Yankee Brew News April/May 2011 : Page 1
AT THE HEART OF BEER OVERALL. Heartland Brewer founder Jon Bloostein (L) and Brewmaster Kelly Taylor hoist two radically different beer vessels in New York City. P HOTOS COURTESY OF H EARTLAND B REWERY By Michael Anstendig ILLUSTRATIONS BY: HANS GRANHEIM By Jen Muehlbauer Beyond the ubiquitous six-pack, case and keg, there are plenty of other options for packaging good beer. Today, you can drink good beer that came to you in a can, a jug, a wooden cask or even a box. Yes, We Can! Beer in cans, obviously, is not a new idea. The beer can has been around in the U.S. since shortly after the end of Prohibition. However, somewhere along the line, beer cans became synony-mous with mass-produced light beers. There is some debate about what to consider the “ﬁ rst craft can,” but when Colorado brewery Oskar Blues put its ﬂ avorful Dale’s Pale Ale in a can in 2002, the beer can deﬁ nitely started to regain some respect. Today, more than 100 craft brewer-ies can more than 300 beers across the U.S. and Canada. Beer cans are basi-cally small kegs. Unlike their 1930s counterparts, today’s cans have a polymer lining that prevents the beer from ever touching aluminum, so there’s no need to taste metal as long the drinker pours the canned beer into a glass. Many brewers say the beer’s taste actually beneﬁ ts from See Vessels p. 6 n New York City, the motto seems to be bigger is better. The buildings are skyscrapers, cars morph into stretch limousines and humble sandwiches become Reubens the size of one’s head. In terms of craft beer brewing, nobody does more of it locally than Heartland I Brewery. Its seven locations, which together seat about 1,800 guests, serve 1.5 million frothy pints annually. That’s a lot of beer, all of it produced by brewmaster Kelly Taylor in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn. Perhaps because of its success, hard won since 1995, Heartland has come to be perceived by some as being corporate, staid and vaguely unhip. See Heartland p. 4 Event Calendar ....................................... 3 The Alehouse -Coat of Arms ................ 9 Tasting Panel ........................................ 10 Beer Cooks ........................................... 13 Homebrewing ........................................ 18 Guest Tap .............................................. 20 Maps & Directories ..........................22-27 Tasteless Panel ..................................... 46 INSIDE E Massachusetts .......................................14 Boston ........................................................16 W Massachusetts ......................................28 Maine ..........................................................30 New Hampshire .........................................32 Connecticut ................................................34 Vermont ......................................................36 Rhode Island ..............................................38 New York ....................................................40 New York City ............................................42 State by State News
Beyond the ubiquitous six-pack, case and keg, there are plenty of other options for packaging good beer. Today, you can drink good beer that came to you in a can, a jug, a wooden cask or even a box.
Yes, We Can!
Beer in cans, obviously, is not a new idea. The beer can has been around in the U.S. since shortly after the end of Prohibition.
However, somewhere along the line, beer cans became synonymous with mass-produced light beers. There is some debate about what to consider the “first craft can,” but when Colorado brewery Oskar Blues put its flavorful Dale’s Pale Ale in a can in 2002, the beer can definitely started to regain some respect. Today, more than 100 craft breweries can more than 300 beers across the U.S. and Canada.
Beer cans are basically small kegs. Unlike their 1930s counterparts, today’s cans have a polymer lining that prevents the beer from ever touching aluminum, so there’s no need to taste metal as long the drinker pours the canned beer into a glass. Many brewers say the beer’s taste actually benefits from canning, which protects the beer from light and thus that skunky “lightstruck” flavor. Less oxygen in the can means the beer also lasts longer than in a bottle.
Any brewer who cans will likely mention canning’s environmental benefits. It takes less energy to make and ship a can, Americans recycle 45 percent of them compared to 20 percent of bottles and the average can is made from 44 percent recycled aluminum.
