Yankee Brew News February/March 2012 : Page 1
Star Light , Star Bright , Just What Ale Should I Make Tonight? Where did they Brew? ILLUSTRATIONS BY: HANS GRANHEIM BEER STARS. (L-R) Shannon Post, Alex Hall and Chris Cuzme of Wandering Star Craft Brewery enjoy the grains of their labor. Story and Photos by Jamie Magee By Ria Windcaller as it that first unfor-Once upon a time a young lad in English gettable boarding school brewed beer in beer that his closet without ever getting lit the caught. spark? “I wondered for years why Maybe it was the specter of love I didn’t get caught,” Post said. that beer so often ignites. Bitters, “It shows that 14-year-olds must buzz and a bloody good time — really smell bad, so they must let that be a warning to every have thought it was just another Hansel and Gretel out looking for smell.” adventure. Chris Post, Wandering The yearning to make beer Star Craft Brewery’s co-owner/ had much to do with visits to brewer and father of two brew-great beer bars near Marston’s ery boys, Alex (4) and Andrew Brewery in the U.K. The fact (2), can tell you and his sons all that his best friend’s grandfather about it. had been a brewer at Marston’s Brewer Chris Post See Star p. 6 B rewers may create the recipes in this industry, but they don’t always control their own desti-nies. Much like the captains and sailors of ships in the age of exploration, their experience and expertise may not fit into the plans of their patrons. And just as those vessels would flounder or run aground, many a brewer has faced calamity and had to scramble to find a new berth. While some brewers see craft beer as a quest, in the end, after the creativity and the glory are stripped away, brewing is employment and a paycheck. A look at a few of the career turns that our local brewers have endured can enlighten craft beer drink-ers to the challenges that brewers face beyond the kettle. Brewers who have been around since the early days of the craft beer movement Retooling the Concept have inevitably had the rug pulled out from underneath them. Famously, one of the area’s best known brewers, Tod Mott, saw his run at Back Bay Brewing in Boston end when the owner decided to change the con-cept and accommodate what he saw as more lucrative trends. “Do we really want to go there?” Mott said, when reached while brew-ing at Portsmouth Brewing in New Hampshire. Mott’s early experience included interning at Catamount Brewing in Vermont, after which he moved on to Harpoon and Commonwealth Brewing, both in Boston. Commonwealth expanded and opened the sister company, Back Bay Brewing, Mott was just hitting his stride, earning Great American Beer Festival medals and other accolades. Located at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, literally the heart of Boston, Back Bay was perfect for newly engaged See Brew p. 4 W INSIDE INSIDE Event Calendar ................ 3 Letters to the Editor ........ 7 Tasting Panel................... 8 Beer Cooks .....................10 The Alehouse .................11 Homebrew ......................12 Maps/Directory ..........18-23 E New State State News State by by State News E. Massachusetts ...........14 Boston ............................16 W. Massachusetts ..........24 Maine ..............................26 New Hampshire ..............28 Connecticut ....................30 Vermont ..........................32 Rhode Island ..................34
Where Did They Brew?
Brewers may create the recipes in this industry, but they don’t always control their own destinies. Much like the captains and sailors of ships in the age of exploration, their experience and expertise may not fit into the plans of their patrons. And just as those vessels would flounder or run aground, many a brewer has faced calamity and had to scramble to find a new berth. While some brewers see craft beer as a quest, in the end, after the creativity and the glory are stripped away, brewing is employment and a paycheck. A look at a few of the career turns that our local brewers have endured can enlighten craft beer drinkers to the challenges that brewers face bey ond the kettle.
Retooling the Concept
Brewers who have been around since the early days of the craft beer movement have inevitably had the rug pulled out from underneath them. Famously, one of the area’s best known brewers, Tod Mott, saw his run at Back Bay Brewing in Boston end when the owner decided to change the concept and accommodate what he saw as more lucrative trends.
“Do we really want to go there?” Mott said, when reached while brewing at Portsmouth Brewing in New Hampshire.
Mott’s early experience included interning at Catamount Brewing in Vermont, after which he moved on to Harpoon and Commonwealth Brewing, both in Boston. Commonwealth expanded and opened the sister company, Back Bay Brewing, Mott was just hitting his stride, earning Great American Beer Festival medals and other accolades. Located at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, literally the heart of Boston, Back Bay was perfect for newly engaged microbrew drinkers to enjoy beers after work or a daytime trip to Boston.
