Yankee Brew News August/September 2014 : Page 1
L-R: Foolproof Headbrewer Damase Olsson and President Nick Garrison PHOTO BY LARRY BROWN, By Larry Brown F ILLUSTRATIONS BY HANS GRANHEIM Jaime Schier, Quality Control Manager and Resident Barbecue Guru at Harpoon Brewery, put it best: “You don’t see people standing around a barbecue pit with glasses of chardon-nay.” Barbecue and beer share festivals, space on the table and a culture that is based on tak-ing time to produce and enjoy delicious food and drink. In talking to brewers, chefs and barbecue champions, Yankee Brew News found that the link between barbecue and beer goes beyond what many people think about when they sit down for ribs and a beer at their local barbecue joints. or a brewery only in existence for a year and a half, Foolproof Brewing in Pawtucket, R.I., has chalked up some impressive credentials: Foolproof scored three medals at the 17th Annual Great International Beer and Cider Festival last October, beer gurus Charlie Papazian and Charles Finkel gave Raincloud porter a rave review in All About Beer magazine, firstwefeast.com spotlight-ed Foolproof as one of 25 national breweries to watch in 2013, and bostonmagazine.com recently recommended the brewery as one of the top 50 New England breweries to visit this summer. Such accolades early in a brewery’s existence might lead some to label it an “overnight success,” but the Foolproof story was one of four years of careful planning. Like most breweries, Foolproof’s origins begin with homebrewing. President and owner See Foolproof p.6 Competitive barbecue champion Steve Eastridge is a difficult man to schedule an interview with, unless the interview can be conducted while he’s at the grill or drinking one of “Barbecue and beer are sort of what my life has become” See Barbeque p.4 INSIDE Events Calendar....... 2 Beer Cooks .............. 8 Alehouse .................. 9 Tasting Panel ......... 10 Homebrew .............. 12 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 Foolproof participants in the Providence Craft Brew Races PHOTO COURTESY OF FOOLPROOF
The Delicious World Of Barbeque&Beer
Jaime Schier, Quality Control Manager and Resident Barbecue Guru at Harpoon Brewery, put it best: “You don’t see people standing around a barbecue pit with glasses of chardonnay.”
Barbecue and beer share festivals, space on the table and a culture that is based on taking time to produce and enjoy delicious food and drink. In talking to brewers, chefs and barbecue champions, Yankee Brew News found that the link between barbecue and beer goes beyond what many people think about when they sit down for ribs and a beer at their local barbecue joints.
“Barbecue and beer are sort of what my life has become”
Competitive barbecue champion Steve Eastridge is a difficult man to schedule an interview with, unless the interview can be conducted while he’s at the grill or drinking one of What he calls his “epic” beers from his expansive cellar. In response to a request to talk for this article, he emailed back a herculean schedule for the week that included beer and barbecue activities in three different states and concluded with, “I tell you this in case you want to join me at some point. Drinking epic beer integrates with everything previous.”
Barbecue came first, though. Growing up in Houston, Eastridge became well acquainted with Texas-style brisket. It wasn’t until he moved to Massachusetts for graduate school that he started to cook competitively, entering his first competition on a whim in 2008. Competitive barbecue quickly turned into something much more serious, and Eastridge now leads Meat@ Slims, a professional cooking team that competes and has won competitions across the U.S. including the prestigious Chef’s Choice at the 2012 Harpoon Championships of New England BBQ in Windsor, Vt.
A prolific beer trader, Eastridge enjoys drinking and cooking with beers from around the country — a recent pairing of his brisket with New Glarus’s Strawberry Rhubarb from Wisconsin was extraordinary. He also enjoys local beers, saying: “Nightshift’s Viva Habanera is a great beer to cook with. Because brisket can handle so much flavor, it will take on that flavor but absorb the heat from the peppers.”
In 2011, Eastridge took his love of barbecue to a new level by organizing the first Lexington Battle Green BBQ Festival in Lexington, Mass.
“If I find something that I’m excited about, I want to share it with other people,” Eastridge said.
