The Beercraft Blog is now hosted under its own domain:
All future positing will be done there. Update your bookmarks and come join us for a pint!
Beer beer beer beer beer beer beer beer (repeat as necessary)
The Beercraft Blog is now hosted under its own domain:
All future positing will be done there. Update your bookmarks and come join us for a pint!
The newly relocated Rohrbach Brewing Company brewery is ready to produce beer.
The brewhouse, ready to work some mojo
Although the percussive sounds of construction still echo through the converted warehouse, The brewing system is entirely assembled. The first batch to brew will be Highland Lager. Although the month spent not brewing while the equipment was moved has left supplies of the popular Scotch Ale are perilously low, the longer fermentation and maturation time of the Lager requires that it be brewed as soon as possible.
Certainly, Bruce and fellow brewer Jim McDermott have developed their share of grey hairs as they watched their beer stock dwindle like the Aral Sea. Now, their challenge is to replenish the inventory of accounts regionwide.
Fermentation vessels await their precious cargo
And that probably won’t be too difficult. The increased work and storage space will hopefully facilitate a faster workflow, and once the 7-barrel system goes up at Rohrbach’s Buffalo Road location, the brewery will be making more beer than it has in years.
Brewer Jim McDermott makes the final connections
Beercraft has grown up! Thanks to a rapidly growing readership, we’re turning the blog into a full-fledged standalone website. This will allow more reader features, better presentations, and the simple and hassle-free joy of running my own server.
We will accomplish the move today, barring the nigh-infinitesimal chance of a technical issue. Check back this evening for the new URL. Beercraft is about to be better than ever. And I have you guys to thank for it.
Low Alcohol, Big flavor
By Mark Tichenor and Bruce Lish
So how were you feeling under the harsh dawn of New Year’s Day?
A bad hangover, which some of you readers undoubtedly had, can put a person off of alcoholic beverages for quite a while, and rightly so. A hangover is a message from your brain that you were drinking in an irresponsible fashion.
One of the trends in craft beer over the past few years has been to make the occurrence of those hangovers much more likely. Strong beer has been king. The alcohol content of craft brew by volume usually tops 6%, and routinely spikes over 8%. Some of the strongest “extreme” beers pack an alcoholic punch eclipsing wine, up to 22% alcohol by volume in some cases.
These are fine, but it’s difficult to have more than two of these alcohol-bombs and still remain socially acceptable. Fortunately, and especially if you’re cool with drinking imports, there’s a whole range of commonly available beers that offer huge flavor while treading a bit more lightly on the old liver. If you’re planning a longer night out, you can’t go wrong with any of the following.
We’ll start with the obvious session beer: Guinness Irish Stout. Imposing, nearly opaque black, and bursting with dry, nutty, roasty flavor, Guinness does much to explode the myth that high alcoholic content is necessary for a satisfying beer.
Guinness is the beer we use to free beer newbies from their preconceptions. Many people believe that darker beer is stronger and heavier. But the only thing that makes Guinness dark is the roasting of the malt before brewing. A heavy roast results in grain that’s nearly black in color, and the use of this grain in brewing gives Guinness its inky, seductive hue.
Take a look at the numbers. The black beast of Dublin clocks in at 4.2% alcohol by volume, the same as a Bud Light. At 220 calories per pint, Guinness isn’t murder on the waistline either.
Of course, the flavor of Guinness isn’t for everybody. If you prefer a crisper, lighter, clean-tasting beer, a Pilsner might be just the thing. Pilsner Urquell, from the Czech Republic, is the original Pilsner beer (it’s brewed in the town of Pilsen). Over the years, the term “Pilsner” has become bastardized to refer to any light colored lager.
But the original Urquell is packed with flavor. You can taste the sweet malt in each sip, bready, yet light on the tongue. As you swallow, that clean sweetness rounds into a gentle bitterness imparted by Czech Saaz hops, lingering on the back of the tongue and inviting another sip.
Urquell is refreshing enough to drink outside on a hot day, complex enough to stand up to most food pairings, and, at 4.4% alcohol, light enough to make it your “go-to” beer when out with friends.
