Brooklyn In Tha’ House
July 30, 2004
Sit down, grab a beer, and make yourself comfortable because this week I am going to steamroll you all with a shocker.
My Dad, who you can call Securb Sr., has always loved beer. I fondly recall the rows of Schlitz and Miller High Life beers he kept in our fridge in the 1960’s. When Heineken first gained popularity in the U.S., my Dad and uncles sat around the kitchen table sampling this strange new brew from Holland. The first time I ever took a sip of Guinness Stout it came stingily from my Dad’s favorite beer glass. When my Dad would travel to Japan, Russia and Singapore in the 80’s he would tell me about the strange customs and strange brews he encountered.
These days Schlitz and Miller High Life no longer have a place in my Dad’s fridge and he doesn’t hunt down new brews to sample as he did in years gone by. He has his son now to do the legwork and turn him on to the latest and greatest offerings. He loves it when I come by with a variety of different brews ripe for tasting. Most he likes but some he will give me a look like “how the hell can I waste good money on such crap!”
Occasion he still manages to keeps his eyes open for interesting new beers to hit the market, giving me input for my column here and there. We converse these days about the better microbrews and craft brewers on the market. During all of our beer conversations over the years only once has my father asked me to get him certain beer he couldn’t find.
He called me on a Sunday morning after seeing Garrett Oliver on a nationally televised morning show asking me if I could get him Brooklyn Lager or any of Brooklyn Brewing’s beers. Great eye Dad. You couldn’t have picked a better beer for us to enjoy on a fall afternoon.
Brooklyn Brewery’s face and persona is Garrett Oliver who began brewing professionally at the Manhattan Brewing Company in 1989. Within four short years of long hard days he was appointed the coveted title of Brewmaster. While paying homage to the long-established brewing styles, Garrett’s recipes had a freshness and new vision. Some may call it New York City flair. Before long, Garrett became quickly distinguished as a major player in the world of beer with those recipes; acknowledged as a craftsman and an artisan painting on a canvas of boiling water with barley, hops and yeast.
Garrett joined The Brooklyn Brewery as Brewmaster and partner in 1994 bringing his love, vision and New York City flair to the establishment. No matter what your taste there is a beer brewed by Garrett that will quickly become one of your favorites. Trust me, I have many. For example, Brooklyn’s Black Chocolate Stout is a beer that has cult following like The Beatles. People wait with baited breath each winter for this fantastic interpretation of an Imperial Stout to hit the shelves. Sometimes shared, sometimes cellared, this beer always disappears from the shelves quicker than any beer I have ever seen.
Another Brooklyn winter perennial is their Monster Barleywine. I was fortunate enough to sample a short but savory vertical tasting of this beer recently. I think in part knowing some of us can’t wait and will crack open Monster Barleywine the second we see it. Brooklyn takes it upon themselves to cellar Monster for 3 months before distribution for us before we can get our hot little hands on it. Monster will weigh in between 11- 12% ABV depending on the vintage. Perfect to take the chill off while you wait for spark to turn to flame in your fireplace this winter.
As if that wasn’t enough Brooklyn has its Brewmaster’s Reserve line. This line features some of the most interesting beer styles in the history of brewing. It includes a Dry Stout, Dunkel-Weisse, Weissebock, Saison de Brooklyn and one of my favorite styles: an Abbey Ale. Adding even more options to the Brooklyn portfolio of beers are their fantastic Pilsners, Lagers and Ales.
For those of you first journeying into the world of great beers Brooklyn’s Pilsner and Lager are a great place to start. Be careful though because Brooklyn’s catalog of beer reads like a classic mystery novel, forcing you to turn every page as you drink each style of beer. When you make it through this malt-laced thriller the ending may shock you; Garrett Oliver has brought you into the realm of world-class beer. You will find yourself with an Imperial Stout in your hand asking yourself “How did I get here?”
You may have seen Garrett on The History Channel, Emeril Live or lately on multiple shows on major networks promoting his book “The Brewmaster’s Table”. Fortunately for us Garrett was gracious enough to take a little time out of his busy schedule to spend time with us at The Manroom to talk beer, baseball and bacon egg & cheese sandwiches. So with out further adieu, here is my candid conversation with Brewmaster Garrett Oliver.
TMR: Like most of us was there a time when you were drinking watered down pilsners and lagers? What was your introduction to the world of good beers?
