Growing Hops

This is our hop plant. We have named her Eleanor. 

Wednesday evening the Brooklyn Brewery hosted a discussion on hops growing, featuring Jaclyn Van Bourgondien and Andrew Tralka, a husband and wife team who launched Farm to Pint in 2012, a hops farm in Peconic, Long Island.

In the late 1800s, 80 percent of all hops in the US were grown in New York State. It was interesting to hear Bourgondien and Tralka’s take on their desire to join the wave of people who are trying to make New York State the hops producer it once was.

“We’re re-learning the nature of how to do it,” said Van Bourgondien, who noted that the pair have learned the trade from farmers on West Coast and the few that do exist in New York.

Hops are vines that grow vertically and twist as they grow, called bines. To grow them, rhizomes (small pieces of roots that are cut from the root system of other hops) are planted, out of which sprout the new vines. Hops need full sun and can grow up to 12 inches per day. They wrap clockwise around coirs, long lengths of twine that stretch from the ground up to a trellis structure. Hop bines can grow upwards of 18 feet tall. At a hop farm, you’ll see rows and rows of hop bines, all climbing up coirs that are attached to a trellis, kept in place by large wooden posts.

“Our goal is to be as sustainable as possible,” Van Bourgondien continued. She and Tralka accomplish sustainability and eco-consciousness by using untreated wood for the posts and biodegradable coir made of coconut fiber.

Farm to Pint and is part of a movement of farmers and brewers committed to using as many local products as possible, encouraged by the Farm Brewery law, which went into effect this January. By using at least 20 percent of locally grown ingredients, a brewery can get a Farm Brewery license. In 12 years, that percentage will be up to 90.

“So 12 years from now you could choose to buy a New York beer,” said Van Bourgondien. “It’s pretty cool and exciting.”

It really is. But for now, we’re going to plant Eleanor, our Cascade hop plant, and see what happens.

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Session IPAs

IPAs have been on a tear in the craft beer community for the past few years. Hoppy IPAs can be great summer brews with floral aromas and crisp bitterness. The intense bitterness in IPAs or other hoppy beers is often accompanied by higher alcohol content from using more grain to help balance the beers out. Many breweries have an imperial version and they can be among the most highly touted beers around – think Pliny from Russian River or 120 Minute from Dogfish Head. They can be delicious but also intensely boozy with ABVs in the double digits. A new trend is emerging with breweries looking to highlight the hop character of IPAs without the heavy hitting alcohol levels, creating session IPAs.

One of the most popular is All Day IPA from Founders Brewing in Michigan but local breweries seem to be taking up the call with some of the tastiest beers around. Boat Beer from Carton Brewing in New Jersey (below) was a hit in New York City last year for its bright snappy citrus flavors and a manageable 4.2% alcohol. Barrier Brewing in Oceanside New York keeps their Unimperial IPA to 4% ABV but still gets some intense bitterness in the pint. Brooklyn Brewery is joining in with Scorcher #366, a hoppy pale ale which will be released next week and celebrates the new hop variety #366 and weighs in at 4.5% ABV. 

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Brooklyn’s Dry Irish Stout in Bottles

Brooklyn Brewery’s Dry Irish Stout, normally a draft-only beer served from January through March, will be available to take home in a 12oz bottle format. As the brewery states, the roasty and smooth stout is good pairing for oysters, burgers, and of course corned beef and cabbage. The beer is not only a great example of a local dry stout but also one of the closest things to a winter seasonal since it does not become available until January and is gone by spring.


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Anyone brewed the White House beer?

Check out this New York Times story about Garrett Oliver experimenting with the White House homebrew recipe. According to Oliver, the beer “is not without complexity, and it’s an interesting, broad sort of bitterness… it’s perfectly balanced.”

Homebrewers out there: have you made the White House beer? What do you think?


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The Three Best Local Beers to Have This Summer

Now that summer has officially arrived (in all its hot, humid glory) we thought we would put together a list of three beers we think are best to have this season.

Greenport Harbor Brewing – Summer Ale 5.3% ABV
Super refreshing but still full of flavor, Greenport Summer Ale is brewed with some orange blossom honey and nicely hopped (lending a bright lemony flavor). Crisp and dry, it should be great with fresh summer dishes.

Brooklyn Brewery – Summer Ale (cans) 5% ABV
Brooklyn’s Summer Ale made the jump to cans last year and has been one of our summer go-to beers since. The canned version is extra crisp and snappy and lends itself easily to backyards and patios.

