Beer

Announcing: Can Jam—Summer Edition

can jam letter-page-001 (1)
can jam letter-page-001 (1)

Fine drinkers,

Hope everyone is having a great spring so far. We've got some killer events planned for the coming months, including a return of the homebrew tours (!).

First things first, I've once again partnered with Threes Brewing to run another edition of our Can Jam. And this one is a doozy.

WHAT: Can Jam Summer Edition WHERE:Threes Brewing (333 Douglass St.), Gowanus, Brooklyn WHEN:Sunday, June 4, 12 p.m.– 6 p.m.COST: Free to attend. Pay as you palm the cans. FACEBOOK LINK: Right here.

Can you dig it? This afternoon, slap on some sunscreen and boogey to Threes for our latest Can Jam, featuring many of the country's biggest and rarest cult beers. Ever wanted to crush cans from the The Veil, Hoof Hearted, Proclamation, Fair State, Seventh Son, and the Big Apple's all-stars (Other Half, LIC Beer Project, Finback and more)? Here's your chance.

Also: We'll also have two beer bongs. And cans of Graft Cider.

Note: Cans are for on-premise consumption only. And they will be priced to pound.

Coming in September: Complete IPA

Complete IPA

Hey there! Been a little it, hasn't it? That's because I've spent much of the last seven months writing a book, stressing about writing a book, revising a book, editing a book and, oh yeah, taking care of a toddler and writing stories. So many stories!

But I'm here to tell you about the book. On September 13, my publisher, Sterling, will release my latest book, Complete IPA. (Want to pre-order it? Click here!) What's it about? Why did I decide to write it? Thanks for asking! The explanation all starts with a dollar bill. (Note: This excerpt is way expanded from my book intro.)

During the late ’90s, my wobbly undergrad-journalist days at Ohio University, I regularly patronized O’Hooley’s. (Today it has transformed into Jackie O's, one of the Midwest's better breweries.) It was a dark and smoky Irish brewpub, popular with bluegrass bands, dispensing brown ales, pale ales, stouts, and other full-bodied crowd-pleasers. What made O’Hooley’s special, especially for a cash-poor college kid, was Power Hour: for 60 glorious minutes, every house draft was $1. A buck! At first I was a greedy, greedy gumdrops, downing three or four in an hour, alcohol, not flavor, my chief concern.

Not every night needed be a blast-off to a blackout. Over time, I started discussing the beers with friends, asking questions, divining why they tasted different. The answers in time led me down delicious tributaries bubbling with monk-brewed Belgian tripels, robust barley wines, rich doppelbocks, and, oh yeah, the occasional India pale ale. Fifteen years back, the IPA was one of many teleporters into a fermented cosmos far more flavorful, far more interesting than what I could gulp from a keg while suspended upside down by my ankles.

What a difference a decade and a half makes.

Beer today is an all-you-can-eat luncheon, glutted with bourbon-barreled imperial stouts, salty ’n sour German ales spritzed with blood oranges, and rustic saisons gone funky with wild yeast. But when people first approach that smorgasbord, empty glass extended, the first (and second and third) selection is often an IPA, the king of contemporary beer.

Whereas for me it was stouts and Belgians that hipped me to a world beyond the bulk-buy lager, mass-produced and massively forgettable, the IPA is oftentimes today’s introductory touchstone of taste. Bitterness and citrus, pine trees and dankness worthy of a weed-filled one-hitter, they’re flavors and fragrances that are easy to grasp, easy to love, easy to obsess over. A generation ago, brewing IPAs made brewers stand out. Now brewers make IPAs to fit in, our ceaseless thirst driving production.

Most every brewer in America, more than 4,300 as of publication and climbing nearly daily, and a growing number around the globe, makes some iteration of an IPA. It’s a category as elastic as it is overcrowded. Those three letters used to be shorthand for bitterness and a fair bit of booze. Now an IPA is code word for flavor. It’s anything and everything, a fever dream filled with hops, kegged, and served cold.

I kind of saw it coming. As a journalist hard on the beer beat since the early aughts, I noticed the uptick in IPAs, the beers growing brasher and more prevalent. However, I thought the wave would crest and crash, followed by another. That’s the nature of trends. The IPA, though, was not a single upsurge; it was a rolling series of swells, some bigger, some smaller, all impactful, steadily eroding prevailing beliefs that beer equaled a fizzed-up yellow lager.

