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

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?

Thoughts and Pictures from the Rocky Point Artisan Brewer's Cask Festival – January 25th 2014

Northport Harbor Frozen

As we sit down to type this little article snow is once again falling across Long Island. A blanket of white has covered all of the tress and roads in our quiet neighborhood. It seems to us a perfect time to reflect on the similarly snowy day of January 25th, 2014. That was the day of the Rocky Point Artisan Brewers held their fourth annual Nano Cask Festival & Farmer’s Market.

The boys of Rocky Point Artisan Brewers should be familiar to the readership of Beer Loves Company. We have mentioned them in the past in high regard. Mike Voigt and Donovan Hall (two thirds of RPAB) are fixtures of the Long Island beer scene. As longtime members of Brewer’s East End Revival (the oldest homebrewing club here on LI) Donavon and Mike became known as producers of fine ales and lagers. These two gentleman are firmly connected with BEER in our memory as well.

During one of the first BEER meetings we attended the boys became impromptu guest speakers. That night as the meeting was winding down, when our illustrious president Steve Wynhurst asked if “there was anything else”, from the back of the room came a loud shout of “YES”. Mike and Donavon sat proudly and confidently in the last seats of John Harvard’s Brewery event room. They had something to let the club in on.

Around that same time the boys had received all of their necessary paperwork and licensing needed for RPAB to begin legal production and sales. They had their brewery and were riding high on the excitement. You could taste it in their beer. Chilled growlers were shared by the duo of RPAB after the meeting came to a close. We distinctly recall tasting their Doppel Schwarz, a style they lay a claim on having invented. This is a strong memory for us and it connects with how RPAB conduct their business to this day.

Innovation seem to be a theme that carries through all things Mike, Donovan and Yuri Janssen (the third piece to the RPAB puzzle) attempt with RPAB. They push boundaries of style in search of craft, honesty and flavor. Exploration of this sort is something to behold and to taste.

Such audacity can succeed greatly, birthing something new and enthralling into the world. When it fails it can be a total disaster. Still within that poor tasting mistake there is always something to be learned; a lesson to take away. Experimentation is a good thing. RPAB seems to be more willing than most to take the styles of beer which they love and try to bend, twist and pull them to their will. This core concept of RPAB and their work runs deeply through their Nano Cask festival.

So now we finally arrive back at our point, with some illustrative background in tow. January 25th 2014 was a day seeing light snow falling in Rocky Point. As we arrived at the NSBOA Club House (the site of the event this year and last) these flurries had only just begun. Pulling into the clubhouse parking lot we met with Kevin’s sister, Katie.

Unlike other events we were the sole representatives of our homebrewing club who would be pouring beer and giving out information on the club. Katie was invited to help us out, becoming an honorary member of BEER that day. Together we set up what we thought was a pretty good looking table. The BEER banner and information sheets were set out along with the signs we made for the three beers we would be serving. BLC buttons and shirts were also for sale at the event.  We brought two beers to pour under the BEER banner.

One was A+K (our saison/stout) and the other was our sour/saison/cider-thing Fizzy Lifting Drink. These two brews fit in well with the spirit of the festival and went over nicely with the crowd. We were proud to be pouring these beers as representatives of BEER. The reaction we received was very humbling, especially for Fizzy Lifting drink. Since we had such a limited amount of FLD it was necessary to pour it as a timed release. This generated a lot of traffic at the table and interest in the hybrid brew which the crowd seemed to really enjoy.

Fizz Lifting Drink

Aside from A+K and FLD we also were serving something brewed with our friend Andrew Luberto, a member of Long Island Beer and Malt Enthusiasts (a club which was in part started by Mike and Donavon). This LIBME and BEER collaboration brew was known as Saider. This crazy experimental concoction was one of the most popular beers/things at the entire event. It’s popularity could be due to it’s very nature. Loyal fans of BLC will already have read about about this brew and know it is an amalgamation of different beverages within one drink.

Saider was served from a cask though it was not truly cask conditioned. Because of it’s odd creation process this would have been an overly difficult task. We brewed Saider as a saison with a twist, instead of using water for our liquor we used locally produced apple cider from Richter’s Orchards. This finished with a big Original Gravity (OG) and our blended yeast (Wyeast 2:1 French to Belgian) tore through fermentation in four days at sixty-four degrees.

