Random ingredients, beer styles drawn from a hat, are the focus of a club’s unusual homebrewing competition

Jaclynn Brandi ready to pour beers at homebrewers group competition,

Jaclynn Brandi ready to pour beers at homebrewers group competition,

Inspired by Food Network’s “Chopped,” a homebrew club’s members concoct some beers with unusual flavors. Stout with vanilla and Mexican chilies tops them all.

By Alan J. Wax

Borrowing a page from the Food Network show “Chopped,” a Long Island homebrew club sponsored an unusual brewing competition that required entrants to brew a beer using key ingredients drawn from a hat.

The competition run by Long Island Beer and Malt Enthusiasts involved the brewing of various beer styles with random, often-unlikely ingredient combinations, testing the creativity of those involved.

LIBME logoThe contest got underway in early March, when ten teams were formed and a drawing held to determine who would brew a particular style and what flavors were to be added to each brew.

The combinations:

- Porter with wood chips and chocolate

- Amber ale with smoked malt and cherries

- Brown ale with tea and blueberries.

- Black rye ale with ginger and cinnamon

- Pale ale with coconut and blackberries

- IPA with hot peppers and peaches

- ESB with honey and coffee

- Rye IPA with orange peel and basil.

- Roggenbier with raspberries and licorice root

- Stout with vanilla and Mexican chilies.

Brewing ensued in April and club members judged the resulting beers at a June meeting using drinking pleasure as their guide instead of BJCP style guidelines. The winning beer is to be brewed at Great South Bay Brewery in Bay Shore, New York.

Some of the teams took liberties, One used Sambuca and Chambord liquors instead of licorice and raspberries, while others used such exotic additions as avocado honey, Ethiopian coffee, and ghost pepper chilies—among the hottest on the planet.

My team, led by Brian Giebel, a research chemist with a PhD and aspirations of becoming a professional brewer, concocted an Earl Gray-tea infused English brown ale with blueberries.  After an online team consultation about recipe formulation, the beer was made at Giebel’s garage-turned-home brewery in Smithtown, New York. Our recipe included 9 pounds of Maris Otter malt, 12 oz. of Special Roast malt and 8 oz. each of crystal 40L, Victory and chocolate malt and just 2 oz. of East Kent Golding hops. One-third oz. of Earl Gray team in a mesh bag was added at flame out for 5 minutes. Two pounds of frozen blueberries were added to the secondary after two weeks of fermenting with rehydrated SAF04 yeast.  The berries sat in the secondary for about 20 days and the beer was then kegged.

Despite my participation, the beer we produced was not my favorite – and not my least. I felt the Early Gray tea added astringency.  Giebel said he was pleased with our beer, noting that he would’ve left it home were he unhappy.

My favorite, however, was the porter with chocolate and wood chips, which finished third. Its brewers, led by Thomas Fox, who worked at Chelsea Brewing in New York City, substituted chocolate malt for the confection and used cherry wood chips soaked in Sailor Jerry spiced rum.  The flavors were reminiscent of a Black Forest cake.
Close behind, at least for me, was the pale ale with toasted coconut, blackberries and and raspberries. Though the berry flavor wasn’t pronounced, the beer’s biscuity malt and coconut notes reminded me of a coconut macaroon cookie.

Competition organizer Chris Kelly and his team brewed a rye IPA flavored with orange peel and basil along with Amarillo and Citra hops. It scored third.

The vanilla and pepper infused stout was the crowd favorite, finishing first.

Other brews were less successful. The Sambuca and Chambord infused beer came across as a high-alcohol beer cocktail that was undrinkable in my opinion.

“I was looking for an excuse to get people together to brew,” Kelly said explaining the rationale for the unusual competition. Working with Andrew Luberto, a national BJCP judge, he fine tuned the idea. He said the group would hold a similar competition again, adding that he hopes to improve on the concept.

