entered and won many homebrew competitions, including one that ended up with his recipe commercially produced at Port Jeff Brewing Company. Under his professional label, Po Boy Brewery, Rodriguez is producing beer with the same attention to detail he employed while home brewing. “If there is ever a product that doesn’t meet my standards,” he says, “I’m not going to release it.” His portfolio is broad and includes everything from an IPA to a sweet potato spiced ale, but his unique ciders will roll out first. With delicious yet potent concoctions like Zombification caramel apple cider, Rodriguez has something for everyone’s tastes.

Edible East End Photographer Doug Young Captures Tim Doughtrey Tasting Honey Blonde Ale From the Brite Tank

Edible East End Photographer Doug Young Captures Tim Doughtrey Tasting Honey Blonde Ale From the Brite Tank

By expediting the rapid addition of four new nano-breweries to Farmingdale, a Taste of Long Island has become a hub for craft beer. As the current breweries meet success and outgrow the space, a new class of start-ups will get their chance to brew in the commercial kitchen. Big things are coming from a Taste of Long Island, and we’re looking forward to following their journey together.

Written by A+K

November 8th, 2014 at 1:28 pm

One Distributor to Sell Them All: Clare Rose Incorporated Begins Distributing Port Jeff Brewing

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They Said Yes!

Get ready for a local favorite to become more widely available. Clare Rose Incorporated has scored themselves the distribution rights for another Long Island craft brewery, Port Jeff Brewing Company. This “marriage” of brewery and distributer begins today, November 3rd 2014. Clare Rose Inc. (CRI) supplies both counties on Long Island, Nassau and Suffolk, and with Port Jeff Brewing Company (PJBC) in the fold they now hold the rights to most of the elder breweries on Long Island.

Clare Rose Inc. had humble beginnings. The company was founded in 1936 as a small soda distribution business by Clare and Millie Rose. The corporation grew out of eastern Suffolk county NY, Patchouge to be specific. They have evolved into, “Long Island’s premier supplier of Anheuser-Busch InBev and Heineken USA” according to their official website. They have been going strong for 75 years.

In recent years CRI has expanded the scope of their distribution to include craft beer. Craft Corner is the moniker for this new, fluid and growing division. A quote taken from their website states, “Clare Rose Inc. is committed to the growing craft beer segment. We always look to pursue new avenues of growth to expand our craft portfolio and bring the best of the craft beer world to Long Island”. A bold statement.

The “Craft Corner” portion of the CRI portfolio consists of national and local craft brands. Two of the larger in their stable are both owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABInbev), a Belgian-Brazilian multinational beverage and brewing company headquartered in Leuven, Belgium. ABInbev acquired Goose Island Brewery (legally Fulton Street Brewery LLC) in March of 2011. The other is the recently purchased Long Island craft beer institution, Blue Point Brewing Company (for our thoughts on the sale of Blue Point Brewing Company to ABInbev click for Alicia’s take or Kevin’s). CRI also peddles brews from the “Craft Brew Alliance” the members of which include Widmer Brothers, Red Hook Ale Brewery, Kona Brewing Company, Square Mile Cider and Omission Beer which was developed internally. ABInbev owns 32.2% of the business and is also the company’s distribution partner with CRI handling the duties on Long Island.

Aside from the ABInbev wholly owned subsidiaries and partially controlled brewing group CRI’s “Craft Corner” library also includes behemoths Victory Brewing Company and Harpoon Brewery. Alongside these brewing giants CRI has made strategic and important inroads into the local craft beer community on Long Island. These relationships stretch from SingleCut Beersmiths located in Astoria, Queens out to Riverhead and Long Ireland Beer Company. And now they are joined by Port Jeff Brewing Company.

Located downtown, in the heart of Port Jefferson NY the just over three year old brewery has become a main stay of many establishments throughout NY. Creative and innovative Port Jeff Brewing Company has released numerous styles of beer upon a wanting public. Recently arrived head brewer Matt Gundrum has been hard at work tweaking recipes, dialing in equipment and brewing more beer (read our interview with Matt). Owner and brewmaster Mike Philbrick has already ramped up production anticipating the partnership saying, “We basically will go from 2 sales guys delivering all over Nassau and Suffolk to over 40 people representing the brand.”

Having just gotten married ourselves we are happy to see another local couple come together. We wish Mr. Philbrick and the other amazing people of Port Jeff Brewing company the best. This new arrangement will mean more beer for their fans and the ability to secure more taps hopefully leading to more fans. When asked about the switch from independently distributing his beer to partnering with the local powerhouse Philbrick commented, “Self distribution gives you incredible insight to how your customers want to be served”, which is a level of service he sees continuing through the partnership with Clare Rose Inc. We are excited to see what this relationship will bring to real craft beer drinkers throughout their distribution area.

How do you feel about Clare Rose Incorporated distributing yet another Long Island brewery? We’d love to hear from you.

Owner Mike Philbrick Showing off Port Jeff Brewing Company Beer

Owner Mike Philbrick Showing off Port Jeff Brewing Company Beer

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!

marriage

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.

cider

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 for Mead 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