The result of using apple cider in place of water was a very acetic (aka tart) brew. Using a saison yeast brought a spicy character to the beer. We could have happily sipped on this spicy, sharp brew all day but thought perhaps the people to whom we’d be serving it would like something more in balance. Andrew suggested using a pyment (mead made with grape juice) he had on hand for our purposes. Our reaction was  “sounds great” and it was decided we’d blend the cider/saison in a 5:1 ratio with the black currant and pinot noir pyment. All of that going on made for a cloudy product which Andrew wasn’t the biggest fan of, so he hit it with a few finings agents. These products, while providing some clarity, would make carbonating Saider within a cask very difficult. We bit our lip and did what we had to, force carbonating the brew which we then moved into our pin (five gallon cask) using a beer gun.

Kevin was given the honor of tapping the cask at the event and we all had a chance to taste the final product together. For us Saider hit the mark. Serving this collaboration between two of Long Island’s greatest homebrewing clubs was something we won’t forget soon. We were honored to be able to brew it with Andrew and to serve it at the RPAB festival.

RPAB Crowd

Besides our off the wall offerings attendees were also welcome to try pours from local breweries like Barrage Brewing Company, Port Jeff Brewing Company, Blind Bat Brewery and of course RPAB. A welcome new addition to the scene was Big Alice Brewing. This super nano-brewery makes ten gallon (10!) batches at their brewery in Long Island City. Their product is sold to the public directly through a CSA (community supported agriculture) like system. This leaves limited bottles of each batch left for sale to non-members. Keeping in line with the hyper limited nature every batch they brew is different beer.

Beers they have produced range from sours to pales ales and use ingredients like orange peel and dandelion bulbs coming exclusively in 750ml bottles. Big A brought two intriguing casks to the event with them. One was a Belgian pilsner with grapes and beets and the other was a sour golden ale with bitter orange peel and eucalyptus. Their sour was one of the stand outs of the event for us even though it was not all that sour. This LIC  brewery truly got the spirit of the festival by taking styles and turning them on their ear.

The event guests were also able to sample food from local vendors. We saw cheese plates and pickles flying around the our table throughout the afternoon. Apparently sausages or some type of tube meat was being grilled as well. It’s not hard to imagine patrons finding a chair at one of the many tables scattered around the event so they could sit down and relax after sucking down a pickle/sausage/whatever and filling their (awesome looking) tasting glass with some local beer. While taking a load off (or should it be getting a load on?) attendees were treated to music which came in two forms. One was a background volume level mix. The other was multiple live sets of solo acoustic Led Zeppelin. You could say there was even too much Zeppelin and many people did both this year and last year. When the finger picking fury took a break from shredding out Jimmy Page licks we were all treated to A) a break from the Zep and B) a performance by the Beer Amigos who called up Paul Dlugokencky of Blind Bat Brewery for a song. The entertainment was indeed entertaining at times.

The boys of RPAB make sure that their Nano Cask Festival and Farmer’s Market is not to be missed. They truly care about the enjoyment of the attendees and the spirit of this event. We felt that last year’s iteration was one of the best festivals we had attended in a while and this year’s edition lived up to that hype. Each brewery made an effort to bring something truly unique and delicious along with them and took the time to talk with patrons.

The attendees of this event are also always some of the best you could ask for (ever). They are respectful and have a genuine interest in what is being served to them sometimes asking very detailed questions about the brewing process. We are truly thankful to have met some fine people while pouring our brews. If you were there and stopped by our table, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

The RPAB Cask festival is one we would encourage you to attend next year. It’s packed with small breweries pouring beer they have worked hard on for an appreciative public. This is a chance to taste and experience an essential part of RPAB and brewing, fun.

BLC + Katie

(A special thank you to Jim & Jean Thoms for use of their photographs and to Katie for all of her help that day. You guys are the best!)

Rocky Point Artisan Brewers Nano Cask Festival & Farmer's Market – January 25 2014

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It’s that time of the year again. Get ready to drink some lightly carbonated, near room temperature beer! The fourth annual Rocky Point Artisan Brewers Nano Cask Festival and Farmer’s Market is being held Saturday January, 25th 2014. This event has both professional and home brewers pouring their wares from, you guessed it, casks.