So many waves of IPAs arrived, from every which direction, it was becoming a superhuman endeavor to track them. And it was my job. To provide a concise snapshot of the pervasive, always changing, forever evolving beer style, creating a kind of bitter Rosetta Stone, I resolved to write The Complete IPA. Yes, it’s about beer. It’s also about the ingenuity of brewers taking an idea, taking raw material, and making it massively memorable, utterly distinct, and paradigm shifting—no easy shakes.

Creating a printed document in the forward-hurtling beer world can be thorny, text dated before the tome touches a shelf. I tried to read tealeaves, but with IPAs the only foregone certainty is flux. There’s likely some experimental hop, just taking root, filled with flavors we never dreamed possible in a flower, destined to upend the IPA game forever.

And that’s what keeps me writing and drinking, not necessarily in that order. We’re living in an IPA world. Complete IPA shows you how to drink it in, down to the dollar.

Introducing Brooklyn's Threes Brewing

Threes Brewing’s head brewer, Greg Doroski

As recently as last year, you could count Brooklyn’s professional breweries with three fingers. There was Brooklyn Brewery, Sixpoint and KelSo—and there was nothing else. As the rest of America, from Alaska to Alabama, cultivated homegrown brewing scenes, Brooklyn built restaurants with affinities for exposed brick and heirloom potatoes, as well as bars serving drinks in mason jars.

Breweries required space, and space was a valuable Brooklyn commodity snapped up by condo developers. But where some saw daunting odds, others saw a return to normalcy. As recently as 1962, Brooklyn was cranking out 10 percent—10 percent!—of American beer. We made Rheingold, we made Schaefer, we made the country good and drunk. Now, breweries are slowly repopulating Kings County. In Greenpoint, there’s Dirck the Norseman and Keg & Lantern, while Carroll Gardens’ Other Half is hammering out hop bombs lickety-split.

Brooklyn’s breweries now have company, and the newest entrant—slated to open mid-October—is a brewpub named Threes. Like baklava, the name is multilayered. The first one is most obvious: the address is 333 Douglass Street, right off Fourth Avenue in the Gowanus. The second layer is the founding trio: Sycamore co-owner Justin Israelson, tech entrepreneur Josh Stylman and lawyer and playwright Andrew Unterberg. Lastly, there’s Threes’ mission. It’s by turns a brewpub and a coffee shop, but it’s also an event space, a future home to trees and hop trellises, bands, stroller-pushing parents (like me!), homebrewers and any ol’ Brooklynite who likes beer. Or cocktails. Or music. Yes, that’s more than three. But it’s tough to put a number on what the threesome aim to accomplish.

“We all live in the area and wanted a place in our community that we hope will become a pillar in the neighborhood for a generation to come,” Stylman says.

Spread across 5,000 square feet, the massive Threes aims to be a sunrise-to–last call hangout. Starting at 7 a.m., sleepy locals can prop eyelids with Ninth Street Espresso, which will open its first Brooklyn outpost in the building. Then there are the brews. “If we do our jobs, this place will be a Mecca for people who are into craft beer,” Stylman says.

To accomplish that, Threes tapped former Greenport Harbor brewer Greg Doroski. His initial lineup will have a farmhouse focus, featuring beers fermented with saison yeast and funky Brettanomyces strains. “As much as we could be called a yeast-driven brewery, I’d like to think of us as more flavor profile–driven,” Doroski says. And before you start wondering, hoppy beers will certainly be on tap. “We are launching with an IPA, if only so people don’t ask when we’re brewing one,” Doroski jokes.

Given the style’s ephemeral nature, in which aroma and flavor quickly dissipate, Doroski is eager to have full control over his liquid’s life cycle. “We are committed to only serving the freshest IPA and don’t foresee ever distributing it off site,” he says. “We are also ready to pour it down the drain if it gets old.” (There’s also a hoppy pilsner in the pipeline, but given the style’s extended production time it won’t be ready for Threes’ debut.)