Brewer Rob Leonard had this all figured out in 2004 when New England Brewing in Connecticut became the first New England brewery to can its beer. When Leonard bought New England Brewing, he built a new brewery that was originally going to be draught-only, because small-scale bottling is expensive. An email from brewing equipment company introduced him to the idea of canning. At first he thought, “No one’s going to get it,” he recalled. “But then I started thinking about it and it made nothing but sense.” Some consumers and retailers were confused at first, but they were also curious, and business soon doubled. Seven years later, New England Brewing only uses bottles for limited-release, bottle-conditioned specialty beers. Other than that, joked Leonard, “the only advantage of a bottle is if you’re in a bar fight.”
Butternuts Beer & Ale (Garrattsville,
N. Y.) canned its first brew in 2005 and currently cans four beers year-round at its brewery. Owner Chuck Williamson likes the lower packaging cost, which allows his small brewery to lower its price a bit and compete better on a store shelf, although needing to buy packaging material in large quantities does pose a storage problem. However, “changes over time have seen more consumers understanding the can,” Williamson said, “and with the increase in production, purchasing such huge volumes of cans is not as problematic.”
Brooklyn Brewery has also embraced cans. Brooklyn Lager is available in cans year-round in both 12-ounce and 16-ounce sizes, and Brooklyn Summer Ale is in 12-ounce cans. Brooklyn’s Dan D’Ippolito sang the praises of cans for all the same environmental and convenience reasons as other can enthusiasts, but did wish some people didn’t expect all canned beer to be cheap.
Luke Livingston was so taken by cans he decided his new brewery, Baxter Brewing in Lewiston, Maine, would be bottle-free. Like many brewers, he was drawn to the environmental benefits, which are “fundamentally important to me as a business owner and a person on the earth,” Livingston said. The brewery was able to design its space around a canning line. (Most breweries that can beer use off-site canning facilities). Baxter’s first cans, Pamola Xtra Pale Ale and Stowaway IPA, were released in January in Maine and will become available elsewhere in New England in the next couple of years.
Livingston also noted that cans fit in with the outdoor culture in his part of Maine and have been popular with ice fishers, snowmobilers and skiers. Cans are lighter and take up less space than bottles, making them easier to haul on outdoor sporting trips during the warmer months, too. Harpoon Brewery started canning its IPA and summer beer last year, a decision Harpoon’s Liz Melby said was “driven by people at the brewery who wanted to bring cans hiking, on a boat or to the beach.” The summer-only can releases proved so popular, Harpoon will make significantly more of them available for summer 2011.
More breweries are getting into cans in 2011. Magic Hat Brewing (South Burlington, Vt.) Will make #9 available in a can in April 2011. Ryan Daley from North American Breweries, which owns Magic Hat, said the company wanted customers to be able to take #9 to warm-weather outdoor destinations where glass bottles are banned, such as outdoor concerts and festivals. The Alchemist Pub & Brewery (Waterbury, Vt.) Is installing a canning line at its new brewery, and its IPA, Heady Topper, should be in cans by June. Alchemist co-owner Jen Kimmich said once Heady Topper is flowing as well as they’d like, they may consider canning their increasingly popular glutenfree beer, Celia.
Gotta Get a Growler
Though the majority of breweries and plenty of liquor stores sell them, many casual beer drinkers are unfamiliar with the growler. It’s a half-gallon (64-ounce) glass jug, most often sold by breweries, and beer drinkers may bring it back for a refi ll at a reduced price. It’s a popular container — Harpoon sells more than 1,000 growlers per month at its Boston location alone — and too many breweries use growlers to possibly list them all. That said, though the containers have been around since the 1800s, the world of growlers still holds some surprises.
New York City in particular has embraced growlers wholeheartedly. New Yorkers can fill growlers not just at breweries but also at beer bars such as The Ginger Man and Bierkraft and at Whole Foods grocery stores. Williamsburg, Brooklyn residents can choose from nine beers to take home from their Duane Reade drugstore. Williamsburg may be the home of Brooklyn Brewing, but this particular stretch “was devoid of opportunities for beer,” a Duane Reade exec told the New York Times in January. The growlers helped chain-averse Brooklynites accept a corporation moving into their midst.
