Port Jeff Brewing Company & Bobby Rodriguez Imperial Force Ready to Debut

Humble Cups Holding Blends of Imperial Force

Humble Plastic Cups Holding Blends of Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Force

Edit: To quote Mike Philbrick there was an “operator error” on our original article. Imperial Force will be released on draught December 26 at 7 pm at the Country Corner in East Seauket and in bottles around the new year.

 

Da Da Da Dada Da Dada Da…

Rain fell at the 2013 Brewers East End Revival Brew-Off award ceremony. The day began sunny and with chaotic activity taking place in and around the location, a small American Legion Hall in Saint James, New York. As modest as the space and event were, lots of planning had been devoted to assuring this iteration of the annual event was well organized and run to the Beer Judge Certification Program standards. Additionally, steps were taken to include food, drink, fun and prizes for volunteers who would be sacrificing one of their Saturdays in May by helping to set up, pour beer and organize results. Through sheer lack of interest from other club members, Beer Loves Company’s very own Kevin ended up as the “Competition Coordinator” which meant by proxy Alicia was on the job too. Though trying, the day would prove enjoyable for us, A+K, as we saw homebrewers and attendees both discuss brewing and cheer each other on when awards were handed out to those who had crafted fine ales, lagers, ciders or meads.

The prize most coveted by the homebrewers who enter their beer to be judged is the Brewer’s Cup. You may be asking, “Why?” Simple: the amateur winning beer is given the honor of being brewed professionally by a local brewery. To win this award means a hobbyist, very often an aspiring brewer, is given the chance to see a recipe which they developed scaled up in size, produced and released for sale and distribution. That homebrewer can then go into a local bar, bevy or the brewery itself and order their Brewer’s Cup beer on tap, a dream for most who take up the pastime. This prize was the very thing which made Kevin volunteer and Alicia tolerate it so well. We both were excited to contact a local brewer who would attend the event, judge the beers and eventually create the winning recipe at their facility.

[cjtoolbox name=’amazon related’ ] [/cjtoolbox]

Three years prior to us taking the reigns as Competition Coordinator, Brooklyn native Bobby Rodriguez visited the Great American Beer Festival in Colorado along with several other Long Island beer (and malt) enthusiasts. G.A.B.F. is the premiere beer-centric event held in the United States. Hundreds of breweries make the pilgrimage to Colorado every year to pour samples for the thousands of thirsty attendees and to take part in a well organized competition. One of the more talked about G.A.B.F. medals is the Pro-Am in which breweries throughout the country choose, through sanctioned competition, a homebrewer to work with on a recipe that is then made and sold commercially. B.E.E.R.’s Brewer’s Cup is the local answer to this prize.

As Rodriguez and friends experienced the wonders of G.A.B.F. one beer caught his attention: Avery Brewing Company’s Meph Addict. As if a bourbon barrel aged Imperial Porter was not enough to tweak the minds of beer geeks, the extremely limited release Meph Addict has coffee added to it as well. Tasting this ale put the gears in Rodriguez’s mind in motion. When he returned to Long Island a recipe was formulated as an homage to the flavors of Meph Addict. Even though Rodriguez was at the time new to homebrewing his mind was set and he went to work. After tasting the finished product however he decided it “wasn’t ready,” so his dark inky brew sat a year in bourbon barrels and longer in kegs before it was served. “As this is a strong sipping beer it can be aged for several years,”said Rodriguez and indeed he left his beer to slumber for a three years before finally sharing it with people and entering it in the 17th Annual Brew-Off. We were lucky enough to sample this Herculean homebrew prior to and at the event. This was a complex and rich brew made to be savored and sipped. Quite impressive stuff for a homebrewer to achieve.

Rodriguez Accepts the Brewer's Cup as Philbrick Looks on

Then Homebrewer Bobby Rodriguez Accepts the Brewer’s Cup as PJBC Owner Mike Philbrick Watches

Port Jeff Brewing Company was just over a year old when we approached owner Mike Philbrick with the idea that he should brew the 2013 Brewer’s Cup. He is someone who is easy to get along with and does not to shy away from a challenge. Philbrick began as a homebrewer and member of B.E.E.R. He then attended the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago before he started his brewery in Port Jefferson, New York. We both enjoy the company’s Porter, an ale we feel is the flagship, and were ecstatic when he accepted our offer to judge and brew the winner at his downtown location. He also decided to compete in the chili competition held in conjunction with the festivities, keeping many balls in the air.

