Yankee Brew News June/July 2013 : Page 1
By Paul Kowalski ILLUSTRATIONS BY HANS GRANHEIM Calling “gimmick beers” isn’t real-lling them “gim ly fair. air. ir. Brewers wor work hard on them and take pride their accomplishments. Yes, they de in th put raisins and nuts and candy and spices t raisin raisi in the beer. Choco Chocolate and coffee, too. And did so many shandies before? d you ever see s Good ood grief ! traditionalist says, The tradition “Brew beer with water, ew my be bee yeast, hops and barley malt, please! And nothing else!” At the end of a work day this person wants to be reminded of the classic greatness of good, whole-some, hoppy, grainy beer, not something that tastes like banana bread, pomegranate or sauvignon blanc. The traditionalist, there-fore, will not shop for these “different” beers, and perhaps will look down upon them. He might enjoy a kriek lambic, and she might appreciate a hefe-weizen, but that’s as far as it goes. Beer that is flavored beyond the four basic ingredients is enjoying a revival. Yes, revival. Granted, we have been consuming hopped beer for a thousand years, or 500, depending on where your people came from. But what came before hops? Surely no one could abide the cloying sweetness of barley wort. Traditionalists might scoff at the plethora of beers brewed today with such items as elderberry, watermelon or lobsters, See Gimmick p. 6 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 he draft-only brewery, based in Shelburne, Vt., takes its name from the fiddlehead fern, a seasonal, wild edible that is a traditional dish of northern New England and resembles the curled ornamentation on the end of a stringed instrument. Fiddlehead’s founder, Matt Cohen, chose that name because of its regional appeal and relevance, and because of the playful and fun shape of the furled fiddlehead frond. In an abridged, silver screen format, Cohen’s story is a wonderful, Dickensian climb from brewpub growler-washer to head brewer of a regional brewery-to-brewery owner. The Hollywood version might make a montage of the thousands of hours spent in a cold, damp environ-ment, but it would get the lovin’ every minute part of it right, and the good guy lives happily ever after part right — even the brewery dog part right. So perhaps life imitating art is not so bad, which is not surpris-ing considering the liquid art that Cohen produces 15 barrels at a time, and the abundance of artwork that is See Fiddlehead p. 4
Calling them “gimmick beers” isn’t really fair. Brewers work hard on them and take pride in their accomplishments. Yes, they put raisins and nuts and candy and spices in the beer. Chocolate and coffee, too. And did you ever see so many shandies before? Good grief !
The traditionalist says, “Brew my beer with water, yeast, hops and barley malt, please! And nothing else!” At the end of a work day this person wants to be reminded of the classic greatness of good, wholesome, hoppy, grainy beer, not something that tastes like banana bread, pomegranate or sauvignon blanc.
The traditionalist, therefore, will not shop for these “different” beers, and perhaps will look down upon them. He might enjoy a kriek lambic, and she might appreciate a hefeweizen, but that’s as far as it goes.
Beer that is flavored beyond the four basic ingredients is enjoying a revival. Yes, revival. Granted, we have been consuming hopped beer for a thousand years, or 500, depending on where your people came from. But what came before hops? Surely no one could abide the cloying sweetness of barley wort. Traditionalists might scoff at the plethora of beers brewed today with such items as elderberry, watermelon or lobsters, but the art of brewing with herbs, barks, berries and other additives is ancient.
The Forest Floor Gives Way to Hops
Here are a few things that brewers added to their beers in ages gone by: marigold, heather, ivy, dandelion, burdock root, horehound, mugwort, yarrow, bee balm, borage, henbane, hibiscus, bay leaf, bog myrtle, redwood twigs, sweet gale, wild rosemary, gentian, caraway, anise, sage, juniper berries, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon. The blend of several of these — they varied by village, by brewer — was called gruit.
In Europe and in colonies settled by Europeans, gruit was replaced by hops over a period of several hundred years, and so thoroughly was gruit removed that eventually the art and practice of adding other stuff to beer disappeared. (England has a fascinating history involving hopped and unhopped beer, known respectively as beer and ale. See the sidebar.)
