Mission Dolores will unveil two new proprietary beers tomorrow, the same day the acclaimed bar on Fourth Avenue in Park Slope will celebrate its fifth anniversary with a rare-beer bash. Tomorrow is also the same day as April Fools’ Day, now better known as the painful 24-hour period that temporarily transforms the Internet into an annoyinggg and inconceivably awful instrument of deceit. But fret not, conspiracy-obsessed beeronaut: The existence and forthcoming release of this exclusive pair of beers is no elaborate prank. The house beers will simultaneously debut tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. and many people, including me, will happily drink them. Seriously! They exist! Promise!
The tangible beverages, Other Half Brewing’s Greenbacks IPA and Barrier Brewing’s Sprucial Anamoly, were commissioned by Mission—owned by brothers Ben and Mike Wiley, Scott Stubbs, and Margaret O’Connor—for the half-decade milestone. It’s the bar’s third consecutive year partnering with a local brewery to create a birthday beer to sell only in-house. In 2013, staff congregated at Captain Lawrence to make The Prime Directive, a kölsch dry-hopped with lemongrass; and last April, a tasty “session” IPA from Other Half named Tiny Dancer shantayed into the bar, a portion of which is roofed by glass, and fabulously tinted its glassware various shades of fabulous. (I drank a lot of the latter. It was pretty fabulous.)
Mission Dolores’ partners also own parts of Bed-Stuy’s Glorietta Baldy, Cobble Hill’s Bar Great Harry, and Park Slope’s The Owl Farm. And except for Glorietta, the youngest “mem-bar” of the bar-beer-shop quartet, all have had proprietary beers made for prior anniversaries. The only other New York restaurateurs to follow suit have been Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield, two longtime proprietary-beer proponents who have engineered their housies to pair neatly with the menus at their venerable restaurants (The John Dory Oyster Bar has a namesake oyster stout brewed with leftover shells by Sixpoint, for example). “Essentially we’re looking to make a kickass beer with a kickass name. That’s it,” says Crimson Krier-Glading, Mission’s manager and the individual responsible for facilitating both of this year’s collaborations.
Whereas Friedman-Bloomfield proprietary beers are tailored to serve as a component of a meal, Mission & Co.’s brews are more like dessert. These anniversary beers are like a craft beer-birthday cake (maybe with ice cream in the center? I love ice cream cake!), a tasty treat to inhale effortlessly before returning to the ballpit. They’re meant to be celebratory, and they’re meant to be consumed in large quantities. (If you get to the party at 2 p.m., chances are you will consume an awful lot — just like birthday cake.)
Okay! The pair of proprietary beers! I recently met with Krier-Glading to learn about them. Check out the new beers debuting at Mission Dolores’ fifth anniversary party.
Beer #1: Barrier Brewing Sprucial Anomaly
“Bar Great Harry was one of the first bars to carry Barrier in New York City, so I can remember pouring and tasting some of the earliest batches. Even then, I knew they were a special brewery. I like that they’ve maintained a ‘small batch’ ethos as they’ve grown. Instead of making a lot of just one or two beers, they’re still making limited amounts of a lot of different things. They’re not afraid to experiment, and they don’t dismiss a style just because it’s not traditionally a big seller. Brown ales aren’t the sexiest, but their version [Barnacle Brown Ale] is one of the best American browns I’ve had in the last few years.
“I posed the question [of an anniversary beer] to them about eight months ago. I wanted it to be special, but I also wanted a true collaboration; I didn’t want us to just give them some money and say, ‘Hey, make a beer for us.’ They were on the same page from the start. They agreed to do it that same day. Sean [Redmond, one of Barrier’s brewers] and I met a couple of times just to spitball ideas over a beer. We talked about what would be really cool, what we weren’t seeing a lot of, what would be nice to drink that time of year.
“It’s a pale ale aggressively dry-hopped, with spruce tips added and rested on oak spirals. Spruce was one of the first things we agreed on. I’ve had some beers with spruce but it was usually way overdone. We thought about doing an amber ale or a gruit but Evan [Klein, Barrier’s co-owner] recommended a lighter style so the spruce wasn’t really competing with the malt base.
“The name is a really lame Star Trek reference, which isn’t the first time we’ve done that. [Mission Dolores and Captain Lawrence Brewing made The Prime Directive, a kolsch dry-hopped with lemongrass, in 2013.] Every time there’s a disturbance in the space-time continuum, it’s considered a spatial anomaly. So we riffed on that with the spruce.
“The spruce went in at the end of the boiling and they kept it in for a few days. Again spruce is really intense so a little goes a long way. And we figured, if we don’t have enough, we can always just add more. Then we put the oak spirals in last week and they’ll sit in there until it gets kegged. We never wanted an oak-aged beer, just enough oak to soften out the spruce. Given it’s for April my ultimate goal is a light and hoppy beer. I want to create a subtle sense of nature—like a secluded hop fort in the middle of a forest. I want people to say, ‘Ahhh. This has a nice interesting flavor in the background but I can’t put my finger on it.’ Not ‘Wow, that’s spruce!'”
Beer #2: Other Half Brewing Greenbacks IPA
“I’ve known Matt [Monahan, Other Half’s co-owner] for a really long time. He used to be a regular at Bar Great Harry when I worked there and we would just talk homebrew and shoot the shit. When he told us he was going to start this brewery named Other Half that was a 20-minute walk away with Sam [Richardson, Other Half’s co-owner], I was so happy. And they’ve accomplished so much in such a short amount of time. I’m really proud of them. They’re changing the IPA game in the Northeast. To me, there are three types of IPAs here: 1) the Vermont kind, really delicate, light-bodied and citrusy, like drinking hop juice; 2) the standard East Coast IPA like Smuttynose’s, balanced and not trying to compete with the robust hop character that punches you in the face; and 3) then then the IPAs Other Half are doing. They’re aggressive, but really fragrant. And they have a nice body to them. You’re not just drinking beer juice.
“I had a less esoteric idea for this beer than Barrier’s. We definitely played it a little safer, considering we are getting something in the neighborhood of 25 kegs. That’s a lot of beer! We wanted to make sure it was something we could destroy. So I just asked them, ‘Make an IPA?’ I guess I could have asked them to reinvent the wheel, but given their track record, you’re going to just ask them to make a really cool IPA. They probably would have just done that regardless of what I wanted. [Laughs]
“I just said that I wanted fruity hop character, but less of the lemon and grapefruit you tend to see a lot. Those are delicious flavors, don’t get me wrong. But there’s so many different hop varieties out there, I wanted to see what else we could do. We used Topaz, Citra, Azacca, and Mosaic hops in the recipe.
“When we made Tiny Dancer last year they had only been open for a month and change, so they didn’t really have the history to naturally let their name game play out. We made a lot of Elton John fans happy with that one, though. Since then, I’ve noticed they like to incorporate a little bit of hip hop into some names, so I tried to think of something that represented IPAs and was involved with the hip hop I liked. The only song I could think of was MF Doom’s ‘Greenbacks.'”
Mission Dolores 249 4th Ave., Park Slope