New For TAP NY (Part Four): Nine Pin Cider Works

New York State's first farm cidery, located right in my own base of operations, Albany, is the next destination on our introductory tour for this year's TAP NY festival. There was a great deal of fanfare when Nine Pin Cider Works opened a few months back, and the outfit continues making waves throughout the regional beer scene. As a recipient of the farm cidery license, which is similar to the farm brewery license, the business has been granted certain tax exemptions and has been allowed to operate an on-premises tasting room. The law was passed in October of last year, and went into affect in January. As soon as he could, Alejandro del Peral, the man behind Nine Pin, had his application in at the State Liquor Authority. 22 days later, he was licensed and just about ready to open. Now he, along with his family, are producing some of the finest ciders in the Northeast.

Nine Pin Cider Works is located in Albany's industrial downtown corridor.

Nine Pin Cider Works is located in Albany's industrial downtown corridor.

Nine Pin's apples come primarily from the Samascott Orchards in Kinderhook, a short drive from downtown Albany. The cidery prides itself on being able to source its apples from as close to their production base as possible, maintaining both freshness and the innate sense of localism that drives the operation forward. Because the apple crop only comes in once a year, the cidery has to gauge how much cider they should produce ahead of time, which presents a bit of a logistical nightmare. Although cider has been eagerly swept up by craft beer fans as an integral component of the growing beer culture, there are a few notable differences between cider and beer. The fact that cider producers have to anticipate demand over the course of the year, instead of just brewing to specific needs, is but one. It's also easy to think that cider-making is substantially easier than brewing, but Nine Pin is actively disproving that notion, taking the time to finely craft an excellent fermented beverage. The cider itself is fantastic. It’s crisp and refreshing. It pours a very gentle straw color in the glass, with a pleasant light carbonation. It manages the perfect balance between sweet and dry, knocking the artificially sweetened mass-produced ciders for a loop and proving that New York's state fruit is the apple for a reason.

Cider kegs, reporting for duty.

Cider kegs, reporting for duty.

This will, of course, be Nine Pin's first TAP NY festival. They just opened their taproom and began widespread distribution through Remarkable Liquids in February, but are already receiving acclaim from all throughout the Capital Region. For those of you coming to the festival from different parts of the state which have not yet had a chance to try this cider, I highly recommend you do. When you're there, look for their flagship product, the Signature Blend, and be sure to say hi to Alejandro & Co. If you find yourself in Albany, stop in at their tasting room, located at 929 Broadway.

New For TAP NY (Part Three): Paradox Brewery

From Montauk, our beer tour of New York leads us to one of the most rugged and remote corners of the state: the mountain town of Schroon Lake in the eastern Adirondack Park. It is here that the Paradox Brewery opened its doors in late July of last year. They will be making the trek to Hunter Mountain for TAP NY for this first time this year. You may remember Paradox from an article I posted a few months before they opened, back in the infancy of this blog. It was amazing to see the shell of a brewery forming, in a place as unlikely as Schroon, where I had spent summers with a backpack and hiking boots not long before. To see the folks behind the brewery putting the finishing touches on their masterwork as they waited patiently for approvals and licensing was inspiring, with implications that went far beyond one little town. In a lecture I gave about craft beer in New York last summer, I mentioned Paradox as a sign of the times: though they had not yet opened, they represented the vitality of the industry in New York. That prediction seems to have held: Vaughn, David, and Paul, the founding partners, are running a successful and popular brewery in forever wild country.

This will look even more spectacular come summer.

This will look even more spectacular come summer.

The Paradox Brewery operates a 10 BBL system, housed in an old log-sided building just south of the cute little town of Schroon Lake on Route 9. It's one of the most majestic parts of the Adirondacks, full of sparkling blue lakes and heavy with the smell of pine. There's even a roadside chainsaw art dealer right next door to the brewery, ensuring that visitors get that authentic rustic experience. The name Paradox comes from a nearby lake which, during times of substantial rainfall or during the spring melt, will reverse its flow, with the inlet becoming the outlet. For now, the brewery is only able to do samplings and growler fills in their taproom, located just upstairs from the brewhouse. That will change, though, as Paradox has applied for and is waiting to receive the coveted farm brewing license. They are working with local farmers to ensure that they will have the necessary hops and malted barley to fulfill the minimum requirements of the law. The brewery hopes to source the bulk of its ingredients from within the Blue Line (the slightly anachronistic term that park natives use to delineate their realm) which is a tall order, but a noble one. The onset of summer means the return of boaters, day trippers, hikers, and a host of other folks who will bring with them a thirst for beer. I imagine it will get pretty busy.

Rustic is the name of the game.

Rustic is the name of the game.

