ZBH Malting Attempts to Bring a Malthouse to Long Island

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It seems every time we turn around a new brewery is opening on Long Island. As little as five years ago there were only a handful of places to drink locally produced craft beer, but that’s rapidly changing. Brian Zimmerman originally set out to open a farm brewery, but his research uncovered a severe lack of “homegrown” ingredients. So he shifted gears and is now launching ZBH Malting, Long Island’s first malthouse.

“There are so many farms growing Long Island hops, but only five malthouses in all of New York state,” says Zimmerman, who has a background in farming and soil conservation. About eight years ago the homebrewing bug bit Zimmerman; he began experimenting with locally grown hops and herbs. However, the nearest malthouse is 250 miles away, so Long Island grain was out of the question. “I won’t rule out opening a brewery down the line, but by producing malt I can help brewers and farmers,” says Zimmerman.

The process hasn’t been easy; with ZBH Malthouse ran into many zoning codes while looking for a home. “No one knows how to classify me because there is nothing else like it around,” says Zimmerman. The challenges haven’t stopped him though, and he currently has several farmers across the island growing crops he can eventually malt and make suitable for brewing.

“It’s a fickle crop. You need the right conditions, drainage and balance,” says Zimmerman; he adds that Long Island has great soil for barley, rye and wheat. “Just like wine grapes from here are going to be different from grapes grown in the Finger Lakes, the grain will be unique due to location. It will give us a sense of terroir.” Most farmers have to rest their fields periodically, but during that time they can still grow barley. Working with ZBH will allow them to make more money while helping their soil.

Once the grain is grown and harvested, ZBH Malthouse will be responsible for turning it into malt. Zimmerman will have to build all the equipment himself, a part of the process he anxiously awaits. “That’s what I’m looking forward to,” he says. “That’s the awesome part.”

Zimmerman hopes to be operational by September, if all goes well with the zoning boards. Once the doors to the malthouse open and the equipment is up and running it will only take a few weeks to produce malt. Zimmerman will aim to supply everyone from large scale commercial breweries to homebrewers. He says, “Grain grown locally can give a sense of truly Long Island beer.”

What’s Malt?

From Wikipedia: Malt extract is frequently used in the brewing of beer. Its production begins by germinating barley grain in a process known as malting. This procedure entails immersing barley in water to encourage the grain to sprout, then drying the barley to halt the progress when the sprouting begins.

This story was originally published on Edible East End.

Blind Bat Brewery and The Brewers Collective: From Farm to Bottle and Back Again

Blind Bat Brewery Paul and Regina

Paul Dlugokencky, owner of Blind Bat Brewery, spends summer weekends waking early to get his farmers market table ready. But he’s not selling fresh produce or homemade baked goods, he’s there with bottles of beer. Dlugokencky embraces Long Island agriculture with a little help from his farmer wife, Regina, and often showcases locally grown ingredients in Blind Bat beers.

Dlugokencky’s microbrewery, in the detached garage of his Centerport home for the past eight years, allows him to use local produce and experiment with his recipes. (There are plans to open a larger tasting room in Smithtown.)

Regina Dlugokencky’s organic produce has been a part of the Long Island farmers market scene for years. In 2011, she encouraged Dlugokencky to try selling Blind Bat at the Northport Farmers Market and he hasn’t looked back.

“You expose yourself to a population that isn’t coming to your brewery,” he says. “They’re already open-minded enough to try something local. Variety is something people respond to; they don’t necessarily want to buy the same thing every week.” This gives him the freedom to brew smaller, more whimsical batches of beer like his Long Island Oyster Stout.

The market also allows Dlugokencky to work with local vendors and growers. When he needs coffee for his Brown Joe brown ale, he looks to Gentle Brew of Long Beach. And it goes both ways; his beer is often used by Ridgewood Pork Store in their sausages.

Dlugokencky doesn’t get all his offbeat ingredients at farmers markets; he often looks to Regina for guidance and fresh crops. “She’s currently growing Thai basil and lemon basil for a Thai-inspired pale ale and IPA,” says Dlugokencky. Her yield also makes its way into the Honey & Basil Ale, along with New York State honey. But it’s not just fresh herbs and spices that wind up in his beer.

Blind Bat Long Island Potato Stout is brewed with—you guessed it—Long Island potatoes. Depending on availability, locally and organically grown Yukon or Keuka Gold potatoes add sugar to the brewing process, which results in a dry, roasted stout with a low alcohol percentage and rich, bold flavors.

Keeping with the potato theme, Blind Bat Sweet Potato Saison uses sweets from Ty Llwyd and is their “beer for the harvest season.” The potatoes are first roasted to bring out their sweetness and are then added to the mash during brewing. A healthy dose of spices rounds out the ingredient list.