This is simply the start. One benefit of Threes’ system is size: 15 barrels. (One barrel equals 31 gallons.) This may seem big for a brewpub (for comparison’s sake, Dirck the Norseman rocks a five-barrel system), but larger batches provide flexibility, Doroski says. He could split batches and ferment half with Brettanomyces, condition beer with a variety of seasonal fruits and, in the future, age beer in wine and spirit barrels. That’s part of the long-term plan, as is bottling and off-site distribution. (Growlers will always be available.)

My pooch, Sammy Bernstein, and a nicely hopped-up Threes IPA

While house-brewed beers will dominate taps, guest brews from local breweries that the team admires, such as Greenport Harbor, Peekskill, Barrier and Other Half, will fill in gaps in Threes’ portfolio. “That frees us from the Golden, Brown, Black paradigm that can stifle creativity in a traditional brewpub setting,” Doroski says of having to brew, say, a stout or a light-drinking ale. “Without guest taps, I think it would have been difficult to launch with three different farmhouse-style beers.”

To complement the beer, the Threes team enlisted Nick Meyer, a former sous chef at Blue Hill and Eleven Madison Park. Though the menu is still being finalized, one certainty is that food will be cooked in a wood-fired oven. “We hope to be known for our simplicity, unpretentiousness and freshness,” Stylman says.

Concerning the future, plans are afoot to turn the 3,300-square-foot backyard into a garden filled with apple and hornbeam trees, as well as a 16-foot trellis suited for hops and ivy. That transformation will come in due time. For now, the Threes team is focused on getting its doors open, in both manufacturing craft beer and community. From Park Slope to Carroll Gardens and downtown Brooklyn, “we see Gowanus becoming a great central gathering place for all these neighborhoods.”

Get a sneak peek at Threes Brewing at the Brooklyn Wort, on October 12. Tickets are available here. Follow Threes on Twitter and Instagram

Craft Beer: What Does It Mean?

Craft Beer_Imbibe MagazineFor this month's cover story in Imbibe magazine, I investigate the "c" word—craft beer. What does it mean these days?

Thirty years ago, America’s beer market was basted in black-and-white. Big brewers like Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Coors cranked out masses-pleasing lagers. Nipping at their heels were little guys like Sierra Nevada, New Albion and Anchor, collectively known as “microbrewers.” Often packaged in brown bottles, their small-batch ales were rich in flavor, aroma and hue—a marked contrast to clear lagers.

These days, perception is no longer so easily colored. Breweries such as New Belgium and Brooklyn are no longer “micro,” a term that’s a ’90s relic like Reebok Pumps. Today, breweries both massive and minuscule, from Australia to Alaska, are craft brewers. Piney IPAs, aromatic witbiers and wild yeast–inoculated ales are their stock in trade—but so are crisp pilsners and lawnmower-friendly lagers, formerly megabrewers’ main domain. With sales of their once-dependable beers eroding, brewing behemoths have responded by buying or investing in established outfits like Blue Point and Terrapin, as well as releasing brews that could pass for craft in a blind taste test—and even besting craft beers in competitions. At the same time, the Brewers Association has continually tweaked its definition of “craft brewer,” leaving long-running breweries on the outside looking in. And as the industry ranks swell so do concerns about quality—the same issue that helped pop the ’90s bubble.

Care to read the tale? Check out the full story here.

The Evolution of American IPAs

http://instagram.com/p/p9MIhJNJSv/ If there’s an archetype of American craft brewing, it’s the IPA. The cult of the bitter beer grew quickly, and brewers responded by cranking IPAs to 11, devising increasingly intense and pungent brews that, in equal measures, both pleasured and punished palates. But things are starting to change. “There was a period where putting 300 calculated IBUs [international bittering units, an estimated measure of bitterness] into a beer was the thing,” says Stone Brewing brewmaster Mitch Steele. “Now, brewers are exploring more nuanced ways to use hops.”

As America’s craft-beer scene has evolved, so has its approach to the IPA. Breweries such as Sierra NevadaVictory and New Belgium are turning to newfangled, heavily juicy, tropical American hop cultivars such as Mosaic, El Dorado and Citra, as well as German—yes, German—varieties such as the honeydew-like Hull Melon and Bavarian Mandarina. Freshness initiatives and education are rising, helping drinkers enjoy IPAs as bright and aromatic as the day they were bottled. And brewers are packing low-alcohol beers full of hop aroma and flavor, birthing summer’s hottest trend: the session IPA, as exemplified by Stone Go To, Drake’s Alpha Session and Easy Jack from Firestone Walker.

