Great South Bay Brewery recently held their first annual Punktoberfest. This event was described as, “…an event that combines Beers, Brats & Punk Rock!”, and it lived up to the billing. GSB asked brewers to focus on “fall beers” and there were certainly lots of pumpkin ales and Oktoberfest lagers to taste while downing brats and rocking out to some punk. The staff, brewers, brewery reps, vendors, bands, security team and especially the volunteers made sure this was a safe and fun event for all.
Phil setting the ground rules before opening to the public
Newly engaged Phil Ebel (CONGRATULATIONS PHIL & KATIE!) was one of the driving forces behind the event. We were lucky enough to stop by the brewery for a growler of their Wet Hop Massive IPA this fall just when plans for Punktoberfest were crystallizing and Phil gave us some details about what to expect. Not wanting to miss an excuse to brew we signed up to pour a beer for Brewer’s East End Revival one of Long Island’s oldest homebrewing clubs. Since the edict was a “focus on Fall beers” we figured (correctly) that there would be lot’s of beer with pumpkin, spice and everything a sugar rimmed glass finds nice. This prompted us to go in a different direction. Our focus was set on another beverage synonymous with the season, Cider. Apple of my Chai was what we designed and ended up making to pour at the B.E.E.R. table and it went over very well. Alan Talman, the homebrewing Czar of Karp’s Homebrew & Hardeware, said it “was flavored with just a hint of tea and would be suitable for large scale consumption at any time or temperature” which we took as a rather large compliment.
Fun fact about Karp’s, their website is hombrewshop.com. That is amazing isn’t it? This small-ish but well stocked shop in East Northport New York must have jumped on the internet bandwagon from the get go. Frequently stopping by Karp’s we have become friendly with the staff members through many discussions about the brewing and consumption of beer. The shop was a big supporter of the 17th Annual Brewer’s East End Revival Brew Off, which we ran, and seem to be fans of our written and liquid output through Beer Loves Company. One of the employees with whom we chat often, Josh Hawkins, is usually present when we pop in for a piece of equipment or some grain for our next batch. It was this friendship which led to one of the most rewarding experiences we have had so far as brewers, Karp’s Homebrew & Hardeware asked us to brew a beer for them to serve at their booth.
Well to be completely accurate this is what Mr. Hawkins asked of us:
“I was wondering if you folks would be open to pouring one of your fine home brewed products at the Karps table at Punktober? We’d like to be able to show people what you can make with our inventory. If you’re interested, please let me know! Sorry for the last minute ness of it, but this will be our first table at a show and I’d like to have something to help us stand out.”
This request came from Josh about a week before Punktoberfest, last minute indeed. Now what he was asking for and what we would be able to deliver were two very different things. Having just recently moved from brewing with friends onto our own system we had been able build up a stock of beer from which we could just grab something. Brewing was being done on an as needed basis. When we were supposed to bring a beer to pour at an event we brewed it. This left living kind of pint to mouth or rather event attendees mouths if you’d like. Not having any beer in our cellar (aka basement) meant that Karp’s request to have a Beer Loves Company beer at their table would require some quick thinking, effort and luck.
If you have ever brewed before you know that a week is a tight time frame. Everything has to be done quickly and efficiently from the design to the brewing and packaging of the finished beer. Knowing there were few moments to waste we scrambled through our little black book of beer ideas to see what we could come up with. Tossing concepts back and forth led to a few beers which could have worked but in the end we decided to wing (one of Alicia’s favorite things to do). Our cider Apple of my Chai was ready to be racked when Karp’s contacted us and if you have healthy active yeast why not us it right?
Apple of my Chai was brewed using Danstar Belle Saison dry yeast which we had acquired from Karp’s previously. Having this saison or Belgian farmhouse pale ale yeast as a starting point we came up with a recipe cobbling together bits and pieces of ideas we have had with nuggets mined from ye olde inter-web. We wanted to make something (like Apple of my Chai) that would stand out from what else was being offered at Punktoberfest. A farmhouse table beer would certainly do just that.
With our grain bill in hand we headed to Karp’s. There we found everything we needed to make a tasty easy drinking beer. Pilsner, rye and flaked wheat were all purchased along with a few other other grains and malt to go into our saison. At this point brewing a beer for a homebrew shop paid an immediate dividend, all of the ingredients for the beer were gratis (that is free if you don’t speak French). Back in the garage/home brewery we got down to business. The mash went smoothly and it looked like this would be a piece of cake. Our wort was boiling, the hops additions (local cascade and fuggle) were dropped in and soaking and we also had included some shiso and tarragon from our garden it was all smooth sailing until we hit a bit of a snag near the end of the boil. We brew with the boil in a bag method (BIAB) and we did not account for some wort loss when the grain was removed, a rookie mistake. Tired, a bit delirious Kevin made a call to add more water and extend the boil much to Alicia’s chagrin. Eventually we put the ship back on the right track and the saison was in a fermentor being chilled to pitching temperature for the yeast.
The saison yeast which had just finished fermenting a cider was pitched the next day. For about a day and a half afterward the beer was fermented at 65 degrees. On the third day (since we only had six) we moved the beer into a room where it would continue to ferment at 80-84 degrees. We know this is pushing the limits and could strain the yeast producing off-flavors and phenolic notes. After tasting this beer Bobby “Po’ Boy” Rodriguez told us he perceived some phenolic notes but he was also dressed as an Indian for Halloween and forgot he said it the next time we saw him. We think fermenting the beer quickly at that temperature produced some very nice spicy characters and would try it again. With the week of brewing and fermenting over the beer was put into a keg the day before the event. We forced carbonated the beer to a medium high level which allowed for a great mouthfeel and lots of aroma rising to meet tasters. The brew finished at around 3.5% ABV with loads of character from the herbs and yeast expressing some of it’s time on the cider. Because this was a table strength saison we christened it Sesh-On a reference to it’s “session” level strength. It was a proud moment for us to be serving this beer brewed with locally acquired and grown ingredients at the Karp’s table during Punktoberfest.
Sesh-On was warmly received by the attendees on that chilly October afternoon. We had lots of people asking us about the brewing process and the components of the beer. When we left the table for a bit, toward the end of the event, apparently Alan Talman served a few patrons who thought it was one of the better ales at the show and another group who enjoyed the creativity that went into our saison. We want to thank Josh Hawkins and Alan Talman for reaching out to us with this opportunity. Without them this entire hectic and fun experience would not have been possible. A special thank you also goes to Nick Timoney who along with Alan and Josh was there with us to man the Karp’s table during Punktoberfest. Nick was a great co-conspirator and we greatly appreciate how well he presented Sesh-on to the thirsty patrons of the event.
Punktoberfest was a rad. Great South Bay put on an event that had many ideas which seemed all over the place but coalesced well. It was one of the best festivals we attended in 2013, easily. We look forward to brewing for and attending P-Fest next year. Our time at both the Karp’s and B.E.E.R. table could not have gone better and we were pleased with how both Apple of my Chai and Sesh-On were received. Oh and we sold some of our (super awesome) Beer Loves Long Island shirts and buttons too!