However, the powers that be decided to pull out the brewery and to sell more well drinks.
“It really sucked at the time,” Mott said. “Craft beer was just in its infancy. They didn’t realize what they had. If they had stuck around, we would have been more successful.” Mott watched as his final beers were dumped into the sewers of Boston. The brewpub was renamed Vox Populi — Latin for “Voice of the People.” Evidently, not the voice of craft beer people. It closed a few years later.
Mott went on to brew at Quincy Ships, followed by Haverhill Brewery (both in Massachusetts), before landing at Portsmouth Brewery, where he said he finally feels at home and has a great relationship with owner Peter Egleston.
Sell the Damn Thing
Dann Paquette’s odyssey has stretched across the Atlantic and back again, but certainly the most painful moment for local craft beer fans was when North East Brewing (Boston) closed. Paquette (whose early employment included Yankee Brew News) started off at Ipswich Brewing, Pilgrim Brewery and Mill City Brewing (all in Massachusetts), before heading into the brewpub sphere. After a short stint at John Harvard’s in Harvard Square in Cambridge, he became the brewer at North East Brewing in 1996.
With an open dining area surrounding a glass enclosed brew system and a great downstairs clubroom area, North East became a popular hangout, and its beers a local favorite.
“I think North East Brewing doesn’t get any kudos these days because it was before Beer Advocate got the Internet into beer,” Paquette said, “but it was my first Head Brewer gig, and they trusted me to do whatever I wanted (as long as I kept Bostonia Blonde in supply). I really went for it. My assistant, Aaron Hecker, and I had Westvleteren yeast as one of four house strains, pumped real ale from hogsheads in the basement and we were the first New England brewery to age beer in wood. And I think we were the first brewery in the U.S. to ferment sour beer in oak barrels, as well, and we had one of the hoppiest and best IPAs around: Lobsterback IPA. I haven’t tasted anything like it since.”
By early 2001, North East Brewing’s investors were ready to move on; the restaurant life, it seems, was not for them. The place was sold at the beginning of 2002 and has undergone several theme changes since then.
“This wasn’t really a surprise, because it seemed everyone in Boston was closing back then: Commonwealth, Back Bay, Brew Moon, Fort Hill, Tremont Brewery,” Paquette said. “We all ended around the same time.”
Paquette hit the ground running and began working for the newly rechristened Concorde Brewery (the former Concord Brewing in Massachusetts), which wooed him to brew a project he had been shopping around — Rapscallion. Concorde was eventually bought out and its brands sold. (The Rapscallion name went with it. It continues, but it’s not the same beer that Paquette brewed. See Eastern Massachusetts news). Paquette moved on to The Tap in Haverhill, Mass., but left for the U.K. in 2006 to open a brewery. When that dream went unrealized, he worked at the Daleside Brewery in the U.K., returned to the U.S. in 2008 and, along with his wife, Martha, started Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project, which has been successful.
The End is Near
James Moriarty was the head brewer at Pennichuck Brewery in Milford, N.H., Pennichuck, the brainchild of Phil Jewett, established itself as a quality brewery, but the demands of life (Jewett is an EMT) and the perils of distribution forced him to put the brewery up for sale. Moriarty tendered his resignation and moved to Cape Cod to work at Cape Cod Beer.
“I could see the writing on the wall,” Moriarty said. “The future wasn’t certain. It was either there or the unemployment line.”
Dan Kramer’s lengthy list of brewing experiences included Commonwealth Brewing, River City Brewing in Florida and Maplewood Brewing in Amherst, Mass. A departure for Kramer was being head brewer at two breweries at once: Opa Opa Brewing in Southampton, Mass. And at Owen O’Leary’s in Natick, Mass. The two breweries were separated by an 85-mile drive.
Just as Kramer was opening Brewmaster’s Tavern (Opa Opa’s production brewery) in Williamsburg, Mass., Owen O’Leary’s closed unexpectedly due to a landlord issue (although it still serves beers at its sister location in Southborough, Mass.). In 2010, Kramer left Opa Opa to concentrate full time on Element Brewing in Miller’s Falls, Mass., which he opened with former Paper City Brewing (Holyoke, Mass.) Brewer, Ben Anhalt.