Whole Foods started filling growlers in New York City in 2008. The procedure is the same as at a bar: choose a beer, purchase a bottle and pay less on the next visit for a refill. Whole Foods offers a smaller growler size, 32 ounces, as well as the more common 64-ounce. In addition to liking the environment-friendly aspect of growler reuse, said Whole Folds’ Michael Sinatra, “We also really liked that it would allow us to support some of the smaller local breweries that primarily only do keg beer, like Sixpoint and Captain Lawrence.”
It’s common for breweries to sell growlers, but less common for them to sell only growlers. That’s what Olde Burnside Brewing (East Hartford, Conn.) Has been doing since 2001, making only the occasional exception for 500-ml bottles of specialty beers. Not bottling was originally an economic decision, but the environmental benefits became obvious as customers would bring growlers back for reuse.
Olde Burnside’s Jason McClellan has been working on getting beer drinkers to understand growlers better. “They say, ‘It’s huge, we have to drink it all in one day,’” McClellan said, “but the beer lasts four to five days” thanks to Olde Burnside’s growler bottling line that keeps oxygen away from the beer.
Marshall Wharf Brewing (Belfast, Maine) has also had customers intimidated by the size of the growler. Its solution is a plastic cap with a diaphragm in it that holds pressure, is re-sealable and can keep an open growler drinkable for three to four days.
Oak Pond Brewery (Skowhegan, Maine) sells more growlers than any other beer container and does it a little differently. For one, its growlers are clear instead of the more traditional brown. Co-owner Nancy Chandler said they’ve never had a problem with skunky beer (a problem if a beer is exposed to too much light) but the clear glass allows them to ensure the growler is spotlessly clean. “People have brought them back with paint in them, cigarette butts …” Chandler recalled. Oak Pond also has a serious, multi-step cleaning and sanitizing process that takes about 15 minutes, yet they’ll only charge $1.75 for cleaning if a customer brings a growler back grubby.
Bars now have a new option for fi lling growlers. Mark DaSilva, co-owner of Southport Brewing (Conn.), is the U.S. distributor of the PEGAS dispenser from Russia. It’s a single-bottle filler that goes behind or on the bar, and the bottle (in this case, a growler) goes inside a transparent tube where the machine purges the CO2 and slowly fi lls it. All the bartender has to do is wait, take the growler out and put on a cap. When opened, even if it’s several days later, the growler gives off a CO2 burst like a capped bottle. “The old way, you probably lost about a pint of beer every time you filled,” said DaSilva. “Now, there’s not an ounce of spill.”
Every state has its own liquor laws, and some place regulations on growlers sales. For instance, until recently, brewpubs in Maine could only sell growlers out of a separate entrance, like a back door or a gift shop. Geoff Houghton, owner of The Liberal Cup (Hallowell, Maine) and The Run of the Mill (Saco, Maine) changed this law with the help of Liberal Cup regulars who also happened to be legislators at the nearby state capitol building. Liquor offi cials were worried about drinking and driving, even though, as Houghton pointed out, “You can’t hold a 64-ounce jug and drive.” After some compromises, like limiting growler purchases to fi ve at a time, the new growler law passed unanimously. Ironically, though The Liberal Cup can now legally sell growlers, it can’t yet spare the beer to do so.
Get Real! Real Ale, That Is
Few beer vessels have the cult following of casks. Cask ale, also called “real ale,” is unfiltered, unpasteurized and dispensed via gravity and hand pumping rather than by added nitrogen or CO2. Fermenting partly in the cask gives cask beer a flavor and texture that keeps devotees flocking to festivals like NERAX (New England Real Ale Exhibition in Somerville, Mass.), which just wrapped up its 15th cask festival. It’s spawned satellite fests NERAX North (Haverhill, Mass.) And Cask @ Novare (Portland, Maine). New Yorkers can enjoy a cask ale festival every April at Blue Point Brewing on Long Island or a newer one at d.b.a. in Williamsburg in January.
Not everyone understands cask ale, and it’s easy shorthand to mis-categorize it as “warm and flat.” In truth it’s still carbonated, though less so than keg beer, and at 50-60ºF, is nowhere near room temperature.(As a side note, most beer does not benefi t from being ice-cold or served in a frosted glass. In fact, serving beer extremely cold interferes with the taste.)
