Pork & Craft Beer Festival at The Topping Rose House

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This past Saturday, the Topping Rose House held its first annual Pork & Craft Beer Festival, which is exactly what it sounds like. The small luxury hotel in Bridgehampton is also home to a farm-to-table restaurant owned by celebrity chef Tom Colicchio and run by executive chef Ty Kotz.

Kotz and crew, including chef de cuisine Kyle Koenig, who along with his wife Jessica created the event, put out an impressive spread where pork was undoubtedly the star. In lieu of flowers, each table’s centerpiece was a vase of homemade chicharrones and melt in your mouth bacon. Muffaletta sliders, four varieties of cut sausages including rich spicy andouille with creamy red beans, and crispy pork belly with chimichurri never ran low and remained artfully arranged all afternoon. However, the real standout was the pork belly schwarma. Tender roasted porchetta had a perfectly crunchy skin and was served with homemade potato rolls and pickles, which complemented the rich pork and added a sweet, tangy element.

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The craft beer menu included Long Ireland Beer Company, Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, Crooked Ladder Brewery, Montauk Brewing Company, Southampton Publick House and newly opened Moustache Brewing Co., operated by husband and wife Matt and Lauri Spitz; for now their beer is only available in the tasting room. Westerners Port Jeff Brewing Company and Great South Bay Brewery also took the trip, with the latter pouring their slightly reformulated Blonde Ambition, a light, summer beer with hints of peach.

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Port Jeff’s serving table was conveniently located across from the selection of charcuterie, much of it homemade, offered by the Topping Rose House chefs. Serrano ham and prosciutto were sliced paper thin and accompanied by grilled bread, mustard and pickled onions and spicy kimchi. Rich and decadent pate, rillette and head cheese paired nicely with the new Red Double IPA from Port Jeff Brewing, a beer full of malty, sweet notes with a backbone of hop bitterness.

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Mike Martinsen and Mike Doall from the Montauk Shellfish Company, who affectionately referred to themselves as the “Ben & Jerry’s of oysters”, were hard at work shucking all afternoon. Their fresh briny Montauk Pearls are one of a kind; the unique flavor comes from their environment and surface growing technique. Mignonette, cocktail sauce and lemon wedges were offered, though the oysters were flavorful enough to stand on their own. Greenport Harbor’s Cuvasion, a Belgian ale brewed using grapes from Martha Clara, offered a dry, wine like profile that accented the cool clean flavor of the oysters.

For a sweet finish, patrons snacked on freshly baked cookies crammed with chocolate chips, banana cream pie in a chocolate graham cracker shell, caramel corn and sweet and savory maple bacon candies. And to wash it all down was the small batch Miss Lady Root Beer, which was originally made by Rowdy Hall manager and home brewer Theo Foscolo.

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Attendees were able to meet the chefs and brewers who were happy to chat about their craft. The rustic setting of the barn at the Topping Rose House provided the ideal backdrop to showcase the delicious marriage between local beer and pork. Perhaps the typical pretzel necklace at beer festivals will soon be replaced by a bacon bracelet.

First published on Edible Long Island.

Condzella Hops: The Season Comes Full Circle

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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.

Blue Point Cask Festival 2013: Until Next Year…

Though the Blue Point Cask Fest did not begin until 2 pm, we arrived shortly after noon to help set up (and get a first look at what the other brewers had on tap). The parking lot of Blue Point Brewery was already buzzing at this point as everyone was congregating under the massive tent that had been set up to house the casks and breweries. We quickly found our way to the Brewers East End Revival (B.E.E.R)  table, which was conveniently located next to the Long Island Beer and Malt Enthusiasts (LIBME) table. In total, B.E.E.R would be serving 8 home brews, one of which was our very own Fünke a Mint Blueberry Kölsch which we brewed with Bobby Rodriguez. Due to the large number of casks present, there was a bit of a tap shortage, but it seemed like everyone was eventually able to work it out and get their beer flowing. Since we were unable to be there when Bobby transferred the beer from carboy into the cask and added the mint and blueberry flavoring, the first time we actually tasted Fünke was a couple short hours before we would be serving it to the thirsty patrons of this event.