For Imbibe, I took a deep dive into the changing face of the IPA. Care to read the full story? Check it out right about...here.

Introducing Beer With Baby

[embed]http://instagram.com/p/nwT7FfNJR2/[/embed] I am a parent. And I drink beer for a living. Also: I write about it too. How does this all fit together? It's complicated. To chronicle the challenges of being both a working beer journalist and author, as well as a parent, I've started a fun column for First We Feast. Naturally, it's called Beer With Baby.

[embed]http://instagram.com/p/m3wLYsNJYi/[/embed]

For me, it's a fun return to my column-writing days. I spent more than seven years penning a booze-drenched, gluttony-driven column for the New York Press called Gut Instinct. The job helped me hone my writing voice, sending me on culinary (mis)adventures across New York City. Now I'm a dad. But I still eat and drink. Beer With Baby is my attempt to figure out parenthood. With alcohol. Have a read and let me know what you think about the first few columns.

Beer With Baby: Elysian Super Fuzz

Beer With Baby: Green Flash Road Warrior

How Did Bend, Oregon, Become a Craft Beer Powerhouse?

Bend, Oregon_Imbibe

Photo: My Instagram feed!

For the latest issue of Imbibe magazine, I attempt to suss out just how Bend became such a national player on the craft-beer scene. Back in 1988, the town's timber industry had collapsed. The population hovered around 18,000. Downtown was a ghost town.

Then along came Deschutes, which helped jumpstart a stunning revitalization. A quarter-century later, the brewpub has blossomed into America’s fifth-largest brewery, and Bend has undergone a night-and-day revitalization. The town has swelled to around 80,000 residents, who have been lured by a family-friendly lifestyle highlighted by outdoor recreation, a thriving walkable downtown, an abundance of sunshine—and boatloads of craft beer.

Today, there are 17 breweries in Bend (and another half dozen in neighboring towns), each one unique, and together offering an impressive range of beers. If you favor hop bombs, then try Boneyard10 Barrel and Below Grade. For wood-aged elixirs, tryAle Apothecary’s funky fermentations, while Crux Fermentation crafts a kaleidoscope of styles, from an unfiltered pilsner to a peaty Scotch ale. Bend Brewing Company pairs pub grub with medal-winning porters and sour ales, and GoodLife and Worthy Brewing specialize in that crucial companion to hiking and fishing: canned beers.

Care to read the story? Check out "Around the Bend" over at Imbibe.

The New York City Homebrew Tour on Chop & Brew

With only 30 or so spots on my homebrew tours, it's tough to accommodate everyone that would like to attend. And that is where Chip Walton comes in play. Walton, who runs the excellent online show Chop & Brew (homebrew lovers, check it out), was on hand to chronicle a Brooklyn tour that took place in September. Settle in with a good beer and check it out. http://youtu.be/9gy84f5pLuU

Seven of the Most Anticipated New Craft Breweries in NYC in 2014

4th-of-july-beer New York's craft-beer scene is booming, with breweries popping up from the Bronx to Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and even Staten Island. (Not to mention the scores of homebrewers perfecting their recipes, eager to take them to the next level.) Travel around town, and you'll find world-class double IPAs, snifter-worthy barrel-aged imperial stouts and lip-puckering sour ales. Here are the breweries I'm excited about in 2014.

Other Half Brewing (195 Centre St., Gowanus, Brooklyn) Do you love KelSo's IPA and Industrial IPA? Then you dig the beers of brewer Sam Richardson, who has gone solo with this outfit in Carroll Gardens. Expect heaps of hop-forward ales, most notably the West Coast–style Other Half IPA and souped-up Green Diamonds Imperial IPA, which is dosed with heaps of Australia's melon-y Galaxy hops. Status: Other Half beers are currently on tap around town, and the tasting room should soon follow suit.