The Brewer’s Cup is one of the final events to be judged at each annual Brew-Off. This is because the best beer brewed by a card carrying Brewers East End Revival member from each BJCP category is put forth for sampling by the brewery representative before a decision is made. Judging all of these categories takes an entire morning and afternoon with sessions often occurring the night before. Inside the cozy American Legion hall Mike Philbrick sat and tasted several beers before narrowing his choices down to two: a Flanders Red or a barrel aged Imperial Porter. Continuing to take the road less traveled Phlibrick discarded beers which he thought, while good and easier to brew commercially, were not “the best”. He knew full well that whichever choice he made his young brewery was in for a challenge.

Rain had not begun to fall until the awards ceremony was about to start. The competitors, judges and staff along with their family and friends were forced to huddle together under a small pop-up tent village. With each passing category and award handed out anticipation built for the announcement of the Brewer’s Cup winner. Under one tent Philbrick chatted with current members of his former club while Rodriguez was making the rounds giving notes to those who let him sample their beer and heading back and forth to pick up ribbons he received for placing in several categories. It seemed as the drops were falling hardest the winner was announced and Rodriguez proudly walked forward to accept his prize from Port Jeff Brewing Company’s brewmaster. The two were now together on a journey that had begun years ago at GABF and at the time neither knew it would be another year and a half before the finale would be reached.

If you have met Bobby Rodriguez you will have noticed one thing about him: he is opinionated. As such there was a back and forth discussion about how his homebrew recipe would be scaled up into what would eventually become known as Imperial Force. Both Rodriguez, Philbrick and then head brewer Jeff Noakes were aiming to be as faithful to the recipe Bobby shared, which was not exactly what he brewed, as possible. “We changed a couple things based on what I know about the system plus a few things that he thought should be tweaked a bit too,” is how Philbrick describes the recipe formulation process. With the hops, malts and yeast selected they now needed to find a slice of time in their busy schedules when they could all get together and produce it. As the organizers of the competition and of course writers and beer drinkers too we were eager for the brew day to come.

Rodriguez and Noakes Prepare to Pitch Yeast

Bobby Rodriguez and Former PJBC Head Brewer Jeff Noakes Prepare to Pitch Yeast

Finally a date was chosen when Imperial Force was to be brewed. Being friendly with both Rodriguez and Philbrick we were invited down to the brewery, an offer we gladly accepted. We arrived bright and early but not before Noakes had his grist (ground grain) ready to go into the mash tun (kettle where water is added to the grain for sugar extraction). Rodriguez was a later arrival and dove right in alongside Noakes to check how the brew was coming along. There is a lot of preparation which goes into making a beer but the actual brewing process itself is periods of intense action followed by lulls of waiting for the right temperature or a period of time to pass before moving on to the next step. It leaves ample time to chat while standing amongst the large imposing equipment surrounded by the aroma of steeping grain.

A brew based on something like Meph Addict is audacious. The bold scope of this beer meant that the mash tun was maxed out with grain and after the wort (sugary water which is fermented into beer) was pumped in to the boil kettle Rodriguez had quite a time shoveling all of it out into garbage bags for disposal. Here we again enter the story as Kevin had a little part to play in the brewing of this beer by pitching in with the mash tun clean up too. At the same time the mash tun was being emptied out the wort came to a boil. Hops were added to the kettle and each brewer took turns along the way reading the gravity of the beer with a refractometer. Everything was chugging along as planned. After the boil the beer was cooled and transferred to a fermentation tank into which yeast was pitched. Rodriguez commented on his experience by saying, “It showed me how similar I was brewing at home compared to a larger commercial brewery,” an observation which would inspire him to found the recently licensed Po Boy Brewing Company.

