Yankee Brew News April/May 2013 : Page 1
By Jen Muehlbauer PHOTO COURTESY OF MYSTIC BREWERY or a company called “Mystic,” Chelsea’s only brewery has a pretty scientific bent. Its founder has a PhD, he cultivates his own yeast in a tiny on-site lab and brewing experiments abound. This three-barrel operation, which released its first beer in 2011, has already made a name for its most-ly Belgian beers and is expanding into other styles, barrel-aging and experimental small batches. yeast to naturally create flavors and fra-grances that were usually chemically syn-thesized. He later moved to another com-pany doing similar work with keratinoids — “the stuff that makes carrots orange,” he explained. By the time he was in his mid-30s, the often-mobile nature of a science career was taking its toll on him. “I wanted to stay in one place as opposed to having my project cancelled every five years,” Greenhagen said. As an avid homebrewer who already See Mystical p. 3 CT Beer Trail bus tour: tasting from the loading dock at Olde Burnside Brewing, East Hartford, Conn. PHOTO COURTESY OF CT BEER TRAIL C By Jack Kenny From Punk to Science to Beer Chad Brodsky spent some time in Vienna, Austria’s fabled capital. While he was there he went on a pub crawl, and had such a good time that he began think-ing about creating something similar in his home town of Burlington, the largest city in Vermont (pop. 42,645). After a while he decided that instead of a crawl, he would establish a brewery tour. After all, some good beer is brewed and con-sumed in that city. Brodsky bounced the idea off some friends — in particular the late Greg Noonan, brewer, author and founder of the Vermont Pub & Brewery, who inspired and advised him along the way. In 2008, when he was a senior at the See Visit Breweries p. 4 ILLUSTRATION BY: HANS GRANHEIM Bryan Greenhagen founded Mystic Brewery after taking a long road through other interests. He put off grad school to play in a self-described “bad punk rock band,” failed out of film school and got a PhD in agriculture in Kentucky. After grad school, he helped start a company using Above: Bryan Greenhagen, founder of Mystic Brewery in Chelsea, Mass., enjoys one of his beers. Below: The Mystic line-up. PHOTO BY MIKE JOHNSON INSIDE Events Calendar .............. 2 Tasting Panel................... 8 Ale House .......................10 Homebrew ......................12 Beer Cooks .....................13 Maps/Directory ..........18-23 State by State News E. Massachusetts ....................14 Boston ......................................16 W. Massachusetts ...................24 Maine ........................................26 New Hampshire .......................28 Connecticut ..............................30 Vermont ....................................32 Rhode Island ............................34 NYC/Long Island ......................36 Upstate NY ...............................38
starts here<br /> <br /> Chad Brodsky spent some time in Vienna, Austria’s fabled capital. While he was there he went on a pub crawl, and had such a good time that he began thinking about creating something similar in his home town of Burlington, the largest city in Vermont (pop. 42,645). After a while he decided that instead of a crawl, he would establish a brewery tour. After all, some good beer is brewed and consumed in that city.<br /> <br /> Brodsky bounced the idea off some friends — in particular the late Greg Noonan, brewer, author and founder of the Vermont Pub & Brewery, who inspired and advised him along the way.In 2008, when he was a senior at the University of Vermont, Brodsky launched Burlington Beer Tours.<br /> <br /> “I purchased a 12-passenger van from a church minister, and put our logo on it,” he said. Getting insurance on the vehicle was a challenge, but he made it over that hurdle.The next one was getting customers to occupy the seats in the bus.<br /> <br /> “I wore lederhosen that I got in Austria and went out onto Church Street (a pedestrianonly street/mall in the center of the city) for the whole summer, going up to random strangers and talking about the tour. I got the word out that way, on the website and through brochures in hotels. The brand grew from there.” <br /> <br /> The success of Burlington Beer Tours gave Brodsky some other big ideas. He recently established Boston Beer Tours, and right now he’s at work on a beer tour of Portsmouth, N.H., where Smuttynose and Portsmouth Brewery are based.