Yankee Brew News December 2011/January 2012 : Page 1
More More CRAFT BEER BLASTS OFF MORE! By Jamie Magee Mugs hang from the back bar at The Bobcat Cafe. Inset: Brewer Mark Magiera. Photos Courtesy of The Bobcat Cafe By Paul Kowalski ubs, cafés and restaurants the world over all want what The Bobcat Café and Brewery has — a place in the commu-nity, speci ﬁ cally the “third place.” The term refers to the place other than work-place and home at which we make social contacts and do so to build community. Urban sociolo-gist Ray Oldenburg argued in his landmark work The Great Good Place that third places are important for civic engagement, basic democracy and other aspects of civil society. This is how notable Vermont restaurateur Robert Fuller, The Bobcat Café’s founder, is said to have envisioned things. The world-class beers and above-par food support The Bobcat Café in that mission, as do its center-of-town location and its courteous staff who all seemed to enjoy what they were doing there during a recent midweek October visit. This “it” that The Bobcat Café pos-sesses is easy to sense and apparent to anyone who might spend a little time there. There’s a pretty good cross-section (and per-See Bobcat p. 6 ILLUSTRATION BY HANS GRANHEIM f there is a constant mantra for craft beer right now, it is more, more, more. More beers, more breweries, more tastings, more events, more people — more everything. Just like the technological boom that has us scratch-ing our heads as we contemplate new cell phones, the growth can sometimes be aston-ishing. While the explosive growth of every aspect of this industry is a great boon for craft beer lovers, one often wonders if the current pace can be maintained. Then again, if the economy has finally bottomed out, perhaps the growth trend will continue for a while as more people will be able to afford to participate. Many of these trends are evident within the pages of YBN . Gathering them all in one spot attests to the frenzy that is craft beer at the moment. I Nanos, Micros, Brewpubs ... oh my! 2011 has seen a wave of start-ups, and more breweries are in the pipeline. The Brewer’s Association reported last spring that over 600 new breweries are in the planning stage, a number that would raise the national total by almost 25 percent. Indicative of that trend, new breweries are cropping up in practically every state in the Yankee Brew News region. Some have former head brewers at the helm, and oth-ers serious homebrewers aspiring to take it to the next level. Matt Steinberg, one of the former, is excited about the growth, but cau-tioned, “I hope they don’t all plan to do 9% ABV bottles.” Steinberg’s plans for Blatant Beer Company calls for drinkable session beers. INSIDE Event Calendar ............................. 3 Tasting Panel .............................. 10 Beer Cooks ................................. 12 The Alehouse .............................. 13 Homebrewing .............................. 18 Guest Tap .................................... 20 Maps & Directories ................ 22-27 Tasteless Panel ........................... 46 State by State News 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 See More, More, More p.4
More More More!
If there is a constant mantra for craft beer right now, it is more, more, more. More beers, more breweries, more tastings, more events, more people — more everything. Just like the technological boom that has us scratching our heads as we contemplate new cell phones, the growth can sometimes be astonishing. While the explosive growth of every aspect of this industry is a great boon for craft beer lovers, one often wonders if the current pace can be maintained. Then again, if the economy has finally bottomed out, perhaps the growth trend will continue for a while as more people will be able to afford to participate.<br /> <br /> Many of these trends are evident within the pages of YBN. Gathering them all in one spot attests to the frenzy that is craft beer at the moment.<br /> <br /> Nanos, Micros, Brewpubs ... oh my!<br /> <br /> 2011 has seen a wave of start-ups, and more breweries are in the pipeline. The Brewer’s Association reported last spring that over 600 new breweries are in the planning stage, a number that would raise the national total by almost 25 percent. Indicative of that trend, new breweries are cropping up in practically every state in the Yankee Brew News region. Some have former head brewers at the helm, and others serious homebrewers aspiring to take it to the next level. Matt Steinberg, one of the former, is excited about the growth, but cautioned, “I hope they don’t all plan to do 9% ABV bottles.” Steinberg’s plans for Blatant Beer Company calls for drinkable session beers.<br /> <br /> Festomania <br /> <br /> “Do I go to this fest or that one?” Judging from the entries in the YBN calendar, the fest field has gotten crowded. Practically every weekend, especially in September and October, an endless string of fests are there for the craft beer lover to take advantage of. For some craft beer drinkers, conflicts arise, as same day fests are occurring more frequently and sometimes within the same town. October saw the Sam Adams Oktoberfest and the Return of Belgian Beer Fest held on the same weekend. Apparently, the timing did not hurt either event. But there have been a few fest cancellations owing to the fact that there was just too much going on the day that organizers planned their festival.