by Mark Tichenor
Formed in 1997, after owner Dan Mitchell finally found an adequate brewing system in a defunct Texas brewery and shipped it north, Ithaca Beer Company Grew steadily on its reputation of solid beers and innovative ingredients, and the brewery is now redoubling their commitment to creativity in brewing, without losing sight of the cornucopia of raw materials that surrounds them.
Today, Ithaca Beer can be purchased in 18 states, and new Head Brewer Andy Hausmann is poised to add his own creative spark.
Hausmann learned craft brewing the grassroots way, starting as a homebrewer and working various craft beer jobs until he landed at the F.X. Matt brewery in Utica NY, where he brewed Saranac. “For my grad school work, I focused on the beer business and learning everything about making beer,” Hausmann says. “I was taught by four individuals that were, at the time, 25 year masters in the beer industry.”
Hausmann’s time to shine begins now, in a collaboration with major New York City area beverage Distributor Manhattan Beer. The company asked Ithaca to come up with a special limited-release series. The result: Ithaca Manhattan Project.
Manhattan Project is all about using the creativity afforded by Ithaca’s pilot brewing system, which allows Hausmann and his fellow brewers to experiment on a smaller scale, to get a little crazy without having to risk an entire production batch of beer.
The first Manhattan project beer, Java Power, is the brewery’s flagship Flower Power IPA brewed with coffee from Gimme! Coffee Roasters, also from Ithaca NY, While it’s not uncommon to find coffee in stouts and porters, you don’t usually see it in hoppy IPAs.
Currently out is SaScotch, a rye scotch ale fermented with oak spirals. Upcoming beers in the series will include CranBretty, a Berliner Weisse that gets its characteristic tartness, not from the traditional German yeast, but from Brettanomyeces, a key agent in the flavor of classic Belgian styles like Gueuze and Flemish red ales. This tartness is tarted up even further by the addition of fresh cranberry juice. Also coming down the pipe is Golden Secret, a strong, Belgian-style golden ale brewed with lemon drop hops.
Later this season, pumpkin beer lovers can delight in an offering brewed with pumpkins grown on the brewery premises, and roasted in their own pizza oven, then aged in rum barrels.
Half of each Manhattan Project batch goes to New York City, with the other half divvied up across the rest of Ithaca Beer’s sales region. Central and Western New York get the largest of the remaining share.
The Manhattan Project series illustrates what’s possible when creative brewers take their inspiration from their surroundings. Sure, you can make innovative beers anywhere, but the sunny hills of their city, not to mention the free spirit of the people that live there, Inspire Hausmann and his team to their own vision: to create beers that might be destined for the Nation’s largest metropolis, but retain a character that’s distinctly Ithaca.
Mark owns a laptop and likes beer. For more on beer, check out the beercraft blog, updated regularly, at beercraft.wordpress.com. Find him on Twitter @beercraft. Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.