Yankee Brew News February/March 2016 : Page 1
By Paul Zocco By Larry Brown L-R: Proclamation owner/brewer Dave Witham and brewer Cheyne Tessier. PHOTO BY LARRY BROWN “If I’m going to do small quantity, I’d like it to be interesting and high quality.” So said Proclamation Ales president and brewmaster Dave Witham to Yankee Brew News just over two years ago while getting ready to launch his brewery and speaking of his then nanobrewery size. Most would agree Witham has accomplished his goal. How many breweries have had Allagash brewmaster Jason Perkins seek out their table at a fest, because he was hearing a lot of buzz about its beers from other attend-ees? Or get invited to Beer Advocate’s Extreme Beer Fest within the first year of opening? See Proclamation p. 5 I ILLUSTRATION BY HANS GRANHEIM f one peruses the average beer list in a restaurant, brewpub or brewery these days, they would see the resemblance of a virtual map of the world. The export beer world, that is, sort of like a wine list in a good restaurant. There would be beers of English, Irish, German and Scottish, etc. origin among the house brews. Not to dismiss the fact that these are all pro-found beers in their own right, the diversity of beer styles brewed in Belgium may stand as the descriptive definition of what a “craft beer” might be. The word “craft” rings of American special beers. It seems that any-thing made in a facility smaller than a mega brewery is called a “craft beer” these days. Let’s call them indigenous styles, instead. Historically, the style of beer made in a par-ticular region or country, notably Belgium, reflects the use of local ingredients and brewing methods. As in most “craft beers,” the skills and passions of the brewer show themselves. Typical, Belgian styles include lambics and Flemish red ales, saisons, Trappist and abbey ales, witbiers, brunes, See Belgian p. 3 INSIDE Events Calendar....... 2 The Alehouse ........... 8 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 T PHOTO BY LARRY BROWN Matt and Kara Richardson, Tilted Barn owners. By Larry Brown here’s something about visiting Tilted Barn Brewery that sets it apart from other Rhode Island breweries. Maybe it’s the green open fields and neighboring farms as you approach or perhaps it’s navigating the nearly half-mile (seemingly-never-ending-and-not-quite-two-car-wide) bumpy dirt-paved driveway or being greeted by Tupelo and Summit, the tail-wagging farm dogs, when you arrive. Tilted Barn is Rhode Island’s first and only farm brewery, See Tilted Barn p. 6
Belgian-Style Ales In New England
If one peruses the average beer list in a restaurant, brewpub or brewery these days, they would see the resemblance of a virtual map of the world. The export beer world, that is, sort of like a wine list in a good restaurant. There would be beers of English, Irish, German and Scottish, etc. origin among the house brews. Not to dismiss the fact that these are all profound beers in their own right, the diversity of beer styles brewed in Belgium may stand as the descriptive definition of what a “craft beer” might be. The word “craft” rings of American special beers. It seems that anything made in a facility smaller than a mega brewery is called a “craft beer” these days. Let’s call them indigenous styles, instead. Historically, the style of beer made in a particular region or country, notably Belgium, reflects the use of local ingredients and brewing methods. As in most “craft beers,” the skills and passions of the brewer show themselves. Typical, Belgian styles include lambics and Flemish red ales, saisons, Trappist and abbey ales, witbiers, brunes, blondes and a fair share of lagers. There are as many specialty ales as there are breweries.
Your Neighborhood Watering Hole Probably Has a Belgian-Style Beer
A New Englander doesn’t have to venture far to find a fresh, locally brewed Belgianstyle ale. Though beer from the source is always the best, a trip to Belgium is not necessary. The majority of brewers in New England and New York produce some form of an interpretation of Belgian-style ale, and each brewer puts a bit of him or herself into these creations. Individuality is a key factor, as it is at its Belgian source. These are yeast-driven beers that are indicative of the region in which they are brewed. Beer “terroir” is what we call it. Luckily, American brewers have access to the specific yeast strains and ingredients necessary to brew these beers. Though the style parameters of these beers are specific and straightforward, the Belgian-style beers produced in the U.S. sometimes show a bit of “Americanizing.” American, and especially some New England brewers, have introduced almost a new style of beer. Though a specific yeast character is most important in these beers, variations in malt and hop choices are also defining factors. Every example is singular in its own way.