<br /> <br /> Audience is not always the problem. Increasingly, there are not enough distributors or representatives to go around. This scenario is exactly what happened to the Nashua River Brewers Fest this year as well as the Hartford Better Beer Festival. Les Sinnock, Hartford beer veteran and cofounder of Hartford Better Beer Company, agreed, “It’s crazy right now. Every weekend was something nearby, we just couldn’t find a good time.” <br /> <br /> Endless Beers on Tap <br /> <br /> It used to be that brewpubs limited their selection to as many serving tanks as they had. Not anymore. By artfully managing their serving tanks and kegs, many brewpubs now have a much wider selection. Milly’s Tavern in Manchester, N.H., has grown its tap selection to 18 beers.<br /> <br /> “We started with nine staple beers on tap,” said Ken Bergeron, Milly’s General Manager. “We expanded the selection when we decided to no longer carry any outside beers. Customers love it.”<br /> <br /> Bergeron said that in addition to the nine staple beers, there are usually nine seasonal beers on tap.<br /> <br /> “Basically, there’s a beer for everyone,” Bergeron said. “Tastes are so diversified right now, people are getting more and more educated.” <br /> <br /> With so many beers on tap, you might think some taps get neglected. But Bergeron disagreed.<br /> <br /> “All of our beers move very well. And we sell a lot of growlers. They move out of here like hotcakes.” <br /> <br /> Tap - O - Rama <br /> <br /> While brewpubs have expanded their selections, so have beer bars. Huge multitaps have always been the exception, but the time honored Sunset Grill and Tap in Allston and the Horseshoe Pub in Hudson are gaining some company. Greater Boston has recently seen the addition of two largescale selection tap houses: Mead Hall in Cambridge and the Yardhouse in Dedham. These are not yesterday’s multi-taps. They are built from the bottom up to assure beer freshness along with their ample variety. Mead Hall founder Scott Cooper noted the various ways that he and his staff help both novice and experienced drinkers.<br /> <br /> “Our job is to win over both groups,” Cooper said. “Our staff has lots of verbal interaction with customers and our menu, organized by style, is concise. There’s enough info, but not an overwhelming amount of info.” <br /> <br /> Cooper explained the strict regimen that ensures the freshness of the beers on tap at Mead Hall.<br /> <br /> “Every line gets cleaned every week, and we refuse to let beers sit on the lines unless it’s a really high ABV beer that’s meant to be aged.” <br /> <br /> Cooper sees multi-tap bars like his becoming more and more popular.<br /> <br /> “The next generation of bars won’t be successful without a dozen craft beer taps,” Cooper said. “The days of just having light beers on the taps is over.” <br /> <br /> Beer Store Bonanza <br /> <br /> Beer store managers are constantly expanding or rotating their selections, a fact that draws customers in. But the selection is so large these days, it can also be confusing. Sarah Porter, of Julio’s in Westborough, said, “We like to call them joyously overwhelmed.” <br /> <br /> Porter will actually give people a tour of the new beers that have come in and talk about each brand.<br /> <br /> “Some days I spend more time consulting than I do sorting the stock,” Porter noted.<br /> <br /> Porter also does an official tasting on Monday nights.<br /> <br /> Some small stores, like the Vin Bin in Marlborough, opt for a cozier section with a double cooler of select craft brew.<br /> <br /> Tastings A Go-Go <br /> <br /> There are two dimensions of beer store tastings. First, there is the solitary sales guy, pouring a few tastes and offering a pint glass or tee-shirt with the purchase of a sixpack or a case. Then there is the grand style beer tasting with multiple reps and vendors serving small samples of their wares. Both of these kinds of tastings are increasing. Fifth Avenue Liquors in Millis partnered with the Holliston Historical Society this year to produce the Metrowest Brewfest at the Holliston Historical Society. So as not to conflict with any other events, the fest was held on a Thursday.<br /> <br /> Cask <br /> <br /> Cask beer enthusiasm and cask fests are growing. NERAX (New England Real Ale Exhibition) expanded its yearly fest schedule to include NERAX North in Haverhill. Novare Res in Portland, Maine, has an annual cask fest. New York City has seen the addition of a couple cask fests, and each January in New Haven, Conn., Jeff Browning, Head Brewer at Brü Rm. @ BAR, produces the Connecticut Real Ale Festival.<br /> <br /> Homebrew Heaven <br /> <br /> With all that beer available, do people still want to brew their own at home? The answer appears to be a resounding yes. This summer, Brian Powers of Strange Brew in Marlborough, Mass., moved his home-style homebrew shop to a former liquor store where he now boasts over 20 aisles of supplies. For a small retailer who has always been surrounded by his wares, the new space has been a dream come true.<br /> <br /> “Things have been crazy since we moved in here,” Powers said.<br /> <br /> Indeed, these are glory days for the New England craft beer scene. Enthusiasts take note!
