Monday, May 23, 2011

The Silly Beer Hall?

Table Hopping column: Previewing The City Beer Hall

In Sunday’s column, I preview The City Beer Hall, the new place taking over the former Ballingers building in downtown Albany. It opens Thursday (5/26). Short version:
Acknowledging the difficulties Ballingers faced in its incarnations as a pricey nightclub and later a Latin party house, Kaelin Ballinger says, “I think our idea — an upscale building but a very casual atmosphere centered around fun, with reasonable prices — is much more suited to the marketplace.”
Below, Kaelin Ballinger on The City Beer Hall’s mechanical bull. Photo by John Carl D’Annibale/Times Union.
The beer list is after the jump.
Here’s the opening draft list ($5 to $8 per pint; there will also be about 30 beers in bottles and cans; all beer will be available to go, in growlers, six-packs and individually):
  • Abita Purple Haze raspberry wheat beer (Louisiana)
  • Brooklyn Brewing lager (Brooklyn)
  • Captain Lawrence Liquid Gold Belgian-style pale ale (Pleasantville, Westchester County)
  • Chatham Brewing Scotch ale (Chatham)
  • Dogfish Head 60-Minute IPA (Delaware)
  • Guinness stout (Ireland)
  • Genesee Brewing American light lager (Rochester)
  • Keegan Ales Mother’s Milk stout (Kingston)
  • Lagunitas IPA (California)
  • Ommegang Abbey Belgian-style double ale (Cooperstown)
  • Stone Brewing Arrogant Bastard American strong ale (California)
  • Souther Tier 2X double IPA (Lakewood, Chautauqua County)
  • Sly Fox pilsner (Pennsylvania)
  • Troegenator dopplebock (Pennsylvania)
  • Unibroue Blanche de Chambly Belgian-style wheat beer (Quebec)
  • Weihenstephaner wheat beer (Germany)

Lets Farm

Farm brewery bill seeks to revive New York's golden era of hop production

Independent Democrats in the Senate offer ways to grow rural economy, including making beer
Published 12:01 a.m., Thursday, May 19, 2011

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ALBANY -- If you brew it, they will guzzle.
That's an important piece of a pro-agriculture agenda announced Wednesday by the state Senate's Independent Democratic Conference. Calling agriculture "the backbone of the New York economy," they described bills to help preserve farms and let them grow.
"It is not only essential that we work to actively promote our family farms, but that we also seek ways to make sure they continue to prosper and grow, " said Sen. David Carlucci, D-Rockland County.
He's sponsoring a bill that would give restaurateurs a tax credit equal to 10 percent of the costs of any produce they buy made in New York, branded with the "Pride of New York" label already promulgated by the Department of Agriculture and Markets.
Other bills would make it easier to get financing for farm improvements, allow economic development money to be used for facilities upgrades at farmers markets and make it easier for farmers to sell electricity generated by methane or other means back to the grid.
And then there's the farm brewery bill. Hoping to revive what was once a thriving region for hops production around Cooperstown and throughout the Southern Tier, a bill sponsored by Sen. David Valesky, D-Syracuse, would create a special license for farm brewers.
Currently, large-scale breweries are licensed by a more stringent mechanism. Farm brewers could brew and sell beer -- up to 15,000 barrels a year -- provided they use a certain percentage of hops grown on their own property in the process.
"We grew an awful lot of hops in New York state at one time," said Julie Suarez, director of public policy for the Farm Bureau. "We think farm brewery licenses is one of the key pieces of legislation that will allow some of our farmers to have a little bit more diversification, because guys will spend a lot more money for beer than they will for sweet corn, or onions."
Assemblyman Bill Magee, a Democrat, co-sponsors the farm brewery measure. A vote has not been scheduled in either chamber.