Captain Lawrence Brewing – Kolsch 5% ABV
It’s available year round but the summer is the best time of year for this beer. Light and refreshing with some slight fruitiness. A great local example of a classic German style.

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New Year’s Eve Barleywine and Cheese Sampling

Over the past few years we’ve collected an assortment of barley wines of various ages. We thought New Year’s might be a good time to crack them open and share with some family as we ring in 2012. To take it a step further we made a trip to BKLYN Larder to pick out some cheeses to try out as pairings. The staff at the store was extremely helpful and excited to aid in picking out cheeses for a pairing.

We settled on several cheeses, most of which we think will stand up well to the strength of the barleywines. We also picked up a more delicate washed rind goat cheese that should be a nice complement to the older barleywines that have had some time to mellow out the intense hop character and hot alcohol flavors. Here are the beers and cheeses we will be trying out:

Brooklyn Monster Ale 2006, 2009, 2010
Dogfish Head Olde School 2006
Southern Tier Back Burner 2008
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale aged in Sherry Casks 2007
J.W. Lees Harvest Ale aged in Port Casks 2008

Morbier-aged at least 60 days (France)
Adelegger (Bavaria, Germany)
Gouda L’Anyse – aged 2 years (Holland)
Contralto Goat Cheese (Andante Dairy, Sonoma)

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Our Guide to Fall Seasonals

We were recently asked to recommend a list of fall seasonals (pumpkin beers in particular) to help some of our readers prepare. Even though summer isn’t technically over, the weather seems to be changing and we thought it would be a good time to share five seasonals we are most excited for:

Founders Breakfast Stout It may not be a pumpkin ale, but it is seasonal and it is delicious. Big, roasty, chocolaty, and full of coffee, this Breakfast Stout sets the standard for us in the style (it is also the base for KBS and CBS). Definitely worth having fresh or stowing away for a fall or winter in the future. We also enjoy the label.

Brooklyn Brewery Post Road Pumpkin Ale A great pumpkin background and some assertivespices make this beer perfect for a chilly fall afternoon. At 5% ABV it is a bit more sessionable than some of the other beers on the list so you won’t have to worry about having a few while roasting root vegetables or watching football.

New Holland Ichabod The appearance and smell of Ichabod immediately makes you think of fall. It’s copper with a fluffy white head. The mix of pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg gives the beer a classic smell that follows through in the taste.

Victory Festbier It isn’t a pumpkin beer but it’s a great American example of the Märzen seasonal brewed for thefamous Oktoberfest celebrated in Germany (and pretty much throughout the beer drinking world) at the end of September. It has a deliciously sweet nutty taste that finishes with some refreshing dryness. A great way to celebrate the harvest season.

Sixpoint Autumnation We haven’t had it yet but since we heard about it on Brew York, New York we have had our ears and eyes open for it. It’s a canned, wet hopped pumpkin ale – what could be more seasonal? (We are in the very short hop harvest season, when fresh or wet-hopped beers can be brewed.)

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A Chat With Garrett Oliver

Last week I had the chance to talk to Garrett Oliver, Brooklyn Brewery’s brewmaster, at The Gate in Park Slope during a special Brooklyn Brewery beer night where he was mingling with patrons. He and I discussed Dark Matter, a two-year-old brown ale aged in bourbon barrels.

With demand for barrel aged beers like Dark Matter and Black Ops (left) so high, Oliver said the brewery is looking to expand its barrel aging facilities. Its recent expansion will eventually bring their production up tenfold to 120,000 barrels, but the brewery is also looking for additional space in either Williamsburg or Greenpoint where beer temperature can be carefully controlled. I hope they find a place soon – Sarah and I would love to see more beers like Black Ops from Brooklyn Brewery.

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Sorachi Ace and Fried Shrimp

On Saturday I tried my hand at pairing food and beer. I was visiting my parents on Long Island, and for dinner we made some fried shrimp with parsley and pecorino cheese.

I initially thought Saison du Pont would be nice because of its slight spiciness and effervescent mouthfeel. Unfortunately Glen Cove Beer Distributor did not have Saison du Pont so I gave Sorachi Ace a try. Sorachi Ace is a Brooklyn Brewery farmhouse ale made with Sorachi hops. Since it was my first experience with Sorachi hops it may not have been the best idea to try it. The hop character did overpower the shrimp a little bit but it wasn’t a complete failure. There was a spiciness that went well with the pecorino flavors.

– Giancarlo


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