 

 

 

 

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Corks, Caps & Taps wins blogging award

Photo-18The Press Club of Long Island, a chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, presented its 2014 award for “Social Media-Blog Created and Maintained by an Individual” to Corks, Caps and Taps and its editor, Alan J Wax.

The award was among 80 presented by the club at its 2014 Media Awards dinner on June 5 at the Woodbury Country Club in Woodbury, New York.

The Society of Professional Journalists is the nation’s largest and most broad-based journalism organization with 60 professional chapters and 250 student chapters nationwide. It is dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior.

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Forget beer and tea: She picks the right wines for high-end Chinese food

Christine Parkinson Portrait

Christine Parkinson

Christine Parkinson, the worldwide wine buyer for London-based Hakkasan Group’s Michelin-rated restaurants, reveals some of her secrets.

By Alan J. Wax 

What wine with Chinese food?

An oft-debated topic with Riesling or Gewurztraminer the usual answers— or beer, or tea.

But don’t tell that to Christine Parkinson, the London-based global group wine buyer at Hakkasan Group restaurants, whose chain of stylish, high-end Chinese food outposts spans the globe. Its 12 locations in London, Beverly Hills, Miami, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Beverly Hills, New York, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Doha, Mumbai and Shanghai, have become destinations for wine as well as Cantonese cuisine.

Recently, I met with Parkinson, who’s been called “one of the most creative wine buyers in the UK” by English wine writer Jancis Robinson, at the almost two-year-old New York City Hakkasan, to gain insight on how she crafted the Hakkasan wine program and how the food that is served influences the wines on the list.

The interior of New York's Hakkasan restaurant

Latticework decor in New York’s Hakkasan restaurant

The New York Theater District location at 311 W. 43rd St. is a stunner. The 11,000-square foot, 200-seat foot eatery is sleek, decorated with marble, ornate wood latticework, glass and mirrors and deep blue colors. The restaurant was bustling with an après-work crowd at the time of our meeting.

Parkinson, who was tasked in 2001 by former Hakkasan CEO Niall Howard to create the first Hakkasan wine list in London, was recruited just 10 weeks before it opened. She has since become regarded as a pioneer in pairing wines with Cantonese cuisine

In those days, she recalled, “it was tea or lager beer” with Chinese food in Britain.

Putting together that first wine list required much research, guidance from colleagues and, of course, lots of tasting, she said, noting she decided at the start “to look for lovely wines.” The wines, of course, had to match the food—all of it. Parkinson and a group of sommeliers and Hakkasan’s chef settled in temporarily at another restaurant and tasted and matched. “The experience taught me that some wines taste dreadful with Cantonese cuisine,” she said, noting that to make the cut, a wine must work with every dish on the menu. “If it goes with the food, I’ll put it on the list.”

Chinese cuisine with its multitude of flavors — mild, savory, sweet and spicy, “makes life very hard for wine,” said Parkinson who said she acquired her wine knowledge as a food and beverage manager, a job that was preceded by work as a chemical analyst and head chef. “From my experience so many wines don’t work with the food. If a customer doesn’t like the match up, she added, they’ll return to their tea and beer.”

Hakkasan's Hakka Noodles with mushrooms and chives

Hakkasan’s Hakka Noodles with mushrooms and chives

Roasted Silver Cod with Champagne and Chinese Honey

Roasted Silver Cod with Champagne and Chinese Honey

As we chatted, we nibbled on delicately flavored hakka steamed noodles tossed with mushrooms and chives and an addictive, sweetish Roasted Silver Cod with Champagne and Chinese Honey. We sipped Ca’ dei Frati Lugana I Frati, an Italian 100 percent Lugana (Trebbiano)-based wine from Lombardy that’s been on Hakkasan wine lists since 2001. A delicate, fragrant wine with floral, apricot and almond notes, it suited both dishes.

Parkinson and her teams of sommeliers have tasted every wine on the restaurants’ lists with the cuisine and continue to taste new wines every Tuesday in each location.