The folks at the brewery are excited to be a part of TAP NY this year. They had hoped that licensing would have enabled them to attend last year, but some last minute hiccups kept them away from the festival. They have been working hard in the past few months to get the name and the beer out. I was happy to see Paradox at the Night at the Brewseum event in Saratoga in March, and I'm even happier knowing they will be at TAP this year. Keep an eye out for the crew. They'll be bringing along the Beaver Bite IPA, the Paradox Red Ale, the Paradox Pilsner, a stout, and a Belgian-style tripel. I have a deep appreciation for the breweries that recognize the fundamental aspects of their community that makes it unique. Building upon this, as Paradox Brewery has, is a powerful force for positive change in regions that are begging for innovation. Their logo, also, is fantastic. Any hiker in the group will recognize it and love it immediately.

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New For TAP NY 2014 (Part Two): Montauk Brewing Company

Part two of this year's New For TAP NY series brings us to the far tip of Long Island: Montauk Point. A few miles short of the eponymous point, complete with the windswept (and obligatory) lighthouse, the village of Montauk is now home to a world-class microbrewery. I spoke with Vaughan Cutillo, founding partner, who just got home from the Craft Brewer's Conference in Denver. He was excited to have been a part of the festivities out West, but is happy to be home, making beer in the town in which he grew up. (I anxiously await my return to Denver for the Great American Beer Festival in October. But I digress.) As a Long Islander myself by birth and upbringing, I have always been fascinated with the very concept of The Hamptons. The exuberant wealth, the expensive restaurants, but, truth be told, not a single brewery aside from the Publick House in Southampton. As it turns out, municipal government was the culprit, as it is in so many of the island's problems.

Vaughan, Eric, and Joe, the crew behind Montauk Brewing

Vaughan, Eric, and Joe, the crew behind Montauk Brewing

To be fair, Montauk Point is its own beast. It's The End. In many ways, Montauk, the place, is far removed from the South Fork's other beach towns, while maintaining a similar feel and aesthetic. The brewery is cut from the same cloth, embracing its surroundings but proud of its own achievements and heritage. The whole thing began, as many of the best brewery stories do, with a legal problem. The Town of East Hampton, in which the Montauk Brewing Company is located, was operating with antiquated code books that lacked any mention whatsoever of the word "brewery." It was as if the town had never anticipated a brewery opening within their jurisdiction. After incorporating in 2010, Montauk's partners faced an uphill battle, but were finally able to open a taproom in 2012. They were forced to contract out the brewing process while they figured out their standing with the town. However, they have since received final approval to construct a system of their own and renovate their lovely little building just off the traffic circle in the village. Later this year, they are breaking ground on their new brewery, a 7 BBL brewhouse with multiple 15 BBL fermenters and two Brite tanks. The future is looking bright.

I'm sold. My favorite kind of Driftwood.

I'm sold. My favorite kind of Driftwood.

Going forward, the brewery is actively considering going the farm brewing route, because the East End of Long Island is full of farmland where hops and barley can be grown. It's an interesting juxtaposition, where the beach towns give way to rolling acres of farms. It is this meeting ground, though, that will fuel a new economy, one that works to the benefit of all New Yorkers. The local-first mentality has always existed in places like Montauk, manifested as a fierce sense of nativism. It lends itself well to a beer culture that stretches across the state. The Montauk Brewing Company is looking forward to their first TAP NY festival. They are bringing along their favorite beers, to introduce New Yorkers from all over to their nautical-themed creations. Keep an eye out for the Driftwood Ale, the Arrowhead Irish Red Ale, the OffLand IPA, and the Guardsman's Stout, a beer brewed in honor of the men and women serving the United States Coast Guard, an integral component of life near the ocean. If you're in Montauk, be sure to stop by the taproom, located at 62 South Erie Avenue, which is open Saturday and Sunday from noon to five.

New For TAP NY 2014 (Part One): Broken Bow Brewery

Well, folks. Here we are again, building up to New York's largest and most exciting craft beer festival: TAP NY. What does TAP stand for? I don't know. What I can tell you is that it will be the largest all-New York craft beer festival ever, with over 100 Empire State breweries slated to attend. Remarkably, this year will also see the introduction of sixteen brand new breweries to the mix. I plan on introducing you to all of them, beginning with the Broken Bow Brewery, a 10 barrel microbrewery in Tuckahoe.

If it ain't Broke, don't drink it.

If it ain't Broke, don't drink it.

