Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lawmakers hoping to help small breweries and farmers

By Brandon Quinn
Staff Writer



Bills passed by the Legislature will aid expansion of the state’s craft beer industry by creating a farm brewery license, loosening restrictions of the State Liquor Authority on small breweries and granting tax exemptions to micro-breweries. By 2024, the new farm breweries will be required to use 90 percent of their hops from local farms. Photo by AP.
June 25, 2012
The Legislature passed three bills to aid and expand the state's craft beer industry last week by creating a new type of business license, a farm brewery license, giving tax exemptions to small breweries and loosening the restrictions placed on them by the State Liquor Authority.

In support of the measures, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said, "New York's craft breweries create fantastic beer, but just as important, they have a strong and growing impact on our economy because they create jobs, support agriculture and promote tourism," a sentiment echoed by all parties involved.

The first part of the three-pronged approach, the new farm brewery license, would enable manufacturers of less than 60,000 gallons of beer annually to sell their products at retail outlets for off-premises consumption.

In addition, such breweries can now operate restaurants and inns on, or adjacent to, the farm brewery property, allowing for profit from beer-tasting events and other forms of "agro-tourism" that have provided a boon to New York state's wineries. Off-premises "branch offices" would also be allowed, up to a limit of five such establishments.

Under the legislation, breweries can generate other forms of revenue by selling products at these restaurants or inns. The bill allows for the sale of "beer-making equipment and supplies, food complementing beer and wine and souvenir items," as well as additional items such as pillows made out of hops and hop-soap.

This part of the legislation is modeled after the 1976 Farm Winery Act, which tripled the number of wineries to about 248 within the state, according to Julie Suarez, director of public policy of the New York Farm Bureau.

Suarez said at the time of the farm brewery bill's proposal that the legislation will most benefit the Finger Lakes and Central New York regions of the state, which grow the most hops in New York. It will benefit the growers as much as the brewers, she said, because by 2024, those with farm brewery licenses will be required to use 90 percent of their hops and 90 percent of all other ingredients in their beer from New York farms.

In a press release lauding the passage, Dean Norton, president of the New York Farm Bureau said, "Beer mugs are clinking across New York state as the NY Farm Bureau raises a glass to the Senate and Assembly for passing legislation creating a 'farm brewery' license. This will provide opportunities for local breweries to prosper and it will expand markets for New York farmers and their crops, much like what happened in the New York wine industry when similar legislation passed in the 1970s."

In terms of tax credits, the new law would establish a dual approach to financial relief.

First, it would give tax credits for small breweries based on the amount of gallons of beer they produce annually, up to a maximum credit of $745,000. Only breweries that brew less than 60 million gallons per year are eligible for the credit.

Additionally, the legislation would waive the $150 per barrel label fee imposed by the State Liquor Authority for breweries whose annual output is 1,500 barrels or less.

Lastly, concurrent legislation was passed exempting both farm wineries and new farm breweries "from a costly and burdensome tax filing requirement," as described by Gov. Andrew Cuomo months ago when he first introduced the bill.

Presently, "All beer, wine and liquor wholesalers here in New York are required to report sales made to restaurants, bars and other retailers," according to a press release from the Governor's Office. Under the new legislation, farm wineries and breweries would not be considered wholesalers anymore, hence would not need to file their numbers.

"Our farm wineries and farm distilleries are small, often family-owned operations and they have struggled to afford the costs of complying with this annual reporting," said Darrel Aubertine, commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Markets, when the legislation was first proposed.

Breweries will still have to keep records of how much beer they sell to individuals, wholesalers and retailers for Tax Department audit purposes, but would not need to file the paperwork.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver praised the passage of the agreed upon measures, saying "These measures will help create jobs, revitalize our local economies, and produce another great 'Made in New York' product. By enacting a brewers' tax credit, creating a State Liquor Authority beer label registration fee exemption for small breweries, and creating a new farm brewery license, we are supporting the future of a growing industry in the Empire State."

Sen. Joe Griffo, R-Rome, added, "Agriculture is one of the oldest industries in the state and this bill combines it with craft breweries, which is one of the fast growing. Promoting craft breweries and agriculture is common sense and good economic policy."

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Bier Abbey

It really has been worth the wait.  The Bier Abbey did not disappoint.  Best draft list  around the Tri Citys.   I had a Ichtegrem Grand Cru from the Strubbe Brewery and a  Bons Voeux from the La Brasserie-Dupont Brewery with my corn meal and wheat beer battered haddock.   With two beers pouring on Nitro I had to have 4oz er of  Left Hand Sawtooth before I left.  Elisabeth and George are waiting to serve you. What are you waiting for?  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Beer Here: Brewing New York's History

Bar tray, 1900–1930. The New-York Historical Society, Gift of Bella C. Landauer, 2002.1.3205

To consider the fascinating yet largely anonymous legacy of beer brewing in New York City, the New-York Historical Society presents Beer Here: Brewing New York’s History. This exhibit surveys the social, economic, political, and technological history of the production and consumption of beer, ale, and porter in the city from the seventeenth century to the present.