The other challenge to mass acceptance of cask ale is on the other side of the bar. A “beer engine” or “hand pump,” the device that pumps beer from the cask, costs upward of $500. Some bar staff also find the engines difficult to deal with compared to kegs and extra room must be set aside in the bar for them. Not every brewery has the resources or interest to pursue the brewing of cask ale.
Finally, many consumers either don’t know about cask ale or are confused by the temperature and mouthfeel. The annual popularity of the NERAX fest, however, suggests cask ale will become more common in New England as time goes by.
Other Ways to Think Outside the Six-Pack
A common departure from the 12-ounce, six-pack beer bottle is the 22-ounce “bomber.” These often cost a bit more per ounce but are useful for trying a new or strong beer or sharing samples with a group. Some craft brews are available exclusively in the 22-ounce format and any good beer retailer should have at least a few of them in stock. It’s also the preferred bottle size for most homebrewers.
Beer sometimes comes in a 750-ml bottle with a champagne-style cork and wire hood. The “cork and cage” bottles are most often associated with Belgian-style beers, such as those by Brewery Ommegang and Allagash Brewing. Element Brewing in Millers Falls, Mass. Uses this bottle for all the beer it distributes, like its American Black Ale.
“These bottles are bottle conditioned, which reduces the amount of oxygen in the bottle while increasing the beer’s stability,” said Element owner Dan Kramer. “So the shelf life of Element’s beers can be a year or even more.”
Southampton Brewery puts its smallbatch farmhouse ales like Saison Deluxe in 750-ml bottle.
“When considering small batch bourbons and single malt scotches, the packaging always refl ect a higher quality beverage,” said Southampton’s Don Sullivan. “Our hope was to create a package that would refl ect the upscale and unique nature of these beers.”
Boston Beer Company may never put Sam Adams Lager in a 750-ml bottle, but it uses the bottle to package some of its experimental beers like Infi nium, the Barrel Room Collection and Utopias (which has a bottle shaped like a copper brew kettle). New England customers can also buy 750s from Newport Storm Brewery and Beer Works.
Though rarely spotted in Yankee Brew News territory, the party pig is another option for beer-to-go in certain brewpubs. It’s a 2.25-gallon reusable plastic bottle with an internal disposable pressure pouch that produces CO2 to keep the beer carbonated. It is, indeed, vaguely pig-shaped.
Finally, much like craft beer took cans back from macro lagers, it’s slowly taking booze in a box back from cheap wine. The nearest source of beer in a box seems to be the Ship Inn in New Jersey. Ship Inn sells its house beer in a homemade five-quart (160 ounces) cardboard box with a bag inside that defl ates as beer is emptied to minimize air inside. Supposedly, this allows to-go beer to last several weeks. Other breweries from California to Germany to Japan also send customers home with boxed beer.
Read the full article at http://ybnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Alternate+Vessels/689260/65990/article.html.
At The Heart Of
In New York City, the motto seems to be bigger is better. The buildings are skyscrapers, cars morph into stretch limousines and humble sandwiches become Reubens the size of one’s head. In terms of craft beer brewing, nobody does more of it locally than Heartland Brewery. Its seven locations, which together seat about 1,800 guests, serve 1.5 million frothy pints annually. That’s a lot of beer, all of it produced by brewmaster Kelly Taylor in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn. Perhaps because of its success, hard won since 1995, Heartland has come to be perceived by some as being corporate, staid and vaguely unhip.
And that drives its owner, Jon Bloostein, slightly insane.
“When I hear that we look corporate or like a national chain or cookie cutter or something, it really drives me crazy, because we do things to be different, to be independent and we really focus on the beer and food and come up with all kinds of new things,” Bloostein said. “We are mainstream, but mostly we’re mainstream because we have mainstream locations, not because we’re trying to be the T.G.I. Friday’s of beer. Quite the opposite.”
Genesis of a Brewpub Mogul
To understand Heartland, one must understand Bloostein. His beer awakening occurred, like many of his generation, on another continent.
“When I was 19, I went to Europe on a Eurail Pass and I was stunned at what I found as far as beer because it was great,” Bloostein said. “The pub culture in London was phenomenal and impressive. I loved it.”
