As the reviews of Josh Trank’s recently released Fantastic Four remain rotten (though not as tomato-terrible as the softcore spud-dud, Sex Lives of the Potato Men), my favorite crew of comic-book superheroes continues to combat catastrophic crime by dispensing delicious beer to the city of Cannapolis.
Little Boy on Street: Are you referring to the Cantastic Pour, mister?
Me: Yes, Billy! I am referring to the Cantastic Pour!
This ever-growing brigade of over 500 breweries canning their beers recently recruited Radiant Pig and Finback Brewery as new members, and now they’re planning to transform another local beermaker into an aluminum-clad craft crusader in the next few weeks: Grimm Artisanal Ales, the great Brooklyn-based gypsy brewery owned by Joe and Lauren Grimm. (The couple is not related to Benjamin Grimm, better known as Fantastic Four’s The Thing—OR ARE THEY?)
Grimm, which brewed my favorite beer of the summer, will start autumn awesomely with its first canning—of a new imperial IPA called Afterimage—in September. (Its label artwork is courtesy of Gretta Johnson, of course.) We talked to Joe and Lauren about their upcoming beer and the decision to start canning, as well as some exciting plans for their company’s future.
Niko Krommydas: Before we dive into Afterimage, I want to ask about being open for over two years now as gypsy brewers. How has it gone?
Lauren Grimm: It’s always an adventure, and fortunately it’s been mostly a positive one since we started. It’s been a great learning experience to work in lots of different breweries, get to know different equipment, use different water sources, and diversify. We’re very proud of what we’ve been able to achieve creatively.
Joe Grimm: I think some insiders aren’t inclined to take new gypsy brewers seriously; and rightfully so, sometimes these are just marketing companies. So we feel like we’ve always had a little extra something to prove. That means we never stop studying, experimenting, and tasting. We figure if we want to earn that respect, our beer has to be absolutely unfuckwithable. At this point, we like to think people finally recognize that we’re the real deal.
NK: There’s definitely been a growing buzz locally with every release; people are excited to drink your beer.
LG: This last year has been great. I think winning a GABF medal for Double Negative was one of the things that made people first take notice.
JG: We also continue to find out more about what exactly Grimm is and who we are as brewers, and that makes everything even more rewarding. As Lauren mentioned this year has been great. We’ve had breakthroughs in our technique for brewing stellar double IPAs. Then we have our series of dry-hopped sours. At this point we may have brewed more dry-hopped sours than any other brewery. It’s a really young, developing beer style that is absolutely fantastic when done right. There’s still so much to learn about how hops and tartness can interact, and we’re trying to drive that research forward as fast as we can. Take a beer like Psychokinesis—there’s little else out there really comparable to the flavor profile that beer has.
NK: I really enjoyed that beer.
LG: We’re really proud of it.
NK: Are there any plans to open your own facility one day?
LG: It’s funny, because we wanted to say a little earlier: We’re finally at the point where we’re looking to find a warehouse and build our own brick-and-mortar brewery here in the city.
NK: Congrats. Where are you looking and what size facility are you thinking?
LG: We’re looking for something around 10,000 square feet. It’ll be a 20 or 30 barrel system and we’ll have lots of wood for wild and sour beer. We’re looking at Red Hook, Sunset Park, Bushwick, and Ridgewood as possibilities. Maybe even further out.
NK: You still live in Gowanus, right?
LG: Yeah. Gowanus would be great for the brewery but at this point there don’t seem to be a lot of spaces left.
NK: Do you have a timeline for opening?
LG: We just started to look so we don’t have a firm timeline; we want to take our time and do things right. But we have a vision of a beautiful tap room where we can feature our own beer along with the finest beers from around the world, curated by us. All of the equipment will be optimized for the beers we love to make the most: wild ales, funky farmhouse stuff, and juicy IPAs. And there are things we’ve been itching to do that are impractical as gypsy brewers, like 100% spontaneously fermented beer.
NK: That’s great. Okay. Let’s get to Afterimage. What prompted the decision to start canning?
JG: To be honest, we were very reluctant to package a double IPA in bottles or cans. These beers are fantastically delicious but also fragile and ephemeral; the flavors degrade very quickly over a short period of time if they’re not kept cold. We hated the thought of beer sitting on the shelf and turning mediocre. So the refusal to package them up until now was based on our belief that they would be consumed more quickly if they were draft only and we could sort of control who gets to pour them. We only sell these beers to bars that know to tap them immediately.
LG: That being said, we were getting requests every day for us to put a double IPA in cans. With the volume of requests we were getting, we eventually caved. We’re going to experiment with a very limited number of cans and see how it goes. We’ll be watching to see how the cans are treated by retailers. Will they be kept cold? Things like that. If they disappear from stores within a week or two, then we’ll keep making them. If they sit around more than that we’ll nix them. The flavor of the beer is the most important thing to us.
NK:You make some beers at Flagship [Brewing]. Are you making Afterimage there?
LG: Actually Flagship has started to bottle their beer and with that, they no longer have the empty tank space for brewing Grimm; they need all of their capacity to brew their own beers. We’ve had some conversations with them about expanding the capacity there to brew more Grimm, but it’s a complex, ongoing process. So that means we’re brewing this beer with our other partner brewery in northern Virginia. This is the same place where we brewed Tesseract batch one. When we told them we were going to bring a new IPA recipe to their facility and can it, they were pumped.
NK: Did you brew the beer yet?
LG: Yeah. It’s fermenting right now, so it’ll be ready in mid September. We’re doing some draft and we’ll be using a mobile service for the cans. River City Cannery.
JG: We’ll be on site and we have to manually apply all the labels because we’re using stickers on blank silver cans. It’s going to be a long day.
NK: Do you think you’ll start canning regularly from here?
JG: We’re going to wait and see how this goes. We’ll continue to do our sours and stouts in large-format bottles, but 16-ounce cans just feel right for IPA. If we’re happy with the speed that they pull through and we’re satisfied that customers are getting the cans at the peak of freshness, then we’ll do a can release once a month. We’re starting out with 120 cases for NYC. We want to make enough that everyone who wants them can get them, but at the same time not enough so that they sit on the shelf getting old.
NK: How would you describe Afterimage?
LG: It’s a double IPA in the Grimm style, so expect a juicy, fruity, soft, unfiltered beer. It features some of our favorite hops: Mosaic, El Dorado, Falconer’s Flight, Columbus, and Simcoe. We’re fermenting it with our special IPA house yeast and dry-hopping it twice. It’ll be tropical and dank. It should to appeal to fans of our other recent DIPAs like Tesseract and Simcoe.