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.

Announcing: Solstice Session at Arrogant Swine—Part III

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WHAT: Solstice Session at Arrogant Swine: Part III
WHEN: Saturday, June 18, 1 p.m.
WHERE: Arrogant Swine (173 Morgan Avenue at Scholes Street); Bushwick, Brooklyn
TICKETS: $40. They’re on sale now.

Tyson Ho likes swine. Joshua M. Bernstein and Chris Cuzme? They like beer.

To combine these two great life pleasures, the gluttonous trio is once more joining forces to throw their annual Solstice Session at Bushwick’s premier North Carolina-style BBQ joint, Arrogant Swine.

Pitmaster Ho will slow-roast the finest heritage pig and serve mountains of pulled-pork sandwiches. (Don’t worry: veggies will have food too.) To drink, Cuzme and Bernstein have assembled a line-up of the city’s best session beer and offbeat ferments–low alcohol but not low in flavor. And perfect for drinking all afternoon.

We’ve enlisted 10 of the city’s best homebrewers to make session beers (around 4.5 percent ABV and under), then we’ve tabbed NYC’s best and brightest breweries to craft low-alcohol beauties too. That means you’ll be drinking the likes of Other Half, LIC Beer Project, Finback, Strong Rope, Rockaway Brewing, Kings County Brewers Collective, Braven and more. There will be 25 unique, rarely tasted session brews on offer, from table sours to cracker-crisp pilsners, fruited Berliner weisses, session IPAs and everything under the low-alcohol sun. (And yes, you’ll be able to drink all you want.)

You’ll savor the beverages in more than 3,000 square feet of indoor-outdoor industrial paradise, with picnic tables aplenty. Once again, there’s no better way to kick off the summer.

Oh, Hey, What Have You Been Doing?

Drowning in Beer

Ever felt like you’re drowning, sucking in water and grasping for air, any air, just one breath? I have! It’s called writing a book in, oh, 106 days, give or take a few hours.

But instead of water I was guzzling IPAs, so many IPAs, parsing bitterness, pine and tropical fruit, turning impressions into thoughts and words. So many thoughts! So many words! Tens of thousands of words that went on to create Complete IPA, my boozy stab at chronicling the IPA fever sweeping the globe.

Cue up the tiny violins, roll out the golf clap, right? I get it: I’m a lucky duck, able to turn pleasure into a career. But heavens to Betsy, this book just about broke me. Writing is one thing; writing while moving from your apartment of 13 years (thanks for selling the building, landlord!), taking care of a hyper-energetic toddler and making sure that your dog gets enough walks, well, that’s a whole different beast. And totally possible! Provided that you don’t do important things like, say, sleep or see your friends, every other word you utter some variation on “citrusy.”

THERE IS SO MUCH CITRUS IN THE BEER WORLD.

But I finished the project, because that’s what I do when a deadline stares me straight in the eyes. It’s how I’ve stayed afloat for nearly 16 years of freelancing, making the impossible possible—even as it threatens to tear your sanity into tiny little pieces, the IPAs you’re drinking becoming not work but medicine, a weird twisted dance.

Guess what? I’m OK now! I think! The book is winding through edits, set to be published this September by Sterling Epicure, which published Brewed Awakening and The Complete Beer Course. At which point I’ll do some sort of boozy book tour. And drink many, many IPAs.

In between writing the book, I’ve been writing. Words! Lots of them! Mostly about beer. Care to see what I’ve been up to? Behold, a sampling of my words. About beer. Mostly.

Imbibe, “Full Press”:  How American cider is making a mainstream move.

Imbibe, “Gold Standard”: Firestone Walker’s Matt Brynildson is the best brewer no one has heard of. 

Imbibe, “Canned Craft Beer Grows Up”: Brewers are putting the pedal to the metal.

Draft, “Renaissance Maine”: At Funky Bow, rural Maine’s do-it-all man Paul Lorrain has a green thumb for business—and playing host.

Draft, “Content Under Pressure”: Whether he’s custom-building draft systems or growler fillers, Ben Granger is out to prove that carbonation is beer’s crucial fifth ingredient.

Draft, “Getting Cultured”: Be it sprouted grains, honey, apples, cabbage, or barley, Brooklyn’s Mary Izett believes she can ferment it.

Men’s Journal, “The 10 Best Shandy and Radler Beers”: Don’t get stuck drinking subpar citrus-infused beer.

Men’s Journal, “Take Beer Instagrams That Aren’t Boring”: You can do better.

Wine Enthusiast, “5 Milk Stouts You’ll Fall in Love With”: Truth.