Hakkasan’s wine list is formatted to minimize confusion.  Various sections reflect the categories that Parkinson has placed the wines for Hakkasan’s guests. Each title is followed by a simple, brief explanation. Each page essentially is a separate list.

The lists vary by location, due to availability of the various wines, but Parkinson noted, at their hearts, they are all similar.

The  New York wine list, has about 350 wines, listed in order of body and flavor from light to rich, starting at $30 for the Chilean Riesling, Neblina Vineyard Leyda 2008, and climbing to almost $3,000 for a 1982 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild. Virtually every wine-producing region in the world is represented, including Greece and New York’s Finger Lakes with Dr. Konstantine Frank Rkatsiteli. There are also 23 different sakes. Nine wines are available by the glass.

Sauvignon Blanc is the group’s top seller by the glass. At the New York Hakkasan it’s Astrolabe, a dry, full bodied New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc that goes for $15 a glass or $57 a bottle.

Parkinson says the restaurant’s top selling red is a tempranillo-based Rioja Reserva, Remelluri 2008, which goes for $80 a bottle.

Hakkasan’s menu often pairs best with wines that are fruity, have soft tannins and are light to medium in body, she said, adding, “Sherry is very good with the food – Tio Pepe [Fine Sherry] or a dry Amontillado Sherry with our food is one of my favorites.”

Hakkasan NY, 311 W 43rd St, New York, NY 10036 (212) 776-1818

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Traditional Belgian Brewers in uproar over proliferation of ‘fake’ brewers

Leboucq

Leboucq

Van Roy

Van Roy

Herteleer

Herteleer

A group of traditional Belgian brewers are in an

uproar over the proliferation of contract beers now being produced in a nation where beer has long been revered as

Minne

Minne

part of its national heritage. They claim consumers are being defrauded and the image of artisanal Belgian beer is being tarnished.

In a letter published by the Le Soir newspaper, the brewers group blasts contract producers as “fake brewers” and warns that “one of the last of our national treasures, is in great danger” as a result of their proliferation.

The brewers also issued a call for laws requiring beer labels to state the name of the brewery where a beer was produced and to allow only producers with brewing equipment to use the term brewery.

The Belgian brewers’ protest is similar to the complaints often aired by American craft brewers and comsumers who have made contract brewing a hot button issue

The text of the 1,200-word letter, written in French, was translated by the Belgian Beer and Food magazine. The original can be found here.

The protesting brewers, some well known, described what they called “fake” brewers as “marketing enterprises, who sell beers they have not themselves produced, while passing themselves off more or less openly as real brewers.”

The letter writers, including the owners of Brasserie de la Senne, Brasserie Cantillon, Brasserie de Bastogne, and Brouwerij De Dolle Brouwers, claimed that a new brewery opens every 15 days in Belgium, but that three-quarters of these producers are breweries only in name. They claim these new beer producers lack experience, training, or both and are supported by “splendid” websites and social media that have garnered a wealth of TV coverage and press. Some of these new brewers buy equipment, ostensibly for show, they alleged.

The letter writers said they are shocked that the contract brewers deny the notion of craft. “The world they inhabit has no need of the brewer in the traditional meaning of the word.” They said these brewers simply are about marketing.

Contract brewing, the protesters noted, is hardly a new phenomenon. “Beers with names that are familiar to the general public have been sold by fake brewers for years,” they said. But, “the situation has become more serious in recent years, with the manipulation of the consumer through the media reaching unprecedented levels.”

Indeed, Corsendonk, a brand long imported into the U.S.— currently by St. Killian Importing— hasn’t had its own brewery since 1953. Brasserie Du Bocq produces Corsendonk.

Moreover, the brewers group said, because only a few contract brewers produce so much of the new beer, the taste of Belgian beer could be standardized. The breweries who produce these contract beers “inevitably put their own stamp on everything they produce,” the letter stated, adding, “In time, the words “Made in Belgium” on a label will be stripped of all meaning, since the beer in the bottle may well have been manufactured by experts who might as well be situated anywhere on the planet, and marketed by salesmen who have turned impersonation into an economic model.”