G.O.: Before I moved to England, I drank beer, but I can’t say I really liked it. The only beer I truly enjoyed was Guinness, which I first tasted when I was 16. Other than that, I drank whatever I could afford in college – and I couldn’t afford anything decent. Not that there was much to buy!
TMR: For guys that want to leave the world of bland, fizzy beers and expand their horizons towards the world of better beers can you suggest some good transition beers for them.
G.O.: I think wheat beers are great transition beers. They have strange flavors to the average palate, but the bitterness is low and they’re very drinkable. Most people like them immediately. Also, people can try real pilsners – Pilsner Urquell, Brooklyn Pilsner, Staropramen, Victory Prima Pils, Czechvar, Paulaner Pils. Of course they’re more flavorful, but the basic flavors are familiar.
TMR: I would love to try all of the beers in your Brewmaster’s Reserve line, especially the Abbey Ale and the Brooklyner Weissebock. Is there any chance you will ever sell them in bottles or am I going to have to travel down to New York to try them?
G.O.: The Brewmaster’s Reserve beers do get outside NYC, but in very limited quantities. In the future, we would like to put some of those beers in cork-finished bottles, especially the Blanche de Brooklyn and the Saison de Brooklyn, which have won many awards.
TMR: Do you have a personal favorite from the Brewmaster’s Reserve series and which styles should we expect to see next?
G.O.: My personal favorite is probably Saison de Brooklyn, because I’m such a fan of the style. It won the gold medal last year at the Great American Beer Festival. But right now, I’m really enjoying our latest, which is an easy-drinking hopfest called Scorcher.
TMR: Where do you see the direction of beer heading? What will be the next big trend or style?
G.O.: Obviously my own interest is in pairing beer with food, and I’m seeing a lot of interest in the subject. Food is where the rubber meets the road. Everyone eats dinner, and they’re eating it with wine, beer or a soft drink. I think that beer is usually the best choice.
TMR: Is there a style of beer that totally turns you off?
G.O.: I find American/Canadian/Australian mass-market lagers undrinkable. If I wanted water, I’d buy water. I’m impressed by the quality control and technology, but the flavor is offensive.
TMR: Can you tell me something about Brooklyn Brewing that most people don’t know?
G.O.: All of our beers are brewed from different base malts. That means that the malt that goes into our Brown Ale is totally different than the malt that does into East India Pale Ale, or Brooklyn Lager, or Brooklyn Pilsner. These beers have almost nothing in common. That’s one reason why our beers taste so different from any one else’s – and from each other.
TMR: Here is the big question I must ask a native New Yorker like yourself. Yankees or Mets? Jets or Giants? Who is your team?
G.O.: The Brooklyn Cyclones, which is the Met’s minor league team. That’s real baseball, played for passion rather than money. To me, rooting for a major league team is like rooting for a corporation. Actually, it IS rooting for a corporation! I like to play ball, and I like to watch any good game, though. I’m a mean pitcher. I play to win.
TMR: New York is obviously a huge sports city. Do you think craft beers will ever make their way into some of the New York stadiums or around the country?
G.O.: Definitely, and it’s already happening in many stadiums. Now the trick is to get the craft beers out of their marginalized positions in the stadiums and get them offered throughout the stadiums. But the big brewers will fight that pretty hard.
TMR: You are world renowned for pairing food with beer. Let me take the time right now to say your book The Brewmaster’s Table is brilliant. If you were sitting at the bar at Brooklyn Brewing with a perfectly cooked filet mignon in front of you, which Brooklyn Beer would we be seeing in your hand?
G.O.: Brooklyn Brown Ale, though Brooklyn Lager runs a fairly close second.
TMR: I have read you are the American Dairy Association’s spokesman on matching beer and cheese. Is there any rule of thumb we should use when matching up foods with a lot of cheese like Mexican or Italian with beers?
G.O.: You want enough bitterness to cut through the cheese. American pale ales and amber lagers tend to be the best beers for the job.
TMR: Keeping on the cheese theme New York is famous for its pizza. Where can I get the best Pizza in Brooklyn and which beer should I pair up with it?
G.O.: That’s like asking a Southerner where to get the best barbecue – you could start a war! My favorite, though, is Grimaldi’s, down on the waterfront near the base of the Brooklyn Bridge. Amazing brick oven pizza, just wonderful. Brooklyn Lager is the beer of choice there – it has great hops to cut through the cheese, but enough malt sweetness to match the sauce.