A New England Yankee Slant on a Belgian Standard
Each Yankee Brew News state columnist has chosen a particular brewery from his or her state or region that they consider epitomizes and brews classic Belgian-style ales. Though some examples do indeed resemble the beers of Belgium, they are “Belgianstyle” and not merely clones of the original. Subtle and sometimes not so subtle variations on the specific theme occur that may define a new Belgo/American version. Consider the Belgian IPA style. This may simply be a traditional IPA that the brewer has chosen to pitch with a funky Belgian yeast. It’s a brewers choice. Each beer’s individuality reflects the brewer’s skills, passions and especially the brewery he or she represents. Our New England brewers have been quite successful in doing just that.
Martha’s Exchange Brewery in Nashua, N. H., opened its doors in 1993. Head Brewer Kevin Ouellette has been the man behind the beer since 2001.
“I’ve dabbled in brewing in most areas of the Belgian realm and usually have at least one Belgian-style or Belgian-inspired beer on tap at any given time,” Kevin said. “We tend to use Belgian yeasts as inspiration and a landscape to paint a recipe upon, and we enjoy blending different strains to see if we can get interesting characteristics. We love everything about the world of flavors that Belgian beers can bring, so it’s a not a question of why we brew Belgian beers, but rather how could we not?”
Christian Amport is a past homebrewer and present owner/brewer of East Haven’s Over shores Brewing, which opened in 2014. Amport has chosen to brew strictly Belgianstyle beers.
“To us, Belgian-style beer is about showcasing and playing with yeast flavors,” Amport said. “Craft beer established itself in America in the 80s and 90s by reintroducing beer drinkers to malt flavors. That blossomed in the last 10 years, and people are now discovering new hop flavors. I think the next step is beer lovers rediscovering yeast flavors, and that’s where Overshores is pushing the envelope. We love malt and hops, but we’re yeast guys.”
The Benedictine monks of Spencer’s St. Joseph Abbey have been producing fruit jellies and jams since 1950. A year or so ago, the Abbey was accepted into an exclusive group known as the Trappist brewers, and St. Joseph Abbey is the only American Trappist brewery. There are ten others located in Belgium, Austria, Italy and the Netherlands. These not-for-profit brew-eries are operated by a distinct group of Benedictine monks who actually brew the beer or have complete control over its production. By the generosity of this Cistercian order of monks, all profits from the production of beer must be used for the benefit of the local community. Spencer currently brews two Trappist ales: Spencer Trappist Ale (6.5% ABV) and a recently released Trappist Holiday Ale (9.0% ABV).
Allagash Brewing in Portland, Maine, was established in 1995 by Rob Todd. Veteran Head Brewer Jason Perkins has been producing various styles of Belgian ales at Allagash ranging from Belgian specialty to classic Trappist ales. Though Allagash has brewed traditional Belgian strong ales for years, one of the first purpose-built lambic breweries in America was added at a later date at Allagash, and the brewery currently produces classic lambic-style beers. Many of the beers brewed at Allagash are definitive examples of the Belgian style and have won national acclaim with multiple wins at the Great American Beer Festival.
“We’ve been brewing exclusively Belgian-style beers here at Allagash since we opened over 20 years ago,” Perkins said. “We’ve always loved the unique flavors and aromas that come from the Belgian tradition. Non-traditional ingredients and techniques are encouraged, which fits well with the innovative approaches to brewing that we’ve always exhibited.”
Proclamation Brewing of West Kingston sold its first drop of beer on February 6, 2014.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve brewed many Belgian styles,” said owner and brewer Dave Wilham, “but maybe I took some inspiration from the way they do things. That being said, most of the Belgian beers I’ve taken inspiration from are on the wild non-Saccharomyces side, whether it be Brettanomyces-finished or sour/lambic/ saison-style beers aged in oak barrels. We’ve worked with both lab-grade cultures of alternate yeast as well as isolated wild yeast taken from various fruit sources.”