Belgian contract brewers include Heineken owned Affligem, Verhaeghe, Abbaye du Val Dieu, Brasserie Silly and Brasserie Dupont, according to Belgium-Mapped-Out.com.

The brewers said regulators in their so-called beer paradise have done nothing to protect traditional brewers and called on politicians to enact laws requiring transparency on beer labels listing the brewery in which a beer is produced and that only businesses owning brewing equipment be allowed to use the term brewery.

Sébastien Morvan and Olivier de Brauwere of Brussels Beer Project

Sébastien Morvan and Olivier de Brauwere of Brussels Beer Project support the brewers’ legislative aims.

At least one upstart contract brewer has responded. The Brussels Beer Project, a crowd-funded brewer that currently constructing a micro-brewery, but now produces its beers are Bier Anders in Liege, said it supports the traditional brewers’ legislative aims. But, writing on its their home page, the brewery’s owners, Olivier de Brauwere and Sébastien Morvan, also said, “We do not believe that the sector is currently in ‘serious danger’, particularly not from new brewing initiatives. To the contrary, we are gladdened by the renewed energy they bring.”

The start-up brewers said they make no apologies for doing contract brewing or using crowd funding for financing or for their reliance on social media, which they described as being “a fresh, contemporary and interactive medium, on top of being free! … we are proud to convey our message about beer in a different way.“ Moreover, they said, “We create recipes inspired by Belgian tradition just as much as New World influences.”

The letter was signed by Yvan De Baets and Bernard Leboucq, Brasserie de la Senne; Jean Van Roy, Brasserie Cantillon; Catherine and Philippe Minne, Brasserie de Bastogne; Kris Herteleer, Brouwerij De Dolle Brouwers; Pierre Tilquin, Gueuzerie Tilquin; Alexandre Dumont, Brasserie Jandrain-Jandrenouille; Pierre-Alex, Marie-Noëlle and Kevin Carlier, Brasserie de Blaugies; Jef Van den Steen, Brouwerij de Glazen Toren; Pierre Jacob, Brasserie Saint-Monon, Marc-Antoine De Mees, Brasserie Brunehaut; Luc Festjens, Brouwerij Den Toetëlèr; Pierre Gobron, Brasserie Les 3 Fourquets;  Gregory Verhelst, Brasserie de Rulles; Kristof Vandenbussche, Brouwerij Fort Lapin; Laurent Agache, Brasserie de Cazeau, and  others.

Where do you stand on this issue?

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High on the hog at Craft Beer and Pork Festival at the Topping Rose House

Bacon and chicharrones

Bacon and chicharrones

Executive chef Ty Kotz slices porchetta.

Executive chef Ty Kotz slices porchetta.

The boys of Crooked Ladder Brewing.

The boys of Crooked Ladder Brewing.

Sausages

Sausages

So full.

That’s how I felt as I left the Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton, Long Island, having sampled just more than two dozen local brews and an eye-popping buffet of pork dishes.

It had been a very pleasurable, sunny May 3 afternoon at the Craft Beer and Pork Fest put on by the Topping Rose, a small luxury hotel and restaurant operated by celebrity chef Tom Colicchio.

There was not a bad beer among those poured by a coterie of area brewers—Crooked Ladder, Great South Bay, Greenport Harbor, Montauk, Moustache and Southampton Publick House. In fact, every beer worked incredibly well with the Topping Rose’s chow. And, it was also my first opportunity to sip the brews of Crooked Ladder, a nine-month-old microbrewery in Downtown Riverhead.

But, there was no doubt that the food was the star of the event.

Indeed, chef de cuisine Kyle Koenig, who instigated the event with his beverage director wife, Jessica, remarked that attendees, about a hundred by my guess, were focused more on the food rather than the beer.

It was hard not to.

