Monday, March 12, 2012

Brooklyn Brewery

"Beer has dispelled the illness
which was in me."
One of the things that I was very eager to do during this most recent trip down to see Strathy was make a little jaunt into Brooklyn to visit the Brooklyn Brewery.  Seeing as how Strathy will soon be relocating from his current apartment in the Ironbound of Newark to a nice little space in Brooklyn, he was all but happy to oblige, and show me around a little of what will soon be his new neighborhood.
Strathy, my angel with beer tokens
The Brooklyn Brewery is located within what one could call the hipster heartland of New York. Though, as you will learn on the tour, it wasn’t always like that, and their location came about because when the brewery was founded in 1987 and looking for a location soon there after (though initially they had paid other breweries to prepare their recipe until coming to their own space), Williamsburg in Brooklyn had some of the most reasonable rent levels around the city. You’ll also pick up other interesting tid bits and stories along the tour, such as how initially the founders didn’t know about how they were supposed to pay off the mob, or how payment to Milton Glaser for the creation of their logo involved a lifetime guarantee of beer. Oh, and somebody stole a forklift at the beginning of the brewery days, and the founders  then stole it back… something like that. All these types of factoids make for an entertaining tour, but whatever. Let’s get to the beer.
Shiny new equipment
The current location of the Brooklyn Brewery is only about a year or so old. It’s located in an old stained glass factory, and all of the equipment inside was brought over from a German company. It took about a year for six of the German engineers to perfectly calibrate to the brew masters' liking, but to great results. Of the six or so brewmasters that they have on hand, any of these individuals and other employees can monitor all alerts that are going off in the brewery via their smart phones. Likewise, adjustments can be made to fix anything that might be going wrong from these devices, even while the person is located somewhere other than the actual brewery.
Our guide, located near the
facility's only bottling area
The bar area
The efficiency brought on by the upgrades in technology have led to expected upgrades in production for Brooklyn Brewery. They are currently located in 21 states, and numerous countries abroad, but are hoping to expand to be available in all states. In an interesting side note, only the liquid in kegs and in the 750 ml bottles are actually brewed in Brooklyn. All other regular bottles are brewed and packaged up at a facility in Utica, i.e., using Utica water, not Brooklyn water, thereby producing a difference in flavor in some of the varieties of beer, most noticeably the Brown Ale when one glugs on draft versus from a regular six pack. Last little brewing fact, the hops that are used are imported from Germany and Belgium in the form of pellets, but lager yeasts are cultivated, according to the guide, up in Utica, while ale yeasts are monitored down in Brooklyn.
Onto the beers that we were able to sample. I would guess owing to the size of the brewery, and the hoards of thirsty hipsters within, they’ve found that free tastings after a tour really don’t make sense. So as an equally opportune way of tasting several different varieties of beer, guests are invited to pay $20 bucks in order to get five beer tokens, and encouraged to grab a beer at the bar to enjoy while listening to the tour.
Bitter Ale, on cask offering
The first of the beers that I tried was the on cask offering (always go for the on cask offering), which was a bitter ale. True to it’s name, while the bitter didn’t show up until the very back end, it was a nice characteristic flavor note that presented itself after a long, smooth sip of this only slightly cool beverage. It wasn’t very carbonated, but just an overall, smooth, slightly spicy, little bit bitter at the end wonderful ale.
My cohort and long time friend, Strathy, dove right in on one of this favorite flavor profiles. Mary’s Maple Porter (sorry, no picture available) had the nice smooth chocolaty notes of a fine porter, but coffee flavor and robust aromas gave way at the end to that sweet, delightful flavor of maple syrup. It wasn’t cloying, or overly sweet, but just enough of a kiss to let you know that this beer was made with maple in mind. The beer was also delightfully smooth, only lightly carbonated, and had just a touch of hoppy bitterness to accentuate the sweetness.
Ama Bionda
Next on my list was a beer that was recommended by the tour guide, one which was brewed in partnership with the Amarcord Brewery in Apecchio, Italy, called the Ama Bionda. Normally I do not go for sweet beers, but I was a little seduced by the warm weather outside, and the opportunity to try something that is not readily available elsewhere. Upon further examination of the website, it appears that this beer is brewed over in Italy, using special orange blossom honey from Sicily and some very special water from springs that date back to the days of Rome. The recipe itself comes from a brewmaster over at Brooklyn Brewery, but it is the brewery in Italy that produces the beer as to capture a bit of the terroir of the land. And I think it was pretty successful. This is one of the sweeter beers that I’ve tasted, definitely utilizing a good dose of that wonderful light, floral honey, and other fragrances that derive from oranges and citrus. It doesn’t take like a hefeweizen, and I don’t think It’s supposed to. It just tastes like a very clean ale with a touch of sweetness, and fruit that must come from a very specific blend of malts. I think it was a little too sweet for Strathy… which I find odd, because he is a sweets hound. That’s right, Strath. I’m calling you out.
Brown Ale
Since we were already well on our way to a happy buzz and figured it wasn’t worth over doing it as there were more beverages to come later that evening, we made the Brown Ale, the particular brew that we had heard had a most detectable taste difference when tasting from a bottle versus that of a glass on tap, our final choice at the Brooklyn Brewery. Since I had only tasted this in bottles, I was eager to see if I could detect a difference as attributed to the differing water sources. I am sad to report that I could not.  I’m a loser. But the beer was delicious. Roasty delicious, and mildly spicy from the use of hops, it’s not quite a British brown ale, and not quite a southern brown ale, which is wicked sweet. The happy medium that they harmonize between these two styles just makes for a very robustly, roundly, and evenly keeled enjoyable dark beer. Despite not being able to detect a flavor difference, I still stand behind the delicious brown ale as one of my favorite dark beers.
And that does it for Brooklyn Brewery. Since their taps rotate regularly with very special offerings, I'll be back (-Schwarzenegger). It'll also be interesting to see where the brewery goes from here, as they're seeking to conquer the world and all. Delicious beer, and a fantastic time in Brooklyn. Doesn't get much better.

79 North 11th Street  
NY 11211
Taco truck!
And then beer munchies hit and we got tacos. I love tacos. 
And then I hit the lottery. No not really. But sometimes with friends, great beer and tacos, who really needs all that money anyway?

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