“I really enjoyed the diversity and having lots of different technical demands made the jobs very rewarding,” Kramer said. “The one thing I don’t miss is the hour and a half commute each way — especially after a long hard day.” Kramer said he enjoys being solely focused on his own thing now.
“There’s a lot more to running a brewery than just making beer,” Kramer said. “Every day brings new and unexpected things, and it forces me to grow and push myself in new ways, so it’s never dull — and it is only 12 miles from my house.”
The Right Moves
While these stories can be dramatic, not every brewer moves on because of a brewery failure or sale. For most, it’s a normal case of the apprenticeship ending and a chance to assume another position arising — presumably with better pay and an opportunity for more growth. New Hampshire, of late, has been a lab of such examples. Rik Marley finished his studies at the American Brewers Guild and moved from Woodstock Brewing Co. To the Flying Goose. Tyler Jones, who studied at U.C. Davis, left his job as assistant brewer at Portsmouth Brewery and is now at Smuttynose Brewing in the same city.
For some, the road will be bumpy, but the growth of the craft beer industry has ensured many opportunities. Mott, the veteran of such a difficult journey, is philosophical.
“I worked my way up,” Mott said. “The path does not have to be as hard as mine (especially if you start your own brewery or brewpub), but there’s a lot to be said about a journeyman brewer. You get a lot of experience.”
Mott feels that schools are mostly theoretical, but that the hard learning comes on the job.
Brewers: Where did you brew? Http:// www.brewingnews.com/yankeebrew/ wheredidyoubrew.shtml
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Star Light, Star Bright, Just What Ale Should I Make Tonight?
Was it that first unforgettable beer that lit the spark? Maybe it was the specter of love that beer so often ignites. Bitters, buzz and a bloody good time — let that be a warning to every Hansel and Gretel out looking for adventure. Chris Post, Wandering Star Craft Brewery’s co-owner/ brewer and father of two brewery boys, Alex (4) and Andrew (2) , can tell you and his sons all about it.
Once upon a time a young lad in English boarding school brewed beer in his closet without ever getting caught.
“I wondered for years why I didn’t get caught,” Post said.
“It shows that 14-year-olds must really smell bad, so they must have thought it was just another smell.” The yearning to make beer had much to do with visits to great beer bars near Marston’s Brewery in the U.K. The fact that his best friend’s grandfather had been a brewer at Marston’s had made an indelible impression on Post. He even penned a poem with lines like, “Shall I compare you to a pint of Marston’s Pedigree Bitter…”
Back and Forth Across the Pond
However, the first fork in the road for the eventual brewer brought him to New York City working as an investment banker. The first really spicy breadcrumb in Post’s wayward travels began with him meeting a coed. Thus, he went to visit the young lass at Smith College in the western Massachusetts town that is home to Northampton Brewery. Post’s experience in the U.K. was with large industrial breweries. When he walked in the doors of Northampton Brewery his initial thought was, “My god, do they all do this here? I have to have one (a brewpub).” The year was 1989, and Northampton Brewery left an indelible mark on young Post, one that still drives him today.
“I really liked Northampton Brewery,” Post recalled.
Post’s time in New York City was short lived, and he was sent back to England. One would think that his homeland’s imperial pint would satisfy his thirst, but, Post said, “I went looking for a Sierra Nevada. I got into the Cascade hops thing, and it’s not very easy finding that kind of beer (in the UK).”
In 1996, Post returned to banking in New York City. Somewhere around 2001, pre-September 11, Post noticed that with banking, “there was more and more backbiting.”
It had been 32 years since Post pitched his first yeast, but the thought of “what if” he brewed full-time had never left his mind. He first tried beer kits, two in fact, and after his second batch he was on to brewing all-grain beers. In 2003, “while having another boring day at the office,” he found on eBay a 15-barrel brewery for sale in Michigan. Lighthouse Depot was selling its brewery for $35,000.
“If I don’t go for it,” Post said at the time, “I will forever be thinking ‘what if.’ Three days later, after winning the bid, I was thinking, ‘Do they take PayPal?’”
