ZBH Malting Attempts to Bring a Malthouse to Long Island


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.

Brewing a Fresh Hop Ale with Long Ireland Beer Company

Most brew days we have been a part of begin early and are usually fueled by a morning cup of coffee and a beer or two as the day progresses. Whether we are brewing with a fellow home brewer on a ten gallon system or observing a professional boil in a big burly kettle at their brewery, the process is fairly similar. It all starts with raw ingredients and ends with plenty of liquid that, after a little bit of time and attention, becomes beer. We recently had the opportunity to be there for Long Irelands fresh hop brew day, but this time we did not start out at the brewery. We took it back a step and began our day at Condzellas Farm, where the hops that would be used for brewing were being harvested.

We already detailed that process, so we won’t bore you again, but definitely check out this video of Beer Loves Company + Hops doing her thing if you haven’t already. Once the hops were harvested, weighed out and packed in crates it was time to transport them to the final stop in their journey, Long Ireland. If you have never delivered pounds of fresh hops to a brewery, know this: that hoppy smell does not easily leave your car and it may make you crave an IPA at 9 am. We were met at Long Ireland by Justin Wesnofske of Wesnofske Farms, bearing his own crates of hops that he had painstakingly hand harvested the night before/earlier that morning. After our own recent hop harvesting endeavor we could feel Justin’s pain and understand why Mr. Condzella wanted to bring Beer Loves Company + Hops to Long Island!

Long Ireland went about brewing their standard Celtic Ale the same way they have done hundreds of times before, with the exception of the wall of fresh hops in the brewery that had everyone’s attention. When it came time to add these hops, they opted to stuff some into gigantic hop sacks (Snoop Dog would have approved) adding those to the boil. As time progressed, more hops were added using the mash tun as a hop back. This time they were thrown in loose, producing what looked like a pretty wild (and hoppy) soup. Long Ireland and all of the brewers went above and beyond to make sure the fresh hop characteristics were transferred into their brew.

Seeing an ingredient go from bine (remember not vine) to brew kettle in the span of a few short hours really hammered home the “drink local” message. Hopefully it won’t be too long before breweries here are using Long Island malt as well. Long Ireland has transferred their license over to what is known as a “farm brewery” license and will be using more and more NY state grown ingredients in the coming years. They will be releasing their Fresh Hop ale at an event this Friday, along with Greenport Harbor. We will have all the details on that tomorrow, but know that all proceeds will support Condzella Hops and Wesnofske Farms, which is beyond awesome and shows that the bond between farmers and brewers is only getting stronger. Beer loves Long Island and we think Long Island might just love it back.


Condzella Hops: The Season Comes Full Circle


This years hop harvest has drawn to an end, as the short window in which hops need to be picked is now closed. Though the season is an extremely short one, we saw firsthand at Condzella Hops all the hard work and preparation that precedes the two-three week long harvest. They had a whirlwind of a year with the acquisition of Beer Loves Company + Hops and the ensuing modifications to make sure it was harvest ready. Though it came down to the wire, John Condzella was able to get the machine working efficiently which greatly increased their ability to harvest their hops.

It was truly amazing just to be a part of the Kickstarter campaign to bring the hop harvester to Long Island and be able to dub it Beer Loves Company + Hops. However, the real fun came when we got to see her in action. As you can see, the speed in which the hops are plucked from the bines and spit out of the machine is amazing, especially if you have ever picked hops by hand and know how time consuming it can be.

Condzella Hops was able to provide fresh hops to Long Island breweries Port Jeff Brewing Company, Long Ireland Beer Company & Greenpoint Harbor Brewing Company, as well as Captain Lawrence of Elmsford, New York. All three locals produced fresh hop ales with the hops, and we were on site for the brew days at Port Jeff & Long Ireland (more on that later this week). Being able to see hops that were still on a bine earlier in the day be dumped into a brew kettle really reinforced the fact that the Long Island hop is here to stay. We were already able to sample Pot Jeff’s fresh hop ale, as it is currently on tap in their tasting room, and Long Ireland & Greenpoint will be releasing their brews later in the week.

Though fresh hop season is wrapping up this year, we look forward to next years harvest which will hopefully involve even more local farmers and breweries. The industry is continuing to develop on Long Island and each year promises to bring New York closer to the hop growing powerhouse it once was. In the meantime, reap the benefits of this season and drink all the local fresh hop ale you can while it’s still, well, fresh.

Condzella Hops Kickstarter: Halfway There


Condzella Hops Kickstarter campaign to bring the Wolf WHE 140 Hopfen Pflückmaschine (a hop harvesting machine) to their Wading River, Long Island farm is halfway to its conclusion and also a bit more than halfway to its goal of $27,000. Last we checked they had raised $14,775 from 153 different backers, but hopefully that number is increasing even as we type. Thats an average donation of $96 per contributor which is not exactly pocket change and shows just how strongly the local craft beer and agricultural community is behind this campaign.

There are still 16 days left, so its not too late for you to show your support. Depending on your level of involvement, you will be rewarded with not only the satisfaction of knowing you helped bring the “New York Hop” back, but tokens of appreciation ranging from a Condzella Hops mason jar mug to a beer dinner that actually takes place on the farm to the ability to name a row of hops in next years harvest.We had the opportunity to speak with John Condzella today (the creator of both Condzella Hops and this Kickstarter campaign) about the process so far and his hopes for the next 16 days and beyond.

John chose Kickstarter over a more traditional means of obtaining the money, like a business loan, because he really wanted to get the word out about both the machine and the cause. Doing it this way allows community involvement and even after the machine is purchased there will be people across Long Island and NY that are literally invested in the progress of Condzella Hops. Ultimately, his short term goal is to obtain the hop harvester but his vision has a much broader scope. John hopes that this campaign will kickstart hop farming in this region and he is excited to not only share the harvester (either through forming a co-op or by charging a nominal fee) but also show farmers new to the crop the proper way to get started. He is not just trying to better Condzella Farms, but the entire local agricultural and craft beer community.

At the halfway point, John is optimistic and excited. He said the feedback so far has been great, and he has been doing everything he can to get the word out. With NYC Beer Week upon us, he will be appearing at several events throughout it and will also have a table at the Spring Craft Beer Festival at Nassau Coliseum on March 9, which is a big day for him for a variety of reasons. Not only will he be educating people about his farm and campaign at the show, it is also his birthday and the day before the end of his Kickstarter campaign. In addition, Port Jeff Brewing Company (who brewed a wet hopped ale using Condzella Hops) will be releasing their Wet and Wild Ale. This beer was a “hoppy accident” which was born from attempting to dry hop with Condzella fresh hops, resulting in a wild yeast transforming the brew. We had the opportunity to try this beer at Port Jeff’s first anniversary celebration and it was a fruity, tart and delicious. John has yet to try the Wet and Wild, but is excited to do so.

So what about a backup plan if the campaign fails? Not going to happen, according to John. He has been tirelessly working to spread the word and garner support anyway he can, whether it be posters, phone calls, E-mails or interviews like this one, and he will continue to do so through the conclusion of the campaign. He is confident that his efforts will be rewarded and Condzella Hops will meet their goal. But, he can’t do it alone.

John is excited about the outpouring of support thus far and knows that in order to be successful they will need help from the community. Since ultimately this hop machine will help both the local farming and craft beer communities, it is only fitting that it is a group effort to revitalize the New York hop. So please visit Condzella Hops Kickstarter page and read about the campaign, watch the video and give if you can. Even if you can’t contribute right now but support the idea, share it with your friends and family and help John and Condzella Hops get the word out there. Help to (re)kickstart the New York Hop.