In the time between the hands on professional brew day and Rodriguez opening Po Boy the beer was given a name: Imperial Force. This is a name that reflects not only it’s strength but also the driving effort behind brining it from thought to reality. Oh, and of course there is a nod to Star Wars thrown in for good measure. While christened, the beer was not yet ready to see release. In a small brewery fermentation space comes at a premium and Imperial Force was forced to march to the next stage in it’s lifecycle. The burly brew was moved while still fermenting from the stainless steel tank in which it was born to 4 fifty-three gallon Heaven Hill whiskey barrels. These barrels were “second run” which means that previously aside from being used to age bourbon they also housed beer ; in this case Port Jeff Brewing Company Porter.

A portion of the Imperial Force batch was pulled for a cameo appearance in a “virgin” or non-barrel aged form at the PJBC second anniversary party. This iteration was finished with some help from champagne yeast and force carbonation. Rodriguez was in attendance at the celebration and was happy with the way the beer was progressing but agreed with Philbrick’s sentiment, “This really is a beer that time helps.” We were happy to taste the Imperial Porter that day and Kevin made sure to tell his mash tun emptying tale to anyone who would listen. Following this brief moment in the sun all things Imperial Force went silent. Safely the rest of the Force was tucked away, slumbering and getting to know it’s new whiskey infused surroundings just waiting for the right time to reemerge.

Rodriguez Serves Philbrick a Sample of "Virgin" Imperial Force

Bobby Rodriguez Serves Mike Philbrick a Sample of “Virgin” Imperial Force at PJBC’s Second Anniversary Party

Finally in July 2014 there was a disturbance in the Force. Philbrick, like any other head chef, tastes his creation along the way to make sure everything is processing nicely. “The first three or four times we tried it I wasn’t impressed,” he says of the brews character. Again it was left alone to mingle with the oak and whiskey which enrobed it but the sampling continued. In May a taste was pulled and head brewer Matt Gundrum thought it was not there yet saying, “It was missing something,” with Philbrick adding that it didn’t seem quite right. This behemoth still was in it’s infancy and had yet to reveal it’s true nature.

The tandem went back to the barrel in July and the page had turned, the beer was delivering on the homebrew version’s promise. The difference was staggering according to Philbrick who thought, “Like whoa! This is a good barrel aged beer now.” They felt that Imperial Force was ready and could be packaged and sold but it was the wrong season to do so. To Philbrick an Imperial Porter is a beer which would not interest most people looking to grab a brew for the boat or the beach. This decision proved a positive one as the over the next few months the samples they tasted continued to improve. The brew developed and matured with the brewmaster noting, “As time continues to tick by it just gets better.”

Eventually the pair decided to move the beer from it’s oaken home and to carbonate it for bottling. Once it was migrated and carbonated the beer was again tasted and blended. We had the chance to stop by the brewery one day for a tasting of several barrel aged beers, one of which was Imperial Force. Upon it passing our lips we felt the full impact of all the hard work, thought and effort which went into producing it. Notes of toasted oak, roasted grain and warming bourbon moved around our mouths. “There is a great amount of oak in it and a good amount of vanilla in it,” added Philbrick when jointly sampling the brew. To see the end of the journey for Imperial Force which had begun life as a nugget of an idea years ago in Colorado finally approach us on the horizon was as wonderful to imagine as it was to taste the Port Jeff Brewing Company version.

The Force finally strong within this Imperial Porter, it has been bottled and is ready to see release. There will be just over five hundred bottles available exclusively from Port Jefferson Brewing Company with some on draft for sampling (no growler fills). When asked for his thoughts on this epic Rodriguez offered, “I hope people realize at the time that I made the Imperial Force I was still a fairly new home brewer.” He continued, “It was quite difficult but obviously not impossible to make such a complex beer at home,” which he sees as an inspiration to brash homebrewing cowboys out there. While Imperial Force was made by PJBC in conjunction with Rodriguez before he was a professional brewer they do not see brewing it again. “We are not going to brew it again. It’s Bobby’s beer and hopefully he does,” says Philbrick. To that, Rodriguez replies, “What I just might do is make a very small batch of about one barrel and store it easily at the location and forget about it for 2 years just like I did at home.” We think that’s a great idea.

