Tuesday, May 15, 2012

2nd Stop on the Brooklyn Homebrew Tour

I had the pleasure of co-hosting the second stop of the Brooklyn Homebrew Tour, as organized and led by Joshua M. Bernstein, on Saturday, May 12th. A homebrew tour is a bit like a homebrew "personal residence" crawl....a "pub crawl" for the homebrewing set if you will.

This particular tour featured the homebrewing talents of three Brooklyn Brewsers Homebrew Club (BBHC) members- Ryan McMahon, Pete Lengyel, and Kyler Serfass. I brought along my recently bottled Hickory Chicory Rauch to make it four BBHC brewers on the tasting bill.

The Homebrewer

The second stop of the tour featured Pete Lengyel. Pete is a graduate of the American Brewer's Guild and is a rather prolific homebrewer. Pete was my introduction into BBHC. He had about 30 people coming over at 2 PM to sample his homebrews and he needed some knowledgeable and passionate assistance pouring beers. Shameless plug...I am currently studying to become a Cicerone Certified Beer Server. I jump at any chance to be a humble servant to craft beer fans (bows to legion of craft beer fans.)

I arrive to find Pete busily straightening up and pacing back and forth in great anticipation. He pours me samples of what's on tap today and gives me the run down on the styles. It's got to be daunting to volunteer to let nearly 30 strangers into your apartment to drink your pride and joy. But that's the great thing about the hombrewing and craft beer crowd; it is largely built upon trust, collaboration, good times, and selflessness. 

It's getting past 2 PM, the tour group is running behind. This only adds to Pete's anticipation. He quizzes me repeatedly about any off flavors in his beers. I am not the most trained palate but I reassure him that they all taste great...as they always do. We share some small craft beer talk to ease the tension. I feel it too. Every now and then I go to the bedroom window just to see if I can spot a throng of happy, perhaps slightly buzzed expressions, coming down the street. Nope, not yet.

Pete's phone buzzes. They're outside.

The Homebrews

Single hopped Citra IPA- Maris Otter, Munich malt, CaraMunich. Citra hops in kettle, hopback, and dry hop. ABV= 5.6%

Belgian IPA- Orval yeast. 2 row and Munich malt. Victory, Pale Wheat Horizon for bittering. Cascade and Centennial late addition hops. ABV= 6.6%

Anglo-American Stout (English yeast and hops with American aggressiveness)- English pale malt, English Crystal 60, English chocolate malt, roasted barley. Magnum for bittering. Kent Goldings and Williamette in the hopback. ABV= 7%

Hickory Chicory Rauch - A German, beechwood smoked lager brewed with chicory root and diffused with vanilla vodka-soaked hickory chips for 2 week during secondary fermentation. Bottle conditioned with Turbinado sugar. ABV= 5.1%

The Tour (and the pour) is On

I am at my station...the chest freezer with 3 Corny kegs and two brown bombers of Rauchbier. While I am gripping the tap faucet firmly, Pete opens the door. A throng of bright, happy, and eager faces pour in. They just keep coming! I can no longer see Pete. I've lost the fearless leader! A "deer in headlights" sense washes over me. Fortunately these are craft beer fans and not wolves. Otherwise I might've been dragged off so that the pack can have at the food source. Eventually there is a catcall to start serving beer and I come back around to semi-consciousness to start pouring.

I focus on practicing the perfect pour- 1" above the cup, 45 degree angle to mid cup and then down the middle to build a nice head on each one. And do not touch the spigot to the cup! I pour about 30 beers in 5 minutes, Phew! Every thirst is quenched with the Citra IPA. Before I can gather my thoughts, they are back for more! On to the Belgian IPA while fielding questions about homebrewing and the beers being served. Requests for the stout soon follow. Pete's in the kitchen explaining his homebrew setup. Another round of 30 pours. The crowd is super friendly and cool.

I am so busy pouring Pete's great brews I almost forget to serve the Rauchbier. Two bottles gone in 5 minutes. Word got out to other parts of the apartment and others come forward for a sample but had to be told the Rauch was for naught. Lots of very positive feedback for this budding home brewer.

I get away from the kegs for a minute here and there but ultimately serve over 60 beers during the tasting. As I was serving I notice two bottles of Pliny the Elder sitting on the Kegerator next to the chest freezer. Now I have heard all of the raving about this beer but I have never had it. I watch the bottles as I am intent on getting a taste. Good! They are still half full. I keep pouring beers. You know what happens next. I finally get to step away and remind myself to try it but now the bottles are empty. This elder did not get any Pliny. I grab a cup and dribble out the last drops of Pliny just so I can say I have had it. It was not enough to really savor but what I did get tasted good enough.

Just past an hour into the tasting I step away to talk to people. I go to talk to a guy who shared with me that he prefers sweeter, maltier beers, especially stouts. I share his sentiment. In the craze of hop bitterness, it is hard to find others who prefer a maltier profile in a beer. He is here from Sacramento with his wife. The tour was already sold out when he caught wind of it after arriving in town. Guess how he and his wife got in on the tour? It rhymes with "tiny the melder."

It turns out they travel with a cooler full of West Cost beers to trade, share, or even to "bribe" their way into events. They were looking for suggestions for what to fill the cooler with to take back home. I recommended Beer Street and Brouwerij Lane as local possibilities. To my surprise, a tour member joins the conversation to recommend a New Jersey brewery! What?! A NYC craft beer fan recommending Kane Brewing of Ocean, NJ to Californian craft beer enthusiasts! I couldn't be more proud to be a Jersey resident and craft beer enthusiast.

Beer Run- By the way, I went to a Kane tap takeover last week and they have a respectable and delicious young portfolio. A Kane tour and tasting would make a great day trip for NYC craft beer peeps. Hint, hint. To follow the exploding NJ craft beer scene, check out New Jersey Craft Beer Club. You will be pleasantly surprised. One love craft beer friends...one love.

Back to the Tour

So the time has come to say goodbye to our new friends. Dozens of beers served and not one spilled. It's about 4 PM and the tour group is off to the final tour stop. What an awesome experience and great group of beer fans. No kegs were kicked but lots of delicious beer and positive feedback for Pete's brews was served. Josh does a great job of rounding up the herd and leading them out of the apartment with his generic "Beer" can on a metal poker. The crowd is gone and Pete and I start to clean up....wait!...a craft beer straggler is coming out of the bathroom at the far end of the apartment. He runs out the door to catch up to the group. One man almost left behind. But this is the craft beer community. We would've kept him hydrated until his rescue party arrived.

We return to Pete's apartment for some dinner and a couple more beers after a tour of Cacao Prieto. It's after 7 PM. Ryan comes over to share his experience as the first stop on the tour. Word on the street is that the tour group is still at Kyler's place. There is a short sense of pity for Kyler but we realize he is probably having a blast sharing his beer (a few competition winners lately!) with an apartment full of craft and home brew fanatics.

The Tour Guide
A quick snippet on Joshua. He describes himself as a Brooklyn-based beer, food, travel, and bicycling journalist. It is not clear if he does all of these activities independent of each other or all at once. Either way, that's quite a bit of talent. Anyway, Joshua started conducting homebrew tours in 2009 throughout NYC and I highly recommend joining one...or two. Maybe I will meet you on the next one?

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