Many professional brewers started out as homebrewers. A new initiative by brewing shop Bitter and Esters, NY Pro-Am Brew P.I.T. paired homebrewers with local craft brewers: Finback Brewery, Flagship Brewing,Singlecut Beersmiths, Sixpoint Brewery and Yonkers Brewing Co. The homebrewers toured the breweries and chatted with brewers about their Philosophy, Inspiration, and Technique (aka P.I.T.). Then they brewed a beer inspired by the meeting.
On August 9 Crown Heights bottle shop Covenhoven will pour the beers they brewed, alongside a beer of the professional brewer’s choice.
“The inspiration for P.I.T. came out of a meeting with our friend and customer Robert Sherrill,” said John LaPolla, co-owner of Bitter and Esters, in an email message to BeerUnion. “Robert had met with Bill and Molly at Covenhoven and they decided to do some type of homebrew event there. Robert approached us about it and we were very happy to be involved. We had a few brain storming sessions and decided to do something beyond the ordinary homebrew event … We wanted something unique, and thought how great it would be to bring home brewers together with professional brewers.”
LaPolla and business partner Douglas Amport, posted an open call on social media for homebrewers to participate, as long as they were all grain brewers who wrote their own recipes. Out of 50 entries, LaPolla and Amport picked five out of a hat, then randomly assigned them brewers by also picking them out of a hat.
LaPolla envisioned the collaboration as mutually beneficial. “The five breweries involved are all excellent local NYC Craft Breweries and they all started as homebrewers. Some of them still home brew! For the pros I think it was good for them to see what other creative brewers are thinking and brewing. For the amateurs it gave them a chance to see not just the brewing technique, but to learn a bit about the business and the brewers themselves. We are hoping that these meeting were inspirational and will help develop the home brewers ideas even further.”
Sixpoint Brewer Heather McReynolds was paired with Sebastian Schinkel. “The experience working with Sebastian was great. He asked a lot of questions, helped out with the brew that day, and brought some excellent homebrews for us to try!” she told BeerUnion. “We went back and forth with the Resin and Bengali hop schedules. He also used some of our house yeast.”
Schinkel, who has been brewing for 10 years, made a lower gravity wheat beer with a modified hop schedule of Righteous Ale. “It is quite the collaborative process… I had an idea and I’ve almost entirely reformulated it to have a Sixpoint signature, while retaining some of my own brewing style.” Sam Burlingame met with the team at Finback Brewery, founded by Basil Lee and Kevin Stafford, during a brew day for Double Sess, their spiced session ale
“At transition points, I stuck my head in the mash tun, took a whiff of the boil kettle, and turned a valve or two. Now, I have been on – perhaps one too many – brewery tours before, but hanging with brewers in the brewery while in operation was a completely different and interesting experience,” said Burlingame. “Discussions turned to brewing possibilities, like a spicy sour or deeply spiced double, as three test batches of saison fermented nearby. Seeing just about every part of the process in full scale operation and participating the quick chill and oxygenation as 20 barrels of fresh wort went into the fermenter was a blast, quite inspirational, and somewhat transformative!” he continued.
He originally decided to make a double batch of Belgian saison with spices added to the more sessionable second runnings. “When I learned that Finback’s pilot saisons included a black and a smoked version I decided to flip the bill and put the spice in the big beer and instead blacken and smoke the session side of things. It made for a very intense and engaging brew day and I can’t wait to try them along side all the other concoctions that PIT has inspired!”
Beers will be served on the 9th in two sessions: from 1 to 3 p.m. and from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 and available here. There will be a few non competing brews brought by Bitter and Esters, as well as pretzels from Pelzer’s Pretzels. Those in attendance will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite homebrew, and the winning brewer will produce his beer at 508 GastroBrewery with Chris Cuzme.
“With all of the new breweries opening in New York City we felt that this idea was perfect. Highlighting home brewers and new breweries alike,” noted LaPolla. “Plus giving our home brewers a chance to see what is like in the professional world.”