The DIY doesn’t stop. The base of several of his beers—including the popular Hellsmoke Porter—uses malt that’s hand smoked at the brewery. While still a homebrewer, Dlugokencky read about a smoked porter from Alaska but couldn’t get his hands on smoked malt. Not one to give up, he thought, “Well, I can’t find any so I’ll try making some.” The first attempt involved a window screen and barbecue and did not go exactly as planned; he wound up burning a hole in the screen. Dlugokencky now has two large smokers that “have never seen a piece of meat” and are solely used for malt.

Also spotted at Long Island farmers markets this season is the Brewers Collective, a group of nine homebrewers recently turned pro. In fact, they alternate weeks with Blind Bat at the Babylon market. A slight departure from Dlugokencky, who sells only bottles, the Collective—as they are sometimes known—brings kegs and fills growlers on the spot. They have been pushing the envelope with unique local ingredients since in 2007.

Their Loot Gruit, a lightly hopped ale brewed with hibiscus flowers, sage and lemon balm, uses New York–grown hops. The Collective had an extensive tasting session where they made teas from each herbal ingredient and added them to commercially brewed beer in order to perfect their recipe. The result is a fresh, brightly colored beverage that tastes more like a harvest bounty than a typical beer.

Come fall, the summery, light gruit gives way to their fall version, Witchbinder. Brewed with herbs and Long Island cheese pumpkin, the ale is a dark, earthy brew that is very sage forward. “Once we have a building, I want to start growing this type of stuff myself,” says brewer Tim Dougherty, whose wife, Sarah, is also a part of the Collective.
“You get into brewing because you enjoy the process, not just the end product,” says Blind Bat’s Dlugokencky. These two local breweries are exploring new avenues in beer by going back to Long Island farms.

This article originally appeared in Edible Long Island

The Black Sheep Ale House Summer Fest = $4 Beers

Black Sheep Ale House Beer

Twenty beers for $4 all day, every day through Labor Day.

This summer marks the fourth annual Summer Craft Beer Festival for the Black Sheep Ale House in Mineola. The festival runs from July Fourth through Labor Day and means that 20 of 25 taps will be pouring $4 beers, all day every day. The idea started as a way for owner Vince Minutella to sustain business during the summer and continues because “customers won’t let me not do it,” he says.

Four years ago, Minutella bought a small Irish bar and went about turning it into the Black Sheep Ale House. “We lost all the customers,” he says. However, word of mouth built a solid base of regulars in the fall and winter. After managing bars and restaurants for 30 years, Minutella knew summer was going to be a struggle. “Everybody goes to Long Beach or out east or on vacation,” he says. “They don’t go to their neighborhood bar.”

Not only was he concerned about the bar itself, but he was very worried about the staff. “We finally built up a great group of core bartenders and I wanted to make sure they were taken care of.” So he figured he was not going to worry about making money for the bar and instead focus on getting people through the door. His solution was to make every beer in the entire bar $4 for the summer.

“I really wanted to reinforce the idea that it’s really just beer. It’s still an everyman drink,” says Minutella. “It was our way of saying to people, ‘You’ve got it wrong.’ It’s not about high price and putting on airs; it’s a good product with good people in a nice environment where everyone is welcome.”

People loved the idea, the bar was packed and after that summer they never looked back. Minutella says as long as Summerfest is still financially possible, it will continue.

This year there is a slight twist; 20 of the 25 taps are reserved for $4 pours. The other five will have more elusive beers Minutella is now able to get his hands on due to better relationships with brewers and distributors. “We don’t want to become a different place over the summer by serving different beers. This is a way to make everyone happy,” says Minutella. Click here for a list of the beers on tap.

This story originally appeared on Edible Long Island.

Brian Giebel: The Amateur Professional

Brian Giebel the Amateur Professional

We met up with self-proclaimed “professional amateur” brewer Brian Giebel early one morning at the BrickHouse Brewery, while staff was busy zesting limes for an upcoming brew day of Lima Libre. Meanwhile, Flying Dutchman IPA, a beer Giebel collaborated on, is on tap right alongside the other BrickHouse staples. Though Giebel is still technically a homebrewer, this isn’t the first time his beer has been served at a Long Island brewery.

Giebel, who holds a Ph.D in chemistry, has homebrewing down to a science. The result has been several award winning beers, some of which have been produced commercially. His beers are a true labor of love; Giebel checks the fermentation temperature up to five times a day. “I obsess over them like children,” he says.