Eater, “This Insulated Dark Lager Will Rekindle Your Love for Brooklyn Brewery

Eater, “Beer Review: Victory Vital IPA, a Contemporary, Crushable Beer

Eater, “Beer Review: Beer Review: SweetWater Hash Session Turns Waste Into Want 

BeerAdvocate Magazine, “Dry Spell”: Brewers are dry-hopped sours to create tart refreshers with IPA aromatics.

Bon Appétit, “Bored by IPA? Here Are the Craft Beer Trends to Crush in 2016”: Once again, you’ll want to try the dry-hopped sour. 

Bon Appétit, “Tropical-Flavored Beers are Vacations in a Bottle”: It’s the islands by way of the beer aisle.

Bon Appétit, “Yes, There Actually Are Oysters in That Oyster Stout”: Drink up the sea.

Culture, “Bitter Cold”: Pairing cheese with the freshest winter IPAs is a total pro move.

Announcing Winter’s Grind at Arrogant Swine: Part II

Winter_Grind_2015

Fine drinkers,

Hope everyone is doing well. For my second and final event of NYC Beer Week, I’m once again partnering with Chris Cuzme and Tyson Ho to throw the second edition of our gluttonous sausage-and-beer extravaganza, Winter’s Grind. The details…

What: Winter’s Grind at the Arrogant Swine: Part II
When: Saturday, February 27, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Arrogant Swine (173 Morgan Avenue at Scholes Street); Bushwick, Brooklyn
Tickets: $45. Includes endless sausage and 25 unique beers.
Buy tickets: Click here! P.S. Use the code SWINE for a special discount.

Tyson Ho likes sausage. Joshua M. Bernstein and Chris Cuzme? They like beer.

To combine two of life’s greatest pleasures, the comrades-in-consumption are once again joining forces for the second edition of Winter’s Grind at the Arrogant Swine, Ho’s Bushwick-based BBQ joint.

Ho and his fellow chef friends will be hand-cranking all-you-can-eat sausages such as Thai green curry and Arrogant’s Swine’s famous sausage ring. (Don’t worry: vegetarians will be have a dining option too.)

On the all-you-can-drink side, Cuzme and Bernstein have hand-selected 10 of the city’s top homebrewers to make dark and delightful beers, including the crew from Bitter & Esters and Mary Izett’s marvelously offbeat speed brews. Moreover, they’ve tabbed 15 of NYC’s best and newest breweries to supply drinkers with the finest February-friendly beers. That means you’ll be drinking BravenThrees, Greenpoint Beer & Ale, Gun Hill, Folksbier, Strong Rope, Keg & Lantern, Finback, Brooklyn Brewery, Rockway Brewing, freshly reopened Chelsea Craft Brewing and so many more surprises. Delicious, delicious surprises. Around 25 unique, rarely tasted brews will be poured.

Winter’s chill won’t stand a chance.

P.S. This year, we’ll have an even larger heated tent to make this a true indoor-outdoor, weather-defying experience.
The working beer list includes:

Threes: Superf*ckingyawn imperial IPA
Folksbier: Echo Maker dark rye ale
Gun Hill: Void of Light Stout
Finback: Crescent Fresh session IPA
Strong Rope: Trip to Burlington oatmeal stout
Cuzett Libations: Grisette
Chelsea Craft Brewery: Frosty’s Winter Wheat
Greenpoint Beer & Ales: Snuggles (dunkel lager with elderberries and cedar)
Keg & Lantern: Hot Gold (golden ale spiced with jalapeños and habaneros)
Flagship: Wee Heavy
Rockaway: Meat in the Middle (made with grains smoked at Meat Hook)
Sixpoint: XPorter
Braven: Black Pale Ale
Brooklyn Brewery: Insulated Dark Lager

Homebrew

BrewHeister: KelSmOak (kettle-soured Berliner weisse with oak)
Dirty Hats Brewing Labs: Shimmy Shimmy Cacao Puff (rye American stout with cinnamon, arbol peppers, vanilla, and locally roasted cacao)
Buddy Brewing: Cold Spice (winter spiced stout)
Brooklyn Brew Shop: Chocolate Maple Porter

Announcing: Jimmy’s Homebrew Jamboree, Take Four

jimmys-homebrew-jamboreeIt’s a fact: Local homebrewers are making some of the best beer in the Big Apple. To celebrate their creations (and drink them too!), we’re taking over every square inch of Jimmy’s No. 43. Again.

For the fourth edition of Jimmy’s Homebrew Jamboree, I’m partnering with homebrewing savant Robert Sherrill to enlist 16 of the city’s finest brewers to make special beers for the event. Expect IPAs, double IPAs, Belgian ales, saisons, stouts and the odd wild beer. The variety will be as endless as the beers are delicious.