<br /> <br /> Operators of beer tours throughout New England and eastern New York are pleased with the response they get to the packages they offer. The tourists of summer are a big part of the clientele, of course, but locals and others from the region keep the tour business active during the other 40 weeks of the year.<br /> <br /> Most tours focus on cities where a few or more brewers have taken root, but beer bus operators have variations on their regular routes and are more than willing to customize a tour for a specific group. All of them cater to businesses, bachelor and bachelorette parties, birthdays, you name it. Tania Dougherty, who runs The Little Beer Bus in New York’s Hudson River valley, recently customized a bachelor party tour that went like this: Skeet shooting in the morning at a private, high-end club; lunch and a beer tasting at the Gilded Otter brewpub in New Paltz; a tour of Keegan Ales in Kingston, then a drive to Connecticut to spend the rest of the day at Mohegan Sun casino.<br /> <br /> “It’s the perfect manly day out,” she said.<br /> <br /> In general, beer tours involve anywhere from a dozen to 20 passengers. There’s a bus driver and a beer guide, who must be knowledgeable about the city, the region, the breweries and beer itself.<br /> <br /> “The guides have to be active home brewers,” Brodsky said. “If they don’t know how beer is made, no matter how charismatic they might be, I won’t hire them.” <br /> <br /> Folks on the buses tend to be quiet at first, but after an hour or two they begin to make friends with one another, share contact info and talk and laugh.<br /> <br /> Beer tour operators have to be good at logistics. The brewers and restaurateurs on the tour need to know when the bus is arriving. After all, breweries and brewpubs are manufactories with intricate production schedules. A large group of beer lovers descending on the workplace has to understand that and demonstrate the proper respect. Tour operators have to be diplomats, as well.<br /> <br /> Both Boys and Girls Like Beer Tours <br /> <br /> <br /> Who goes on beer tours? It turns out that the customers fall generally between ages 26 and 45, according to the tour operators.As a rule they don’t see college-age people, and that’s fine with them, and probably with the other customers, too.<br /> <br /> Do women enjoy beer tours? Indeed they do. The gender mix is 50-50, and perhaps even higher on the female side in Maine.Mark Stevens of Maine Beer Tours, based in Portland, said women tourists outnumber men 60-40.<br /> <br /> “I never knew how many chicks drank beer until I did The Little Beer Bus,” said Tania Dougherty. “They love their beer.” Overall, she added, women prefer a beer and wine combo tour, whereas men like three breweries “and a manly steak dinner.” <br /> <br /> Vermont <br /> <br /> In Vermont, Burlington Beer Tours has a few different tours to offer. The Classic Burlington tour visits Switchback Brewing, Magic Hat and Fiddlehead Brewing as well as the Vermont Pub & Brewery. The Stowe tour features Rock Art, Trapp Brewery, The Alchemist and Pickwick’s Pub. The company also runs a German Brew Tour, featuring German and Austrian food and visits to breweries that make beer in the German styles.<br /> <br /> Boston <br /> <br /> Chad Brodsky is excited about the launch of the Boston Brew Tour, which by late February had already run several trips.On the tour are Samuel Adams, Harpoon, Cambridge, Night Shift and dining at Mead Hall. Brodsky has moved his 12-passenger bus to Boston and has acquired a 20-passenger vehicle for the Burlington tours. The tours in Burlington are $70 per passenger and $85 in Boston.<br /> <br /> Wicked Good Brew Tours runs a Boston tour. Owner Bryan Ames said, “It’s about 4 and half hours, running from Green Dragon to Boston Beer Works, with stops at Sam Adams and Harpoon along the way.” Ames said his tour includes history, trivia and entertainment along the way, all for $60 per person.<br /> <br />
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Mystical Beer And Yeast