Our third suggestion comes from the Rhine river town of Cologne (spelled ‘Koeln’ in German). The city’s breweries are famous for their Koelsch- a slightly sweet, light colored low-alcohol ale that serves as an accompaniment to many meals and an excellent social lubricant in the evenings. It’s not the easiest style to find in Rochester, but Gaffel Kolsch has recently been on tap at the Tap and Mallet, and is available bottled at Beers of the World.
While Gaffel Koelsch is in fact an ale, its clean flavor and grassy body seem very lager-like. The key to this beer is balance, with neither the hops nor the malt dominating the flavor. Instead they combine to impart a gentle spiciness with noticeably grain and floral aroma.
Gaffel checks in at an underwhelming 4.8% alcohol, making it a good choice if you’re planning to have multiple brews over the course of an evening.
So who says you have to compromise? Pick one of these beers, or really pretty much any Irish stout, Koelsch, or Pilsner, and you can be assured you’re drinking a beverage that’s absolutely delicious, and is likely to split your bladder prior to splitting your skull. High alcohol content is great from time to time, but moderation hurts less in the morning.
In other beers
The annual Scottsville Ice Arena Winterfest is taking place on Saturday, January 19th, from 5pm to midnight. Included in the $10 admission is a beer and wine tasting from 7-9pm. Head on over to darkest Scottsville and sample the finest from Southern Tier, Rohrbach, Brooklyn Brewery and many more fantastic New York State craft brewers. There’s also music provided by The Meddling Kids and Random Act, and by you if you bring bongos and join the rhythm-optional drum circle.
Bruce is a certified beer judge and commercial brewer. Mark owns a laptop and likes beer. For more on beer, check out the beercraft blog, updated regularly, at
. Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We headed up to The Old Toad last night for the area’s first taste of barrel-conditioned Allagash Curieux. The place was unexpectedly packed. I’d like to think it was all Beercraft readers, but that probably isn’t the case.
Anyway, the beer itself was a bit anticlamactic to me. It seemed a case of the Belgian Tripel style not quite meshing with the barrel-conditioning. I missed the pinprick carbonation that counters a Tripel’s heavy sweetness, and combining that sweetness with none-too-subtle bourbon notes from the barrels made the Curieux just a bit too cloying.
Still, it was a rich, complex, and skillfully made beer. I just didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to order more than one.
Kira Barnes of UNYHA awash in Belgiany goodness
The holiday break behind us, we are pleased to resume our biweekly beer tasting series at Monty’s Korner (Rochester, NY) tonight at 7pm. The topic: Oatmeal Stout. Be there or be quadratic.
“So we took a couple of firkins,” Jules Suplicki, bar manager of The Old Toad explained in her cute English accent “And we mailed ‘em up to Allagash. We had no idea what they’d put in them. They shipped them back filled with Curieux.“
“Cask-conditioned Allagash Curieux?” I asked, demonstrating my devastating logical abilities.
“Yeah. This is the first time that it will be availoable in Rochester on Cask.”
Jules was excited enough about this to print up a bunch of signs and make the tapping of the Allagash uber-beer a full fledged event. This Friday, January 11th, the two casks will be broached, and this Beer Advocate ‘A’ rated beer can be freely enjoyed by everyone who isn’t afraid to fill out a credit application.
I’m just saying… it won’t be cheap. but by the end of the night it’ll probably be gone.
Our samples consumed, with beer styles, time, and stereoscopic vision beginning to blur, we wrong-turned our way to Reamstown, a name that, because of all the beer we’d consumed, was twice as hilarious as it should have been. Fortunately, Chris’ creative and whimsical approach to navigation gave us an hour to burn off our previous consumption. Thus, it was with a fresh palate and clear head that we entered the Union Barrel Works.
Suzi dispensing heaven at Union Barrel Works
The Barrel Works looks as if it could accommodate the entire population of the town in which it’s located. An immaculate bar and shiny stainless steel betray the newness of the place. It opened eight months ago. Suzi, the Cheerful Bartenderess kept up an amiable banter as she worked and we tasted.
