NYC Brewer’s Choice is tonight, and for the first (and only) time during this year’s New York City Beer Week, the entire set of SMASH beers will pour together in one place—Sanders Studio in Clinton Hill, on the same block as Heartland Brewery and KelSo Beer’s home, Greenpoint Beer Works. I’M EXCITED!
Recap: The New York City Brewers Guild chose three malts and three hops, all grown in New York State, and with them, half-ish of the Guild’s 20 members (see: local breweries) created beers—wildly different beers, you will shortly observe—exclusively for Beer Week.
I already spoke to Greenpoint Beer & Ale about its English-style mild ale, Ps and Qs, and during last week’s chat with Cuzett Libations, Chris Cuzme and Mary Izett briefly dissected Cuzett Grisette, which simultaneously revealed their plans to snatch the supercouple crown from Jay and Bey. Since there are more SMASHs to smash, err, dissect, we provided several of their makers with a stage and a verbal mallet before Brewer’s Choice tonight. (Note: Cuzett Grisette is explained more below, too.)
Gun Hill Brewing
SMASH Beer: Ruby Rye
“We went with a strong rye ale, which we are simply calling Ruby Rye. My original concept was to brew a rye barleywine but due to problems with availability I had to change course and came up with this. The amber rye and Vienna malts were enticing to me and that influenced my decision. I was a bit skeptical about how the brew would go but was pleasantly surprised with the performance of the ingredients in the brewing process. I am more familiar with how the New York State hops would perform due to my experience over the last 10 years—I’ve grown mostly Cascade, with some other varieties of uncertain origin, on my mother’s property where I grew up in Delhi in Delaware County, which was one of the regions where the main US hop industry thrived in the 1800’s. For Ruby Rye, the malts impart the color and spicy, peppery character, while the hops provide soft bitterness and subtle fruity notes.” Chris Sheehan, brewmaster
SMASH Beer: Rye Vienna Lager
“I love using our house lager yeast; it’s dry and clean, and really allows the malt and hop character of a beer to shine. Since this SMASH project is a showcase of both malts and hops, and since those ingredients are of such a high level of quality, crafting a layered, complex lager that showcases New York State as best as possible was a no-brainer. Simply put: I wanted the freshness of the grain and malt to pop out, while the using the hops to add a delicate layer of terroir. As a whole, lots of rye and pale malt make this beer bold and spicy, and yet it has a clean and mellow finish. Delicious, and a good story behind it—one that I hope we can continue to tell during Beer Week for years to come.” Kelly Taylor, co-owner and brewmaster
SMASH Beer: Cuzett Grisette
“The Cuzett Grisette is a bright, flavorful, and sessionable farmhouse ale. The aroma is a bouquet of flowers, citrus fruits, and fresh-cut pear buoyed with a wisp of crisp grass. The aromatic notes are mirrored in the flavor and anchored with bready maltiness and a whisper of rye spice. Saison yeast flavors dance with the spice and the fruity aromas to balance into a magnificently quaffable beer. We wanted to make a beer that was low ABV but flavorful—something that you can have a couple of glasses of. The grisette fits in well with those needs. We loved using New York State ingredients in the beer; it’s so exciting to be able to buy locally-grown materials to brew with and support local farms! We dry-hopped with the Cascade and while it is lovely, it is very different from the traditional West Coast-grown Cascade that we’re familiar with. This Cascade was really quite floral, with some citrus in the back. Very aromatic and it just really danced with the yeast.” Mary Izett and Chris Cuzme, owners
SMASH Beer: NY1 Saison
“The first thing we noticed during mashing was the distinct and beautiful grainy aroma. It really was unlike anything we use normally from Europe, the UK, or the US. That rustic touch that the grain provided during the process has translated nicely into the flavor and aroma of the beer. The Danko amber rye has left a shadow of malt sweetness that we think is pairing well with the New York State Cascade hops. Rather than being intensely citrusy-grapefruit like West Coast Cascade, we are noticing less aggressive orange rind and pith flavors. The NY Willamette from Pederson Farms is equally soft and adds a very light spiciness with elusive floral notes. We bottled one-third of the batch of beer into 750-milliliter Champagne bottles and kegged the rest. Both the kegs and the bottles are naturally conditioned. This means that the beer is “forced” to sit for an extra three to six weeks in the brewery while it carbonates. I think this extra time in combination with the saison yeast we chose has allowed this beer to come together nicely allowing the flavors to mature and marry. Overall the beer presents as dry and fruity with a medium mouthfeel and while this was a one-off batch for Beer Week, we have already ordered more of the grain and hops to make another larger batch for the late spring.” Anthony Accardi, co-owner