Upon his return, he bought “better” beers, which were the standard imports of the day, but something was missing. It wasn’t the same as it was over there.
He finished his studies at Ithaca College and earned an M.B.A. at Fordham in Finance and Management. In the early 1990s, as part of his work in mergers and acquisitions, he began spending time on the West Coast and quickly found its emerging craft beer scene at places like Bison Brewery, Triple Rock Brewery, 20 Tank Brewery and San Francisco Brewing. There the beer was fresh and flavorful, the bar snacks homemade and the crowds lively. It was beer heaven. Ever the entrepreneur, an idea was beginning to hatch.
Brewing up a Concept
Bloostein attended a brewpub convention in 1994 and tasted some phenomenal microbrews. He was hooked. He returned to New York, which at the time already had eight brewpubs, yet none of them matched his West Coast epiphany. He wanted to create a comprehensive experience that tied together all the best elements — the beer, the food, the ingredients, the names of the beer and the food, the look of the menu, the glassware and the staff.
Moreover, Bloostein’s concept was decidedly American. Other brewpubs were trying to recreate the English alehouse or the German lager house, but Bloostein wanted an American brewpub that served beers made from native ingredients like Wisconsin malt, hops from Washington State and Oregon, as well as American yeasts. And he resolved that the beers be served within a week or two of their brewing at their peak of freshness.
After researching numerous sites, he found a spot right off of Union Square. His designer suggested “Union Square Brewing Company” to spotlight its address, yet Bloostein demurred. He was already thinking of multiple locations and didn’t want to redesign the artwork and branding for each. Instead, to Bloostein’s ear, no word communicated “America” more than the word “heartland,” so the name was chosen. “Heartland” also echoed the sound of Chevrolet’s “Heartbeat of America” advertising slogan at the time, and he didn’t mind some subtle piggybacking.
Bloostein admits to having had limited brewing experience.
“The truth is that I bought a homebrewer’s kit and I made beer once. I made a Nut Brown Ale, I think, and it was good, and that was enough for me,” Bloostein recalled. “And I said to myself, well, if anything happens to the brewer, I know that I can make beer (laughing). Of course, nothing could be further from the truth, but I said, if I can make beer, how hard could it be? The process itself obviously isn’t that difficult, but developing interesting beers and having them made consistently, there’s a little more to it. At least that’s what my brewer keeps telling me.”
With the Greenmarket and its discerning clientele right outside his door, Bloostein knew he had to up the food game. He hired Sam Hazen, a three-star chef who went on to head up Tavern on the Green.
“We baked our own burger rolls, we Made our own ketchup, mayonnaise, even our own pickles,” Bloostein said. “Everything was done from scratch.”
Good food remains a key priority at Heartland under Richard Pietromonaco, who was formerly chef de cuisine at Tribeca Grill. That said, the suds have always remained the primary focus.
On the beer side, Bloostein hired Jim Migliorini, then the assistant brewer at Commonwealth Brewery.
“We wanted to cover the classics, the standards, the various flavors,” Bloostein said. “We had a stout, an IPA, a wheat beer, a lager and an amber. We started out with those, and we made some seasonal beers and extended the regular menu. Now, many of our restaurants have 10 to 12 different beers on tap.”
Bloostein’s lack of experience in the brewpub business served him well. He had retail experience and completed Bloomingdale’s executive training program early in his career.
“I honestly thought that this was a big retail store with some manufacturing in the back,” Bloostein said. “Previous to that, in my late twenties, I had owned a car wash, which was plumbing. And brewing is plumbing. So I thought it was some plumbing and some customer service and visual merchandizing.” He added, “Had I known then what I know now — I was lucky that I was naïve. Ignorance is bliss.”
Union Square & Beyond
The Union Square location opened to great success in 1995, with lines out the door and extensive media coverage and acclaim. What really surprised Bloostein was his high-spirited staff. Bloostein noted, “The fact that the staff is having a good time there and they’re spontaneously talking passionately about our beer, our food, or they’re just happy to be there, rubs off on people. The guests are going to have a better time with someone who’s enjoying themselves.”