Currently, Proclamation has a small barrel cellar with about 32 oak barrels and will take delivery of a 15-barrel foeder (a large wooden vat) this December.
Hermit Thrush Brewery opened up a year ago in the hilly town of Brattleboro. Past home brewers Christophe Gagne and Avery Schwenk have chosen Belgian-style, especially sour and funky types, as their flagship styles.
“Not only are sour and Belgian-inspired ales our favorite beers to drink,” Gagne said, “we at Hermit Thrush Brewery believe the style highlights our green methods. Belgian traditions such as wild fermentations and the use of oak barrels taste uniquely delicious, and our use of wood pellet steam to fire the brew house adds modern innovation. Not everything in our process follows tradition. Hermit Thrush Brewery is dedicated to utilizing as many local ingredients and flavors as possible including apples, grains and hops from within an hour’s drive.”
Brewery Ommegang is a purpose-built farmhouse structure located on 136 acres in the beautiful countryside of Milford, a few miles from Cooperstown. The brewery was founded in 1997 by Belgian beer importers Don Feinberg and Wendy Littlefield. It’s now owned by the Belgian company, Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat, the makers of world famous Duvel Ale. Ommegang currently brews six year-round beers that are brewed in the Belgian style: Hennepin, Witte, Abbey, Rare Vos, Three Philosophers and BPA (Belgian Pale Ale) hopped with American Cascade hops. The brewery also brews several special release and seasonal beers.
Ommegang conducts a popular beer event each summer called Belgium Comes to Cooperstown at which an astounding array of Belgian ales from near and afar are served.
Read the full article at http://ybnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Belgian-Style+Ales+In+New+England/2391611/289957/article.html.
Marching To His Own Beat
“If I’m going to do small quantity, I’d like it to be interesting and high quality.”
So said Proclamation Ales president and brewmaster Dave Witham to Yankee Brew News just over two years ago while getting ready to launch his brewery and speaking of his then nanobrewery size. Most would agree Witham has accomplished his goal.
How many breweries have had Allagash brewmaster Jason Perkins seek out their table at a fest, because he was hearing a lot of buzz about its beers from other attendees? Or get invited to Beer Advocate’s Extreme Beer Fest within the first year of opening?
Back Where He Started
Witham has an extensive and impressive background as a musician, attending sound engineering school and teaching music prior to becoming a brewer. His CD under the band name Tangents is well worth seeking out. The cover art should be familiar to anyone who has seen a Proclamation bottle, as it was designed by Witham’s wife, Lori, who also tastefully renders all the Proclamation labels.
Witham grew up in South Kingstown, and although he left to live in Maine and Arizona for a while, he’s found himself back where he began.
“I somehow opened a brewery five miles from where I grew up,” joked Witham.
All brewers share homebrewer beginnings, and Witham is no different.
“I received a homebrew kit as a wedding present, brewed a couple of times, and put it away,” said Witham. “After a while, I decided to restart, and I built a full all-grain setup. I can’t do anything as a part-time hobby, I have to go in full-bore.”
Witham chalked up his decision to go pro to a combination of luck and “my stupidity.”
“Because of my naivety, I entered the first full-grain recipe I ever designed into a competition in Chicago, and took first place in my category. I thought, ‘I obviously know what I’m doing, I should open a brewery, because that’s the next logical step after taking first place in a homebrew competition.’ So basically it’s because I’m lucky and I’m stupid!” Witham laughed.
Through what has turned out to be one of life’s happy circumstances, Witham found himself reviewing his career options while beginning a stage as a stayat- home dad with then recently- born daughter, Harper. After assessing child-care costs versus his musical earnings and factoring in the flexible schedule running a brewery would offer, Witham decided to give his brewing passion a go. Music’s loss became beer lovers’ gain.