Now we have a revival, a resurrection of some of the old ways and some daring jaunts down new paths. (Consider Rogue’s Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple Ale, the one in the pink bottle. “It tasted like dirty BBQ grill water,” wrote one visitor to BeerAdvocate. Rogue also introduced White Whale Ale last year. It was brewed with pages from Moby- Dick.) The aforementioned shandies — beer and lemonade — are coming in from all corners. The House of Shandy, spun forth from Boston Beer’s Alchemy and Science lab, made its debut last year and today has three styles, including one made with strawberries and one with honey and ginger.
Coconuts, Passion Fruit, Lobsters & More
Even brewers who consider themselves to be traditionalists appreciate the opportunity to try their hand at something different. In Portsmouth, N.H., Billy Smith is the brewmaster for the Craft Brew Alliance, makers of Redhook, Widmer and Kona beers. Smith acknowledged that Widmer and Redhook focus on brewing beers using the four ingredients, but some Kona products include extra ingredients from Hawaii: coconut in Koko Brown Nut Brown Ale, passion fruit in Wailua Ale and Kona coffee in Pipeline Porter.
“Brewing with ingredients beyond the basic four does have its place in the industry,” Smith observed. “It’s about experimentation and pushing the envelope. But the brewer has to keep the beer in mind, to put the base beer first and have that come through in the final product.
“I’m always gun shy when I go to taste a beer with a new product or fruit,” he added. “The ones I am exposed to in the Northeast tend to do a good job. Throughout my career I have been able to tell when a brewer is using flavor extracts as opposed to real ingredients. Overall, the practice has gotten better since the 1990s.” Smith recalls trying a blueberry beer back in the ’90s “that really just kind of struck me wrong. They were doing it to make money, not for the true artistic aspect.”
“In the 1990s, craft beer embraced many styles, created American versions, pushed the flavors, the alcohol content,” Smith said. “Now the techniques have been refined, and beers that offer something more, something unusual, can open doors to people who haven’t been beer drinkers.”
The way craft beer has gone is we have embraced styles in the ‘90s, creating American versions, pushing flavors and alcohol. Sour beers dominate now. They open doors to people who aren’t beer drinkers.
Billy Smith might be a traditionalist, but he’ll bend sometimes. Consider the recently released Redhook Black Lobster Lager. For the last 10 minutes of the boil they introduced 60 lobsters, fresh from the Atlantic waters off New Hampshire.
“There’s a faint … something there,” he said about the flavor. “Hard to say what it is, but it’s a certain something that the lobsters gave to the beer.” And what happened to the lobsters? “Oh, we ate them!”
Smuttynose Brewing, also in Portsmouth, dabbles in additional ingredients to a couple of its beers. Summer Ale has chamomile; Star Island Single is a Belgian style with coriander (nothing unusual about that); Pumpkin Ale has pumpkin purée, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
“We do tread in that territory, and it’s important to do that,” noted J.T. Thompson, the brewery’s Minister of Propaganda. “The head of our brew operations says that it’s the spirit in the way you do it. Overall, flavors are one of the biggest trends going. There is something to be said for that, and they are showing up in craft beers as well, but not to the same extent. The fastest growing craft beer segment is IPA, and certain things added to those could seem tremendously out of place; but with sour beers it seems appropriate.”
In some cases, Thompson said, “It’s about brewing beer for press releases. Others have a real mission. You have to ask: Why are you brewing the beer? In the case of Dogfish Head, which uses a lot of unusual ingredients, their slogan defines them: Off-Centered Ales for Off-Centered People.
Smuttynose has a short batch series, which makes use of “a fair amount of non-traditional ingredients,” according to Thompson. “The most recent is Bloom, a Belgian with eight varieties of edible flowers. We have a line where we can play around, but we always try to do it in a spirit of adding something good to that beer. We are not choosing something because it sounds cool.”