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Our beer, Fünke a Mint Blueberry Kölsch poured a very lovely, deep purple color. The color of this beer was immediately intriguing and eye catching to us and those that tried it. Since this was a cask brew, the level of carbonation was subdued which lead to this brew having a modest head but a pleasant level of carb in the body. Fünke offered a pleasant aroma, moving back and forth between blueberry, malt, very mild hop and mint. We felt, as did some others, that the mint came forward more than the other scent components. On the sip Fünke offered notes of a traditional kölsch under layers of sweet, fruity blueberry, cool refreshing mint and left a lightly candied and fresh taste on the palate. The beer seemed to divide the crowd a bit as it was more akin to a fruit or cider beer hybrid with some really enjoying our flavor combinations while others liked the taste but left a little puzzled. It seems a sweet, light bodied brew with mint overtones can turn a few people off. We thought it was a great success and were happy with how it came together as was Bobby.

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After sampling our beer and a few other home brews that were featured at the two tables, it was already 2 pm and the crowd started pouring in. This event sold out extremely quickly and that was evident by the amount of people that began to immediately line up in front of our casks. It seemed like many patrons were drawn to the mint blueberry kölsch, possibly because of the appealing ingredients in the name (or perhaps they wanted a little taste of Tobias Fünke, Analrapist). We were pleased with the amount of guests that seemed to be frequenting the two adjoining home brew tables, as well as the table of The Brewers Collective, another Long Island home brew club, a few “doors” down from us. Overall Fünke a Mint Blueberry Kölsch was very well received. It was one of a handful of beers on hand that was completely finished at the entire event (professional breweries included) and was the only beer to go at the B.E.E.R. table. We were glad we “kicked our cask” as the saying goes. Also, it made a pretty delicious “black and blue” when combined with a dry Irish stout that was brewed by Dave Phillips, a fellow member of B.E.E.R.

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Not only did we get to pour our beer for hundreds of guests, but we also got an opportunity to walk around with our own sample glasses and see what the cask fest had to offer. Many local breweries were represented such as Long Ireland, Great South Bay, Newburgh Brewing, Spider Bite and of course, Blue Point as well as national outfits like Flying Dog, Cigar City and Smuttynose. Some of our stand out favorites were the Sweet Potato Saison from Blind Bat Brewery, which we felt would be a delicious alternative to pumpkin beer in the fall. It was sweet, but not overly so, with hints of nutmeg, caramel and vanilla that were balanced out with a slight tartness. Port Jeff Brewing Company had a sour on cask called “So Fresh” which was bright and sharp with lactic, fruity notes that nicely walked the line between sweet and sour, leaning more towards the latter. We actually had the chance to taste this beer at their first anniversary celebration when it was referred to as “Wet and Wild” and it was brewed using hops from Condzella’s Farm. This sour definitely lent itself well to being casked and has actually improved a bit with age, though it was tasty during both samplings. In addition to traditional breweries, brew pubs and establishments that support craft beer were also in attendance. In this category was New Haven’s Bar, which is a pizza serving, craft beer loving dance club that has been running their own cask ale festival for years now. They were serving two beers, Thousand Pound Gorilla which is a 10% ABV barley wine, a big beer inspired by the brew masters son, and Nine Foot Irish, a 9% ABV Irish ale that is “smooth and easy to drink but with a punch”.  We had the opportunity to speak to Jeff Browning, the brew master at this intriguing hybrid and we be featuring more on that soon. As Jeff said, “you can be 21 or 80 and still have a lot of fun in the place.” We think a ferry ride over to Connecticut is in order to check it out for ourselves.