TMR: I always suggest my readers drink in moderation but sometimes we go a little past our limits. What foods would you suggest for those of us that may have overindulged a bit the night before and woken up a little foggy on a Sunday morning?
G.O.: Lots of water, a multi-vitamin and a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich will correct most errors. If that doesn’t work, you deserve to suffer.
TMR: Everyone on our staff raves about your Black Chocolate Stout. In fact, I have some cellared right now under pristine aging conditions. What is the longest I should keep it down there and what should I expect when I open a bottle two or three years down the line?
G.O.: I’m glad everyone enjoys Black Chocolate Stout. I recently tried a bottle from the first batch, which was 10 years ago. It tasted wonderful. So we still don’t know how long it will last. At three years you can expect a beer that has a very smooth, almost port-like quality. Lots of people like to age it.
TMR: Are there any other Brooklyn Beers that we should consider stock piling in our basements?
G.O.: Brooklyn Monster Ale cellars very nicely.
TMR: I live in New Hampshire which has some very archaic alcohol laws regarding beer. I find it outlandish that I can buy a 500 ml bottle of 80 proof Vodka but I can’t buy a 12 ounce bottle of 10 ABV beer. Do you ever get frustrated when you sell into a market that you can’t offer your complete line of products in?
G.O.: It is frustrating, but things are moving. Georgia just popped their cap, so we’re heading down there. North Carolina’s trying hard. It’ll happen. I’m surprised that New Hampshire residents allow that to happen to them. What happened to “Live Free Or Die?”
TMR: I have heard that you majored in film and broadcasting at Boston University. Is there a favorite beer movie or beer movie scene of yours?
G.O.: Most of my favorite beer scenes have been on television. There were quite a few wonderful expositions on real ale on “Inspector Morse”.
TMR: Craft brewers like Brooklyn are suspiciously absent from the airwaves. Why don’t craft brewers do TV ads? With your film background will we ever see a film noir or surrealism Brooklyn Brewing TV ad that wins awards at Cannes?
G.O.: We can only hope so. To put it simply, television costs huge sums of money, and we don’t have huge sums of money – we put the money into the beer itself. I use my film background to make the best use of television that I can – I’ve been on about ten different television programs just this year. And I’m working on a beer, food and travel television show.
TMR: Speaking of TV and movies now comes our stock question at TheManRoom. Do you have a ManRoom and if so, what’s in it?
G.O.: My living room has a 1933 original “Biere Titan” poster from France, looming over my new 36” widescreen Sony WEGA television – surround sound, the whole nine yards.
TMR: So if you were in you ManRoom tonight which movie would be on the big screen and which beer would be in your hand?
G.O.: I’d drink to Marlon Brando and watch The Godfather. Or perhaps On The Waterfront.
TMR: Garrett, thanks for stopping by TheManRoom. This is the time in my column where I do my beer picks. If you had to pick just 4 which Brooklyn beers for my readers which would they be?
G.O.: Brooklyn Lager – Our flagship, which is great with almost anything. Brooklyner Weisse – our award-winning German-style wheat beer. Brooklyn East India Pale Ale – One of the first true 1800’s-style IPAs in the country, and still going strong. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout – Our classic Imperial stout, which made it’s debut in England last year and sold out thousands of cases within days. Probably our most famous beer.
Those are all fantastic beers! Thanks again, Garrett. As is customary here at TMR, here are my top four picks from Brooklyn Brewing’s stellar lineup of quality brews.
Brooklyn Monster Barleywine Ale
As always this beer is perfect for the style. The color is a deep amber with a thick foamy head. The aroma is all about malt and fruit. I am also getting almost Belgium type yeasty bready aromas. This beer is incredibly complex. The palate is very full and even maltier with a slight hop finish. I am wondering if this beer is really 11% ABV. The alcohol isn’t overbearing in any way – it is nicely balanced and complimentary to the beer.
Brooklyn Monster Ale, our dead-of-winter seasonal, is an English style barleywine. Barleywines are beers fermented to the strength of wines, usually around 10% alcohol by volume. The high alcohol produces intensely estery flavors, giving the beers a vinous, or sherry-like character. Deep mahogany in color, Monster is cellared for three months, and unfiltered. Monster’s aroma is redolent of sherry and hops. The palate is fruity and citrusy, and the finish is warming. Monster is available on draught at select bars and restaurants, and also in 12oz bottles. Availability: November-February very limited quantities in 12-oz bottles, 15.5-gal kegs and 5.2-gal kegs Malts: British Maris Otter, Halcyon and Pipkin, Malted Wheat Hops: Willamette, Cascade and Yakima FuggleAlcohol: varies year to year, 11-12%.
