Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Beercraft newspaper column #20- Brooklyn Brewery

Mediocre Beer? Fugggedaboudit!

By Mark Tichenor and Bruce Lish

After prohibition, the American brewing industry was basically destroyed. Hundreds of beer producers went out of business, and huge cities that once had a brewery in every neighborhood were bereft of local beer.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that the craft beer movement began to reverse the fortunes of regional brewers. Mostly, the companies that opened were small, serving the brewery/restaurant, the immediate area, and perhaps some other cities through beverage distributors.

When you’re opening a brewery in New York City, however, small just doesn’t cut it. Brooklyn Brewery thought big, and because of their availability and high quality, they’re enjoying considerable fame well beyond the isle of Manhattan.

Brooklyn’s head brewer, Garrett Oliver, is probably the only commercial beer maker who could justifiably be considered a celebrity. His book, “The Brewmaster’s Table,” demonstrates the versatility of beer as a partner to good food, and can (or at least should) be found in the kitchen of every craft beer fan.

We’ll let Mr. Oliver handle advice on the food pairing, but let’s talk about some of our favorite Brooklyn beers.

First up is Brooklyn Lager. Supposedly brewed in the style of pre-prohibition lagers, it pours a darker color than the typical American macro brew. There’s a definite sweetness in the aroma, and that carries to the flavor. The beer is balanced, though, with a distinctive hoppy finish that rounds the sweet characteristics out. a light mouthfeel and prickly carbonation make the Lager pleasantly refreshing. This would be a perfect choice for a summer night on the porch.

You’ve read our quibbles with American Hefeweizen. It’s rare that a microbrewery nails the style, or indeed brews a wheat beer that’s even palatable, so Brooklyner Weizen is a very pleasant surprise.

The trademark banana/clove aroma wafts pleasantly above the beer’s tall white head. Underneath the foam is the light, refreshing, slightly sweet flavor of a real Hefeweizen, although the color isn’t quite spot on. However, we’ve never let color get in the way of slurping down an exemplary brew, and Brooklyner is certainly that. It’s a comfortable 5.1% alcohol by volume, so you can enjoy a couple without feeling too much of an effect.

If you like your beer dark and strong, we’d recommend the Brooklyn Monster Ale. It’s a barley wine weighing in at 11% alcohol by volume, so you might not want to consume it out of 20 ounce pint glasses.
The first flavor you pick up in the Monster ale is malt sweetness, which is common in this style of beer because sweet masks the taste of the alcohol. Due to the strength of the brew, however, there’s still a noticeably warming alcohol essence. The edge is taken off by the bitter hops in the finish, which rounds the Monster out nicely.

Brooklyn Monster ale is suitable for cellaring; a year or two in cool storage, out of direct sunlight, will mellow the flavors, creating a more harmonious blend between sweet and bitter and introducing new flavor characteristics to the palate.

In Other Beers:
Hooray for the death of a blue law! A couple weeks ago, Governor Pataki signed legislation eliminating restrictions on the sales of beer on Sunday Morning in New York State. Now you can get started right away… Er, we mean you don’t have to kick yourself for forgetting to pick up a six-pack on Saturday night for the Sunday football game.

Certainly someone will complain about how this will Hurt the Children, but the ban really didn’t make any sense. It’s good to see New York’s government move progressively and decisively in improving the quality of life for its citizens! Cheers!

Bruce is a certified beer judge and former commercial brewer. Mark owns a laptop and likes beer. For more on beer, check out the beercraft blog, updated regularly, at http://beercraft.blogspot.com. Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to beercraft@rochester.rr.com

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