In the world of New York City craft beer, Mary Izett and Chris Cuzme (pictured above) are the It Couple. Journalist Niko Krommydas likened them to Jay Z and Beyoncé in a recent Brooklyn Magazine feature, and we’ll go ahead and agree. Both are accomplished in the beer industry on their own: Izett is a former president of the New York City Homebrewers Guild and Malted Barley Appreciation Society, a national Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) judge, and has penned her first book, Speed Brewing, which will come out in June; Cuzme is VP of the NYC Brewers Guild, former brewmaster at 508 GastroBrewery, co-founder of Get Real Presents and Wandering Star Craft Brewery, and also a former president of the New York City Homebrewers Guild and Malted Barley Appreciation Society. Together they founded and cohost the Fuhmentaboutit! internet radio show, and now they’re teaming up again to launch Cuzett Libations, just in time for Beer Week.
BeerUnion: What was the inspiration for you to start Cuzett Libations?
Mary Izett: Chris had committed to brewing a SMaSH beer for NYC Beer Week as part of 508 Gastrobrewery. Although 508 closed at the beginning of the year, Kelly Taylor encouraged him to still be a part of the project so Cuzett Libations was born! We brewed the Cuzett Grisette at Greenpoint Beer Works with Kelly’s crew (including Pete Mallon, Cuzme’s former assistant at 508). We met through the New York City Homebrewers Guild and our mutual love of fermented beverages definitely contributed to our falling in love and becoming a couple. We’ve brewed together at home and at 508 with the Pillow Talk series so the natural progression was a larger batch that would be more widely available. Chris comes to this project with a professional certification from the American Brewers Guild and professional brewing experience at Wandering Star and 508 Gastrobrewery.
Chris Cuzme: Although Mary is an avid home brewer, she’s passionate about all kinds of fast-fermented beverages (her book on the subject, Speed Brewing, is being published by Voyageur Press in June). So although we’re launching with a beer, our hope is to make other beverages as well, such as short mead and cider. Hence, the name Cuzett Libations.
BU: How did you come up with the Cuzett Grisette recipe?
CC: This first recipe is brewed within the guidelines of the NYC Brewer’s Guild NY SMaSH beer project. The Guild collectively voted on 3 New York State malts and 3 New York State hops to use. The assignment was to exclusively use all three of these malts and hops, while choosing our own percentages of them, our own yeast strains, water profile etcetera…to make a style of beer of our choice. We both love sessional beers so we chose a light and hoppy farmhouse ale: a grisette. However, when we brewed, there were only 2 of the malts and 2 of the hops available for use. We used NY State 2-row and Danko Rye malted by Valley Malt in Hadley, MA. We bittered with NY Willamette and aroma hopped with NY Cascade, both from Pederson Farms. Dry-hopping with the NY Cascade lent itself wonderfully to playing with the qualities of the Lallemand Belle Saison Yeast. Factoring into the amount of events we expect to be attending and participating in during this years NYC Beer Week, we wanted something full of flavor without much alcohol and this “American Grisette” comes in at 4.3% as a hoppy session saison.
BU: For now will you continue brewing at Greenpoint? If not where are you thinking of brewing?
MI: We’d love to brew regular batches at Greenpoint. They have a great facility and Kelly and his crew are absolutely fantastic to work with. We’re open to brewing at other breweries, though, with a focus on brewing within the five boroughs of NYC. We’d also love to create some small-batch short meads and ciders with a meadery and a cidery, respectively, though those would most likely be outside NYC.
BU: How do you see Cuzett fitting into the landscape of NYC beer?
CC: Cuzett is about celebrating flavorful, intriguing, sessionable libations. We’ll be brewing some lesser-known yet quite quaffable beers like the Grisette as well as exploring more unusual flavors and styles. The goal is to make fun and incredibly drinkable beverages. In addition, through collaborative brewing and brewing at and with our favorite breweries in NYC (who have room or time for us), we hope to contribute to the thriving NYC brewing scene.
All photos courtesy Cuzett Libations’ Facebook page.