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The Bobcat Cafe And Brewery
Pubs, cafés and restaurants the world over all want what The Bobcat Café and Brewery has — a place in the community, specifically the “third place.” The term refers to the place other than workplace and home at which we make social contacts and do so to build community. Urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg argued in his landmark work The Great Good Place that third places are important for civic engagement, basic democracy and other aspects of civil society. This is how notable Vermont restaurateur Robert Fuller, The Bobcat Café’s founder, is said to have envisioned things. The world-class beers and abovepar food support The Bobcat Café in that mission, as do its center-of-town location and its courteous staff who all seemed to enjoy what they were doing there during a recent midweek October visit.<br /> <br /> This “it” that The Bobcat Café possesses is easy to sense and apparent to anyone who might spend a little time there. There’s a pretty good cross-section (and percentage) of the immediate community that passes through there on a regular basis, even on a Wednesday. Brewer Mark Magiera lives locally, and at the bar he can point out people that he knows in his life as a resident. Individuals and families wander in for a quick pint (maybe two), a chat with someone they know and head back on their way. Those locals with time stay and eat, and people from within what Mark loosely defined as a two-town radius, come to soak in some of “it” for themselves.<br /> <br /> The History <br /> <br /> The brewing history of The Bobcat Café goes back to Paul Sayler (now coowner of the American Flatbread Burlington Hearth brewpub in Burlington), whose own brewing history goes back to Catamount Brewing’s early days and includes setting up a brewpub at New York City’s Rockefeller Center. Paul was recruited by Robert Fuller to get The Bobcat Café brewpub going. A seven-barrel Craveller system was available from nearby, and Paul installed it and got it up and running. As Mark related the story, one day while he was working as head brewer at Otter Creek Brewing in nearby Middlebury, he was talking to Sayler and Fuller, who were trying to replace Paul as brewer. Mark introduced them to Ron Cotti, who until about that time was an apprentice brewer at Otter Creek. Ron went to The Bobcat Café to brew. Paul went to American Flatbread Burlington Hearth. Mark kept on brewing at Otter Creek.<br /> <br /> Meanwhile, locals took to the place, and they brought their friends and their spouses, but probably not their friends’ spouses. People would talk ----- this is a family-ish place. It’s fun at The Bobcat Café to watch the spectrum of families, couples and singles buzzing in and having a pint and quick chat and a laugh with other customers before heading home.<br /> <br /> Three years later, in March 2008, Ron Cotti wanted a new challenge, and he and Mark Magiera (still at Otter Creek) swapped jobs. Mark was starting a family and living in Bristol, a short distance from The Bobcat Café, and the move seemed like a win for all involved. Ron has since moved on to become a brewer at Cape Cod Beer, trading beer life in Vermont for beer life on the Cape, as Cape Cod Beer owners Todd and Beth Marcus did years before.<br /> <br /> Later in 2008, Bob Fuller sold The Bobcat Café to another veteran restaurateur, Michel Mahe. The son of a French chef whose parents raised him in the food and restaurant culture of New York City, Mahe’s restaurant holdings also include The Bearded Frog in Shelburne and The Black Sheep Bistro in Vergennes.<br /> <br /> “The Bobcat is a good example of a very neighborhood- and community-oriented restaurant,” Mahe said. “When Robert built it, he funded it in part with help from people in the community and created a certain amount of loyalty. It’s proven to be so, financially. My philosophy is to take care of the people (who live) around you, and the rest will come to see what the locals know. The community has responded very well to the way we deliver the pricing and the food. It’s hard to put one statement on it, as it’s flowing.” <br /> <br /> Community Participation <br /> <br /> Mahe sees continuing value in having members of the community participate in The Bobcat Café as an enterprise. He enlisted as his partners in the business co-chefs Sanderson Wheeling and Erin Chamoff who live in the community and deliver their neighbors a quality of food to which most brewpubs can only aspire.