Another example: Satchmo, a small batch porter, used 30 pounds of dried black trumpet mushrooms. The brew was a collaboration with Evan Mallet, head chef and co-owner of the Black Trumpet Bistro, who is also a devoted mushroom forager. “It had sort of an umami character,” recalled Thompson. “It wasn’t outlandish, or gimmicky.”
Barrels & Randall
Barrel aging is a trend that is attracting growing attention. Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout, introduced this past winter, flew off the shelves. When Founders released its Kentucky Breakfast Stout earlier this year, the supply was so minuscule that retailers were selling single bottles one to a customer.
“Barrel aging is fascinating,” said Thompson. “A lot of people are doing it. I would ask how many are doing well. It’s not hard to put a big stout in a bourbon barrel.” He noted that Smuttynose once made 180 barrels of a beer, 30 barrels of which were aged in red wine casks. “The beer succeeded because the wine didn’t define the beer.”
The off-centered Dogfish Head always comes to mind when the topic of flavored beer comes up. It’s likely that that reputation was enhanced by a peculiar thing developed at the brewery called Randall the Enamel Animal. Randall started out as a device to reduce foaming during the filtration stage of the brewing process. It evolved into what the brewery calls an “organoliptic hop transducing module.” Owner Sam Calagione said, “It’s a sophisticated filter system that allows the user to run draft beer through a chamber of whole leaf hops, spices, herbs, fruit, etc., so that the alcohol in the beer strips the flavor from what ever you add and puts it in the beer. We first developed Randall back around 2002 to beat our West Coast brethren in a hop-centric beer showdown called The Lupulin Slam. We thought we’d just build that one and that would be the end of it, but right out of the gate fellow beer geeks and brewers asked us to build Randalls for them — so we did.”
Most brewers who use Randall probably put hops in it to satisfy the need for highly hopped beers in this country. But you can put anything into Randall: pears, raisins and honey, of course, as well as turnip peels, shallots and Gummi Bears.
The Contrarian Opinion
Some people truly do not like the idea of other stuff in beer. Not long ago blogger Jack Curtin weighed in with his strident opinion (jackcurtin.com):
“Let’s be clear. This is pure, 100 percent gimmickry, the sort of thing we scorn from the Big Blands. It’s neat to play with and all that, but it has squat to do with brewing beer. Indeed, it is intended to supplant and override the flavor and nature of a beer that has been brewed.
“It’s not just the Randall. Every other day of late, at least it seems that way, we are invited to yet another cask tapping in which coffee or whisky or some such has been added to change the beer. How did this become cool?
“Gimmicks are fine for a passing moment, for a brief moment of fun, but they suck in the long run. Changing the nature of the beer which comes out of the kettle in the manner of its serving is demeaning to the whole process of brewing. It is the antithesis of what craft brewing was supposed to be all about.
“Stop. Seriously, just stop.”
J. T. Thompson disagrees. “I don’t think it will be just a trend. Some of these beers will find places in the market. Extreme beers, for example: People are starting to drift away from them, but they’ll always be around. They have an initial flourish of popularity, then find their place in the spectrum. People will always want light refreshing beer, and big strong beer.
“Look at Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout from Wynkoop. You can do that only with beer.”
Read the full article at http://ybnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Gimmick+Beers/1421739/162133/article.html.
Fiddlehead In Bloom
The draft-only brewery, based in Shelburne, Vt., takes its name from the fiddlehead fern, a seasonal, wild edible that is a traditional dish of northern New England and resembles the curled ornamentation on the end of a stringed instrument. Fiddlehead’s founder, Matt Cohen, chose that name because of its regional appeal and relevance, and because of the playful and fun shape of the furled fiddlehead frond.