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Beer at The Farmer's Market
Donna WesselMark VanGlad with hops he used for the beer he will sell Friday at the Union Square GreenAt 8 a.m. Friday, when Mark VanGlad arrives with 50 cases of pale ale at his new stand at Union Square Greenmarket, the moment may not look particularly significant to passers-by.
But Mr. VanGlad’s Tundra Brewery will be the first to sell beer at theGreenmarket, under a law passed in 2009 that allows small-scale breweries in New York to sell at markets. The hops in the ale are among the first to be grown in New York — which once produced most of the nation’s supply — since the crop was wiped out by disease, pests and then Prohibition.
For Mr. VanGlad, 25, who brews the beer from grain he grows in Stamford, N.Y., the venture will be the first time he steps out from his family’s 25-year-old maple syrup stand at the Greenmarket to sell his own product.
“It seemed like I lucked out,” Mr. VanGlad said. “I was in the right place at the right time.”
After decades of tagging along with his father and uncle to the Greenmarket to help sell maple syrup and other treats from their Wood Homestead stand, Mr. VanGlad said the market seemed the natural place to try his luck with his fledgling brewery, and the beer he’s labeled Ma-Pale.
He describes Ma-Pale, which he flavors with his family’s syrup, as mild and hoppy, with a slight aftertaste of maple, but without the syrup’s sweetness. The beer has an alcohol content of 4 to 5 percent, he said, and he will sell six-packs for $13, or two for $25. The pale ale is the first of three beers that he plans to sell at the market. The next will be a red ale made with local honey, followed by a gluten-free sorghum beer.
As a student at Clarkson University, Mr. VanGlad and his roommate discovered home brewing during the cold, bleak winters in Potsdam, N.Y., which reminded him of the tundra and which inspired his brewery’s name. He graduated in 2008 with a double major in supply chain management and entrepreneurship. Two years later, he received his microbrewing licenses for Tundra Brewery.
Mr. VanGlad grew five to six acres of barley last summer on his family’s farm, and planted another similar batch in the fall, which he expects to harvest in a month or so. He has also grown two small plots of hops, and he plans to plant another acre this year, though he expects that he’ll have to purchase some hops to tide him over in between.
Although the avid market for craft beer has nurtured the growth of boutique brewing operations in New York, most of the barley and hops used to make that beer is imported from Europe or elsewhere in America. Local grain production has increased somewhat in recent years, but it is still far from widespread. And hops production is still so tiny in New York that it is not even measured, said Bob Lewis, who works at the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets as the special assistant to the commissioner for market development.
Mr. VanGlad’s success using local grains could go a long way to showing others what’s possible, said Mr. Lewis, a founder of the Greenmarket.
“It’s very exciting,” he said. “Here’s an example of one brewery that has shown that it can be done, and that the New York State industry that used to be the source of hops and barley for virtually every beer brewed in New York can come back.”
Mr. VanGlad’s timing was impeccable. In 2009, the state passed legislation that allows New York brewers who make less than 60,000 barrels of beer a year to sell at farmers’ markets as well as at county and state fairs. Wineries were already allowed to sell at markets under the Farm Winery Act of 1976.
But for Mr. VanGlad, successfully growing the barley and hops was only half the battle. Like those at the vanguard of other local food movements — small-scale meat producers who lacked slaughterhouses and wheat farmers who lacked mills — Mr. VanGlad found a dearth of infrastructure when it came to processing the products of his agriculture.
To make beer from barley, it must first be malted — soaked in water to germinate, dried with hot air, cleaned and then roasted to the desired darkness. At first, Mr. VanGlad couldn’t find a malt house willing to process a small batch of barley. The handful of malt houses nationwide are mostly giantc plants that deal in 100,000-pound batches, when Mr. VanGlad had only couple thousand pounds of barley. He discovered Valley Malt, a small plant that opened in September in Hadley, Mass., after receiving a tip from an online beer-brewing message board.
“We’re really more of a nano-malt house,” said Andrea Stanley, who along with her husband, Christian Stanley, owns Valley Malt. “We’re trying to do for malting what was done for microbrewing 30 years ago.”
Mr. VanGlad drove a thousand pounds of barley up to Massachusetts in his truck and picked up the malt a few weeks later.
At Greenmarket, Mr. VanGlad’s work dovetails with the organization’s efforts to promote local grain production, said June Russell, the manager of farm inspections, strategic development and regulations.
The new state law allowing brewers to sell at markets does not specify that the beer must be made from local grain, but Greenmarket rules for beverage producers require that all the ingredients be locally grown and that 60 percent must be grown by the sellers themselves, Ms. Russell said. Some craft breweries incorporate New York State grain into their beers, she said, but only Mr. VanGlad is brewing entirely from his own grain.
“We have been trying to engage beer makers in our grains work for the last couple of years,” Ms. Russell said. “It starts with where to refine the barley? And no one was growing barley.”
She had heard about the work that the Stanleys were doing at Valley Malt, Ms. Russell said, and she was delighted to hear that Mr. VanGlad had also discovered them.
This year, Mr. VanGlad has made three 155-gallon batches of pale ale, which each produce 70 cases. He built his brewery from stainless steel milk tanks that he bought second-hand from dairies, staking out his territory in a corner of a building that his family uses to boil maple syrup. Friday will be his first day selling the beer to strangers, he said.
“I’ve had friends and family who have tried it,” he said. “They all seem to like it.”market.

Saratoga Brewfest

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Nowhere must be Somewhere

If you find yourself thirsty and in the middle of nowhere, then maybe it’s time for a stop at the Country Inn.  Ok, so Krumville isn’t really nowhere, after all it’s just up the road from Kripplebush (areas named before the founder’s recognized the letter “C”).  It would be easy to go right by the Country Inn thinking it’s just another place to suck down a Miller light or ten and eat some greasy chicken wings, but stop by and prepare to have your expectations proven wrong.  Perhaps a Chimay Triple draft will adjust your thinking, or maybe a draft or two of Corsendonk Brown will put a proper light on this Kountry gem of a place.  Feeling a bit more English or concerned about the long ride back to somewhere, then a Fullers ESB draft might suit you better.  Regardless, the choices abound, the bar claims list of 500 bottles.  Short on time and funds (they don’t take plastic, but do have an ATM) I wasn’t able to properly sample the food or other drafts, but I am sure they will not disappoint.  The menu is fully of bistro type stuff – mussels, frites, Chimay braised short ribs- all properly local, though I hope the mussels aren’t from up on Kripple Creek, but the beer, have I already covered that, well its good.
I also have to mention the setting.  In the last year they added a beautiful stone patio overlooking a nice beaver pond.  The beavers must have been busy elsewhere, but domestic ducks and Canadian geese round out the very peaceful scene.  An outdoor fire pit forms the center piece of the patio and begs for a return visit on a cool night.  All and all worth a trip from anywhere.  
1380 County Road 2, Krumville, NY, 12461. Telephone 845-657-8956. Open Wednesday through Sunday.