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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.

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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.

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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.

A Taste of Long Island in Farmingdale to Add Brewery

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BLC_ToLI_Talk

First published on Edible Long Island

A brewery incubator is coming to Farmingdale, but the address should be familiar to many. A Taste of Long Island, the incubator kitchen and local food market run by Jim Thompson with his daughter Courtney, will be home to the next wave of nano-breweries to hit Long Island. Currently, a Taste of Long Island rents its commercial kitchen to local producers who need an insured licensed space to work. Items produced on site are sold in the front of the house specialty market and also independently distributed. The facility gives small startup businesses a way to get their goods to the public without a huge upfront investment. Now the venture will provide several local brewers a space to professionally produce beer under their own licenses and brands.

“It’s cross generational from the millennials to the old guys like me,” says Thompson, who started home brewing in the ’90s. “I’m 60 years old and in the last year I got into craft beer.” He recruited four pioneer brewers, and with their help a Taste of Long Island is being outfitted to brew. Each brewery will rent time in the test kitchen just like anyone else, but the industrial stovetop will be used for brewing. The beer will ferment in the downstairs cold room, where each brewery has its own fermenters. They are then free to keg, bottle and distribute as they please. He envisions their graduating into their own locations, freeing up space for the next round of new brewers.

Thompson has already received federal and state approvals to operate as a farm brewery and is eager to brew once all the equipment is in place. “I would love to see Long Island become a regional powerhouse of craft beer,” he says, “and I’d love to lead that.” His beers will be the first available on tap; the other brewers will follow suit as their licenses come in. Samples, pints and growlers will be available in house and Thompson plans to sell at farmers markets, with distribution to local bars and restaurants as a goal.

Each brewer has their own vision for how they will use this opportunity, and we had the chance to discuss the venture with each of them. As they eagerly await the green light to brew, we will be profiling each of them on Beer Loves Company and Edible Long Island. Stay tuned to the nano-newness coming out of a Taste of Long Island brewery.

Written by A+K

July 7th, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Happy Birthday America. Thanks for all the Beer.

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So chances are, at some point in your life you were a child who learned the song, “50 Nifty States” (ah, memories). Now maybe you even have a child of your own, in which case you probably could really use a beer today while we celebrate the birthday of our great nation, America. She gave us such wonders as the Dorito Taco, Double Down and who could forget Four Loko (a moment of silence please). Oh, and for a country that is still a child itself in the scheme of things, some pretty impressive craft beer is being cranked out in the good ole US of A. ::an eagle screeches majestically, fireworks explode and beers are popped in unison::

So, in honor of 4th of July, tell us what beer you feel best represents your home state. Let’s see if we can hit them all. Do it for America and all of it’s 50 Nifty United States (plus territories, we didn’t forget you Puerto Rico).

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For Long Island, Alicia picks Port Jeff Porter while Kevin is going with Long Ireland ESB.

Written by A+K

July 4th, 2014 at 8:39 am

Chris Kelley’s Basil in the Rye Brewed at Great South Bay Brewery

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“You literally can’t pack anymore flavor into this” are homebrewer Chris Kelley’s sentiments about Basil in the Rye, a beer he brewed in collaboration with Great South Bay Brewery. As the winner of homebrew club Long Island Beer & Malt Enthusiasts monthly competition he was able to craft his recipe on a micro-sized, professional scale. Why micro-sized? Because every batch of LIBME collaboration beer is brewed on Great South Bay Brewery’s 1 barrel pilot system. With such small quantities, all beers in the series are limited releases only available in the GSB tasting room in Bayshore, New York. Rarer yet is having the chance to try the original homebrew up against the finished commercial product; something Chris Kelley and Great South Bay’s head brewer Greg Maisch did with Basil in the Rye.