While the first two years didn’t include beer, the third year featured offerings from Slumbrew, Clown Shoes, Blue Hills and Battle Road Brewing. The 2014 festival raised the bar with “epic kegs” from De Proefbrouwerij (Sour Barrel #1), Trillium (Fort Point Pale Ale) and De Struise Brouwers (Black Damnation II - Mocha Bomb). The festival has garnered acclaim from attendees and brewers alike.
“We just love this festival,” said Slumbrew’s Caitlin Jewell. “It’s such a great opportunity to showcase how our beers pair with different types of barbecue meats, preparations and sauces.”
BBQ & Beer from NYC to Maine
New York might seem like an unlikely home for great barbecue, but Chef Jonathan Van Sleet of MexiBBQ in Queens excels at blending traditional barbecue with Mexican food and craft beer. Van Sleet enjoys sourcing locally, including beer from Singlecut Beersmiths and Alphabet City Brewing, saying: “The craft beer scene has really taken off in New York City. There are a lot of small breweries that have been popping up around the city who make interesting beer with new flavor profiles that pair really well with barbecue.”
MexiBBQ uses beer in several of its dishes.
“With the rise of the craft beer movement, there are a lot more flavors in beer,” Van Sleet said. “Brewers are getting more creative with ingredients and constantly coming up with new flavor profiles. As a chef you want to contrast or match with these flavors, so it’s given me more to work with because I have to open up my bag of tricks more often.”
Three hundred fifty miles up the coast, Beale Street BBQ in Bath, Maine, has set the standard for what a beer and barbecue joint can be since they opened in May 1996. Featuring only Maine craft beer on its six traditional and one cask lines, owner and Chef Michael Quigg has formed close ties with Maine’s leading brewers.
“We’ve always worked with Maine brewers,” Quigg said. “We try to be a venue for local brewers. We did it because we felt that there were so many great Maine microbreweries, and we really wanted to commit ourselves to that.”
In the early days of the restaurant, Quigg worked with Sheepscot Valley Brewing to create Quintessential Barbecue Quencher, a malty Scottish-style session ale that eventually evolved into the top-selling Pemaquid Ale. Quigg also has an especially close relationship with Gritty McDuff’s’s, permanently dedicating the cask line to Gritty’s beer. Having a ready supply of cask beer, however, allows the chef to experiment with beer in a way that isn’t possible at other restaurants.
“We do a lot of beer batter with our cask beer,” Quigg said. “It tends to have more active yeast, so when we make batter it tends to be a little lighter because the yeast is alive.”
Slowing it Down
One recurring theme that was brought up by each of the barbecue experts interviewed for this story was how great it is to spend time with friends and family, standing around the pit drinking beer. Barbecue is a slow food, and great beer is the perfect compliment. Brooklyn Brewery’s Garrett Oliver put it in perspective, saying: “Slow food (like barbecue) is really about slowing your life down to enjoy it. When you watch barbecue champions, they’re settling in and to cook a hog for 12 hours, and while they’re doing it they’re going to have some beers and talk, they’re going to be sitting around, they’re going to laugh and play guitar. The food comes at the end, but it’s really about the process.”
Not Jesting About The Beer
For a brewery only in existence for a year and a half, Foolproof Brewing in Pawtucket, R.I., has chalked up some impressive credentials: Foolproof scored three medals at the 17th Annual Great International Beer and Cider Festival last October, beer gurus Charlie Papazian and Charles Finkel gave Raincloud porter a rave review in All About Beer magazine, firstwefeast.com spotlighted Foolproof as one of 25 national breweries to watch in 2013, and bostonmagazine.com recently recommended the brewery as one of the top 50 New England breweries to visit this summer. Such accolades early in a brewery’s existence might lead some to label it an “overnight success,” but the Foolproof story was one of four years of careful planning.
Like most breweries, Foolproof’s origins begin with homebrewing. President and owner nick Garrison received a kit as a gift back in 2007 “It’s funny to think two plastic buckets changed my life,” he said.
Garrison quickly found his hobby becoming an obsession as well as something for which he had a natural talent. A year later, he decided to brew all the beer for he and wife Sarah’s wedding.