Broken Bow is a bit of an anomaly in the modern world of craft brewing: they are completely family owned and operated. Mom, dad, brother, and sister are words frequently spoken in conversing about the business, as each facet of the operation is maintained by a specific family member. If craft beer thrives on community, how better to achieve those ends than through engaging the whole family, from top to bottom, in the creation and distribution of beer? It's a level of intimacy that defies what we commonly assume to be the workplace dynamic at a brewery. Kristen Stone, a founding partner and head of company sales and marketing, explained to me that the brewery looks to maintain that feeling of closeness, both to each other and to their product. The entire family has a background in homebrewing, and although the work in the brewhouse is mainly left to the brother of the family, Mike, each member of the group is knowledgeable about the process as it unfolds and they all lend a hand from time to time. The brewery itself is named after Broken Bow, Nebraska, the town from which the matriarch of the family, Kathy, hails. Broken Bow, the brewery, looks to their roots as the foundation from which to grow their company. When Kristen tells me that she sees the brewery as a means to engage people of all stripes, from the farmers crafting their ingredients to the discerning beer fan in the brewery's taproom, she's speaking my language. The new wave of craft breweries opening in this state are building off of this very simple concept in a big way. And guess what? So far, it's a greatly successful model.

Looks tasty, doesn't it?

Looks tasty, doesn't it?

The brewery opened in August of last year. Their taproom in Tuckahoe is already a hit among locals and out-of-town visitors alike, with many comments about the friendliness of the owners and staff. It's hard to disagree. The atmosphere of family values, the slow, thoughtful, and deliberate crafting of beer, and the obvious enthusiasm all make Broken Bow Brewery a most welcome addition to the Empire State's craft beer scene. They are very excited about attending TAP for the first time this year, and you can try a few of their beers at the festival. The Broken Irish Red Ale, the Broken Imperial IPA, and the Broken Heart Stout will all be available on draft, with the Marbledale American Pale Ale and Broken Auger Lager available in cans. Be sure to stop by and say hello. If you're in the Westchester area, you can stop in and see the brewery, located at 173 Marbledale Road in Tuckahoe. Tours are offered on Fridays and Saturdays at 3PM and 6PM.

A Brief Foray to the Finger Lakes

The deep blue of Seneca Lake was all the proof I needed that spring is, at last, upon us. After more than two hundred miles on the road, a long haul from Albany, past Utica and Syracuse and the rolling farmland of the middle of New York, the long vineyards of the Finger Lakes spread out before us to kiss the blue water far below. The sun poked its way through the clouds, a magnificent force building since January in secret. This is the epicenter of the Empire State’s localism movement. The lakes and soil breathed life once again into what industrialism had conquered and abandoned. What a core it is from which to build.

Today, along with Jon Post from the Beer Diviner, I was serving as an ambassador of sorts. As a farm brewery, our taproom is permitted to serve any farm brewed beer from New York. A year after the first licenses were handed down, more than two dozen such businesses now exist. Recently, Justin Behan, the man behind Green Wolf Brewing Company in Middleburgh, reached out to all of the known farm brewery interests in the state to form an organization catered to their needs. The response was one of emphatic agreement.

So there we were, pulling off the main highway that winds its way through this pastoral landscape, into the Climbing Bines Craft Ale Company. Located just outside the sleepy village of Penn Yan, home of the world’s largest pancake griddle, with hotels under construction at the periphery, was a sign of the times. Finding a farm brewery gave us inspiration as we fancied ourselves the beneficiaries of a collaborative spirit. The sunny day betrayed more than the change in the seasons. Us little guys, together, can and will change the landscape forever.

Climbing Bines.

Climbing Bines.

Climbing Bines is a remarkable little brewery, making the most of a three barrel system with several large seven barrel fermenters. Using as many locally-sourced ingredients as they can muster, including hops grown on the brewery’s lawn, Climbing Bines is leading the state’s farm brewing crusade. They scarcely make enough beer to service their taproom, which speaks volumes. The masses come, up or down Route 14, and they know what they want. Most popular is the brewery’s mug club, which gives members discounts on pints, free swag, and bragging rights. The new era of beer is about community first; inclusivity, becoming and being a part of something, is the scene’s bread and butter.

For now, we were getting our hands on some glorious new kegs. These stainless steel beer storage devices are quite hard to come by in this new age of craft beer, and when the opportunity presents itself at a reasonable cost, it’s a fair idea to take it. We were bringing home some Climbing Bines beer, as well, made a stone’s throw from Seneca Lake, with hops grown on tall trellises that look like telephone poles and are, for now, barely showing their green tendrils out of the dirt. A few weeks, and that will change. A few weeks, and all of this will change. The momentum required to transform winter into spring and spring into summer will carry with it the day trippers, the dreamers, new faces and old, all seeking a singularity that doesn’t defy explanation but instead embraces the simplest one. The wine tourists are evolving into the beer tourists.

We beat the rush, enjoyed a pint unaccompanied, took our kegs, and set out once again.

We carried that power home, to our little neck of the woods outside of Albany. The future seems bright.