Basil in the Rye

“I’m digging it, digging it” says Maisch of Kelley’s homebrew. Previously having issues with capturing aroma in his beers, Kelley found this batch to have “big citrus and you get the aroma of basil as well”. The winning recipe was exciting for both brewers to work on, each eager to see what “little twist basil brings” to the finished beer. When tasting the batch brewed at GSB, Kelley found it “balanced” with more basil and spice than was present in his DIY version. Maisch said it “tastes like summer and hanging out in the backyard”. In short, Kelley feels they “nailed it” and we’d have to agree.

Chris Kelley Tasting Basil in the Rye
On deck in the series is Mexicali Blues, the winner of the Long Island Beer & Malt Enthusiasts “Chopped” competition. Members of this team selected a stout as their base beer with vanilla and Mexican chilis as the additions and it resulted in a winning brew. We were on hand for the brew day last week and the beer is currently fermenting away, so look for it on Beer Loves Company and in the Great South Bay tasting room soon.

 

Perrin Brewing Company – Comstock Park, Michigan

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One of the hidden gems on our recent trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan for the National Homebrewers Conference was hands down Perrin Brewing Co. in nearby Comstock Park. With a bit of downtime from the conference, we decided to rent a car and drive to Kalamazoo to visit Bell’s Eccentric Cafe and a couple smaller nearby breweries. On the way back from that venture, which will of course be getting it’s own post, we remembered that a bartender at Hop Cat had mentioned Perrin to us. A quick consult with Google Maps showed that it was basically on the way back to Grand Rapids, so to Perrin we went.

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Pulling into the parking lot it was certainly nothing like we expected. Fairly secluded in more of an industrial, office area, the facility itself is huge, with plenty of space devoted to a brewpub/tasting room with ample indoor and outdoor seating. The brewery is under the same roof, albeit behind glass, so you can see your beer being made as you drink it. We took a seat outside as it was a nice breezy day that had dandelion petals floating everywhere. Side note to anyone from Michigan: What is with that? Everywhere we went there were dandelion petals just chilling in the wind; even in the city where we didn’t see any actual flowers in the ground. Wild. Anyway, the space itself is very open with a rustic vibe and the outdoor seating was a nice touch, but the standout here was the delicious, delicious beer. Honestly the brewpub probably could be in an abandoned warehouse (and not the hip kind) and still be crowded.

 

Like many other breweries and bars in Michigan, you can purchase samples (around 4 oz.) of any beer at Perrin. This was great for us because it allows you to try a wider variety of beers and is especially helpful in a place like Perrin that had over 20 beers on tap, all of which were enticing. Also similar to most of the other breweries we visited, the menu was broken into “tiers” with each beer tier having a different price. This made browsing fairly interesting as few lists were grouped by beer styles. Semantics, as we never had trouble ordering and this was especially true at Perrin. Food is available too and though it looked good we can’t really comment on it, as we had already eaten lunch at Bell’s. Again, the beer ran away with the show.

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Their lineup has everything from IPA’s to fruit beers and a barrel aged series. Oh, and a malted milk ball imperial porter which is just as delicious as it sounds. We began modestly, ordering a sample or two each, but once we tasted them we just kept working our way through the menu. When all was said and done we probably tried 90% of the menu, which is where the sample sizes really helped us. There honestly wasn’t a bad one in the bunch and as a whole it was one of the most solid brewery tap lists we have ever encountered. We even tried their raspberry blonde, which is basically advertised as a beer dudes can give their non beer drinking wives, but it was sweet and fruity with just the right amount of berry tartness. Probably not one we would order again given the other options, but still.

Alicia’s standouts were the Kingdom of Tonka Vanilla Porter, which is made with vanilla beans from the South Pacific, and the Grapefruit IPA which is insane since she usually doesn’t even like IPA’s. If that beer was canned (or even bottled) and distributed on Long Island it would be absolutely perfect for the beach. Kevin also was a fan of the Grapefruit IPA with its balance of fruit, pulp, pith and hops. The Liger (formerly Rye of the Liger) was quite amazing too. It had a wonderful blend of spicy notes and hop characteristics and is a beer which like a real liger is a spectacular blend of radness.