Philbrick Samples Blends of Imperial Force

Owner/Brewmaster Mike Philbrick Samples Blends of Imperial Force

Like Luke Skywalker you do not know the power of the dark side until you have sipped this warming winter winner. Something of this magnitude begs to be shared with friends over good conversation. Mike Philbrick said something genuine which struck us, “The beer geek in me says buy two,” speaking to the craft fans desire to sample a beer while “fresh” then let time work some mysterious forms of alchemy on a bottle’s contents only to pop the top in a year or more and savor the flavors cellaring have imparted to the brew. With the small part we played in this tale and a heap of curiosity we plan on procuring several bottles of this porter as it marches forth from Philbirck’s Port Jefferson brewery around New Years and suggest you do the same. Imperial Force will also be on tap December 26 at the Country Corner in East Setuaket starting at 7 pm. Be sure to comment and let us know what you think.

Imperial Force Label

Imperial Force Label

One Distributor to Sell Them All: Clare Rose Incorporated Begins Distributing Port Jeff Brewing

20140213-164542.jpg

They Said Yes!
Get ready for a local favorite to become more widely available. Clare Rose Incorporated has scored themselves the distribution rights for another Long Island craft brewery, Port Jeff Brewing Company. This “marriage” of brewery and distributer begins today, November 3rd 2014. Clare Rose Inc. (CRI) supplies both counties on Long Island, Nassau and Suffolk, and with Port Jeff Brewing Company (PJBC) in the fold they now hold the rights to most of the elder breweries on Long Island.

Clare Rose Inc. had humble beginnings. The company was founded in 1936 as a small soda distribution business by Clare and Millie Rose. The corporation grew out of eastern Suffolk county NY, Patchouge to be specific. They have evolved into, “Long Island’s premier supplier of Anheuser-Busch InBev and Heineken USA” according to their official website. They have been going strong for 75 years.

In recent years CRI has expanded the scope of their distribution to include craft beer. Craft Corner is the moniker for this new, fluid and growing division. A quote taken from their website states, “Clare Rose Inc. is committed to the growing craft beer segment. We always look to pursue new avenues of growth to expand our craft portfolio and bring the best of the craft beer world to Long Island”. A bold statement.

The “Craft Corner” portion of the CRI portfolio consists of national and local craft brands. Two of the larger in their stable are both owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABInbev), a Belgian-Brazilian multinational beverage and brewing company headquartered in Leuven, Belgium. ABInbev acquired Goose Island Brewery (legally Fulton Street Brewery LLC) in March of 2011. The other is the recently purchased Long Island craft beer institution, Blue Point Brewing Company (for our thoughts on the sale of Blue Point Brewing Company to ABInbev click for Alicia’s take or Kevin’s). CRI also peddles brews from the “Craft Brew Alliance” the members of which include Widmer Brothers, Red Hook Ale Brewery, Kona Brewing Company, Square Mile Cider and Omission Beer which was developed internally. ABInbev owns 32.2% of the business and is also the company’s distribution partner with CRI handling the duties on Long Island.

Aside from the ABInbev wholly owned subsidiaries and partially controlled brewing group CRI’s “Craft Corner” library also includes behemoths Victory Brewing Company and Harpoon Brewery. Alongside these brewing giants CRI has made strategic and important inroads into the local craft beer community on Long Island. These relationships stretch from SingleCut Beersmiths located in Astoria, Queens out to Riverhead and Long Ireland Beer Company. And now they are joined by Port Jeff Brewing Company.

Located downtown, in the heart of Port Jefferson NY the just over three year old brewery has become a main stay of many establishments throughout NY. Creative and innovative Port Jeff Brewing Company has released numerous styles of beer upon a wanting public. Recently arrived head brewer Matt Gundrum has been hard at work tweaking recipes, dialing in equipment and brewing more beer (read our interview with Matt). Owner and brewmaster Mike Philbrick has already ramped up production anticipating the partnership saying, “We basically will go from 2 sales guys delivering all over Nassau and Suffolk to over 40 people representing the brand.”

Having just gotten married ourselves we are happy to see another local couple come together. We wish Mr. Philbrick and the other amazing people of Port Jeff Brewing company the best. This new arrangement will mean more beer for their fans and the ability to secure more taps hopefully leading to more fans. When asked about the switch from independently distributing his beer to partnering with the local powerhouse Philbrick commented, “Self distribution gives you incredible insight to how your customers want to be served”, which is a level of service he sees continuing through the partnership with Clare Rose Inc. We are excited to see what this relationship will bring to real craft beer drinkers throughout their distribution area.