Me enjoying the fruits of her labor
All the beer from Union was excellent. The Koelsch being a particular standout. Koelsch, a light, low-alcohol ale native to the city of Cologne, Germany, is an uncommon find among American Craft breweries. When done right, as union does it, it’s the perfect session beer. Because of it’s featherweight mouthfeel and alcohol content, Koelsch serves as an excellent companion to hours of leisurely discussion, and pairs well with chicken and fish dishes too.
It’s at this point that things start to get a bit hazy. A quick whirl through the shitty countryside and we fetched up at Stoudt’s, the Munster Mansion of the brewing world. The bizzare, quasi-Victorian decor and closed-off brewhouse makes Stoudt’s seem more like a restaurant that also brews beer instead of a major craft brewer whose beers are distributed all over the place. Predictably, each of us ordered and enjoyed a sample flight of Stoudt’s uniformly excellent beer. Which we enjoyed uniformly.
Patrick comes to grips with Stoudt’s eclectic decor, as well as his beer flight
It’s cozy, in a 19th Century kinda way
After Stoudt’s, we fetched up in a Downingtown, Pennsylvania industrial park. This would have been stupid had the park not contained the Victory Brewing Company.
Victory’s dining area has the feel of a roller rink with tables placed on the skating floor, but neither our group, nor the hundreds of other patrons, were there for the decor. We were there for the Victory Lager, which we can’t get back home, and the freshly released Baltic Thunder. Brewed in the Baltic porter style, but hoppier, Baltic Thunder is a dense, opaque, powerful brew with a chewy body and pleasantly bitter finish. Unlike the lager, which is so on-style you could A/B it with the Helles of Munich, the BT digresses from the parameters of the Polish and Estonian beers which inspired it. A hefty dose of bittering hops lends a distinctly American touch to a relatively homogenous European style. It went great with my reuben.
One of these Baltic Thunder sizes is unnecessary.
Here’s a quick tip if you’re thinking about going on a beer tour: take a commercial brewer along with you. Bruce’s credentials got us a full tour of Victory’s brewhouse led by Tim Wadkins, their Quality Control guy. He explained that, although Victory Hop Devil is their (very deserving) best seller, Victory’s brewers have a passion for German lager. It shows. They’re one of the few North American breweries to do the style justice.
It’s as fun to drink Prima Pils in the back of the house as in the dining area
By this point, most sane individuals would have called it a night. So we headed over to Bube’s, where Bruce drunkenly hit on the cute chick singer of the band that had just wrapped up its set. Apparently, he was impressed that they covered the Dead Kennedys. In homage to Delaware’s proximity, we plowed (sic) through a few Dogfish Head 60-minute IPAs. Then, our night ended somewhat abruptly.
If you’ve read to this point, I can’t imagine why. Suffice it to say that, for beer lovers, southeastern Pennsylvania has a hell of a lot to offer. Sure, you have to dodge buggies, shit trucks, and religious pamphlets, not to mention scrapple, but both the variety of beers and their more or less uniform excellence will make those tribulations worthwhile. If the rest of the country follows this region’s example, we’ll have earned a place among the great beer nations of the world.
Southeast Pennsylvania is a beer mecca; a curious vortex of zymurgy amid the rolling farmland and simple cities. Some of the finest craft breweries in the nation can be found occupying the once run-down warehouses of Harrisburg, the industrial parks of Downingtown, and nestled among the small towns in the surrounding void. When our friend Chris, wrapping up a 180-day sentence fixing the management problems of his company’s Lancaster branch, invited us down, we jumped at the chance to crash on his floor for three nights of beery stupor.
It turns out Mount Joy is a town, not an activity. It’s where Chris lives and thus our base of operations for the beer safari. It’s also home to Bube’s Brewery, a kick ass combination restaurant, brewpub, homebrew supply store and live music room located in a long-defunct 19th century brewery. Finding a place this cool in a sleepy town that sees as much traffic from horse-drawn buggies as cars surprised and delighted us. So did Bube’s premise-brewed oatmeal stout, which, while marred with a slightly roastier flavor than is typical for the style, went down very well. Multiple times.