His success led him to approach Arthur Zimmerman, head brewer of BrickHouse, for some hands on experience on a larger scale. “They were more than willing to take me on,” says Giebel. He helped them out with general tasks but never got involved in recipe development until they wanted to talk about his Belgian beers.

So Zimmerman and Giebel sat down, along with brewer Paul Komsic, and set out to revamp BrickHouse’s Flying Dutchman IPA. “The cool thing about working with them is we constantly bounce ideas off each other,” says Giebel. The three formulated a recipe. Giebel suggested Sorachi Ace hops to add a peppery note to the beer.

Brewing on a larger scale still feels familiar to Giebel. One big difference is “more precise temperature controls.” In addition to Flying Dutchman, Giebel will have another beer on the Long Island scene shortly.

Muscat Love is a grape triple that Giebel produced with Great South Bay Brewery after winning a monthly homebrew competition. They were so pleased with the beer it is being entered into the Great American Beer Festival “Pro-Am” competition, which is an award for the best collaboration beer between a professional and amateur.

“It’s a real positive feeling to know people enjoy my beer,” says Giebel. “It really makes you think about doing something in the future.”

A limited amount of Flying Dutchman IPA is currently on tap at BrickHouse Brewery and Muscat Love will be on tap at Great South Bay by mid August.

This article originally appeared on Edible Long Island.

Nitro Beer: It’s What’s on Tap

Tap and Barrel Nitro Beer

If there were a beauty pageant for beers, Guinness Stout would surely have a shot at the crown. Whether or not you’re a fan, the slow separation of rich, black stout and the creamy tan head until they strike a perfect balance is something to behold. That theatrical pour, however, has more to do with the draft system than the beer itself. The beauty comes from the nitro tap line, and it’s not just for Irish stouts anymore.

When Vincent Minutella bought what is now the Black Sheep Ale House in Mineola, it was a “little Irish pub” with five tap lines. He added 20 more, plus a cask engine, but kept the existing nitro tap in place. He uses the taps to draw beer that already contain nitrogen gas, which was added by the brewer to enhance the suds. These are usually dark stouts or porters, though he has been known to pull nitro IPA. In addition,un-nitrogenated beer passes through the nitrogen nozzle for a quicker, smoother pour and creamy mouthfeel. “The brewer made the beer, who am I to change it?” says Minutella, which is why he never adds nitrogen to a beer brewed without it. He instead pushes the beer along with a gas mix of nitrogen and carbon dioxide.

The Black Sheep Ale House is also one of the few places on Long Island with authentic cask beer. Cask ales are served at a higher temperature and with less carbonation than a typical beer; it takes some getting used to. Unlike nitro beers, cask ales are not usually limited by style and everything from a pale ale to an imperial stout can be in cask. “Once people find they enjoy cask beers, they will try any style,” says Minutella. “I like that beer is a living thing. The beer that I have in this moment is going to be different from how it is at the end of the night.”

Nitro pours are also always on the menu at Brewology, at the original in Speonk and the new spot in Port Jefferson. “A lot of customers notice the difference,” says owner Roger Bencosme. “The creaminess is just unparalleled.” They currently pour Empire Brewing Company Cream Ale on nitro at both locations. “I’ve tried it on a regular tap and it’s just not the same,” he adds. But his favorite is Blue Point’s Armchair Nitro Stout.

Nitro beer is also available at Blue Point Brewery in Patchogue, Tap and Barrel in Hauppauge (pictured) and several other bars and restaurants across Long Island.

This article originally appeared on Edible Long Island.

America the Beertiful

Happy (almost) birthday, America. You’ve had a pretty good year, all things considered, and now it’s time for most of your inhabitants to head outdoors, eat a ridiculous amount of hot dogs and crack open a cold beer. Cold beer…what’s more American than that? Well, probably opening your own business where you brew beer and sell it to the public. Over the last year, many craft beer hopefuls did just that.

With such an influx of new breweries it becomes difficult to keep up with. Here on Long Island, we are up to 20+ breweries with another 10 or so on deck to open in the next year. Some of the newer ones we haven’t even had a chance to visit yet.

So, beer loving Americans, we ask you the question: What is the best new brewery that has opened in your state this year?

Our personal pick: The Brewers Collective. They’ve been on the local craft beer scene for years, but only recently became a licensed brewery. You can find their beer “at the source” @ A Taste of Long Island in Farmingdale, but their experimental brews are making their way into taprooms across the island. Our current favorite: Loot Gruit, a very lightly hopped ale brewed with hibiscus and herbs.

Oh, this? Just Mac and Cheese on a Hot Dog.

Oh, this? Just Mac and Cheese on a Hot Dog.