How do you feel about Clare Rose Incorporated distributing yet another Long Island brewery? We’d love to hear from you.

Owner Mike Philbrick Showing off Port Jeff Brewing Company Beer

Owner Mike Philbrick Showing off Port Jeff Brewing Company Beer

Now Head Brewer for Port Jeff Brewing Company, MATT GUNDRUM

20140312-112348.jpg

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?

20140312-105516.jpg

20140312-112821.jpg

Thoughts and Pictures from the Rocky Point Artisan Brewer's Cask Festival – January 25th 2014

Northport Harbor Frozen

As we sit down to type this little article snow is once again falling across Long Island. A blanket of white has covered all of the tress and roads in our quiet neighborhood. It seems to us a perfect time to reflect on the similarly snowy day of January 25th, 2014. That was the day of the Rocky Point Artisan Brewers held their fourth annual Nano Cask Festival & Farmer’s Market.

The boys of Rocky Point Artisan Brewers should be familiar to the readership of Beer Loves Company. We have mentioned them in the past in high regard. Mike Voigt and Donovan Hall (two thirds of RPAB) are fixtures of the Long Island beer scene. As longtime members of Brewer’s East End Revival (the oldest homebrewing club here on LI) Donavon and Mike became known as producers of fine ales and lagers. These two gentleman are firmly connected with BEER in our memory as well.

During one of the first BEER meetings we attended the boys became impromptu guest speakers. That night as the meeting was winding down, when our illustrious president Steve Wynhurst asked if “there was anything else”, from the back of the room came a loud shout of “YES”. Mike and Donavon sat proudly and confidently in the last seats of John Harvard’s Brewery event room. They had something to let the club in on.

Around that same time the boys had received all of their necessary paperwork and licensing needed for RPAB to begin legal production and sales. They had their brewery and were riding high on the excitement. You could taste it in their beer. Chilled growlers were shared by the duo of RPAB after the meeting came to a close. We distinctly recall tasting their Doppel Schwarz, a style they lay a claim on having invented. This is a strong memory for us and it connects with how RPAB conduct their business to this day.

Innovation seem to be a theme that carries through all things Mike, Donovan and Yuri Janssen (the third piece to the RPAB puzzle) attempt with RPAB. They push boundaries of style in search of craft, honesty and flavor. Exploration of this sort is something to behold and to taste.

Such audacity can succeed greatly, birthing something new and enthralling into the world. When it fails it can be a total disaster. Still within that poor tasting mistake there is always something to be learned; a lesson to take away. Experimentation is a good thing. RPAB seems to be more willing than most to take the styles of beer which they love and try to bend, twist and pull them to their will. This core concept of RPAB and their work runs deeply through their Nano Cask festival.

So now we finally arrive back at our point, with some illustrative background in tow. January 25th 2014 was a day seeing light snow falling in Rocky Point. As we arrived at the NSBOA Club House (the site of the event this year and last) these flurries had only just begun. Pulling into the clubhouse parking lot we met with Kevin’s sister, Katie.

Unlike other events we were the sole representatives of our homebrewing club who would be pouring beer and giving out information on the club. Katie was invited to help us out, becoming an honorary member of BEER that day. Together we set up what we thought was a pretty good looking table. The BEER banner and information sheets were set out along with the signs we made for the three beers we would be serving. BLC buttons and shirts were also for sale at the event.  We brought two beers to pour under the BEER banner.

One was A+K (our saison/stout) and the other was our sour/saison/cider-thing Fizzy Lifting Drink. These two brews fit in well with the spirit of the festival and went over nicely with the crowd. We were proud to be pouring these beers as representatives of BEER. The reaction we received was very humbling, especially for Fizzy Lifting drink. Since we had such a limited amount of FLD it was necessary to pour it as a timed release. This generated a lot of traffic at the table and interest in the hybrid brew which the crowd seemed to really enjoy.

Fizz Lifting Drink

Aside from A+K and FLD we also were serving something brewed with our friend Andrew Luberto, a member of Long Island Beer and Malt Enthusiasts (a club which was in part started by Mike and Donavon). This LIBME and BEER collaboration brew was known as Saider. This crazy experimental concoction was one of the most popular beers/things at the entire event. It’s popularity could be due to it’s very nature. Loyal fans of BLC will already have read about about this brew and know it is an amalgamation of different beverages within one drink.