In an abridged, silver screen format, Cohen’s story is a wonderful, Dickensian climb from brewpub growler-washer to head brewer of a regional brewery-to-brewery owner. The Hollywood version might make a montage of the thousands of hours spent in a cold, damp environment, but it would get the lovin’ every minute part of it right, and the good guy lives happily ever after part right — even the brewery dog part right. So perhaps life imitating art is not so bad, which is not surprising considering the liquid art that Cohen produces 15 barrels at a time, and the abundance of artwork that is showcased in the brewery’s Tasting Room.
Known to his brewing friends as “Matty-O,” Cohen graduated from Ithaca College in 1996 and came to Vermont when his girlfriend, now wife, Amy, moved here to pursue advanced studies in psychology. His first brewery job was at The Shed Restaurant and Brewery in Stowe where he started at the very bottom: washing and filling growlers and performing other menial brewery tasks. A quick learner with an eye for detail, Cohen soon traded his entry-level job at The Shed for an entry-level job at Magic Hat Brewery in Burlington. That was 1998. Cohen’s brewing skills and creativity flourished in the environment that Magic Hat founder Alan Newman created for his employees, helping to propel Magic Hat to become Vermont’s largest craft brewery. Cohen’s proficiency in the brewhouse led to steady promotions until he eventually was named Head Brewer in 2005.
Every Brewer’s Dream
In the summer of 2010, North American Breweries (NAB), owners of such brands as Genesee, purchased Magic Hat. Cohen left soon after the NAB buyout because, as he put it: “It’s every brewer’s dream to start their own brewery.” It was time to make his own form of magic. Besides giving him the courage to leave his comfortable job and strike off on his own, his experience at Magic Hat shaped his first major decision: brewpub or shipping brewery.
“I believe we should go where our strengths are. I wanted to focus on beer and not on running a restaurant. Most restaurants fail.”
When Cohen was originally looking for a location for his brewery, he looked at Burlington first. That search eventually led him to John Koerner, who was at the time making plans to develop a property on Route 7 in Shelburne across the street from the Shelburne Vineyard. Koerner had plans to install a pizza restaurant there, and he was looking for a co-tenant for the building he would place on the site. The synergistic possibilities were immediately apparent to the two. Each could play to his own strengths, and each could benefit from its abutment with the other.
As plans began to take shape for Cohen, his thoughts turned to beer, as they often do, and he considered what his new brewery should brew.
“I felt there was a demand for a locally produced, well-crafted IPA in Vermont,” he said. “There are a lot of great sessionable beers made and sold in Vermont like Magic Hat #9, Long Trail Ale and Switchback Ale. These are bringing people to the market. I wanted to make a very sessionable IPA.”
By most accounts, he has succeeded in doing so.
Don’t Fiddle with the Recipe
Cohen designed Fiddlehead IPA (6.2% ABV, 53 IBUs) as a medium-bodied American IPA with an appealing golden hue and blend of three strains of hops. The beer has a distinctly citrus hop aroma and although bitterness prevails, malt characteristics do make their presence known before yielding to a dry finish.
“At 6.2%, it’s on the upper end of the session beer spectrum, and it’s aggressively hopped to give it a really nice hop aroma,” Cohen said.
Fiddlehead Brewing opened its doors on January 1, 2012, and Cohen and his small but growing team have been busy ever since. Developer John Koerner designed the building with Cohen’s needs (floor drains, high ceilings) in mind, as well as his own. Folino’s Pizza, which Koerner and his son operate, shares the same red-sided building that the brewery is in, and it opened shortly after the brewery. Without a liquor license of its own, the pizza place operates as a BYOB (bring your own bottle) or BYOF (bring your own Fiddlehead), as many customers do, purchasing a growler in the brewery’s Tasting Room and bringing it the few feet down the hall to enjoy with a fresh, hot flatbread pizza. In March, Fiddlehead sold 180 kegs worth of growlers, much of it enjoyed right next door.
Beer and Art
The Tasting Room at Fiddlehead Brewing has the assortment of garments and glassware one might expect to find at a brewery, but also displayed — and on sale — are numerous pieces of art by a selected local artist. Every two months the artwork is changed to showcase a different artist, marking the changeover with Artist Pint Nights. All the artwork is for sale.