The Brewery and the Beers
Proclamation opened for business in January 2014 in a 1650-squarefoot space located in a large warehouse in West Kingstown. Witham’s first beer was a “one-anda- half time” IPA called Tendril that immediately served notice there was a new and impressive brewer in town. The Dutch imperial stout Zzzlumber followed soon after.
Witham has seemingly never stood still since, and he must dream up recipes in his sleep, because he’s introduced new beers at an astounding pace. Approaching the two-year anniversary mark, Witham has brewed over 30 different beers, albeit with some subtle variations on previously released beers. More remarkably, quality has matched quantity: Proclamation claims three (Derivative, Harper I – Apricot and Tendril) of the top five Rhode Island beers slots on Beer Advocate. Witham has settled into a brewing strategy.
“Derivative will cycle in and out with Mosaic, Citra and Galaxy hop variations,” he said. “I’ll always try to have at least one of those on tap in the tasting room.”
After a long absence, Tendril has returned and will rotate with the double IPA The Stalk on roughly a bi-monthly or semiseasonal basis. Oatmeal milk stout Broze will be the fall and winter seasonal beer, while a to-be-determined saison will carry the spring and summer months. Zzzlumber will continue to be mixed in, and barrelaged/ sour beers are always being worked on: “Those will pop out when they’re ready,” Witham said.
Including Witham, Proclamation currently operates as a staff of five. Cheyne Tessier was recently hired as brewer, a role he previously filled at Cape Cod Beer. Tom Perreira serves as tasting room manager, and Josh Karten, who is also a part owner, handles finances and administrative duties. Nick Sollecito does occasional tasting room and/or cellar work.
Witham has spent the past year expanding the brewery and then expanding again. Proclamation began as a three-barrel nano brewery with four three-barrel fermenters and four oak barrels. Today, the brewery has grown to a seven-barrel brewhouse with two seven-barrel, three 15-barrel and one 20-barrel fermenters. Thirty oak barrels are stacked up against the brewery walls: “I think that’s around 2,000 gallons of oak barrel capacity,” Witham calculated.
For Christmas, Santa delivered a 15-barrel oak foeder (a wooden vat) for aging specialty beers. All together, capacity has more than tripled.
“I’m shooting for close to 2,000 barrels of beer in 2016,” Witham said, “up from 600 barrels in 2015.”
This is great news for Rhode Island beer lovers, because it means there may finally be enough Proclamation beer to meet the demand.
Witham made one more statement in that initial Yankee Brew News interview when he revealed Proclamation’s motto: “Big Beers from a Small State.”
Once again, mission accomplished.
Proclamation Ale Company
141 Fairgrounds Road
West Kingston, R.I., 02892
Read the full article at http://ybnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Marching+To+His+Own+Beat/2391621/289957/article.html.
A Family Affair At
There’s something about visiting Tilted Barn Brewery that sets it apart from other Rhode Island breweries. Maybe it’s the green open fields and neighboring farms as you approach or perhaps it’s navigating the nearly half-mile (seemingly never- ending-and-not-quite-two-car-wide) bumpy dirt-paved driveway or being greeted by Tupelo and Summit, the tail-wagging farm dogs, when you arrive. Tilted Barn is Rhode Island’s first and only farm brewery, and visiting there is as much about the experience as it is the beer. That’s exactly how owners Matt and Kara Richardson planned it. It’s right there on their website: “Walk through the fields to see, touch and smell the ingredients that go into your beer and relax in our century-old barn while enjoying the fruits of our labor.”
The brewery itself is located in, yes, a tilted barn on the couple’s farm, one that’s been in Kara’s family for over 50 years. There were multiple hurdles to clear before being able to brew and sell beer, starting with infrastructure changes to the barn itself and working with the town of Exeter to create a Farm Brewery ordinance before finally swinging those barn doors open to the public in November 2014.