Saider was served from a cask though it was not truly cask conditioned. Because of it’s odd creation process this would have been an overly difficult task. We brewed Saider as a saison with a twist, instead of using water for our liquor we used locally produced apple cider from Richter’s Orchards. This finished with a big Original Gravity (OG) and our blended yeast (Wyeast 2:1 French to Belgian) tore through fermentation in four days at sixty-four degrees.

The result of using apple cider in place of water was a very acetic (aka tart) brew. Using a saison yeast brought a spicy character to the beer. We could have happily sipped on this spicy, sharp brew all day but thought perhaps the people to whom we’d be serving it would like something more in balance. Andrew suggested using a pyment (mead made with grape juice) he had on hand for our purposes. Our reaction was  “sounds great” and it was decided we’d blend the cider/saison in a 5:1 ratio with the black currant and pinot noir pyment. All of that going on made for a cloudy product which Andrew wasn’t the biggest fan of, so he hit it with a few finings agents. These products, while providing some clarity, would make carbonating Saider within a cask very difficult. We bit our lip and did what we had to, force carbonating the brew which we then moved into our pin (five gallon cask) using a beer gun.

Kevin was given the honor of tapping the cask at the event and we all had a chance to taste the final product together. For us Saider hit the mark. Serving this collaboration between two of Long Island’s greatest homebrewing clubs was something we won’t forget soon. We were honored to be able to brew it with Andrew and to serve it at the RPAB festival.

RPAB Crowd

Besides our off the wall offerings attendees were also welcome to try pours from local breweries like Barrage Brewing Company, Port Jeff Brewing Company, Blind Bat Brewery and of course RPAB. A welcome new addition to the scene was Big Alice Brewing. This super nano-brewery makes ten gallon (10!) batches at their brewery in Long Island City. Their product is sold to the public directly through a CSA (community supported agriculture) like system. This leaves limited bottles of each batch left for sale to non-members. Keeping in line with the hyper limited nature every batch they brew is different beer.

Beers they have produced range from sours to pales ales and use ingredients like orange peel and dandelion bulbs coming exclusively in 750ml bottles. Big A brought two intriguing casks to the event with them. One was a Belgian pilsner with grapes and beets and the other was a sour golden ale with bitter orange peel and eucalyptus. Their sour was one of the stand outs of the event for us even though it was not all that sour. This LIC  brewery truly got the spirit of the festival by taking styles and turning them on their ear.

The event guests were also able to sample food from local vendors. We saw cheese plates and pickles flying around the our table throughout the afternoon. Apparently sausages or some type of tube meat was being grilled as well. It’s not hard to imagine patrons finding a chair at one of the many tables scattered around the event so they could sit down and relax after sucking down a pickle/sausage/whatever and filling their (awesome looking) tasting glass with some local beer. While taking a load off (or should it be getting a load on?) attendees were treated to music which came in two forms. One was a background volume level mix. The other was multiple live sets of solo acoustic Led Zeppelin. You could say there was even too much Zeppelin and many people did both this year and last year. When the finger picking fury took a break from shredding out Jimmy Page licks we were all treated to A) a break from the Zep and B) a performance by the Beer Amigos who called up Paul Dlugokencky of Blind Bat Brewery for a song. The entertainment was indeed entertaining at times.

The boys of RPAB make sure that their Nano Cask Festival and Farmer’s Market is not to be missed. They truly care about the enjoyment of the attendees and the spirit of this event. We felt that last year’s iteration was one of the best festivals we had attended in a while and this year’s edition lived up to that hype. Each brewery made an effort to bring something truly unique and delicious along with them and took the time to talk with patrons.

The attendees of this event are also always some of the best you could ask for (ever). They are respectful and have a genuine interest in what is being served to them sometimes asking very detailed questions about the brewing process. We are truly thankful to have met some fine people while pouring our brews. If you were there and stopped by our table, THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

The RPAB Cask festival is one we would encourage you to attend next year. It’s packed with small breweries pouring beer they have worked hard on for an appreciative public. This is a chance to taste and experience an essential part of RPAB and brewing, fun.

