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.

Brewer Profile: Bobby Rodriguez of Po’ Boy Brewery

Bobby Rodriguez of Po’ Boy Brewery is the new kid on the block as far as Long Island nano breweries go, but he’s far from a brewing novice. Rodriguez began homebrewing in 2008 and since then he has won over 30 awards for his beers and ciders; most notably having his Imperial Force produced by Port Jeff Brewing Company. Now Rodriguez has launched Po’ Boy Brewery out of A Taste of Long Island in Farmingdale, but he’s not quitting his day job just yet.

bobby poboy

In addition to brewing, Rodriguez works in health care and shares a passion for both fiends. So when he connected with Jim Thompson in 2013, who at the time was just considering launching an alternating proprietorship brewery at A Taste of Long Island, a spark was ignited. Of brewing professionally Rodriguez says, “It’s different for me. It’s not that I have to do this to make a living, I’m doing this because i’m passionate about it.” He saw A Taste of Long Island as a way to enter the brewing industry without giving up his career and him and Thompson worked together to get the location ready as a host brewery.

After about a year of paperwork, waiting on licensing and equipment and outfitting A Taste of Long Island to brew, Po’ Boy Brewery finally sold their first commercial beer. Though Rodriguez is a running a craft brewery, he holds a farm brewers license which allows him to also produce ciders under the name Po’ Boy. Rodriguez honed his cider making craft at home and is now scaling it up, turning out spiced, sweet yet potent creations that draw in customers beyond the craft beer crowd. Among the first releases are Catch Me If You Can Gingerbread Cookie Cider, All American Apple Pie Cider and Monster Eye Rye IPA.

Po’ Boy Brewery beer and cider can currently be found on tap at A Taste of Long Island, The Nutty Irishman in Farmingdale and Tap & Barrel in Hauppauge. Rodriguez also plans to expand his distribution beyond the usual locations saying, “The people that buy beer in a bar or a brewery are the people already looking for it. You’re not going to reach that couple who just went out to eat and stops by a farmers market. That’s how you get your name out there.” As production increases so will the reach of Po’ Boy Brewery beer and cider, so keep an eye out for it on tap across Long Island.

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?

Ed Hahne and Mexicali Blues: an LIBME & Great South Bay Brewery Collaboration

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

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

“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.

 

Long Island Beer & Malt Enthusiasts Homebrew Competition Winners Brewed by Great South Bay Brewery

Chris Kelley, member of local homebrewing club Long Island Beer & Malt Enthusiasts (LIBME) had an idea: organize and host a “Chopped” style brew day. Ten teams participated, each having a head brewer and 1-2 assistants, and they were randomly assigned a style of beer and two ingredients. Additions ranged from wood to peaches to habanero peppers, with Kelley and team drawing a Rye IPA base with orange peel and basil.

He was “super psyched” by the prospect of citrus and hops because “they go together wonderfully”. The basil however had Kelley thinking, “What the heck am I going to do with that?”. Discovering orange and basil paired together in an Italian dish, he and his team wrote a recipe and brewed their beer. Kelley said, “It’s quite amazing the depth of flavor basil gives to hops”, finding the ingredients married well. He was pleasantly surprised with the result and the fresh IPA found its way into LIBME’s monthly homebrew competition, a collaborative effort with Great South Bay Brewery.

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The idea for an LIBME and GSB partnership came about during the Great American Beer Festival last year. The highlight for owner Rick Sobotka and COO Phil Ebel was the Pro-Am competition, which recognizes the best joint effort between a homebrewer and professional brewery. After taking a bronze medal for their Splashing Pumpkin, the Pro-Am winner was announced. Ebel recalled, “the guy that was sitting behind us won and he jumped up and screamed. It was one of those things that you’re just like, man, that’s a great feeling.” Both long time members of LIBME, they approached president Todd Long and education committee head Andrew Luberto, who previously ran a SMASH Brew Day at GSB, with the prospect.

Long was immediately receptive to the idea of working together, saying of GSB, “They’ve always supported the club and we’ve always supported them”. After meeting and seeing the benefit for all participants, the program began to take shape. Some stipulations were put in place, like no sour beers, barley wines or Russian imperial stouts, simply because they take too long to ferment. LIBME uses BJCP guidelines to judge all their competitions and to maintain quality control, the beers will only be brewed at GSB if they score higher than a 35. Provided it meets that standard, the winner of each month’s LIBME competition is now produced at Great South Bay Brewery and served in their tasting room. Sobotka is pleased with the results so far saying,

“Honestly I still feel like a homebrewer. I miss the days of casual brewing with friends and have regained a lot of enjoyment by offering this program.”

Luberto added, “I love the experimental nature of it” and appreciates the freedom homebrewers bring to a professional setting.

BLC_GSB_LIBME_Boil

Fittingly enough, last month’s winner was Kelley. He was invited to GSB for the brew day and assisted head brewer Greg Maisch with recreating the recipe on their small batch system. The one barrel pilot system was built in late 2009 at their other location in Bay Shore and resurrected it for this collaboration. Greg also started as a homebrewer with the philosophy, “If I could buy it I could make it”. He has been having a lot of fun working with the homebrewers and seeing the different techniques they bring to the brewing process. “This gives local homebrewers a goal to work towards”, Kelley said after the long day of brewing. His basil and orange Rye IPA is being released at Great South Bay Brewery Father’s Day weekend and will be available while supplies last. If it is anything like the homebrew batch we tried, it won’t be around for long.

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Chopped brew day photos courtesy of Chris Kelley.