mystic brewery<br /> <br /> Or a company called “Mystic,” Chelsea’s only brewery has a pretty scientific bent. Its founder has a PhD, he cultivates his own yeast in a tiny on-site lab and brewing experiments abound.This three-barrel operation, which released its first beer in 2011, has already made a name for its mostly Belgian beers and is expanding into other styles, barrel-aging and experimental small batches.<br /> <br /> From Punk to Science to Beer <br /> <br /> Bryan Greenhagen founded Mystic Brewery after taking a long road through other interests.He put off grad school to play in a self-described “bad punk rock band,” failed out of film school and got a PhD in agriculture in Kentucky. After grad school, he helped start a company using yeast to naturally create flavors and fragrances that were usually chemically synthesized.He later moved to another company doing similar work with keratinoids \u2014 \u201cthe stuff that makes carrots orange,\u201d he explained.<br /> <br /> By the time he was in his mid-30s, the often-mobile nature of a science career was taking its toll on him.<br /> <br /> \u201cI wanted to stay in one place as opposed to having my project cancelled every five years,\u201d Greenhagen said.<br /> <br /> As an avid homebrewer who already Had experience wrangling yeast for a living, opening a brewery couldn’t have seemed like a creative stretch. He’s happy to have planted himself and his business in his family’s native New England.<br /> <br /> “I even like that it’s freezing cold right now,” he admitted in the middle of February.<br /> <br /> Massachusetts Pride <br /> <br /> The freezing cold brewery location in question is Chelsea, Mass., a small but densely populated city that was part of Boston until 1739. Chelsea is separated from modern-day Boston by the Mystic River, a name that might still ring bells for non-locals due to the 2003 movie of the same name.<br /> <br /> For the founder of Mystic Brewery, the significance of the Mystic name goes back another few hundred years. One of Bryan Greenhagen’s ancestors was Michael Wigglesworth, who made his name in the 1600s with a bestselling book-length poem about the day of judgment, The Day of Doom. Though he was a Puritan, he had no problem with beer, and Mystic’s house yeast is named Wigglesworth in his honor.<br /> <br /> Perhaps it was obvious this brewery would locate somewhere in the Boston area, but Chelsea? The town may not be synonymous with beer, but it makes a lot of sense as a location for Mystic.<br /> <br /> “There are big warehouses here, yet we’re 900 feet from Boston proper,” Greenhagen said. “Distribution is really great and convenient.” <br /> <br /> Meanwhile, Idle Hands and Night Shift, other small breweries, are just a mile and a half away in Everett. With so many breweries near each other, “It’s becoming the thing to do to go brewery hopping,” Greenhagen said. “I’m getting calls about bus tours all the time.”<br /> <br /> Making the Beer <br /> <br /> In a twist on the contract/gypsy brewing model, Mystic makes most of its beer elsewhere but ferments it on-site. Mystic rents a brewhouse for the day, the lead brewer drives a 24-foot truck there and they make wort.<br /> <br /> “When we drive back here, we have no beer,” Greenhagen explained, but then they pitch yeast into the wort at the facilities in Chelsea and ferment it there.<br /> <br /> Sticklers may refer to Mystic as a “fermentorium” rather than a brewery, but whatever you call it, it’s working. Greenhagen nonchalantly explained that the only problem he’s had with this system so far was that the truck caught fire once due to a brake malfunction.<br /> <br /> “It wasn’t a big deal,” he said.<br /> <br /> The Mystic brews most likely found year-round are the spicy Mystic Saison and the more pilsner-esque Saison Renaud.Beyond that, there are no promises, as the brewery goes where its muse takes it.There might be a saison aged in bourbon or Sauvignon Blanc barrels or Descendant, a dark ale made with molasses. Depending on the season, maybe the current release is Three Cranes cranberry beer or Entropy, a strong ale fermented with four different yeast strains.<br /> <br /> Greenhagen seems particularly proud of Old Powderhouse Wheat Wine, brewed with red wheat from Northfield, Mass., and malted by Valley Malt in Hadley, Mass., the first malthouse to open east of the Mississippi in recent memory.