The Word Is Out
And while Rhode Islanders might have liked to have kept Tilted Barn and its beers a bit of a secret for a while longer, that — pardon the pun — horse has left the barn. Social media and word-of-mouth have helped spread the news. Winning two medals at the Great International Beer and Cider Competition (GIBC) in Providence this past October, including a coveted gold in the Double IPA category for The Chosen One, generated more publicity. At the brewery’s recent “first annual celebration,” Richardson had to start turning people away, because the grounds simply couldn’t accommodate any more cars or people. All within a half hour of opening. Word is out indeed.
Grow Your Own
Richardson got his start brewing at a brew-on-premises site in Warwick called Brewer’s Heaven, and his interest really took off after receiving a home brew kit gift from Kara in 2005. He’s primarily selftaught, helped along a bit by his science background. A bit of a do-it-your selfer, Richardson and Kara’s brother, Joel, responded to the hop shortage of 2008 by planting their own hops. Soon they had over an acre of hops: “Way more than we needed for home brewing,” laughed Richardson, and they began selling them under the Ocean State Hops moniker. From there, the leap to starting his own brewery seemed a natural course of events.
A Walk to Work
Having a brewery on your family farm and opening your yard and home to the public is a bit different than brewing in a traditional factory space. While the brewing process itself is the same, the similarities end there.
“Most breweries morning ‘chores’ start with heating water, mashing in, etc.,” said Richardson. “Here we start with picking hops or feeding chickens. It definitely has its advantages and disadvantages. Brewing on the property lets me take breaks and go inside so I don’t miss dinner or putting the kids to bed. And I’d bet that my commute is the shortest of any brewer in the country. On the flip side though, we have hundreds of people roaming around our yard every week, and we get way too many knocks on the door on days we’re closed from people asking for growler fills. We take the good with the bad though. I wouldn’t have it any other way. There’s something about brewing beer deep in the woods in a hundred-plus year- old barn.”
Yes Farms Yes Beers
With roots as a hop farm, Tilted Barn has an obvious focus on hop-forward beers. In addition to The Chosen One, Richardson rotates in pale ales and IPAs such as First Harvest, Peeptoad, Early Riser, Half Mile IPA (named after that driveway!) And his Oast series. Other farm products have found their way into beers: Jack using roasted pumpkin, and maple sap and spruce tips have been incorporated into other beers. Raffi, an oatmeal stout brewed with locally roasted coffee, also took home a medal at that GIBC competition.
Family and Friends
Running the brewery is a family affair. Matt is in charge of brewery operations, while Kara handles “pretty much everything else including all the merchandise, running the tasting room, the website and making sure we’re all fed and kept in line.” Matt’s dad is the resident greeter and parking lot guru, Matt’s sister, Amanda, and Kara’s friend, Erin, work the tasting room bar. Family friend Zac helps with bottle and growler fills.
Meeting The Demand
Richardson cites not being able to keep up with the beer demand as the biggest ongoing challenge, making an in-the-works expansion welcome news. The existing two-barrel system will be replaced with a seven-barrel one by spring, and renovations are underway in the tasting area, but the expansion is being handled prudently.
“We made the choice early on that we want to grow at a manageable pace and to do it ourselves, without outside investors,” Richardson said. “It’s not an easy route, because it takes us a little longer to grow as a business and be able to put more beer out there, but at the same time we only have to answer to ourselves and don’t have the burden of a lot of debt hanging over us. It’s tough right now, but a few years down the road I’m sure we’ll be happy that we went this route.”
Once completed, Richardson hopes to expand current retail hours, begin offering large format bottles and potentially get on tap at a few places as well.
“The reception to our beers and brewery in general has been amazing,” Richardson said. “We’ve been pretty humbled. I think the crowd on our first anniversary celebration is a testament to that. We’re excited to see where this all goes.”
Matt and Kara have one more planned expansion: the couple are expecting their third child this spring — “That’s going to make things interesting for sure,” laughed Richardson.
Tilted Barn Brewery
1 One Hemsley Place
Exeter, R.I. 02822
Read the full article at http://ybnonline.brewingnews.com/article/A+Family+Affair+At/2391631/289957/article.html.