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.

Now Head Brewer for Port Jeff Brewing Company, MATT GUNDRUM

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There’s a new brewer in town and his name is Matt Gundrum. Hailing from Pennsylvania, Mr. Gundrum is a friendly fellow who is very easy to talk to. He was kind enough to speak with us about his journey in the world of craft beer and how it led him to New York.

After talking to Matt one thing becomes clear, he is exceptionally passionate about brewing. As the new Head Brewer for Port Jeff Brewing Company Mr. Gundrum is focused and determined. He has lofty goals, hoping to brew EVERY recognized Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP)beer and to bring either a World Beer Cup or Great American Beer Festival medal to Port Jeff Brewing Company but more importantly home to Long Island.

Matt’s first experience with “craft beer” came while working at Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant. The brewing bug caught Matt quickly after he was legally allowed to try a beer. “It was really when I sat down for my first flight of (Iron Hill) beers on my twenty-first birthday” he said. That sampler was an eye opener for Matt. After sitting down and experiencing those beers he, “…started to gain an appreciation and knew that this was what I wanted to do.” From there it was a matter of getting in the door.

I got my sights set on a medal. I want to win a medal for this brewery and for Long Island.

After briefly working at a steak house Mr. Gundrum found his was back to Iron Hill as a bartender. His chance to move to the brewing side of things came when Iron Hill was looking for help cleaning kegs. He, “jumped in to start doing that”, eventually moving over to the production side of the process. After taking this initial seemingly insignificant step Matt ended up right where he wanted to be after trying that first flight of beer. His first official title was assistant brewer given to him in 2006.

Seven years of experience were gained working at Iron Hill. You see Matt did not have any experience with brewing before hand. “I still to this day have never homebrewed a single batch of beer.”, was a curious statement for us to hear. We are used to brewers having some type of brewing experience before turning pro but Mr. Gundrum was ready to swing for the fences from the moment he stepped into the brewhouse. Matt is proud to say, “(He) got right into professional brewing and never looked back”.

The luxury of the home or hobby brewer is the freedom to experiment. If a batch comes out a little off it doesn’t matter you either drink it or dump it. In Matt’s case he was not afforded this margin for error. Each beer he brewed would be served to the public. The drive and desire is evident, “Brewing is a passion of mine and I do want to be one of the best.”, Matt takes his profession seriously. As such he likes to mix things up and, “Does not like brewing the same beer all the time.” which is a good thing for those looking variety.

Mr. Gundrum is hoping to be able to brew many styles which have yet to be brewed by Port Jeff Brewing Company. Previously at Iron Hill almost every styles passed through his fermentation tanks. One beer he is particularly proud of is the Dead Ryes Ryes-n-Bock a recipe which was completely reworked based on Matt’s knowledge of the style. This beer is going to be entered into the World Beer Cup and is a Roggen Bock.

There are limitations at Port Jeff (there is no hot liquor tank) so the mash-in (adding grain to warm water to convert starch into sugars) is done a little differently. Mr. Gundrum is meticulous in throughout the process giving everything a little more time. “Maybe I don’t need to let the mash rest for 60 minutes but I do.” He gives everything the time and care it deserves resulting in a high efficiency (sometimes rocking the boat on the Dinghy Series).

I still to this day have never homebrewed a single batch of beer.

Favorite style? “Whichever one I am drinking at the moment” he says, “there is no style he dislikes.” which means if you like a style Matt has an appreciation for it. His hefeweizen, a new style to Port Jeff, was on tap when we stopped by and it was a really tasty interpretation. Matt’s creative options are open at his new job and he has full control to branch out into uncharted waters. With production looking to expand that does not mean a stall on new beers. In fact Matt hopes, “…to brew beers that have never been seen in the Port Jeff area before.” and he is determined to win a medal.

A few things to keep an eye out for include a Double Red IPA, an Irish Dry Stout (which should be out soon), more barrel aged product and sours. Matt, “Personally loves doing sour beers.” which is a good thing for those who like their beer with a puckering bite. Some of the Port Jeff Porter has already made it’s way into barrels for aging (see you at the release?).

Speaking of the Porter it is a favorite of his to brew from the classic line-up. Matt enjoys brewing darker beers, how they make the brewery smell and the taste of the wort. With most of the classic beers (aside from the Dead Ryes) a few tweaks were made to tighten things up. The Porter what we consider their flagship and one of Alicia’s favorites, has not been changed. Mr. Gundrum is not coming in to fix what does not work, he is not trying to reinvent the wheel. His aims are to make sure everything that is working works perfectly and what is newly created meets his high standards.

