Monthly Archives: February 2012

A day trip to some local breweries: Barrier and Great South Bay


This last Saturday was a perfect storm of plans falling apart, which made my day wide open to finally get out to some local Long Island breweries.

The day started off at Barrier Brewing in Oceanside.  I know this place makes great beers and the brewery did not disappoint, outside of the fact that the brewery is located in what is essentially an industrialized warehouse in the middle of suburbia that is hard to find.

It warped me back to playing hardcore shows in some random back alley warehouse… ahh, youth….

I was able to try 6 brews which all had a great smooth balance to them.  Each one was very well crafted beer.  However, there was very little to see at the brewery.  The brewing system is set up in the background and there is nowhere for you to sit, or really explore.  This is very much a destination to go to if you want to get the freshest beer possible, not for a fun trip with friends to hangout and enjoy the scenery, but tours are available.  It seemed like it is mainly open for really delicious growler fills.

After Barrier, my lady and I continued to Great South Bay Brewery. This brewery has a very similar vibe to Barrier, but triple the space – much easier to stand around to enjoy the tastings.  Both breweries brew on a one barrel system, but at Great South Bay you could actually check out the brewing set up.

The beers on tap were great, but unfortunately, my favorite beer, Marauder, a Scotch Ale that is aged on bourbon casks was not on tap.

Merauder waiting to grow up

This was fixed by Ryan the bartender, who was kind enough to pull a small taste out of a cask.  After tasting all the beers and finding out about the breweries future expansion plans (which is on the same plot of land), I got a growler of the Saison and took off.  This was the coolest brewery visit i have had the opportunity to experience.  They even post their brew sheets (including brew day details!) on their primary fermentation fridges.

me teaching Karen

Ryan and his lovely lady, Mackenzie were great at explaining everything and took the time to really go in depth with all of the beers.  It was obvious that Ryan was passionate about the beer he was pouring.  I look forward to heading back there asap – tip them well!

Here are some tastings of a beer from each brewery:

Bulkhead Red Ale

Barrier Brewery Bulk Head Hoppy Red Ale

Appearance: Light amber brown that is wonderfully clear

Nose: Malty and sweet with bready tones

Taste: Smooth husky dryness. Maybe a rye backbone? Raisin and dark fruit undertones

Mouthfeel: Low carbonation and easy finish

Overall: A really nice smooth beer. I could drink a lot of these.  Really good out of 10

GSB Saison

Great South Bay Brewery Saison:

Appearance: Cloudy straw yellow color with a nice full head that stuck around for awhile

Nose: Bready yeast essence with tart, citrus, and  flora notes

Taste: A crisp bready phenolic taste that ends in a citrus flora lemon character with a significant yeast character

Mouthfeel: Nicely carbonated with a quick dry finish

Overall: A good light Saison with a bit of booze. I like it, but a little light and lemony for my tastes .  Very nice out of 10

Grapefruit IPA Tasting… the unexpected favorite


I am thirsty!

For the superbowl this year, I was given the opportunity to brew for a party. The giants won… which was cool.

I brought 3 different beers, each in a different style.  One being a cream ale (4.3%), a coffee/chocolate porter (5.8%) and lastly, a big 7.5% Citrus IPA which was first wort hopped, and continuously hopped for the last 15 minutes of the boil, and then dry hopped, cough cough, it was a partial mash too.  I really thought no one was gonna dig the IPA. Once again, I am completely wrong when predicting other peoples likings.  I went through twice as much of this beer, and here is the tasting:


Appearance: cloudy and hop party – cles abound (did I use irish moss? nope!).  A dark orange/light brown color.

Nose: Soft but significant nose, Citrus, lemon, orange and a pleasant flower scent that was reminiscent of dandelions (that’s an idea to come back too in the future…)

Taste:  a smooth easy start to a big flavor beer. Malty beginning with a citrus mid flavor.  lemon and orange. the finish tasted like the rind of a grapefruit, with a nice tight bitterness and a dry finish

Mouthfeel: a big round beer with a dry sharp finish

Overall: 8.75 /10.  great beer! Irish moss is a must next time, but the chunkiness of the hops really gives a unique experience.  I must make more immediately!

Barrel Aging Update: 2/7/2012



Here is an update on the beer that is sitting in my casks since 11/28/2011:

Scotch Ale:

1. Scotch Cask: The nose has a roasty hint and a tart essence. The scotch/oak is really drying out the flavor profile.  This is very delicate and dark. Can’t wait to bottle this, but I might leave it in cask awhile longer

2. Evan Williams Cask: a roundier sweeter scent than the scotch cask. Vanilla oak and no roastiness in the nose. The taste is a real surprise. The bourbon flavors moves this beer in a great direction. A thight tannin finish… whoa. ready to bottle!

Brown Ale:

1.  Blanton’s Cask: this smells like a belgian dark sour beer, but still with a sweet backbone.  The flavor is a nice smooth balanced beer. this is good, not very oaky or bourbony, just an easy beer, with a complicated flavor. a little wine finish.