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As always, the Blue Point Cask Festival was a chance to bring professional brewers, home brewers and craft beer appreciators together for a chance to sample some old favorites and new creations on cask, perhaps for the first time. This event is always a great time and has been selling out quicker and quicker every year, indicating that perhaps the secret is out. When attended our first cask fest at Blue Point Brewery several years ago, the crowd was much smaller and a bit less diverse. However, the 2013 incarnation was packed with patrons of all ages who came out to enjoy some good beer and expand their horizons into the wide world of cask ales. It is really a testament to the event that it has grown so rapidly while still maintaining a solid lineup of beers and including small and up and coming breweries. We know we are looking forward to the 2014 Blue Point Cask Festival and the way things have been going, we may have to get our tickets soon to guarantee a spot!

Spring Craft Beer Festival 2013: Until Next Year…

This past Saturday, March 9, was the 7th annual Spring Craft Beer Festival at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. There were two sessions, 12:30 pm-4:00 pm and 5:30 pm-9:00 pm, though we arrived bright and early at 10:30 am to get set up. Upon arrival, the parking lot was already filling up and the bottom floor of the coliseum, where the event was held, was buzzing with brewers and vendors getting set up. Though Starfish Junction did a great job setting this event up, Nassau Coliseum (which was seen better days and may even be a bit behind on the rent) was less than cooperative when brewers and volunteers were arriving to work the event.

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We were stationed at the LIBME table, as we are members of the club and brewed our Saint Remo Gruit Ale to be on their tap. The club had twelve beers ready to be served, spread between two handcrafted jockey boxes. The selections included a pale ale, a white IPA, a smoked coffee stout, 2 Irish reds, a chocolate cherry stout, a citra IPA, an Irish dry stout, a honey wheat ale, a Jagermeister stout, a gluten free beer and lastly, our gruit.

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LIBME was not the only home brew club represented, as The Brewers Collective were also in attendance pouring a few of their handcrafted beers. They featured a witbier, a pale ale and a hefeweizen. This club is actually looking to make the jump from home brew club to licensed brewery, though their club and home brew competitions will still be open to the public.
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In addition to a club presence, many major breweries and cider producers were represented as well. Long Island staples Blue Point Brewing, Long Ireland, Montauk Brewing Company & Great South Bay Brewery were all represented and came equipped with popular members of their beer line ups. But the event was not only limited to local microbreweries. Goose Island featured timed releases throughout the day which always drew a crowd. Craft beer giant Sam Adams had a table where they were pouring some harder to find selections such as Grumpy Monk Belgian IPA. We even had the privilege of meeting some new (to us) breweries like Newburgh Brewing Company from upstate New York. They have a brew pub in Newburgh where they serve their lineup of craft brewed beers. At the show they had their stout, saison, cream ale & more available and based on those samples and speaking with the brewers and owners, we will definitely be making a trip up there soon to check it out.

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Lastly, other members of the craft beer community like Kevin from Tapped Enterprises (for pub crawls, brewery tours and transport to beer fests) and Michael & Travis aka The Beer Amigos were there sampling some beers, promoting themselves and just enjoying the day. If you’ve been to a craft beer event on Long Island, chances are you have at least seen The Beer Amigos. A fairly dead giveaway that you’ve spotted an amigo is the giant sombreros they often sport. But, these two are more than just craft beer and large festive hat enthusiasts. They have a podcast that covers everything from events and bars to new beers to magazines and websites (like this one!). So, as they like to say, “listen to the beer amigos”!

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Although the event did get a little rowdier as day turned to night (what can you expect from unlimited pours of high ABV beer), it was a great turnout of everyone from the casual drinker to harsh craft beer critics, drinking together under one roof. It seemed like the first session was a bit heavier on people seeking craft beer knowledge, while the later session was a bit more focused on craft beer consumption (both work in our book). Earlier in the day we definitely got more questions about the brewing process, including one home brewer who was curious about the clubs use of a recirculating mash. LIBME ran out of all 12 beers with almost 2 hours still remaining in the second session which is a definite testament to people’s willingness to try home brew and different beers. It was also a nice confidence boost for all members of the club who brewed (including us!). We look forward to the 8th annual Spring Craft Beer Festival, as we are sure there will be new breweries popping up this year and making their first appearance next spring.

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