SMASH Beer: NYC Common
“While we really enjoy experimental sours and the like, our brew team also likes more classic, ‘down-to-earth’ styles—like the California common. The guys at Valley Malt worked hard to get some lovely flavors from the grains, and I didn’t want to overwhelm those, so we focused on brewing a balanced and delicious beer with these really special ingredients! We thought the California lager yeast would be a good choice to work alongside the hop and malt flavors, and I think we succeeded; the malt is really aromatic and clean, with a great cereal flavor to them, and the New York hops add citrusy flavors. In total, the beer is crisp and great to knock back. As another positive, the lower ABV helps the guys and I get through a long Beer Week while still being productive during the day.” Heather McReynolds, brewing manager
Bridge and Tunnel Brewery
SMASH Beer: Bound By Chains Double Rye IPA
“Two 40-gallon batches of Bound By Chains were painstakingly made in my unheated brewery this month, including a kegging session in single-digit temperatures. Not even Harry Houdini could have escaped that. Speaking of, the beer itself is named in memory of the great escape artist and illusionist, who happens to be buried a few blocks away from the future Bridge and Tunnel Brewery in Ridgewood, Queens. We’re launching it on Wednesday, quite appropriately, at Houdini Kitchen Laboratory, the next door neighbor to our new location—and one of the best pizzas I’ve had in a long while. Prior to this calling for SMASH beers, I was planning to create a beer that Max at Houdini and I can both pour at our places, and I was pondering a rustic IPA with a deep, dark color, like wood; Houdini Kitchen is a pretty rustic environment, so I figured a deep brown IPA would look good on one of Max’s tables. This is the first time that I’ve used local malts, and it’s also the first time that I used amber rye in a recipe, and I did not expect the color contribution to be so true to it’s name. The rye in the recipe lends a crispness, which complements the hop bitterness, and I think it’s a natural pairing with pizza.
I’m excited about the launch; The event will shine a light on the life of Harry Houdini, with the inclusion of an off-the-charts, hour-long performance by members of the sideshow troupe Coney Island Circus Sideshow. There will also be a focus on the community in Ridgewood, and the local craft businesses that call the neighborhood home. On the menu, you can expect frothy pints of Bound By Chains; ample pizza samplings; a dessert pairing of our Bone Orchard Vanilla Porter with a delicious creation by Rudy’s Pastry Shop; a tasting presentation by beer sommelier Joanna Carpenter of Braving the Brew; and a ton of sideshow performances, like sword swallowing and a straightjacket escape. I’d like to think Harry would be proud of all of this.” Rich Castagna, owner and brewmaster
The Bronx Brewery
SMASH Beer: Imperial Rye IPA
“We knew we were using a pretty rare Danish rye malt, so we wanted to showcase that alongside the New York-grown hops. We also generally brew pale ales around 6 percent ABV, so we wanted something a bit bigger for Beer Week. The result is our Imperial Rye IPA, a balance of the unique spiciness of amber rye malt with piney, slightly citrusy and resiny hop contributions. This was our first brew with grain from Valley Malt and, while we have used NYS/NYC-grown hops for some of our specialty cask beers before, this was our first production brew with NYS hops. I was very pleased with how the SMASH beer turned out. It’s definitely nice to use local raw materials and showcase that local terroir. The SMASH project gives us as brewers an opportunity to show consumers how versatile various different malts and hops can be and how creative different brewers can be in utilizing them. A pretty wide range of beers were brewed with the same three malts and three hops. For consumers my hope is that there is a growing appreciation for what goes into the beers they drink and that they continue to support local in as many ways as possible without sacrificing quality and consistency standards.” Damian Brown, co-owner and brewmaster