In addition to unlimited beer, you’ll be well fed too. Jimmy’s is providing a smorgasbord of goodies including: mini cheeseburger sliders, kielbasa, Sigmund’s soft pretzels, grilled cheese and veggie tacos.

WHAT: Jimmy’s Homebrew Jamboree, Take Four
WHEN: Saturday, February 20, 12 p.m.
WHERE: Jimmy’s No. 43 (43 East Seventh Street, between Second and Third Avenues, Manhattan)
TICKETS: $35. They’ll be available Thursday, January 7, at 12 p.m. Buy them here. 

 

Announcing: Wild Wheels—Funky Beer and Cheese in the Old Nassau Brewery

Washing the raw cheese.

Only one side of the cheese is washed each time. The sides are always washed.

What: Wild Wheels: Funky Beer and Cheese in the Old Nassau Brewery Lagering Caves
When: Saturday, December 5, 1 p.m.
Where: Crown Finish Caves (Crown Heights, Brooklyn)
Tickets: $55. Note: Only 75 tickets are available.
Ticket link: Buy them here. Sorry, we’re sold out.

Back in the 19th century, Crown Heights’ old Nassau Brewery made beer, storing its lagers in cool brick tunnels dug 30 feet underground. While beer production has ceased, the building owners have transformed the lagering tunnels into Crown Finish Caves, a facility dedicated to aging cheese deep beneath the Brooklyn streets.

To honor the building’s history, I’ve again partnered with the owners to curate an event dubbed “Wild Wheels.” The idea: With washing, cheese is steadily bathed with brine, wine, spirits or beer that helps keep the cheese moist, encouraging the bacterial growth that supply idiosyncratic flavors and aromas.

The best beers, we’ve discovered, are ones low in hops (the flowers have antimicrobial properties, inhibiting growth) and high in Brettanomyces, a wild, unruly yeast that can supply notes of tropical fruit, or maybe musty earth and barnyard. The Crown Finish Caves team is washing a test cheese made with pasteurized cow’s milk by Andrew Torrens of Beecher’s Handmade Cheese in Manhattan. Two batches were made: one inoculated with cheese ripening cultures and one as a blank slate, both washed with seven different Brettanomyces-dosed beers produced by Other Half, Finback, Threes Brewing, Transmitter Brewing, Right Proper Brewing, KelSo, and Sixpoint.

The cheeses, which are washed thrice weekly for several months, will then be served with the beer, creating a never-before-tasted pairing. And yes, you will be eating the cheese and drinking the beer in the old lagering tunnels, where the temperatures stay right around 50 degrees no matter the weather.

Additionally, brewers will be on hand to discuss the effects of Brettanomyces on beer. Plus: handmade pretzels. Wild Wheels is the delicious intersection of the building’s past and its future. Space is very limited: just 75 tickets. The experience: never to be repeated.

Wash beers for Wild Wheels

Three times a week, the cheeses are bathed with beer using these facial brushes.

Announcing: Homebrew-to-Pro Tour, Brooklyn Edition

A tank-fresh pour at Folksbier.

A tank-fresh pour at Folksbier.

Fine drinkers,

Hope everyone is having a splendid fall. I have a few fun events coming up over the next few months, including another beer washed–cheese event in Crown Finish Caves on December 5. More on that next week, including ticket info.

First up, though, I have…

WHAT: Homebrew-to-Pro Tour: Brooklyn Edition
WHEN: Saturday, November 21, 1 p.m.
TICKETS: $35. They will be available Wednesday, October 14, at 12 p.m. Sorry, we’re sold out.

It often begins with a single batch of homebrewed beer. Your friends like drinking the double IPA, or the coffee stout. More beer is brewed. More accolades. “You should start a brewery,” someone suggests, planting a seed inside your hobbyist head: Could this be a career?

Increasingly these days, the answer for New Yorkers is “yes.” We’re witnessing an unparalleled brewing boom, one flooding the city with great beer. Today, we’re going to celebrate the brewing bounty by taking a walking tour of two of Brooklyn’s newest breweries, plus another homebrewer making marvelous medal-winning beer.

By and large, these spaces are rarely open to the public. But today, today we get to peek behind the brew kettles at Folksbier, hearing how Travis Kauffman went from working in restaurants to turning out terrific, German-inspired lagers. Next, we’ll pop by the backyard of homebrewing savant Simon Tepas, who has a healthy fixation with wild yeast, before finishing at Strong Rope—that is, homebrew-tour veteran Jason Sahler’s in-the-works Gowanus brewery. Expect lots of lovely beers, fromBrettanomyces-dosed experiments to approachable cream ales, flavor-charged brown ales, saisons and lagers aplenty.

Naturally, brewers will be on hand to tell their stories. It’s going to be an excellent afternoon.