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Surge Protecter

For those who may not know a cask is literally a container for beer. To that you might reply, “Obviously”, to which we say well smarty pants did you know that cask conditioned ale has been christened (along with bottle conditioned beer) as “Real Ale” by CAMARA (the Campaign for Real Ale)? Cask conditioned beer served from casks is a traditional method of serving beer. Patrons used to belly up to the bar and order a flagon of ale which was poured directly from the cask/container.

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Montauk

But what makes a beer cask conditioned? Well that is easy: cask beer is unfiltered and unpasteurized and undergoes it’s secondary fermentation and conditioning in the cask. It is also served from said cask without the use of any additional gas (nitrogen or carbon dioxide). This means that the carbonation contributed to the beer as a byproduct of fermentation tends to be light which is why some think cask conditioned beer tastes “flat”. The fermentation in the cask and serving temperature which is warmer then beer served from kegs also leads to loads of flavor coming through a cask poured ale. If you have never tried a cask beer before this event is a good way to try several in a comfortable setting.

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Great South Bay

We attended the third annual festival and it was one of the best events of the year. The brewers go all out with their casks bringing interesting takes on flagship favorites or even one off beers that will never be seen again. Last year there was acoustic music (which was heavy on the Led Zepplin) serving as a background of sorts to the goings on. This year The Beer Amigos, of The Beer Amigos podcast fame, will be performing a few of their tunes for the gathered masses.

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Greenport Harbor

A nice feature of this event is the ability patrons have to purchase beer to go from their favorite brewery or one they may just have discovered. Many of the vendors will have bottles for sale and will also be filling growlers of non-cask selections which attendees can take home and enjoy. Bringing home a fresh filled growler or bottle after a day of trying rare and unusual locally brewed craft beer is one way to keep the party going. The fourth annual Nano Cask Festival and Farmer’s Market has a lot going on! Here are the details as provided by the RPAB guys themselves.

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Ghost Cat Loves You

4th Annual Long Island Nano Cask Festival
Hosted by Rocky Point Artisan Brewers

Saturday January 25th 1-5pm
NSBOA Clubhouse
55 Clubhouse Dr Rocky Point

Tickets can be purchased at www.rpabbeer.com
$40
-entrance
-2014 tasting glass
-unlimited tastings from all brewers/clubs
-live music
-cheese platters for sale by The Big Cheese
-Performance by The Beer Amigos
-Merchandise and growler fills for sale from select brewers

Brewer’s East End Revival and Long Island Beer & Malt Enthusiast members are invited to a special VIP hour prior to the event opening to the public!

Please bring your PayPal email confirmation as your ticket in.

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Cask Festival Crowd

We will be attending the Cask Festival and Farmer’s Market as representatives of Brewer’s East End Revival homebrewing club. Our stout/saison A+K and our super limited cider/saison/sour Fizzy Lifting Drink will be available for tastings. In addition we’ll also be pouring a special collaboration “saison” brewed using apple cider instead of water that was balanced with a pinot noir and black currant pyment. This was brewed with Andrew Luberto of LIBME who will also be in attendance. Oh and Beer Loves Company shirts and buttons will be available for purchase too. This is an event not to be missed and we hope to see you there. Come out to the RPAB Cask Fest and try a few cask ales!

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Spicy

Brewer's East End Revival OktoBEERfest plus Briess Special Roast Contest w/ Grain from Brewtopia – September 14 2013

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This Saturday the Brewers East End Revival will hold their annual OctoBEERfest celebration at Cathedral Pines Park in Middle Island. In the traditional German spirit, and despite what the name might indicate, this event is always held in September. However, as the name does indicate, it is also a celebration of beer which is all brewed and contributed by B.E.E.R club members, but more on that later. Additional information about the event can be found on the website, but all you need to know is that it’s $15 (unless you brewed a beer), families are welcome and be sure to bring food for yourself and a little something to share with everyone. There will bee music, BBQ, clams, outdoor games and raffles (with a prize being a 1lb bag of CITRA HOPS!).