2. Rye Cask: an oaky raisin nose. A bright citrus flavor, with a weird grapefruit essence.  This could get a little more sour, and turn into a fantastic rodenbach type belgian. This could mean some additional micro organisms…. uhm…..

is dark a color?

Our Invisible Roommates Part 1


Harvesting Wild Yeast

all my invisble friends!!!!

As a person who has found science and brewing to be a wonderful world of interest and excitement, I have recently been going back in time and revisiting some of the lab equipment that I had to use in college.  It turns out that a great deal of the science I learned in school is readily applicable to brewing.  The first process I wanted to focus on was harvesting wild yeast.  This is a practice that was the traditional procedure for brewing beer in history.  It can be traced back to the beginning of civilization, when people first started using our micro organism friends as workers. This is still practiced in Belgium and in many of the new craft breweries that are focusing on wild yeast and other micro organisms (Lactobacillus, Pediococcus, and Brettanomyces)
First off, I would like to say that this is a very challenging process, especially for someone who has been accustomed to modern brewing techniques, where sanitation is paramount to making good beer.  Harvesting wild yeast is not for the casual brewer, or in many ways, the professional brewer.  Controlling this process would be nearly impossible, the daunting amount of variablity would make products that vary from batch to batch. Blending can help, but wild beers are an intense idea. To get pure yeast, it’s really something that dorky scientist’s should to do, like my friend Dave. 

He's a Yeast Scientist!!

In order to harvest wild yeast, you essentially have to create an environment that only a few organisms will be happy in (like an alcoholic mixture with a low pH (BEER!)) and expose it to the air. If your lucky, you get S. Cervisae. If your unlucky, you can be harvesting a mixture of mold and dangerous bacteria. It was very challenging to get any success with this, with most of the samples being over run with mold. Let’s see what I got!

This could be due to using a starter what was far too low of a OG.  I accidentally made the starter with only .3 grams for a 50 mL sample (OG 1.010???)instead of the 3 grams that was needed.  This could have made my results a bit unreliable, but I still got some samples with what should be yeast.

I started with 36 samples, placed randomly both inside a large room and outside by the Verrazano Bridge. I left them for 24 hours on a breezy windy early december night.  I then brought the samples in and let them sit covered for 10 days.  Out of 36 samples, only 5 looked to have yeast.  I put those samples onto petri dishes ( about 18 dishes) and let them incubate for another 5 days.  Of the 18 samples. 6 seemed to have yeast colonies. I then put these samples into 6 50 ml starters, then put them onto a stir plate or back into incubator. After 18 days, I took the FG reading on my refractometer.  of the 6 samples, 3 had fermented down to the low 1.030’s, from 1.045.  The other samples had no difference in gravity (into the garbage!)
the one on the left! that’s yeast! I hope….

Looks nice!

At this point, I’m planning on taking the sample with the most active yeast and get my science friend to tell me whats in it. Then, onto a test batch! MORE TO COME!!
Next time I plan on adding sterilization practices to this as well as making a correct starter

The Great Heat Wand

Being stuck in Brooklyn in a third floor walk up has really hindered my ability to brew 10 gallon batches of beer.  I do have a propane setup and a back yard (more like a cement pit) but i have to walk up and down the stairs way too many times, and then walk around my block to get to the back yard.  I’ve done it a couple of times, but I tell ya, carrying all that beer, all that equipment, and dealing with the yummy in my tummy, have all contributed to me having bad experiences with the whole outside brew day approach.
doing a test run!
Frustration can be the biggest turn off about brewing in Brooklyn (yeessss) but luckily solutions can come from all different areas.  An answer for my problem once again came from BASIC BREWING RADIO, which I think is one of the best resources I have found on the Internet.  They did a whole episode on electric brewing a few years back and in the video section, they got to play with a portable heat wand .
check under electric brewing april 29 2010
A heat wand sounds nightmarish and dangerous, but, after researching, I found out that there are really only a few things scary about it, and those are posted very clearly on a BYO article on the bottom. (here is another helpful link, So I decided to build one with the help of my very handy friend,BULLWINKEL


The set up was really simple honestly. Just follow the directions found on the website (  and everything comes together very well.  I was unsure what to do with the ground wire, but i simply cut it and taped it very well with electrical tape.

now that is a rolling boil!

Using this is wonderful.  For a 10 gallon batch, my stove top simply couldn’t maintain a boil, but when I use the heat wand, my boil is a vigorous as a propane brew day, and I usually boil off about 2 gallons in a 60 min brew.  This tool is also wonderful for heating up mash water and striking water.  Without the wand, my burners raises temp at about 2.7 degrees per minute.  but with the heat wand, its about 3.3 deg/min.  which adds up very quickly when making these big batches.
In summary: while I was scared in the beginning, doing 10 gallon batches is absolutely fantastic and is really allowing for experimentation in my brewery (apartment).  This is one of best investments i have made in my brewing lifetime. you should do it!