On each table, a bowl of house-made chicharrones and a vase with crisp strips of bacon tempted sippers as sweet smoke drifted into the Topping Rose’s catering space from the pool deck, where executive chef Ty Kotz was overseeing the grilling of four kinds of house-made sausages, split pork shoulder and pork shawarma—all bursting with flavor.

I was completely enthralled by the spicy, roasted porchetta, which Koenig said was spiced after a walk through the kitchen’s spice closet, pork belly marinated in Indian spices and a zesty French garlic sausage.  A house-made pate, meanwhile, matched delightfully with Greenport Harbor’s Curvaison, a bottled brew made with 2011 Martha Clara Vineyards sauvignon blanc grapes.

And the only non-pork edibles — Montauk pearl oysters from the Montauk Shellfish Co.— were a big wet French kiss from the sea, deliciously cold, briny and fresh and a perfect foil for any of a number of IPAs available.

Besides Greenport’s Curvaison, I found several other brews particularity noteworthy, among them Moustache Brewing’s easy drinking Milk and Honey Brown Ale, Crooked Ladder’s well-balanced 70 West IPA, Southampton’s Maibock and Great South Bay’s reformulated summer sipper Blonde Ambition.

And I had another unexpected find, the locally produced, hand-crafted Miss Lady Root Beer, produced in Amagansett by Rowdy Hall manager Theo Foscolo using sarsaparilla, licorice root, anise, honey, brown sugar and raw sugar, and molasses. Very different and, after all that beer, refreshing.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a May Saturday afternoon. Let’s hope Topping Rose does it again next year.

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Long Island craft beer and pork in all its glory at a Bridgehampton fest on May 3

 

Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton, NY

Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton, NY

Topping Rose House, the small, but tony Bridgehampton hotel and restaurant built in 1842 and now overseen by celebrity chef Tom Colicchio, is joining forces with a handful of Long Island breweries May 3 for a Pork & Craft Beer Festival.

Colicchio’s 75-seat farm-to-table restaurant features produce grown on the property’s one-acre Topping Rose Farm as well ingredients from other local farmers and fishermen.

We’re not just talking about pork BBQ and sausages, though there’ll be five kinds of house-made sausages available. Food offerings will include sliders; chicharrones and bacon; charcuterie, terrines and rillettes including prosciutto Americana from La Quercia, an Iowa producer that uses heritage breeds; hand-carved pork belly schwarma, Montauk pearl oysters, potato rolls and pretzels, along with local vegetables. DeBragga, the well-known New York City meat wholesaler, is supplying the event with Niman Ranch pork.

Beers will be poured by Southampton Publick House, Great South Bay Brewery, of Bay Shore; Moustache Brewing Co., Long Ireland Brewing and, Crooked Ladder, all of Riverhead; Port Jeff Brewing Co. and Montauk Brewing Co.

The event is the brainchild of Topping Rose House chef de cuisine Kyle Koenig and his wife, Jessica, the restaurant’s beverage director, who’ve spent time sampling the local brews.

The event opens to VIP ticketholders at Noon and at 1 p.m. for those with general admission tickets and goes until 4 p.m.

Topping Rose House, 1 Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike,  Bridgehampton. (631) 537-0870. For more information or to reserve a space, email: mpoore@craftrestaurant.com

 

 

 

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Brewers Association lists 5 new beer styles in just released 2014 guidelines

BA_logo-185Five new beer styles are contained in the Brewers Association’s (BA) newly revised beer style guidelines.

The guidelines, dated March 10, were announced publicly on April 22 in an Examiner.com blog by BA president Charlie Papazian on April 22, almost two weeks since the conclusion of the annual Craft Brewers Conference in Denver, Colorado. Last year, the guidelines were announced in a BA press release a month prior to annual brewers gathering. The BA is a trade group for America’s small and independent craft brewers

The new styles announced are: Belgian-Style Fruit Beer, Australian-Style Pale Ale (spun off from Australasian-Style Pale Ale), Asian-Style Pale Ale (spun off from Australasian-Style Pale Ale), Dutch-Style Kuit (Kuyt, Koyt), Historical Beer (previous part of Indigenous beer) and Wild Beer

In addition, there were substantial revisions to the guidelines for American-Style Fruit Beer and Herb and Spice Beer.