Dirck the Norseman (7 N. 15th St., Greenpoint, Brooklyn) Ever since Park Slope Brewery shuttered more than a decade earlier, Brooklyn has been brewpub-deprived, a drought set to end with this Greenpoint brewpub named after the neighborhood’s first Scandinavian settler. Ed Raven, who founded importer Raven Brands and Greenpoint growler shop Brouwerij Lane, has transformed a plastic-bag factory abutting the East River into a roomy beer hall that will pour both his imported European brews (including Jever Pilser and Gaffel Kölsch) and in-house ales. Head brewer Chris Prout, who honed his skills at South Carolina’s Outer Banks Brewing Station, will craft creative riffs on Belgian and American classics, such as a rhubarb saison and an IPA spiked with Tupelo honey. Status: Open now

Finback Brewery (78-01 77th Ave., Glendale, Queens) For several years, Kevin Stafford and Basil Lee were a key stop on my homebrew tour, crafting dry stouts, ginger-and-Szechuan peppercorn session ales and IPAs that were a step above the average kitchen-crafted beer. After a yearlong search for a home for Finback, named after a whale that washed ashore in Breezy Point, they found a headquarters in Glendale, Queens, not far from the Lutheran Cemetery. The duo will also use the 13,000-square-foot space for an extensive barrel-aging and sour-beer program. Status: Open now. Taproom coming soon.

Transmitter Brewing (52-03 11th St., Long Island City, Queens) This winter, the Long Island City beer scene will welcome Transmitter, the brainchild of longtime buddies and amateur bicycle racers Rob Kolb and Anthony Accardi. The duo will focus on farmhouse-inspired Belgian and French beers fueled by funky fermentations. The friends have spent years carefully sourcing unique strains of Brettanomyces yeast and Lactobacillus and Pediococcus cultures. They're going to be a local game-changer. Status: Open now. Flagship Brewing Company (215 Bay St., St. George, Staten Island) Here's one more reason to ride the Staten Island Ferry: Not far from the terminal you'll find Flagship, which is slated to be the borough's first brewery since Brooklyn brand Piels closed its R&H plant in 1963. Co-owner and head brewer Jay Sykes hopes to use locally grown hops in his beers. Status: Opening early 2014 The Bronx Brewery (856 E. 136th St., Port Morris, The Bronx) At last, the Bronx crew will start making beer in its namesake borough. (The brews were previously produced in Connecticut.) The team is hard at work outfitting an 8,000 square-foot space with a tasting room, a 20-barrel brewhouse and an outdoor space suited for food trucks. Status: Opening spring 2014

Gun Hill Brewing Company (3227 Laconia Ave., Williamsbridge, The Bronx) Bronx's brewing boom continues with Gun Hill, named after a battle site during the Revolutionary War. The brewmaster is Chris Sheehan, the former chief beer maker at both Chelsea Brewing Company and Newark, New Jersey's short-lived Port 44 Brewpub. The 30-barrel brewhouse plans to take advantage of New York’s Farm Brewery License, which allows breweries to be run like a bar—provided they use a certain percentage of New York–grown ingredients. Expect several stouts, an IPA, a golden ale and loads of seasonal releases. Status: Open now

Win the United States of Beer Poster

MAP_OVERALL_1024x1024Win me!

As of this moment in time, there are more than 2,500 breweries in America, with a thousand more (and counting) in planning. It's a dizzying, yet delicious time be a beer drinker in this nation. It's tough to keep track of what you drank and where you drank it—until now.

This fall, the typographic geniuses behind 33 Bottles of Beer debuted The United States of Beer, a coast-to-coast beer-tasting map for your wall. Measuring 39 inches from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans and 25 inches from north to south, the wall-chomping gold-ink poster allows you to inscribe your favorite beer from each state, complete with its tasting profile. Consider it the world's best interactive art.

What's it cost, you wonder? Why, the average layman must pay $30. (Click here to peruse and perhaps purchase.) It's a steal, let me tell you. Know what's an even better deal? Free! And that's where the contest comes into play.

WHAT: Win the United States of Beer poster HOW: When traveling across the country, what's your favorite memory of drinking beer? Tell me in 250 words or less at: josh.bernstein@gmail.com. In the subject line, write POSTER GIVEAWAY. WHEN: The contest is open until Monday, December 9, at 11:59 p.m. FINE PRINT: The winner will be announced on Wednesday, December 11. Then I will hurry to the Post Office in time for Christmas delivery.