Hops & Props at The Cradle of Aviation – February 8th 2014

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Saturday, February 8, was the first ever Hops & Props Craft Beer Festival at the Cradle of Aviation. Though a similar event has been held at The Museum of Flight in Seattle for the past 12 years with great success, this was Long Island’s first introduction to the merging of craft beer and aviation. An unlikely match, sure, but they seemed to pair together almost flawlessly.

Since this was the first time this event was held, both the participants and attendees were not positive what to expect. We spoke to many brewers and exhibitors who told us when they arrived earlier in the day to set up they had no idea how the evening was going to pan out. Instead of having everything set up in a large, circular arena, which is how many craft beer festivals tend to operate, Hops & Props saw vendors sprawled throughout the museum in an almost maze-like set up. We admit that it took us quite a while to make our first pass through, though this was more due to lots of stopping and chatting rather than getting lost. The amount of aviation exhibits that were existing in harmony with the craft beer and food tables was really a sight to see, and to everyones credit it seems like the venue was treated with respect.

The Cradle of Aviation housed over 40 tables most of which were pouring beer. Along side those were tables from Tapped Enterprises, The Beer Amigos & Earth Glass Project on hand to compliment the craft beer being served. In addition to the pretzel necklaces that could be had by simply signing up for the Tapped mailing list, there was also food for sale and to a lesser extent, free samples.

The local Long Island brewing community was well represented at Hops & Pros. We enjoyed the brews being offered by many of the local establishments. A few standout beers were being poured by up and coming breweries The Brewers Collective and Saint James Brewery.

Owner and brewmaster Jamie Adams was manning the tap handles himself behind the Saint James Brewery table. He was serving up his delicious Belgian inspired IPA, Single, Dubbel and Quad to event patrons. Each beer was well crafted and carefully considered. The Quad is a brew we wish was available commercially. Hopefully that day will be coming soon as Mr. Adams is working on getting SJB up and running (our article on SJB is coming soon). These are nicely produced ales and we believe they will satisfy both beer and non-beer drinkers of Long Island.

Our comrades The Brewers Collective are another local group looking to make the move from homebrewers to professional brewery in the near future. The BC, in keeping with their off-kilter brewing themes, is not aiming to accomplish this goal in the “normal” manner. More on their long march toward their dream soon. At Hops & Props The Collective once again was offering an eclectic selection of hand crafted beer. Arguably one of our favorites was Tim Dougherty’s “Fallout Stout”. This dark, smoky ale is a play on the brewery’s standard dry Irish Stout (ICBS). According to The Collective Tim, “…added some smoked malts from his backyard smoker” which achieves the perfect combination in their estimation. This beer was a highlight for both of us at Hops & Props and at The Brewers Collective Winter Homebrew Contest where we first sampled it. The beer that attendees could not get enough of was Brad Khole’s Black Berry Wheat Beer. The Collective told us that it was, “…the first keg to “get kicked” with people saying it was, “…like drinking fruit loops”. How could a beer like that not go over well? Excellent job comrades!

Among the up and coming breweries Long Island staples like Blue Point Brewing Company, Montauk Brewing Company, Great South Bay Brewery, Long Ireland Beer Company and Greenport Harbor Brewing Company were also out in full force. We even got to try beer from breweries which were new to us, such as Singlecut Beersmiths and Chatham Brewing LLC. To round it all out, craft beer giants and favorites like Sam Adams Brewery, Dogfish Head Brewery & Founders Brewing Company each had a few taps flowing. In a complete turn was Crabbie’s alcoholic ginger beer, which was fairly flavorful and could make a decent hot summer day cocktail.

Though we were a bit tired from the Southampton Publick House Russian Imperial Stout release earlier that morning (more about that soon), we enjoyed our time at Hops & Props thouhrally and wound up staying until the very end. The setting definitely enhanced the beer sampling experience and it is an event that we hope to participate in for years to come. All in attendance seem to have had a great time and we would declare the innaugural Hops & Props at The Cradle of Aviation a success. Beer & aviation…who knew?