In addition to the general BBQ fun, music by White Room (featuring B.E.E.R.’s own Bill Ports) and outdoor beer drinking there will also be a special beer tasting and mini-contest. Mark from Brewtopia was generous enough to donate a 50 lb. bag of Briess Special Roast Malt as a prize for the 17th Annual B.E.E.R Brew Off. Since we assumed (correctly) that no brewer would want to take home a 50lb bag of specialty grain we decided to spread the wealth, dividing the bag among the club. All interested members received a 2 lb. bag with the only caveat being it had to be used to brew something for the OktoBEERfest. We had an overwhelming response and were only left with a couple pounds of malt, so it will be great to see how many different applications the same ingredient was used in. There will be a nut brown or ESB by Chritine Rudowski, a Pale Ale by Lou Zollo, a Belgian Pale Ale by Dave Phillips, a Dunkelweizen by Justin Brian, an American Pale Ale by Greg Woody, a Belgian Dark Mild by Al Raschdor, a Sourdough Roggenbier by Eric Grimm and more. We here at BLC really got wild with it and decided to make a gallon and a half or so of wort using the Special Roast Malt (along with a few other grains) and fresh hops. We then mixed that with four gallons of apple juice and ale yeast. Our beer/cider hybrid is currently fermenting away and we are definitely anxious to keg, serve and most importantly try it (the same goes for all of the other beers too).

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Everyone involved goes out of their way to make this a great event for the club. This will be our first year attending so we are especially looking forward to participating in all of the outdoor fun and imbibing. So when will you hear more about our brewing a cider/beer with the Special Roast Grain? Soon. First we have articles from B.E.E.R. members, Al Raschdorf detailing the brew day for his Belgian Dark Mild and another from Eric Grimm where he discusses crafting his Sourdough Roggenbier. These will be featured as guest posts in the coming week. We hope you enjoy their writing as much as us and we cannot wait to try their brews.

Harvesting Fresh (Wet) Cascade and Fuggle Hops with Richy Meyer

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Hops are the essential and defining characteristic which make a beer, well, a beer. The use of hops in beer itself are what brought the name “beer” about in the first place. A beer uses hops and originally an ale included no hops. These were two distinct although related beverages. Before hops were used as a bittering agent and preservative there was only ale. Ale was flavored with what is known as a “gruit” a mix of herbs, flowers, seeds or other flavoring components used to balance out the taste of the malts. The use of bittering and flavoring gruits continued for centuries and their use eventually was taxed, controlled and doled out. This presented an issue for the people of the time and other sources were sought out. The ingredients in gruits, other than adding delightful notes to the ales, also were found to have preservative properties which were desirable since they extended the shelf life of the drink. The same characteristics were discovered in hops and they later took the place of this gruit mixture and acting as both a preservative and flavoring agent. These changes eventually led to ales giving way to the beers that we all drink and enjoy today, with hops being one of the most important and in fact the defining ingredient separating ales from beer.

Why are we going on an on about hops? Well if you hadn’t noticed other than it being (close) to pumpkin ale season the hops harvest just passed. Hops (as we just let you know) are the defining characteristic in the beverage we all know and love, beer. Recently there has been a resurgence (partially funded and named by yours truly/s here at BLC) in NY. The climate in which we New Yorkers live allows for the growth of plentiful and high quality humulus lupus (hops to you and me Russ). We have John Condzella, of the oddly named Condzella Hops, is in possession of the crowd funded Beer Loves Company + Hops which (almost didn’t) have it’s first harvest this season. Then there is Wesnofske Farms in Peconic growing Nugget among other hops. Their program is headed by Justin Wesnofske who is also runs sales for Greenport Harbor Brewing Company. We will have articles coming soon on our experiences with these hop head farmers as well as the brewers who have been using their produce in the near future.

You may still be saying at this point, but who is this Richy Meyer and what does he have to do with hops? If you are still hanging with us then this is the moment where we (finally) get to the point. While it is great to have large scale hop farming operations and breweries in NY we also are home to thousands of homebrewers and advanced agriculturists too. Being members of the the two largest and oldest homebrewing clubs on Long Island we have been afforded the chance to meet many wonderful people within the industry and even more enthusiasts with a passion for beer. The people in both of these clubs truly enjoy beer, are friendly and most important welcoming. None more so than Richy Meyer who takes pleasure in yelling, “Hi (your name here)!”, toward perspective club members. Richy Meyer is the treasurer of Brewer’s East End Revival (or affectionately B.E.E.R.). He is the guy we brought all of our receipts to after organizing the 17th Annual B.E.E.R. Brew Off this past May. Richy or Tailspin, as he was nicknamed after many flights where he would perform his favorite move with his plane a falling oakleaf into a spin, not only is the defacto B.E.E.R. club greeter, he also serves as treasurer and cooks at club events along with his good friend Cliff (Cliffy to Richy). These two provide sustenance for all of the volunteers, brewers and guests at club organized events. Tailspin also crafts some excellent homebrewed porters, Octoberfest and Scotch ales using exclusively his own homegrown hops. These hops were acquired and planted over four years ago from another club member in a trade for some Jerusalem artichokes. While Richy grows and uses his crop of hops each year he also ends up with extra which he offers up for use to other members of B.E.E.R. to come down and harvest. We of course took him up on this offer and ended up with around a combined 20+ ounces of Fuggle and Cascade hops.