BLC + Katie

(A special thank you to Jim & Jean Thoms for use of their photographs and to Katie for all of her help that day. You guys are the best!)

Port Jeff Brewing Company 2nd Anniversary Party – Saturday October 19, 2013

20131016-235411.jpg

Owner & Brewmaster Mike Philbrick celebrating his brewery’s 1st birthday
It’s hard to believe that just two short years ago a trip to the quaint waterfront town of Port Jefferson, Long Island couldn’t be capped off by a brewery visit. Thankfully, Port Jeff Brewing Company came in and changed all that. Replacing The Red Sled Christmas Shoppe (don’t worry Santa enthusiasts, they just moved to the Harbor Square Mall), PJBC became the first and only brewery in owner Mike Philbricks hometown.

20131016-145334.jpg

Port Jeff Brewing Company
What better way to commemorate this occasion than with a full day of over 20 Port Jeff beers on tap? Last year, the brewery celebrated their first anniversary in a similar fashion, with the festivities being held both in and around the brewery on the outdoor deck. We were able to arrive a little before the celebration kicked off and spent the remainder of the day enjoying some Port Jeff staples and trying many of the special timed releases that were offered. One stand out was the rum aged Boo Brew, which was a deliciously boozy take on Port Jeff’s pumpkin ale. There were also casks, brand new beers and old favorites blended with fruit and other interesting additions. Another “off the menu” offering was Wet N’ Wild, which was a originally a wet hop brew using Condzella Hops that took a wild, delicious turn into a sour somewhere along the way.

This year there will be no shortage of great beer and entertainment, with Andrews-Blessing Band performing outside and setting the soundtrack for the day. Like last year, there will be a few staples available in the tap room throughout the event (we are partial to the porter) but they will also be pouring almost 20 special timed releases. The lineup is below, straight from the mouth of the Port Jeff Facebook page (with times of special releases included). We already have our eye on the PJBC/Bobby Rodriguez collaboration which we “helped brew”, Imperial Force as well as Wet N’ Wild to see how it has evolved in the year since it’s birth. WN’W was the highlight of the party for us last year but it faces some stiff competition this time around. The event is free to all who wish to attend with the delicious brews being served pay as you go. It runs from 10 am-7 pm, so if you stick around for the long haul and share with friends you could potentially drink your way through the entire list (or at least give it a valiant effort). Hope to see you all there!

All Day

Boo Brew
Low Tide Black IPA
Party Boat IPA
Port Jeff Porter
Schooner Ale (Winner of Silver Medal at 2012 U.S. Open Beer Championship)
Starboard Oatmeal Stout (Winner of Silver Medal at 2013 U.S. Open Beer Championship)

Special Releases (Limited)

11:00AM
Beer Fields Apricot Amber (Winner of Beer Fields’ 2013 Home Brew Contest)
Imperial Force
Studio 56 (Exclusive for Tap and Barrel)

Noon
Carolina Common (Collaboration w/M. David Gonzalez of Foothills Brewing)
Birra DeNicola (Exclusive for Del Fuego, La Tavola, and Ruvo)
Rumkin (Cask)

1:00PM
Barrel-Aged Porter (Winner of Bronze Medal at 2012 U.S. Open Beer Championship)
Wet ‘n’ Wild (Cask)
White’s Beach Wit (Winner of Gold Medal at Hudson River Craft Beer Festival 2013)

2:00PM
Big Boy Birch Stout (Cask)
H³ (Tripel H)
Runaway Ferry Imperial IPA

3:00PM
Barrel-Aged Oatmeal Stout (Starboard Oatmeal Stout aged in Heaven Hill Distilleries Whiskey Barrel)
Party Barge (Party Boat IPA dry-hopped w/Amarillo)
Schooner Ale w/Cherries (Cask)

4:00PM
Port Jeff Porter w/Cocoa Nibs & Vanilla Bean (Cask)
Ryes-N-Bok

5:00PM
Barquentine Belgian Pale Ale (Winner of Bronze Medal at 2013 U.S. Open Beer Championship)

20131016-235357.jpg

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.

20130916-133156.jpg

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.

GSB

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.

liwethop

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.

pj

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.

20131002-130730.jpg