Unfortunately, Perrin only occasionally bottles their beers in large format bottles and they are not widely distributed. However, you can find their stuff on tap around Michigan. On a positive note, this gives you an excuse to visit Grand Rapids and take a little drive out of Beer City USA to visit Perrin Brewing Co. Tip: give yourself at least an hour or two to spend here because once you see the menu you aren’t going to be in a hurry to move on.

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It’s (Halfway to) the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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Today is June 25th 2014. That means we are only six months away from what is the best day of the year, Christmas. Whether you celebrate the holiday or not, it’s hard to argue the true meaning that has developed around the holiday: caring for family and friends. Definitely something we can all get behind. Well, all the caring and of course the cookies, presents, movies, memories and drinks at least, no? Here at BLC we fully embrace the holiday (to the max) and have decided to unleash a fraction of the holiday spirit jammed within our very souls onto the internet today. You are all welcome.

First off we would say an IPA ( a style Alicia used to call “Christmas Tree” beer) is quite appropriate to celebrate the day. Hops, especially in more traditional West Coast IPAs, pack a resinous piney punch. Some versions even come with a little splash of spice and a dash of citrus being reminiscent of a spiced fruit cake when you consider the caramel and bread like malt bases of these beers. So to honor old Saint Nick today crack a piney IPA and maybe pair it with a ginger snap cookie or a thin mint. That may sound weird but trust us it will taste good and transport you forward a few months in time.

Speaking of delicious, delicious beer let’s talk about Disney world. Over the last few years we have made two trips to the land that Mortimer built (look that one up) and were not disappointed. Yes, the food can be expensive and sometimes of questionable quality but like many things if you know what you are getting into and do not hope for something else you will enjoy it 1,000% more. When we travel to the land of Mickey, Donald, Luke, Leia, Animal and Gonzo we have our expectations set to stun. Basically we go with the flow and wing it. Want to eat a gigantic turkey leg? Go for it? Think a gigantic “Oktoberfest Burger” piled high with a sausage patty, bacon and a hamburger sounds good? Eat that bad boy bro. When it comes to beer though you can find many great ones if you exert a little effort. If you are lazy just take a look at this list we compiled for you right here (click the link silly). It was surprising to find Blue Point Brewing Company (then not owned by Budweiser) for us but that was the tip of the mouse ears. La Fin du Monde, Jai Alai and even Saison Dupont are all up for grabs in the big D. And, if you’re looking to try something entirely new, Big River Grille and Brewing Works is right on the Epcot boardwalk and they brew all their own beer. So you can find and enjoy some fun food, drink great beer, walk around parks (and hotels) decorated to the nth degree for the season PLUS see one of the best light shows known to man.

Oh the lights, the wonderful eye blinding lights. Disney goes all out with a light show at MGM (it will never be “Hollywood Studios” to us). During the season they decorate what they call “Main Street USA” with so many lights it is reminiscent of the scene from one of, if not the, best Christmas movies ever; Christmas Vacation. Along with this visual buffet of twinkling neon comes music. For Kevin nothing, not one thing, can beat Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You”

However, we both do enjoy The Ravonettes “The Christmas Song”

and Slow Club’s “Christmas TV’

Now you can enjoy these three treasures too.

Remember while you dream of Christmas, listening to wonderfully cheerful songs with an IPA in your hand (or a stout if you are a true badass) keep in mind the true spirit of the holiday and the meaning of half Christmas; be nice to people today. By all means treat yo self to a fun day but make sure to spread to others as well. Someone honk at you in traffic? Do like the Jigga and brush that dirt off your shoulder. There are only six, short months until full blown Christmas. The time is almost upon you to start planning holiday menus so relish the sunny 1/2 Xmas time you have now and drink a beverage or two. And of course, it is almost shopping season but you could always put away a few beers to gift as aged goodies to friends and family.

HAPPY HALF CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

Written by A+K

June 25th, 2014 at 3:48 pm