All of the latest guidelines were rewritten to follow a standard format of appearance, aroma, flavor, body, etc., Papazian wrote in his posting. “This format follows the sensory experience,” he explained. “Many style groups were reorganized within historical groups in an order of roughly increasing original gravity and alcohol content. Also, style origins were clarified

BA  guidelines are often changed and new styles get added to the list with almost regularity. But when the BA published its 2013 guidelines  early that year – prior to the annual Craft Brewers Conference – for the Polish beer style Grodzisz, or Grodziske or Grätzer, they set off a loud public debate over ingredients and origin that ultimately resulted in the BA revisiting the guidelines for that style and rewriting them.

Charlie Papazian

Charlie Papazian

Last year, amid the controversy, Papazian told me that the guidelines, which are used to judge beers at the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup, are constantly evolving and that in any give year only a couple of style definitions might be tweaked or as many as a dozen. “The trick is to stay relevant,” he said, explaining that the guidelines try to reflect the innovation that is taking place in the brewing community while preserving traditional styles. “That can be a balancing act. People like to tinker around.”

Papazian with assistance from BA director Paul Gatza and BA technical director Chris Swersey using comments from GABF and World Beer Cup judges, essentially, wrote the guidelines as he has since 1979.

The new style definitions can be found in pdf format at the BA’s web site.

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Coors, Oregon, California, Pennsylvania and Kansas brewers take top honors at largest-ever World Beer Cup awards

World Beer Cup awards awaiting presentation (Brewers Association photo)

World Beer Cup awards awaiting presentation (Brewers Association photo)

By Alan J. Wax

A small brewery in Oregon, a mid-sized California brewer and American beer giant Coors Brewing Co. each won top awards at the 2014 Brewers Association World Beer Cup awards, described by the group’s president as the “Olympics of beer competition.” Brewpubs in Pennsylvania and Kansas took home top honors in the brew pub category.

In all 284 awards were presented April 10 in Denver, where the bi-annual competition was conducted just prior to the annual Craft Brewers Conference. The awards were presented April 10 at the conclusion of Craft Brewers Conference.

The Boulder, Colo.-based Brewers Association (BA), the trade group representing America’s small and independent craft brewers, calls the World Beer Cup one of the world’s largest global commercial beer competitions. This year’ s competition drew 4,754 beers from over 1,403 breweries located in 58 countries – the largest number of entrants in the competition’s history.  “This was huge,” Chris Swerzey, competition director, said prior to announcing the awards.

Brewers from five continents earned awards from an international panel of judges at this 10th biennial competition, with brewers from 22 countries—ranging from Australia and Brazil to Taiwan and the United Kingdom—honored.

The judges awarded 281 out of 282 total possible awards, reflecting the chance for one gold, one silver and one bronze in each of 94 beer style categories.

This year’s event was particularly competitive, the BA said, noting that the proportion of winning breweries garnering one or more awards was 18 percent, compared to 27 percent in 2012. Only three breweries won more than one award; 26 took two awards and 226 won one award.

“Brewers from around the globe participate in the World Beer Cup to win recognition for their creativity and brewing skills,” said BA president Charlie Papazian. “For a brewer, a World Beer Cup gold award allows them to say that their winning beer represents the best of that beer style in the world.”

A panel of 219 judges from 31 countries working in teams conducted blind tasting evaluations of the beers to determine the awards. They included professional brewers and brewing industry experts; 76 percent were from outside the United States.

The category with the most entries was American-Style India Pale Ale, with 223 entries followed by American-Style Pale Ale, with 121 entries and Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer, with 111 entries.

The competition also presented Champion Brewery and Champion Brewmaster awards in each of five brewery categories based on the awards won by each brewery.