“We want to support the local artists,” Cohen said. “For the artists, it’s been very successful. So far, we’ve sold about $3,000 worth of art.”
About a third of those sales were from recently featured artist Trevor Sullivan, whose repurposed windows are the canvas for his finely painted decorative work. Artworks by artist/designer Alena Botanica made their Fiddlehead debut with an Artist Pint Night on May 1.
Room to Grow
Cohen’s original business plan projected 500 barrels of beer produced in 2012, and the brewery sold four times that amount. The size of the staff has grown from one to seven employees, including hiring Rachel Cleveland who manages marketing and other non-brewing aspects of the business.
“The first year was just nuts for us, with actual sales quadrupling what was projected,” Rachel said. “As a result, we more than doubled the capacity in the back of the house, going from two 30-barrel fermenters and adding an additional 70 barrels of fermenting capacity.”
During that time, Rachel noted that the Tasting Room (the front of the house) quickly grew from being open one day a week to four days to its current schedule of offering free samples and growler fills seven days a week, Monday-Saturday from noon-9 p. m. and Sunday from noon-7 p.m.
Fiddlehead has about 3,000 square feet of space, but Cohen is comfortable, citing room to grow vertically if need be.
“We can buy larger fermenters, and have plenty of room to grow,” he said.
Cohen’s confident in the ability of his four-vessel, 15-barrel system to keep up with the brewing end of business. A shiny bottling line won’t be added anytime soon. The bulk and future of his business is selling draft beer in Vermont, according to Cohen.
“Another guiding vision is to keep our beers affordable to the consumer,” Cohen said. I’m willing to work on smaller margins to enable most craft beer consumers to afford our beer.”
Bucking the trend of rising prices in craft beer, Cohen strives to keep his prices down while still providing a quality product that his customers will want to drink.
“We focus on depth of flavor, freshness of ingredients and incorporate local products when possible,” Cleveland said.
While much of the production schedule is dedicated to producing the flagship IPA, Cohen cannot and does not tune out the creative notions that have fed his love of brewing since his homebrew days at Ithaca. In addition to Fiddlehead IPA, the Fiddlehead Tasting Room pours samples and growlers of two or three other seasonals or one-offs at any given time. Recent beers included Ryezome (4.7%, 10 IBUs), a spicy, tart dry-hopped rye wheat ale aggressively dryhopped with Citra hops; and Rover (8.0%), a French farmhouse style known as Bière de Mars, estery, unfiltered and fermented with a Belgian strain of yeast.
Matt Cohen’s success with Fiddlehead has not gone unnoticed by his former employer and mentor, Alan Newman, who himself has gone on to other projects with beer through Alchemy & Science, a fairly autonomous division of Boston Beer Co.
“Matt is one of the most creative brewers I know,” Newman said. “Every Fiddlehead beer that I’ve tried has been spot on.”
Sap Beer: A Vermont Tradition
Though young as an organization, Fiddlehead Brewing is already establishing traditions and observing old ones. In April 2012, Cohen and company celebrated an old Vermont tradition of brewing beer with the last run of maple sap to make Sap Beer, and this year on April 15 they did the same. They used 750 gallons of sap sourced from several different sugar makers and used that (instead of water) as the base of a brew. This last run of the season’s maple sap is barely 1% sugar when used. The Sap Beer will be tapped on June 22 at the Second Annual Frog Run Sap Beer Festival at the brewery. A partnership between Fiddlehead Brewing and The Vermont Folklife Center, this festival serves to remind people of Vermont’s cultural and historical heritage with food, music, displays and sap beer — Fiddlehead, folks and fun.
With a combination of good planning, good brewing and good fortune, Fiddlehead Brewing has blossomed and bloomed in its first 18 months. It’s healthy and growing. One cannot help but wonder what the brewery will look like at the ripe old age of two.
Read the full article at http://ybnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Fiddlehead+In+Bloom/1421741/162133/article.html.