In the past three decades, New York City has become an important center of craft and home beer brewing. While this phenomenon began only after President Jimmy Carter signed into law an act that legalized home-brewing, the growth of New York’s present beer industry also marks the resurgence of a long-standing tradition known to few outside the world of beer aficionados. Beer has been brewed in New York City and State since the days of its earliest European settlement, when it was a vital source of nourishment and tax revenues. Brewing continued locally and statewide throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and for much of the nineteenth century New York State was home to one of the country’s largest brewing industries. Early nineteenth-century development of New York State’s hop farming industry was vital to this growth, and from the 1840s through the 1880s the state was the largest producer of hops in the United States.
Exhibit sections explore such topics as: the nutritional properties of colonial beer and early New York brewers in the age of revolution; infrastructure innovations and the importance of access to clean water; large-scale brewing in nineteenth-century New York and the influence of immigration; the influence of temperance and impact of prohibition; bottling, canning, refrigeration and other technological advances; and the state of the city’s breweries in the age of mass production. Featured artifacts and documents include: a 1779 account book from a New York City brewer who sold beer and ale to both the British and patriot sides; sections of early nineteenth-century wooden pipes from one of the city’s first water systems; a bronze medal that commemorates an 1855 New York State temperance law; beer trays from a variety of late nineteenth-century brewers; sign from the campaign to repeal prohibition; and a selection of advertisements from Piels, Rheingold and Schaefer, beloved hometown brewers. The exhibit concludes with a beer hall that features a selection of favorite New York City and State artisanal beers. The beer hall hours are:
Tuesday-Thursday and Saturdays: 2pm–6pm
Fridays: 2pm–8pm
Sundays: 2pm–5pm

Beer Here: Brewing New York's History is proudly sponsored by Crown Holdings, Inc. Additional support is provided by Brooklyn Brewery and Heartland Brewery.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Hop Chef Albany

 June 6th at the Pearl Event Centre was Brewery Ommegang's Hop Chef competition.  The event feachers eight local chefs pairing and cooking with Ommegang beers.
Jamie Ortiz serving Rare of the Dog Rare Vos and Faux Egg Shooter with a Honey Thyme Bacon Chaser
 Rachel Mabb and the ladies of Bitches Kitchen Serving up Chili Shrimp & Sausage Wonton in Hennepin Broth
 DP interviewing Elliot Cuniff Executive chef of the Colonie Country Club
Chef Aj Jayapal's Rare Vos-Infused Miss Sydney's Marinated Pork Tenderloin, Malted Savory Waffle, Rare Vos-Braised Fresh Sauerkraut of Apple, Bacon and Cabbage, Earthquake Mayo.

Gnome Week

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

All About Cask Conditioned Beer

David Jensen is based out of San Francisco and is the primary writer and photographer for Beer 47, a blog focused on craft beer, beer events, cooking with beer and homebrewing. In addition to the blog, you can frequently find David on Twitter as @beer47, tweeting interesting news and sparking up conversations about craft beer while sipping his favorite Double IPA. By day David is a software engineer for a small Internet company.

Have you ever walked into a beer bar or pub and noticed some of the taps both looked and dispensed beer differently? Or have you ever been to a beer festival, or beer event, where beer was served directly from a spigot in the side of a metal container propped up on a table? If so, then you may have already encountered cask conditioned beer. If not, then after you read this article, I hope you seek some out.

What is Cask Conditioned Beer?

Cask conditioned beer, or cask ale, is beer that is both conditioned in and served from a cask. Up until the beer is placed in the cask, the brewing process is exactly the same: mash, boil, ferment. After the beer finishes primary fermentation, it is placed in a cask with finings (a substance that causes particles suspended in fluid to drop out of suspension) to help clarify the beer. Often sugar will also be added to the cask to aid with the secondary fermentation, and sometimes even extra hops. The beer is then conditioned in the cask. Conditioning is the penultimate stage in the brewing process when the beer matures, clarifies and carbonates. In the case of cask conditioned beer, there is a small amount of yeast remaining in the beer that causes secondary fermentation, which carbonates the beer. The conditioning time depends on the beer style and can last between 24 hours and 16 days. Traditionally, the casks are conditioned at the pub by the publican, but can also be conditioned at the brewery and shipped out when ready. When the cask beer is ready, the yeast and other sediment settles to the bottom, the beer is carbonated and served directly from the cask. Cask ale is always unfiltered, unpasteurized and always best fresh.