Picking hops as we had heard but learned this season are not easy to harvest by hand. The bines (not vines) on which they grow are thick, stubborn and filled with little spikes which love nothing more than to tear your arms up. Richy grows both the Cascade and Fuggle hops in the same row near his tomatoes and other plants. These plants grow thick and fully with the buds becoming full and sticky sometime in early to mid August after getting sun the entire Spring and Summer. Richy made sure to walk use through harvesting and processing of the hops while his Mary gave us lotion to soothe the wounds sustained during our picking afterwards.

While picking we trimmed off as much as we could of the bines and stuffed the rest into a large black garbage bag. The bag was then taken home, after we helped clear the rest of the unusable parts from Richy’s garden, to be sorted through. Picking through the hops proved to (almost) be as challenging and time consuming as harvesting the portions of hops and bines themselves. Spending the better part of two hours separating the hops from the bines (no sticks no stems kid) gave us the 20+ ounces of Fuggle and Cascade. We did not feel the need for our uses to break these down further into Fuggle or Cascade exclusive portions as we knew we would be brewing with some of these fresh/wet hops the very next day. The rest we laid out to dry sorting them into bags which we now have in our freezer. We would like to thank Richy for allowing us to come to his house and to take his hops. While we had several chances to see fresh hops being used and harvested this season, this was the first time we got our hands dirty. Here are pictures detailing the entire experience and as always feel free to comment or reach out if you have any questions for us, enjoy.

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It's Hop Harvest Season!

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That’s right, it’s the time of year when farmers finally get to reap the benefits of their hop plants. Hops typically begin growing in the spring and are ready to be harvested by the end of summer, though there is a very small window in which the crop is viable. Pick them too early and they are not yet mature enough to flavor beer, but wait too long and the hops will begin to die on the vine (or bine, as they are known when it comes to hops).

Hop harvesting is an extremely labor intensive process, as we first learned when we supported Condzella Hops and their Kickstarter campaign to bring a harvester (now affectionately called Beer Loves Company + Hops) to Long Island. However, this year we had a hands on look at just how much time and energy the harvester is able to save farmers.

We were able to see Beer Loves Company + Hops in action as it harvested a fairly sizeable batch of hops Long Ireland would be using for this years wet hopped ale. This process involved John Condzella cutting down the hop bines and transporting them to the stationary harvester. Once loaded, it took Beer Loves Company + Hops a matter of minutes to harvest about 20 lbs of hops.

We also had the opportunity to visit the home of Richy Meyer (a fellow B.E.E.R member) and check out his hop plants. He generously offered free hops to anyone from the club who was willing to come down and harvest what they needed. So Kevin headed on over to cut down the plants and returned home with a garbage bag full of hop plants and scars to prove it. The two of us went to work separating the hops from the bines, which took about 3 hours to fill one medium sized bucket.

Moral of the story: Beer Loves Company + Hops greatly streamlines the process and we are excited to see how it helps to grow the Long Island hop farming community in the future.

As far as this year goes, Port Jeff Brewing, Long Ireland Brewing and Greenport Harbor Brewing all brewed fresh hopped ales with Long Island hops. We attended the brew day at Port Jeff & Long Ireland and will definitely be trying all the beers when they are released in a couple weeks as well as attending any events to support them. We even brewed our very own fresh hop porter/cider hybrid (a graff, if you will) for the Brewers East End Revival OktoBEERfest, so that is currently fermenting away. Look for more in depth posts coming soon about all the hop harvesting/wet hop brewing that went on the past couple weeks. For now, here is a photo preview of what has been happening hop wise across Long Island.