The color of this beer is a great reddish amber. The nose is all about German malt with an ever-so-slight hint of hops. It is medium on the palette and as I swallow the hops come charging. No this is not a hop bomb but the hops are perfectly present. If you need a great summer beer this is the answer to your prayers.
Brooklyn Lager, the Brewery’s flagship label, is New York’s “hometown” beer, brewed to a pre-Prohibition recipe that dates back to the days when Brooklyn was the brewing capital of the East Coast. Brooklyn Lager has won numerous awards, beginning with a first place finish at the Great American Beer Tasting in New York in 1989, the brewery’s second year of operation. Brooklyn Lager was also awarded a Gold Medal in the Vienna Lager category at the Great American Beer Festival in 1992, and was named World Champion Amber Lager by the Beverage Testing Institute in Chicago in 1994. In 1996, it received perhaps its most prestigious award yet, as a panel of judges comprised of brewers and industry experts named the brand, “Best Craft Lager in America.” Wrote Michael Jackson in the Simon & Schuster Pocket Guide to Beer: “The dry-hopped, fresh, flowery, firm, flavourful, Brooklyn Lager **-*** started well, in 1988, and has gained in character since.” Availability: year-round in 12-oz bottles, 15.5-gal kegs and 5.2-gal kegs. Malts: 2-row pale malt, caramel malt, carapils Hops: Hallertau and Cascade. Alcohol: 5% by volume.
Brooklyn East India Pale Ale
Very true to the tradition of IPA’s. The color is beautiful amber the aroma is all about hops, as you would expect. The beer is a paradox on the pallet, clean and crisp, but also has a generous helping of traditional English hops giving it a great earthy natural flavor.
Brooklyn East India Pale Ale, originally a summer seasonal, has been getting raves since becoming a year round offering in 1996. Garrett Oliver, a student of English brewing and beer history, uses English malts and hops to brew his EIPA in the classic, heavily-hopped style of the 19th century beers created for British soldiers serving in India. Because of the long trip around the Cape of Good Hope, the beer was preserved with a higher alcohol content and extra hops, a natural preservative. “East India Pale Ale *** is extremely dry, with the aroma of a hop-pocket and flavours reminiscent of lemon-grass,” wrote Jackson in the Pocket Guide. Availability: year-round in 12-oz bottles, 15.5-gal kegs and 5.2-gal kegs Malts: two-row English Pale Ale Malt, two-row English Pilsner Malt, Wheat Malt Hops: East Kent Goldings, Cascade, Willamette. Alcohol: 6.9% by volume.
My number one pick for Brooklyn Brewing is:
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout
This beer in the bottle looks like your traditional stout with a black opaque body and a tan head. But as the glass is raised to the nose the aroma leaves all preconceptions surrounding stouts in the past. The aroma consists of roasted malt, coffee and toasted tones. The first sip is full and wonderful with a very full mouthful. Upon exhaling it is all about a spiked coffee. The alcohol and the coffee tones mix perfectly. This is a beer that is a must to add to your cellar collection, even if you are not into Imperial Stouts yet cellar some and you will be thanking me in a year or three when you finally crack this gem from NYC.
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout is the winter seasonal ale produced by Brewmaster Garrett Oliver. This highly sought after brew attains its strength by using the first runnings from two and a half mashes of grain. It is a classic Russian Imperial Stout, modeled on the beers made by British brewers for the Czar’s Court in the Nineteenth Century. Black Chocolate is a wonderful winter warmer and a stunning accompaniment to a chocolate dessert. Rated *** by Michael Jackson in the Simon & Schuster Pocket Guide to Beer. “The beer world’s answer to a warming malted milk, with a shot of bourbon,” wrote Jackson. Availability: October-March in 12-oz bottles, 15.5-gal kegs and 5.2-gal kegs. Malts: two-row English Malt, Wheat Malt, Chocolate Malt, Black Malt, Black Barley, Roasted Barley Hops: East Kent Goldings, Cascade, Willamette. Alcohol: 8.5% by volume.