“We got married on Cape Cod that summer,” Garrison said. “My wife and I were coming up from the beach and everyone was waiting for us, clapping and drinking my beer, which was a very special moment for me. People were asking ‘Where did you get this beer?’ They didn’t realize it was homebrewed, let alone that I had brewed it. It was interesting to hear people saying ‘this is great, you should think about doing this.’ I hadn’t really thought of that. My wife and I then went on our honeymoon to Quebec City, and we were enjoying a beer at a small brewpub and my wife turned to me and said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to own a place like this?’ It was that exact moment in time I knew I was going to open a brewery. So I blame her!”
It would be years before that thought became a reality. Garrison had a full-time job in communications in the aerospace industry. Nights were spent planning Foolproof.
“It was this strange period, because I was essentially working two jobs,” Garrison recalled, “full-time days doing my ‘real’ job and then nights doing all this behind-the-scenes planning. I started researching, putting thoughts on paper, talking to friends who had connections in the beer industry and just trying to educate myself. I started dumping all this into a Word document, which evolved into a business plan. I bought books on brewing, raising capital and entrepreneurship, basically giving myself a self-taught MBA.”
Finally, the goal line came into sight.
“April 2012 was when I quit my job,” Garrison said. “I can’t tell you the anxiety. It came down to getting the bank on board and raising the amount of money we needed. That was the single hardest thing I’ve ever done, just finding a way to finance the brewery. It’s scary to think about it still. I’ve got more skin in the game than I actually have skin.”
An online ad brought in Head Brewer Damase Olsson. With over 20 years homebrewing experience under his belt, Olsson had quit his chemist job in 2006 to enroll in the combined World Brewing Academy and Doemens Academy program located in Chicago and outside of Munich, Germany.
“After that, I was volunteering at Nashoba Winery and Brewery under Ben Roesch, who’s now the head brewer at Wormtown,” Olsson said.
Olsson next joined Pennichuck Brewery in Milford, N.H., as assistant brewer, quickly assuming the role of head brewer. After Pennichuck closed, Olsson worked part-time at Wormtown under Roesch again for about a year and a half. In parallel, Garrison and Olsson were working at establishing Foolproof.
The City & The Space
Pawtucket and the brewery location were actually easy choices.
“It was a combination of factors that led us here,” Garrison said. “The most obvious is the building itself. “We walked in and knew it could be a great building. What was so appealing was it was empty, and we could shape the space the way we wanted to. One other huge advantage we have is that we are well positioned for growth. We can significantly expand our capacity by getting larger tanks as opposed to more real estate.”
Garrison also said that Pawtucket has been friendly to work with.
“I met with Mayor Grebien when we were in the planning stages,” Garrison said, “and said to him.
‘Behind every great town there’s a great brewery. We want to be that brewery for Pawtucket.’ I think the city was equally excited about that prospect.”
“And then there’s the water,” Garrison continued. “Pawtucket has invested tens of millions of dollars in its water system. We have one of the most advanced water treatment facilities in the U. S. Water is ninety percent of beer, so if you like the beer you’re drinking, it starts with the water.”
Finally, there’s an intangible element to Pawtucket that feels right: “There’s just something about the personality of this town that makes it a great fit for our brand,” Garrison emphasized. “Locals come in here every weekend and they see a growing manufacturing enterprise and embrace that. It’s awesome to be part of that culture. It seems like a town that was just waiting for a great brewery.”
Foolproof owns just under 5,000 square feet in its business condominium complex and opened with four 30-barrel fermenters and one 30-barrel brite tank. Expansion in March brought in two 60-barrel fermenters and an additional 60-barrel brite tank.
“We can do about 4,500 barrels a year with the current setup,” Garrison explained, adding, “If things keep growing, we hope to expand again within a year.”
One unusual approach Foolproof uses is a direct-fire kettle (as opposed to steam), a deliberate decision made by Olsson.
“Direct fire was a method I was very much familiar with,” Garrison said. “Steam requires a boiler and space for the boiler. With things being as tight as they are, that was space I didn’t want to give up. Plus, I like the caramelization we get from the direct-fire. It helps balance out the beers.
So why Foolproof?