The 2014 five Champion Brewery/Brewmaster award winners were:

Small Brewing Company Category: Pelican Brewery of Pacific City, Ore; Darron Welch and Steve Panos

Mid-Size Brewing Company Category: Coronado Brewing Co. of Coranado Calif., near San Diego; Coronado Brewing Co. team.

Large Brewing Company Category: Coors Brewing, Golden, Colo.; Dr. David Ryder.

Small Brewpub Category: Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant, Media, Pa.; Iron Hill Brewery team.

Large Brewpub Category: Blind Tiger Brewery & Restaurant, Topeka, Kan.; John Dean.

The complete list of winners can be downloaded at the competition’s home page.

 

 

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Brewers Association, wary of decline in quality, urges homebrewers-turned-pro to boost quality control

Audience at the 2014 Craft Brewers Conference in Denver

Audience at the 2014 Craft Brewers Conference in Denver
(Brewers Association photo)

By Alan J. Wax

The Brewers Association (BA) says its concerned about declining quality of craft beer.

Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association

Paul Gatza

Speaking on April 9 in Denver at the annual Craft Brewers Conference, BA director Paul Gatza said that while the number of breweries, beer production, revenues and exports have climbed, quality has fallen. The Boulder, Colo.-based BA sponsors the conference, which this year attracted about 9,000 attendees.

“It’s a big issue,” Gatza told a media teleconference from the gathering. “We hate to see this segment being brought down with people having bad experiences in their glass when they’re trying craft beer. They’re maybe less likely to try something new in the future if they are having a bad experience from the last brewery they tried.”

Earlier, speaking to the brewers, he told about  visiting a beer fest and sampling a number of poor quality offerings, Gatza told new craft brewers: “Don’t f*ck it up.”   

Gatza said some new professional brewers, among them former home brewers, are not putting out beer quality that reflects well on the whole industry.”

BA_logo-185“A lot of people start in this industry as homebrewers who are told by their friends that they’re making good beer and you should go pro,” Gatza said. “A lot of them do and they try to do it on a shoestring. Try to do it on a small level and get bigger. They get their licenses. They make their first commercial beer and their friends say this is so great. But in truth what people who really know about beer are finding [is] that a lot of these newer brewers are not putting out quality that reflects well on the whole craft community. There are some off flavors at times.

He urged the newcomers need to step back and spend more time on the science of beer making and urged them to use outside labs to measure bacteria counts and other benchmarks.

Not all the blame, he said, falls on the brewers and noted that some fault belongs to retailers who fail to clean their draft lines or don’t clean their glassware property.

Bart Watson

Bart Watson

Brewers Association economist Bart Watson, meanwhile told the conference that the industry’s growth streak continues. The stats are available in an online Power Point presentation.

Craft brewing volume grew 18 percent, to 15.6 million barrels in 2013, up by 2.3 million, even as the overall U.S. beer market declined 2 percent.

Craft beer’s market share, meanwhile, grew to 7.8 percent last year and is predicted to grow further. In dollars, craft beer garnered a 14.3 percent share, $14.3 billion out of a total $100 billion in sales.

The U.S. had 2,768 breweries at the end of 2013, with 1,744 in the planning stages. By the end of last month, the number of operating breweries had grown to 2,866. Of those, 99 percent are craft breweries.

Robert Pease

Robert Pease

BA Chief Operating Officer Robert Pease said U.S. craft brewers exported 282,526 barrels last year, up 49 percent from 2012. The top foreign markets were Canada, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia and Japan.

“The word is out that the best beer in the world is being made by American craft brewers,” Pease said.

Gatza said the BA has what he called an “aspirational” goal for the craft brewing industry to hit 20 percent market share by the end of the decade. But it’s not a slam-dunk, he admitted.

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New York malt adds flavor to NYC’s Brewers Choice Beer Week event

After getting a little behind on writing this blog for various reasons, it’s time to catch up.  Here’s a piece on a terrific NYC Beer Week event.

