The start of New York City Beer Week is only two weeks away, so my unprofessional outpouring of excitement in the form of fanboy sentences—some concise and annoyingly reliant upon CAPS LOCK—will begin. NOW.
I’m excited for Beer Week!
I’M SO EXCITED! If I possessed a device to measure my exact level of excitement (Excitometer?) for Beer Week’s arrival, this level would easily eclipse my level of excitement when opening Bun B’s Rap Coloring and Activity Book for the first time. That level was high, almost immeasurable; I WAS SO EXCITED!
Before I outpour a fatal level of excitement for the arrival of Beer Week, thus causing me to miss Beer Week, I should reveal my favorite part of last year’s Beer Week. It was the neat collaboration between Greenmarket’s Regional Grains Project and NYC Brewer’s Choice, which yielded about 30 special beers made with 6,000 pounds of New York-grown grains for the latter. IT WAS SO EXCITING!
Before grain—typically barley, wheat, or rye—can be fermented into beer, it must be malted. A growing number of breweries are creating beers with locally sourced ingredients now: hops, honey, even potatoes are being used with the hope of creating beers with terroir, with the hope of expanding on the “Drink Local” concept. This drive to “Source Local” now includes grains, which has created a demand for regional malt-makers, or maltsters, like Hadley, Massachusetts’ Valley Malt.
Valley Malt, a husband-and-wife operation owned by Andrea and Christian Stanley, was responsible for readying the 6,000 pounds of grains—most grown at O’Mara Farms in Canastota and Lakeview Organic Grain in Penn Yan—for last year’s Brewer’s Choice. This year, the New York City Brewers Guild (Beer Week’s governing body) will continue to promote the importance of regional malt-making, and of sourcing other local ingredients, in the craft-beer world with a unique collection of “SMASH” beers available throughout the Week’s 10 days, including Brewer’s Choice on February 24.
SMASH is traditionally “Single Malt and Single Hop.” Beer Week’s version, however, is a beer designed to showcase “State Malts and State Hops.” Each participant (there are 11, including Gun Hill Brewing, Sixpoint, and Transmitter) was asked to create a recipe using the same three New York grains malted by Valley—Vienna, 2-row pale, and Danko amber rye—and three New York hops—Cascade and Willamette from Pederson Farms in Seneca Castle, and Chinook from Bluebell Hop Yard in Farmington. Yeast was the wildcard; any strain was allowed.
As one of the SMASHers, Greenpoint Beer & Ale Co. crafted P’s and Q’s, an English-style mild ale. When the ingredients arrived at the brewery housed in Dirck the Norseman, the grains were tasted and analyzed. “They all had this nutty, caramel character to them. We thought it would work perfect in a dark English style of beer,” says Chris Prout, one of Greenpoint’s two brewers. The final product, debuting at Dirck on the first day of Beer Week on February 20, is a “malt-forward, toasty slammer around 3.8 percent ABV. It was fermented with an English yeast strain to accentuate the malt and lend fruity esters,” he says.
Greenpoint’s use of Valley’s malts is one of the few constants discernible within Prout and Erik Olsen’s experimental oeuvre, one that has already surpassed 75 recipes since the brewery’s launch last March. While limited availability and high cost are deterrents from using them more regularly, these malts possess unique characteristics compared to other companies’ malts, Olsen says: the Vienna is “roasted a little drier”; the pale is “more toasty, rustic, and creamy”; and the Danko is “really earthy and dry.” These “help yield unique beers so we try to use them as much as we can,” Prout adds.
Greenpoint’s experimental torch will burn brightly throughout Beer Week with the release of, at the least, six new beers. While P’s and Q’s is not the only brew ingrained with New York grains, Prout and Olsen have also incorporated other local ingredients into, and collaborated with nearby local artisans for, these recipes. I’M EXCITED!
HERE’S WHAT TO LOOK FOR FROM GREENPOINT DURING BEER WEEK:
Motley Brew: A saison made with six New York-grown, Valley Malt-malted grains, including spelt and rye, Motley Brew was brewed and divided into four American oak barrels last April. Each barrel received a different strain of Brettanomyces yeast, and Prout and Olsen drew samples every month to monitor their development. The wooden container dosed with Brettanomyces bruxellensis “gave the saison some floral and fruity character—Sweet Tarts, orange marmalade, and a light funk,” Prout says. Another was given Brettanomyces bruxellensis Trois, and that beer has flavors of “apricot, overripe pineapple, and a touch of oak. There’s a light acidity and a barnyard funk.” These versions of Motley Brew will debut on February 28th.
Kentucky Common, Runner Porter: An event with Red Hook’s Van Brunt Stillhouse on February 21 will feature Malt Whiskey barrel-aged variants of two Greenpoint beers: Kentucky Common, a recently revived style native to Louisville, popular during the start of the 20th century, and Runner Porter, an English-style porter. Both were aged in the distillery’s wooden containers for two months. “We’re after those chocolate and citrus flavors from the Malt whiskey, along with the toffee, vanilla, toasted oak notes from the wood. They’ll marry with the beers and create a complexity,” Olsen says. A flight will be offered with pours of both virgin beers, their barrel-aged versions, and a shot of Van Brunt’s Malt Whiskey.
The Bowery: A kettle-soured, apple juice-infused ale, The Bowery will debut on February 20. This beer was made with five varieties of apples—mostly Stayman Winesap and Northern Spy—hauled from Soons Orchard and pressed with the help of Brooklyn’s amateur cidery, Proper Cider. The kettle was soured with uncrushed grain, where Lactobacillus resides, for five days to promote lactic acid production. A mixed fermentation with Saccharomyces and Brettanomyces followed, then a secondary fermentation with apple juice followed that. “It’s expected to be light-bodied, tart, and tangy, with toasty, bready, popcorn-like malt flavor,” Prout says. “A lot of dry-cider fruitiness, crisp, and lactic sour flavor. A real zinger.”