“To break down what the name is all about, we have this Jester icon,” Garrison said. “He represents having a good time, having fun and maybe even being a little mischievous. That’s why people drink beer, because it’s fun. It brings families and friends together to have a good time. That’s also the kind of culture I wanted to establish here. We work hard together, we have stressful days but we’re buddies. We’re united by a passion, so that ‘having fun’ is a core value. The Jester is a ‘fool,’ the ‘proof’ is the alcohol. Put it together and you have Foolproof.”
The Launch & Growth
Foolproof brewed its first batch of beer on December 7, 2012, and launched draft-only in Rhode Island shortly after in 2013 with cans available in stores the following month.
“February is historically one of the worst months for beer sales and we had, I think, a very successful launch,” Garrison said.
So successful was that launch that Garrison had to speed up plans for expansion: “Our numbers jumped up to basically what we were hoping to do by October, so we saw the writing on the wall and jumped on some new tanks right away. That allowed us to keep up with demand in Rhode Island and also look immediately at other markets.”
Distribution to Massachusetts, originally contemplated for the end of the year, began in May, with Connecticut following in October.
Of course, all the enthusiasm or planning in the world won’t mean a thing if the beers aren’t up to the task. Foolproof currently makes four year-round and two specialty beers. Barstool is a golden ale Olsson described as “almost an ale version of a pilsner,” with Fuggles hops for the bittering and flavor, and Saaz hops “just to give it that classic Czech aroma”. Backyahd, an IPA (replete with authentic Rhode Island spelling) is brewed with two-row, wheat and carahells malts, featuring Nugget, Zythos and Cascade hops. Raincloud is an American porter using two-row as the base malt plus Special B, caramunich 60 “to give it a little sweetness” and then roasted barley and black patent for the dark color.
La Ferme Urbaine, introduced last summer as a seasonal farmhouse ale/saison, proved so popular, it has become another year-round beer: “For La Ferme Urbaine, I use pilsner, oat, wheat, spelt and rye malts,” Olsson said. “For hops I went with the straight Germanic hops of Tettnanger, Hallertau and Northern Brewer.” Two specialty beers round out the portfolio: Revery (10. 7% ABV), is a Russian imperial stout brewed with Maris Otter, crystal 40, carafa, and chocolate malts plus with flaked oats and roasted barley: “Instead of traditional English hops you might use in an imperial stout, I went with German hops, Northern Brewer, Tettnanger and Hallertau,” Olsson explained. “It makes it a little different.”
King Of The Yahd (9.5% ABV), an American double IPA, is brewed with Maris Otter, pilsner, rye and spelt malts, and features Columbus, Zythos, Citra and Amarillo for hops: “There’s 12 pounds each of Citra and Amarillo in a 30-barrel batch. In total, it’s got 60 pounds of hops in a 30-barrel batch, so it’s not the most cost effective beer,” Olsson laughed.
Foolproof currently has five full-time salaried employees. In addition to Garrison and Olsson, Steve Sharp handles Lead Brewer duties, Stefano DeAngelis is Massachusetts sales rep (plus occasional brewer duties) and Bill Dillon serves as packaging manager.
Reflecting on the past years’ accomplishments, Garrison pointed to the three medals won at the Great International Beer & Cider Competition last year, proudly displayed in the tasting room.
“My favorite thing about these awards is the fact they are ‘blind’ medals awarded by our peers in the industry,” Garrison said. “There was no marketing involved and nobody knew what beer they were tasting. That to me is the most legitimate accolade you can receive.”
He reflected on other moments of satisfaction: “When you open a brewery, your head can get so far buried in the sand you forget to look up,” Garrison said. “I’ll have friends come to visit who haven’t seen the brewery, and they see the tanks and everything, and say ‘Are you kidding me? I remember having your beer at the wedding!’ It’s easy to lose sight of that. It’s those moments where you kind of look up and realize how much this team has accomplished. You go into a bar and see your tap handle or you see your six packs on a liquor store shelf — those are affirmations that overall we’re doing the right things and putting out great beer.”
Read the full article at http://ybnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Not+Jesting+About+The+Beer/1783595/220958/article.html.