Some of the most common styles of beer found in a cask are English-styles: bitter, mild, brown, pale, ESB and so on. However, I have seen other styles, such as American IPA on cask like Ballast Point Sculpin IPA, and I've also tried Rogue Chocolate stout on cask.
But what's the difference? Since cask conditioned ales are not filtered and not pasteurized, they contain live yeast that continues to add complexity, new flavors and new aromas to a beer. The exact differences vary from beer to beer. The texture of a cask conditioned beer on your palette is often more creamy and smooth than its non-cask counterpart. Furthermore, there are a few beers that are only available on cask.

The Vessel

The cask is a barrel-shaped container that, in general, is longer than wide and has a bulge in the middle. Unlike a keg, a cask does not contain any valves or internal tubes; instead, it has two holes, one hole on the bulge on the side of the cask and another hole, called the bunghole, on the circle face of the cask. The hole on the side of the cask has a plastic or wooden fitting called a shive to regulate the flow of air into and CO2 out of the cask. The bunghole is the opening from which the beer is dispensed. This hole is sealed with a fitting, called a keytone, which is first thoroughly cleaned and then hammered out with a mallet to attach the tap.

Up until the mid-20th century, most casks were made of wood, but now most are made from stainless steel, and a few are plastic. The most commonly sized cask is called the firkin, which holds 9 Imperial gallons, or 10.8 US gallons. Most other sizes are rarely ever seen. If you see your local brewpub or beer bar advertising "Firkin Tuesday" or "Firkin Friday," the chances are they will have cask beer available.


Cask conditioned beer is dispensed directly from the cask in one of two ways. First is simply by means of gravity, or gravity dispense. The cask is laid on its side and a spigot is attached through one of the openings. If you attend a festival or special event of cask conditioned beer, this is likely what you will see.
The second method for dispensing cask beer is likely what you will see at a pub that regularly serves cask ale: a beer engine, also known as a hand pump. The beer engine allows the cask to be in a remote location, preferably under the bar in the cellar (or some other temperature-controlled area). The beer engine is a pump, usually manually operated, that siphons beer into an airtight piston chamber. Pulling down on the pump raises the piston, drawing beer along with it, up through the spout into your glass. The spout is often a swan-neck spout and sometimes fitted with a "sparkler" to aerate the beer and create a more foamy head. Since beer sits in the piston between servings, good pubs will discard the first pull of the day.

Cask Ale Should Not Be Warm and Flat

Most of the time we drink our beer too cold. The first reason is practical: the colder the beer, the easier to dispense on draft without a glass full of foam. Another reason can be to cover up any off-putting flavors. Ice-cold beer is harder to smell and to taste but as it warms up, a beer can reveal a beautiful bouquet of malt and hops, or it can reek like the floor of a dank pub.

The ideal temperature for beer depends on what you're drinking, but the ideal temperature for a beer on cask is most certainly not ambient temperature and not warm. Instead, it should be cellar temperature, which is about 50 - 55ºF, and well under room temperature of 67-72ºF. Good pubs will serve cask beer at the proper temperature.

Try Cask Conditioned Beer

If your first cask conditioned beer is not handled properly, you probably won't have a good experience. It should be fresh, cool (not warm, not cold), carbonated, not flat, and with a head textured more like soap bubbles than foam.

A great way to try many cask conditioned beers at the same time is to attend a festival like Casks and Quesos or Festival of Firkins, which take place during San Francisco Beer Week each year.
If you seek out cask ale at your local beer bar or pub, be sure to find a place that both has high turnover on their cask conditioned beer and stores and handles it properly. In San Francisco, tryMagnolia Pub and BreweryToronado, or Public House. In Denver, try Falling Rock Taphouse. In New York City, try The Ginger Man or The Blind Tiger. In Toronto, try barVolo, who is also encouraging other Toronto bars to serve and properly handle cask ale. If you're having trouble finding a spot with cask ale, just send me a message on Twitter and I'll try to find somebody to help you out.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Merry Monk

Merry Monk to switch chicken wings for deep fried duck legs

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Pig Roast

The City Beer Hall in Albany will throw a pig roast to observe its first birthday. Scheduled for 3 p.m. until late on Saturday, June 30, the event will feature a 100-plus-pound pig being roasted on the patio and related food and drink specials. Pork will be free until it’sgone, while other items will be priced a la carte. More details when I have them.
The beer hall is located at Howard and Lodge streets in downtown Albany.