Brewer’s Choice, the New York City beer and food event put on annually by beer and food impresario James Carbone, owner of Jimmy’s No. 43 in the East Village, was the only NYC Beer Week I was able to make this year. But I was glad I did.

Taking place for the first time in the Wyeth Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn,

Carbone, working with another great New York City beer promoter, Dave Broderick, of The Blind Tiger Ale House, produced a tightly focused tasting on a chilly Feb. 26 evening.

The event featured some of the best beers I have sampled in months, a rare opportunity to meet face-to-face with the brewers and some pretty tasty eats from a collection of fine restaurants, including Reynard, Mile End Deli and Luke’s Lobster; and such artisanal food purveyors as Coach Farm Cheese and Blue Island Oyster Co.

Brewers Choice was among the 300 events and 150 venues participating in NYC Beer Week. Beer week is organized by the New York City Brewers Guild is a promotion group composed of 17 New York City-based brewers.

This year, Carbone sought to bring what he called “a very cool component” to his beer extravaganza. He sought out nearly 30 brewers, mostly from New York, but not all, who used regional grains to produce some of their brews. Also on hand were officials of Grow NYC, which among other things operates the Union Square Green Market, and Amanda Stanley, owner of Valley Malt, an artisanal maltster in Hadley, Mass., which supplies some 60 brewers and distillers. Valley Malt’s malts were used in many of the beers.

June Russell of Grow NYC at Brewers Choice event.

June Russell of Grow NYC at Brewers Choice event.

Brewers have been among the last of food and beverage producers to use local ingredients, June Russell, who has been facilitating the production of grains and processing in the region on behalf of Grow NYC, told me at the event. “They haven’t had the malting facilities.”

New York has three malt producers that I could identify: Farm House Malt in Newark Valley, NY Craft Brew Malt in Batavia and Flower City Malt Lab, of Rochester

New York State has encouraged the use of New York grown barley and hops through the establishment of a lower cost farm brewery license, which allows brewers to operate retail outlets for New York products, open restaurants, undertake increased tastings and sell related products. In order to receive a Farm Brewery license, the beer must be made primarily from locally grown farm products. Until the end of 2018, at least 20 percent of the hops and 20 percent of all other ingredients must be grown or produced in New York State.

To be sure, not every beer I savored was made with local ingredients—or locally brewed. Here are some of my favorites:

Newburgh Brewing’s  Magnanini Niagara Tripel, made with local Niagara grapes and Brettanomyces yeast, an interesting brew with what wine drinkers would call a tart foxy grape character with definite brett notes.

Swisher by Carton Brewing Co. of Atlantic Highlands, N.J. Named for Swisher Sweet, the mild, sweet-tasting cigar often used to smoke a certain medicinal week. The cigar taste is well replicated quite well in this unique, murky brown, tart brew.

Regular Coffee, also by Carton Brewing, appealed to me although I am not a fan of coffee beers. This one somehow was different. It’s a golden brew, creamy and with notes of coffee. Quite drinkable, despite 12% abv. Think diner coffee with two sugars and milk.

Jonge Kriek by Brooklyn Brewery. Cherries dominate this tasty oak aged brett tinged brew based on Local 2.

Wild Streak, also from Brooklyn Brewery. An extra brut beer with notes of fruit that give way to oak notes and light brett finish.

Greenmarket Wheat Ale, again by Brooklyn Brewery, was a gentle, easy drinking wit beer with tart notes and a soft finish.

Big Alice team at Brewers Choice

Big Alice team at Brewers Choice

0052-Special Honey Smoked Ale by Big Alice Brewing of Long Island City.  This was a big, rich, complex beer with subdued smoke character. Good for dessert.

Hell Gate Golden Ale by Long Island’s Blind Bat Brewery, An unfiltered, cloudy deep golden, richly flavored brew with a notes of cardamom, bubble gum, bananas and, of course, It was produced using Valley Malt barley grown by O’Mara’s Farm, Canastota, N.Y., and coriander grown in Centerport, Long Island at Seed Sower Farm.

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