<br /> <br /> Mystic isn’t just about Belgian and strong ales. British-born part-owner and employee Alastair Hewitt, an awardwinning homebrewer, has turned Mystic’s attention to a different part of Europe.Hewitt essentially runs a one-barrel nanobrewery under the Mystic banner, creating mostly lower-alcohol one-offs and small batches. His first three beers on the nano system were an oatmeal stout, an ESB and a mild ale. Greenhagen and Hewitt envision a monthly rotation of bottle-conditioned English- and Scottish-style ales that will only be available locally. Belgian ales are challenging, Greenhagen said, but so are lower-gravity beers like these.<br /> <br /> “We just like to do things as difficult-ly as possible,” he said.<br /> <br /> BYO Yeast Strains <br /> <br /> As any homebrewer knows, the easiest way to get beer yeast is to buy some from Wyeast or White Labs. An off-the-shelf approach is also the easiest way to get commercial yeast — but Greenhagen is choosing the difficult route again and developing unique strains for Mystic, including some gathered locally.<br /> <br /> One way to tinker with beer yeast is to use existing strains and culture them in-house. Mystic has a small lab, which Greenhagen describes as “rudimentary,” to accomplish this. Some of these experiments work well, adapt to the brewhouse environment and become house strains like the Belgian-style staples Wigglesworth and Renaud.<br /> <br /> Another way to get unique yeast is to gather it from the local area. Mystic’s Vinland series uses a strain, Winnisimmet, originally gathered from a Massachusettsgrown plum. True to its origins, the first beer Mystic released with this strain had a detectable fruity plum flavor despite containing no plums or plum juice. How are people reacting to something that tastes like no other beer?<br /> <br /> “People like it, actually,” Greenhagen said, “but it’s way out there flavor-wise. It’s very, very different.” <br /> <br /> There’s more to successfully using native yeast than opening the window and seeing what floats in. While it’s possible to ferment beer using wild yeast in its undoctored form, Greenhagen said, “I’ve never heard of one that was delicious.” Instead, he does “light microbiology” on starter cultures to make a bunch of small beer batches, most of which aren’t tasty either. A yeast scientist has to hunt for a strain that both tastes good and can be made stable.<br /> <br /> Greenhagen has also gathered yeast from blueberries in Maine and is currently developing cultures from his grandparents’ farm in Vermont. Eventually, he would like to cultivate a strain from every state in New England, and maybe even all 50 states.Someday he’d also like to be able to share his yeast outside the brewery.<br /> <br /> Looking Forward <br /> <br /> Right now, Mystic largely self-distributes its beer to Massachusetts and Vermont, and it is available mostly at beer bars and bottle shops. With local and farm-to-table spots currently burning up the dining scene, “every restaurant that opens seems to call us and ask for beer,” Greenhagen said. Getting into every neighborhood bar on every corner is not a priority, but there are plans to enter the Maine market and perhaps spread to specialty beer establishments around the country. Greenhagen is also looking forward to expanding Mystic’s selection of sour beers, ultimately getting the program big enough to ship sour beers outside the local area.<br /> <br /> Mystic would also like to expand its barrel program if it can keep finding barrels worth aging beer in.New England wineries don’t tend to use barrels, so Mystic has mostly ordered them from wineries in California, recently sharing a shipment with Allagash Brewing of Maine and Hill Farmstead Brewery of Vermont.Despite the lack of hometown wine barrels, the concept of barrel-aged beer needs no introduction for local beer nerds.<br /> <br /> “If you put ‘barrel-aged’ on anything, it disappears,” Greenhagen said.<br /> <br /> Visiting Mystic<br /> <br /> Mystic Brewery is located at 174 Williams Street in Chelsea, Mass. The tasting room is open Fridays 3-7 p.m. and Saturdays noon-4 p.m. for two-ounce samples and growler fills. Tours are available at 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Tours include a Mystic goblet, a tour of the premises, a guided tasting of beers on tap and a charity contribution.Mystic can be reached with the #111 bus from the Haymarket T station.
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