Aside from all of the beers and styles he hopes to move through his system he is also hoping to collaborate with other local breweries. Matt amiable personality and love of all beer should allow for some great partnerships and pairings with other breweries. He looks forward to, “makking Long Island part of the beer drinking map.” and we do too.

Matt came to Port Jeff Brewing Company because his friend and Port Jeff owner/brewmaster Mike Philbrick offered him the job. Matt says he enjoys Long Island and so far we have been enjoying his beers. We look forward to seeing the different styles he produces in the months and years to come. There are sure to be a few home runs coming out of this small local brewery in the near future.

Which styles would you like to see Matt and Port Jeff Brewing Company release?

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First Annual Home Brew Contest at Fatty McGee's Sponsored by Arbor Wine & Beer Making Supplies Judged by Beer Loves Company

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Saturday December 7th 2013 at 7:30 pm the first annual Home Brew Contest will be held at Fatty McGee’s in East Islip, New York. The event was organized and is sponsored by Arbor Wine and Beer Making Supplies and they have asked us to be the judges. We are looking forward to meeting all of the brewers who are competing and of course trying their liquid labors of love. Two prizes are up for grabs: Most True to Style and Most Unique. Drink specials will be going on throughout the night and if we had to guess from the poster (which we do because we have no idea what the specials will be) they might have something to do with Blue Point Brewing Company beer. A homebrewing competition and specials on Blue Point beer, pretty cool eh?

There are still a few slots remaining for entries but they are filling up fast. If you want to participate bring down two growlers of the homebrew you are most proud of and take a shot at winning a prize. All the the brewers will be encouraged to try each other’s beers and to discuss their brewing processes too. This will be a fun event and we both hope to see you there.

Long Island Beer and Malt Enthusiasts Single Malt And Single Hop Brew Day at Great South Bay Brewery or LIBME SMASH @ GSB = RAD

Recently members of local beer appreciation soceity Long Island Beer and Malt Enthusiasts were given the oppurtunity to brew a (large) batch of beer at Great South Bay Brewery. This brew day was put together by club member and BJCP judge extraordinaire Andrew Luberto. The idea for this brew day grew out of a sensory class covering hops (you know hops, the bittering, flavoring, perserving agent used to produce beer) also put together by Mr. Luberto. During the class club members had a chance to learn about several different varieties of hops (or Humulus Lupulus if you are feeling sciencey) and their applications. When the class had wrapped a few attendees suggested to Andrew that a brew day should be organized to utilize the remaining hops allowing members of LIBME to experience what characteristics these flowers imaprt to a brew. Andrew, thinking the idea a good one, organized the day with assistance of LIBME club luminaries including president Todd Long, Bobby “Po’ Boy” Rodriguez and our brewing partner in crime Frank Filacchione as well as members of GSB Phil and Kevin pitching in.

The day began early and was packed with tons of brewing discussion, hop evaluation and of course beer tasting. All of the attendees were glad to have a chance to gather and brew up some beer. The actual brew was a simple recipe consisting of a single malt and a single hop (referred to as a SMASH beer). The malt selected was two row and the hops ranged from Mosaic to Kazebek and even an #6300 an experimental hop. These hops were each added to a different 3 gallon batch of wort and taken home by club volunteers to ferment. The yeast used for the fermentation was drawn directly from a fermenting tank of Great South Bay Brewery’s own Blonde Ambition. This was something to see as the yeast poured as a “slurry” or mix of beer and yeast. During the brewing process we also had a chance to try some really nice beers contributed by club members and we brought a few along as well. The Cigar City Jai Alai we brought along was a huge hit (review of that IPA coming soon). The true highlight to the day however was when the host, founder and brewmaster of GSB Rick Sobotka arrived to spend some time with the club and to pour a few samples of their new Golden IPA “Field 5” for us straight from the brite tank where the beer was conditioning. This truly turned out to be a fun and memorable day for everyone. With all the talk of hops it made us even more excited for Beer Loves Company + Hops to have it’s first harvest out at Condzella Farms (more on that soon too). Here we leave you with some images from the day. Feel free to contact us with questions about the hops, brewing or Great South Bay. Enjoy.

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