 

Long Island Fresh Hop Beers of 2013

Well guys, the Long Island hop party is over (for this year, at least). Plants have grown, hops have been picked, brewing commenced and now the fun part is here-drinking the fruits of everyone’s labor. Act fast, because fresh hop ales are brewed in limited quantities and really taste best if you can drink them as close to kegging as possible. Though some Long Island brewers also bottled their fresh hop beers, we tried these four on tap. Sadly, two people often times can not drink all that the beer community has to offer (tragic, we know), so there were a few local options we did not get to this year (we are looking at you, Blue Point and Southampton). Luckily, there is always next year and we look forward to see Long Island hops blossoming again soon.

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Great South Bay Wet Hop Massive IPA was the hoppiest of the bunch, though we have tried the dry hopped version so we were expecting a bit of a hop bomb. And with a name like “massive”, how could you not? As you can probably see, this beer pours a copper color with orange hues and a thick, white head that leaves behind substantial lacing. Though it is not a seasonal brew, at least in the pumpkin/Oktoberfest sense of the word, it definitely has the look of autumn. The aroma is super hoppy, with some light citrus notes that give way to tropical fruit scents as the beer sits for awhile. The body is mildy carbonated with hoppy fruit notes, accented by light bread and malt flavors.

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Long Ireland’s Wet Hop Pale Ale for this year was brewed to the recipe of their classic Pale Ale, but amped up a notch with fresh hopping. The hops definitely make themselves known in the aroma, with a bit of earthy, grassiness present. This is actually a charachteristic of newer hop plants, so it will be interesting to see how the hops mature in future Long Island wet hopped beers. The taste has a malty, bready backbone with notes of caramel and hops. Bitterness comes through in the finish, making the wet hop presence known, but overall they enhance the pale ale rather than overpowering it.

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Port Jeff’s Fresh Hopped Ale was the first one we sampled this year, as it was released a few days before the other wet hop offerings. It has the classic look of an IPA or well hopped ale, with a golden yellow body and persistent white head that slowly falls, leaving behind ample lacing. However, the aroma is a bit of a departure from what you would expect. Notes of vanilla, a faint spice and floral hoppy notes dominate the scent, with the taste following suit. The body is smooth with a fair level of carbonation, with a bit more of a malty, woodsy taste than the aroma lets on. It finished on a bitter note that stays with you, in case you needed a reminder you were drinking a wet hopped ale.

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We vote Greenport’s Fresh Hopped Harbor Ale most likely to be enjoyed by people who aren’t huge hopheads. Though they brewed this batch of their flagship beer with fresh hops from Wesnofske Farms, they did not overpower the malty backbone that makes this beer delicious. It pours a rich amber color with a quickly dissipating head that leaves a bit of a foam cap ontop the beer as you sip it. The aroma was more roasted and earthy than floral and hoppy, though a bit of the latter two did come out. This beer has a very smooth mouthfeel and elements of light bready malt throughout. A light hop presence comes in for the finish and aftertaste, making this a balanced, easy drinking brew.

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Long Ireland Beer Company + Greenport Harbor Brewing = Local Hop Support

Tomorrow, Friday September 20, 2013, Long Ireland Beer Company & Greenport Harbor Brewing will both be releasing their recently brewed fresh hop ales. Long Ireland will be hosting a release party at their brewery in Riverhead (817 Pulaski St) from 3-9 pm where both beers will be for sale. All proceeds from wet hop beer sales during the event will be donated right back to Condzella Hops and Wesnofske Farms, who supplied the hops for these brews. John Condzella and Justin Wesnofske will both be in attendance talking about hops and ready to field any questions you may have. Fresh hopped ale is best consumed when it is fresh (go figure) so don’t wait to pick up a bottle. The supply is limited and once it is gone you will not have a chance to try it again until 2014.

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As has been the theme this entire hop harvest season, brewers and farmers are really working together to make Long Island a stand out in the hop farming scene. Though hops still need to be brought in for the majority of day to day brewing, its clear that the local ingredient base is growing. We are anxious to see how many farmers have already planted the seeds, literally, and will be harvesting their very own hops next year. In the coming years who knows, West Coast breweries might be clamoring for a fresh picked batch of Long Island hops.

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So head down to the brewery tomorrow and buy a pint, bottle or growler and do your part to support Long Island hop farming by drinking some delicious local beer. Also, while you are there you can check out Long Irelands new 12 tap system. Hope to see some (or all) of you there!

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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.

 

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.