The copper kettle from Lighthouse had only been brewed in 17 times over the course of its short three-year run. Post stored the 15-barrel system in Michigan until around 2007 when he tried to open Nomad Brewing Company in North Adams, Mass. Like Hansel and the gingerbread house, the old mushroom factory in North Adams was a quagmire of obstacles that would have cooked a lesser man. Suffice to say, the brewery never got off the ground and the brew kettle stayed in storage.
On Christmas Eve in 2008, and a bit despondent over the Nomad debacle, Post was driving along Route 9 in Pittsfield, Mass., when he happened to see a “For Sale” sign on a large green building. It took five months to close the deal on the newly renamed brewery’s home-to-be with Post’s two original business partners in the Nomad enterprise, Alex Hall and Chris Cuzme, both of New York City still on board. Post’s wife, Shannon, is the company president.
“My story is a simple one,” Shannon said. “Chris and I met at the Blind Tiger in New York City, got married, had two kids (Alex and Andrew) and moved to the Berkshires so he could follow his dream of opening up his own brewery. And so here we are today.”
“Shannon keeps the brewery on track,” Post said.
The brewery was installed in the palatial building and became fully permitted to brew this past year.
Hall and Cuzme are both beer geeks in their own right, known around New York City as cask ale aficionados. Among his many talents in the beer world, Hall is the author of Beer Demystifier New York City, a.k.a. The Gotham Imbiber, an online resource for beers in New York City. Cuzme is the president of the New York City Homebrewers Guild and is considered a driving force behind NY Craft Beer Week and Get Real New York.
Wandering Star Craft Brewery is a production brewery with kegs being sold in New York and part of Massachusetts. At this time there are only kegs and no bottles, so finding Wandering Star beers means going to a good beer bar. The emphasis is on session beers. The flagship beer, Raindrop Pale Ale, is a 6.3% ABV American pale ale. This beer would hardly be considered a session beer for U.K. drinkers at 6.3%, however, it’s a tasty beer like all of Post’s creations, full bodied and leaves the palate longing for more.
Zingari Belgian Wit (5.0%) is named after the word for gypsies in Italian — think wandering or wanderer. The spice of fenugreek in this beer is perfectly rounded out with the typical witbier blend of lemongrass, coriander and cardamom. Post’s beers implore you to explore the complexity of each sip. That alone is reason enough to find and try a Wandering Star brew. Post’s beers are also encouraging in range and quality, getting knowledgeable beer drinkers excited about a new brewery — and not just because it means a road trip.
Another year-round beer is Bash-Bish- Bock, well balanced at 6.6%. It’s a delicious departure from the standard bock available on most shelves. One could truly live on this bock during Lent and not get a sweetness overload. Bert’s Disqualified Imperial Stout (8.6%) is Bert Holdredge’s recipe. Holdredge is a homebrewer from the Berkshires who won the Brewer’s Choice competition in the 2011 New York City Homebrew Competition, meaning that his beer would be commercially brewed at Wandering Star. When the brew was sent for a BJCP competition, it was disqualified because the label was still on the bottle. Not a good move, but it made for an interesting name.
Upcoming 2012 beers from Wandering Star begin with Rude Man English Barleywine. Dear men and women of the beer world who can’t turn down a barleywine take note — Rude Man is also the nickname of the Cerne Abbas Giant, which is a hillside carving in the U.K. of a naked man with giant testicles that some think is a fertility god. A Burton style IPA and an imperial stout are also in the works.
Wandering Star beers are available at Massachusetts taps such as Ye Olde Forge in Lanesboro, Purple Pub in Williamstown, Armsby Abbey in Worcester and Christopher’s Restaurant and Bar in Cambridge, and in Albany at City Beer Hall. In New York City, the beers are on tap at Jimmy’s No. 43, dba Brooklyn, Café D’Alsace, Waterfront Ale House, The Pony Bar and many other good beer bars.
Wandering Star Craft Brewery will be open for tours and tastings this spring, so when in the Berkshires or after some great wings at Ye Olde Forge, beer lovers can head over to visit the brewery. There might be a chance to fill a growler of beer, and to be on the safe side it’s a good idea to bring one along when beer touring.
The most important part of the Wandering Star story is to remember that there are many forks in the road to choose from, and even if there is a troll under the bridge, it’s not the end of the world. Just a little ways up might be that perfect location to start a brewery. The moral of the story is that it does pay to daydream occasionally while on the job if the only thing you do is scribble numbers on a pad and pretend that banking is good for the world.