Spooooky! The entrance to Bube’s tap room
This place is like a living museum. Up on the second floor, homebrew supplies await purchase amid dusty old implements of the cooperage trade, and colossal wooden fermentation vessels stand as disused monuments to the industry’s former glory. It seems you’re free to just wander around any old where, and the building has another fascinating thing in every old limestone cranny.
Bube’s, the way beer used to be brewed
Anyway, a bunch of beer later, we called it a night in preparation for the ambitious regional circuit that would begin with the crowing of the cock. Or more realistically, the rumbling of a truck spraying yet more pungent cow shit on the surrounding fields. They use real, brown, gloopy cow shit instead of chemical fertilizer. The odor hangs in the air like Los Angeles smog. It’s freakin’ terrible. Bruce farted in the car and I didn’t know what to do. Rolling down the window produced an odor exactly as noxious as the one emitted from his ass. I expected a shitduster to come swooping over the horizon and disgorge a brown mist on the farmland below.
But I digress.
After a hearty breakfast of eggs and scrapple, we piled into my trusty Honda Element and motored over Harrisburg way, to Troegs Brewing Company. The beers of Troegs are much-heralded and totally unavailable to us Western New Yorkers. Troegs is not a brewpub, it’s a large brewery with a bare-bones sampling, growler filling, and merchandise foisting room up front. And they’re generous with the samples. We got to taste any 6 out of the 5 beers they had on draft. I found myself returning to the Hopback Amber. Its balance and substantial body demonstrated just how much a beer can stick out from the pack merely by being excellent at what it is: not super strong, not overly hopped, no exotic or gimmicky ingredients.
A cool, frosty sample of Troeg’s Hopback Amber
Bruce showed a fondness for the Troeginator Doppelbock, a 9%+ ABV Americanized take on the classic German style. There’s a noticeable hoppy departure from the typical “liquid rye bread” flavor that characterizes Doppel, and the warming kick started our trip off nicely.
Chris Troegner, wondering why the hell his picture is being taken
So after getting us buzzed for free, co-owner Chris Troegner kindly took us in the back for a more thorough tour of the facility than three random walk-in schmucks from Lake Ontario had any right to expect, explaining their process, their expansion strategy, and their bottling procedure in great detail.
Troeg’s brewhouse grows by a couple of tanks each year
24 samples, one tour, two Troegs pint glasses, a T-shirt, and a case of Hopback later, we pulled out of Troegs’ gravel parking lot for our next stop, the Appalachian Brewing Company, located pretty much around the corner. ABC is a testament to two things America has in abundance: good beer and dilapidated warehouses.
Appalachian is one of the largest brewpubs in the country
They certainly must have sunk a great deal of money into undilapidating the building. Although industrial and nondescript on the outside, ABC’s cavernous interior is immaculate. We immediately pissed off the bartender by each ordering an eight-beer sample flight, saddling the poor bastard to the time consuming chore of pouring thirty-two tiny glasses full of beer.
In retrospect, the samplers may have been a touch… ambitious. Eight five-ounce glasses is enough to impart a buzz on even the most seasoned beer drinker, and we already had stomachs full of Troeg’s. Patrick’s abstention from anything but the most cursory of sips from each glass is to be commended. Someone had to drive. Better him than me.
Bruce contemplates the enormity of his sampler.
As for the beer itself, ABC was a little underwhelming. While not bad, most were noticeably off-style. But the Weizenbock excelled, cloudy with yeast and bursting with banana and clove, pretty much bang-on how we’d expect a Weizenbock to taste. Were I a regular there, the Weizenbock is the only beer I’d order, but I’d order it over and over again.
Part 2 tomorrow… deeper into the brew!
In the interest of bringing Beercraft readers the finest quality beer-oriented photography, I headed over to the Tap & Mallet to practice large-aperture shooting with my new Canon Digital Rebel XTI.
I forget which saison this is
Rohrbach McBane’s Best Bitter meets Gaffel Koelsch
I should’ve used a smaller aperture for this shot