Heartland’s expansion continued, with a new spot sprouting up about every year and a half, each with its own challenges. In 1998, Bloostein inaugurated a Heartland in Midtown’s UBS Building, but not before gathering 15,000 signatures to overturn an obscure New York State law that limited brewers to a single brewing facility. Taylor also joined that year as brewer.
In 2001, Heartland Brewery and Chophouse launched in Times Square as an upscale dining venue with $3 million invested in décor. This didn’t quite sit well with the more casual Heartland crowd. The white tablecloths and the stemware quickly went overboard and the waiters lost their ties. The crowds returned.
Bloostein next turned his attention to the Seaport, where Heartland Brewery and BBQ got its start in 2003. The space was a watering hole back in Tammany Hall days, and he tried to keep its feel intact.
“All the Chiclet floors, all the slatted ceilings, the bar is made out of fiddler mahogany — they made violins out of that stuff — it’s just gorgeous,” Bloostein said. “I wanted to keep as much as I possibly could.”
Next up was the Empire State Building in 2004, the largest in the group. Bloostein recalled its daunting engineering complexities.
“We draw air from a water canal under the building to cool the compressors and exhaust the compressors on the 80th fl oor,” Bloostein said.
In 2005, Bloostein debuted Spanky’s Barbecue, directly next to the Chophouse. While meat mavens like Joshua Ozersky sang its smoky praises, it never really gained traction with the press and sales lagged. Bloostein converted it to HB Burger in 2009. The simple menu, headlined by top quality burgers made with Pat LaFrieda beef, became a hit. The newest member of the Heartland family launched last year in the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
Pride in Craft Beer
Fairly early on in the expansion, Bloostein and Taylor decided to take the brewing operations out of the individual locations and centralize brewing at a new 20,000-keg capacity facility in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn. Aside from improved quality control, it didn’t make much sense to pay retail rents in Manhattan for what was essentially a manufacturing operation.
Bloostein is proud of his best-selling beers, including Cornhusker Lager, Red Rooster Ale and Indiana Pale Ale, not to mention the award winning Farmer Jon’s Oatmeal Stout. He’s also pleased with Indian River Light Ale, the group’s first lowcalorie beer that’s fragrant with coriander and orange.
Bloostein and Taylor continue to experiment with new brews, including Sumatra Porter. It’s a co-venture with Bloostein’s brother, who owns Oren’s Daily Roast. Taylor heads over to the roasting plant and brings back 30 pounds of piping hot beans to the brewery to be dumped into the mash tun. While getting the coffee taste is relatively straight forward, Bloostein confides that capturing the coffee aroma is challenging, since the beer, unlike coffee, is consumed cold, rather than hot, which can close it up aromatically.
Other “Secrets” of Heartland’s Success
Part of the successful expansion has been the staff. Bloostein seldom hires from the outside, preferring seasoned employees at his new sites. He explained, “They know our beers and are comfortable talking about our beers, they are trained in Beer 101, Beer 201 and they’ve been tested, they’ve been quizzed, they’ve seen 12 months of beer seasonal things. They know how to describe the color, the fl avor, the aroma.”
Aside from its beers and staffing, Heartland’s décor, brimming with breweriana and beer memorabilia from Bloostein’s massive personal collection, adds a unifying visual element.
“I have beer trays, beer advertising, beer labels and back bar sculptures,” Bloostein said. I don’t know what it does for anybody else, but it makes me feel better and more comfortable.”
What’s on Tap for Heartland?
Looking ahead, the Heartland juggernaut continues. Bloostein is scouting places near Grand Central Terminal, the new World Trade Center and Harlem. Westchester, Long Island and even Washington, D.C., are being eyed. He’s even exploring non-Heartland concepts like a bistro with completely different beers and food slated for the Flatiron district. He’s been on the lookout for an outdoor beer garden setting for years.
Bloostein refl ected, “It’s not an easy business, that’s for sure. It’s awfully challenging and engaging. And you know what, the beer part is fun. If it stops being fun, the staff will stop having fun and guests will stop having fun. It’s got to be more than a restaurant. I never want to be in the restaurant business, I want to be in the beer business.”
Read the full article at http://ybnonline.brewingnews.com/article/At+The+Heart+Of/689265/65990/article.html.