<br /> <br /> “We listen to the people,” Mahe said. “My partners are part of the community. They hear people talking at the breakfast place across the street and respond directly to that. They know the local market very, very well.” <br /> <br /> “Mark interacts with our customers similarly,” Mahe continued. “He’s often seen bringing out a sample of something he just made for someone in our mug club to try, to see if they like it, and he responds to that feedback.” <br /> <br /> Brewpubs in tourist towns are quick to admit that sampler trays are among their top sellers. The Bobcat Café isn’t like that, as it has such incredible support from the community. A sampler tray reveals one’s status as tourist, but it’s still a great way to try everything on tap, and it invites conversation with the curious locals who wonder how you like Mark’s beers.<br /> <br /> The Beer <br /> <br /> Mark’s technical proficiency on that seven-barrel Craveller system has reached such a level that making good beers is not so much a challenge as pursuing greater efficiency in his usage of water. He’s become so adept at reducing his volume of wastewater for every finished gallon of beer that other small breweries consider him a resource on the subject.<br /> <br /> On a wheel-shaped wooden tray, with The Bobcat Café logo burned into it, customers are served samples of the current beers: L. I.A.C. (short for Love In A Canoe), a crisp, clean American-style, low-carb light lager; Winona Wheat, a wheat ale with medium body and gentle tones of Hallertau hops; Lincoln Lager, an authentic German-style Bohemian lager utilizing German barley and hops; Prayer Rock Pale Ale, an American pale ale hopped with 100 percent Vermontgrown Cascade hops; Scottish 90/, a fullbodied 90-shilling Scottish ale (6.6% ABV); Falconer’s Flight IPA (5.6%, 77 IBUs), an aromatic and flavorful beer hopped with the Falconer’s Flight proprietary blend of Northwestern hops from Hopunion; Calypso Double Red (8.0%, 77 IBUs), a fascinating foray into strong, hoppy double-redness; and lastly, Unrepentant, a Belgian-inspired chocolate pepper stout with an amazingly complex flavor and mouthfeel that belies it mild, 4.2% strength. This beer transports the consumer to a happy, contemplative, beernerdy place.<br /> <br /> The Food <br /> <br /> To keep the offerings fresh, co-chefs Wheeling and Chamoff fully revamp the menu every six months, with updates occurring quarterly. Along with the beer sampler tray, the flatbread special of the day is a good choice. The daily flatbread special recently featured a black bean base and delicious locally harvested mushrooms topped by fresh mozzarella and a dash of cilantro.<br /> <br /> “Mark has been a wonderful addition to that place,” said Kurt Staudter, Executive Director of The Vermont Brewers Association. “What I like about him and his brewing is that he’s not hung up on strict adherence to British styles. He’s not afraid to go out on a limb with a beer. What he’s done with his brown ale has resulted in a beer that a huge section of the population will enjoy, but what I love best are his German’s,” referring to Mark’s beers of German derivation. Mark’s wife is from Germany, and they visit family back there regularly. That exposure to German food and beer has influenced Mark, to the betterment of the citizens of Bristol and its vicinity.<br /> <br /> A decade into its life, The Bobcat Café and Brewery lives up to the goal of its founders through the daily practices of those who continue to work and serve there. Through an ongoing and sometimes changing dynamic of food, beer and people, the place and its community support one another.<br /> <br /> “It represents what all of us sort of hope for in a brewpub’s potential for people to meet in a comfortable and social setting,” said Paul Sayler, “and a great place to talk about beer in a social setting, with a New England pub feel.” <br /> <br /> “In the true form of any great New England gathering space, it’s matured quietly and slowly,” Sayler continued. “It has the same qualities as it had when it opened, but also the history of all the great meetings that have occurred in that space. That energy for me just hangs in the air there, and hopefully will continue to do so for a long, long time.”
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