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Like Father, (Not) Like Son: A Peek Inside The First Beers of Barrage Brewing Company
Adam Pominski hates beer. He’s consumed “exactly seven, and every single one tastes the same.”
Steve Pominski, his father, is owner and brewmaster of Farmingdale’s Barrage Brewing Company, the newest brewery on Long Island.
Steve likes beer. A lot.
After several roadblocks, which were eventually smackdowned by a $18,800-raised Kickstarter in 2013, Barrage Brewing opened on January 26. Adam has never swallowed a driblet of liquid from his father’s one-barrel brewery, but “helps a lot with the brewing, and also does all the logos and design work,” says Steve. “I couldn’t do this alone.”
Adam downplays his role at Barrage Brewing, however: “I’m a glorified janitor. I really just help out my dad with what he needs.”
Adam and Steve are both descendants of King Pominskian III, Duke of Barley, the first member of the Parliamentary House of the United Kingdom’s House of Commons of Hops.
King Pominskian, who created the House of Commons of Hops in 1743, was a gifted-ass brewer, and wanted an aristocratic platform to showcase his aptitude. He was eventually banished from Lord-dom in 1757, however, and executed in Wortsville Square.
He was allergic to beer.
Despite their differences on imbibery, Adam and Steve share the blood of King Pominskian and, thus, will always pulsate with the memory of his wrongful persecution.
They have vowed to honor him with Barrage Brewing. They will never forget.
To display their solidarity, Adam and Steve agreed to discuss Barrage Brewing’s first five beers for Super Neat Beer Adventure, Yes!!
Fairytale Red Ale//5.6% ABV
Steve Pominski: “If anything, I would consider this our flagship. This is basically a traditional Irish red ale, but we made it a little hoppier. Traditionally an Irish red is usually very malty, and even has a little sourness to it from the grains being used. We decided to add some complexity with Amarillo, Citra, and Simcoe hops. It adds some floral notes to the beer, but it’s not a hop-bomb, or overly bitter.”
Adam Pominski: “Candy, or something light and sweet. I don’t know. The name doesn’t really evoke a strong taste, or anything manly. But from what I heard, it’s a very hoppy red ale.”
McLaughlin’s Folly//5.7% ABV
SP: “A buddy of mine, Scott McLaughlin, loves oatmeal raisin vanilla cookies. He also loves stouts, and asked me in 2011 if I could brew something that combined both. This is it. People can’t quite put their finger on the end flavor to it. They think it’s vanilla, but it’s actually the raisins. The raisins are pretty prominent. They have this odd flavor in beer, especially when they’re boiled in the wort. This was the first stout recipe we brewed for Barrage. I’d consider it a stout with light chocolate notes. The raisins and vanilla are the main flavors.”
AP: “It’s named for one of my dad’s friends. He’s a big and scary dude, so I would think this has to be really strong—like 190% ABV. But the irony is, a lot of people say it tastes like an oatmeal vanilla raisin cookie.”
SP: “I wanted to do a beer with only one hop variety, but I didn’t want this to be an IPA. This is basically a light-bodied American pale ale that’s easy to drink, in the vein of [Three Floyds Brewing Company] Gumbballhead and Zombie Dust. We didn’t use any hops in the boil, so it’s not overly bitter. It’s all in the aroma. It’s more of a grapefruit note than, say, lemon. Citra doesn’t automatically mean citrus.”
AP: “I’m guessing oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, or anything full of citrus. That’s somewhat wrong, apparently. Citra hops don’t necessarily impart citrusy notes. Didn’t know that.”
Famous Last Words//11.0% ABV
SP: “This is our Russian imperial stout, which was originally named Alexander’s Prohibition Stout for my grandfather, who used to brew beer in his bathtub during Prohibition. He lived in the Greenpoint area of Brooklyn. It’s a huge beer, meaning thick and chocolatey, with a lot of coffee flavor. We actually use a small amount of coffee in the boil. The grain bill for this beer is tremendous—probably 130 pounds per barrel. We’re right at the top of the mash tun. We also age this beer with oak staves. I feel like the bourbon barrels were getting too gimmicky. I guess because it’s so thick and chocolatey, you don’t get any hint of alcohol to it. There isn’t any burn. It costs a ton to brew, but it came out just the way I was hoping. It’s perfect.”
AP: “I only know what my dad told me about him: He used to cook up beer or moonshine in the bathtub. This is a Russian imperial stout, so I assume its just very strong chocolate milk. Almost as if Johnny Walker, Yoo-Hoo, and Nyquil had a threesome. That’ll knock your ass out.”
Necromancer Double IPA//7.0% ABV
SP: “A necromancer controls lost souls, so I wanted the name to represent how we’re controlling the hop souls in this beer. It’s our only double IPA, but it’s hoppiness is mild—only a light hop aroma. It’s brewed with honey, too, which cuts through the bitterness. This is our newest beer to come out. It just debuted [on February 09].”
AP: “I just imagine that when you drink it, you need to be sitting in a chalk-drawn ritual circle, reading from some book of the dead. Other then that, I assume it tastes like bones and dirt, with a touch of honey.”
The Dissection of Anheuser-Busch InBev & Blue Point Brewing Company: Part I
I witnessed a slew of sludge-filled hateballs catapulted toward Patchogue, following the announcement of Anheuser-Busch InBev’s acquisition of Blue Point Brewing Company.
SPLAT. KERPLUNCHT. SPLAT.
I wanted to wait until additional details unfolded, initially, but the buildup of sludge—particularly on Facebook—was grotesque, and too stenchy to ignore. It smelled terrible.
I’ll provide some examples:
“This is awful news.”
“One of my favorite beer companies sold out to the big man.”
“I suspect they’ll close the Patchogue location and consolidate.”
“Toasted Lager Lite?”
“Ready for cheap concentrated blueberry juice added to a cheap lager to replace the blueberry ale?”
The sludgery continued…
“i’m never supporting them again.”
“Time to buy BP brews while the recipe is still unadulterated. Best wishes.”
“Blue Point…say it ain’t so…”
Seriously? You’re selling glassware?
Everyone. Please. Stop.
The New York Times wrote “Terms of the deal between Blue Point and the United States arm of Anheuser-Busch InBev were not disclosed,” so presently, we can only speculate.
MUST WE ALSO SPECU-HATE, THOUGH?
We could explore a probably-similar transaction, such as Anheuser-Busch’s purchase of Goose Island Beer Company in 2011, or Duvel Moortgat’s gimme-takey of Boulevard Brewing Company in 2013. We could also criticize Blue Point’s now-ironic prank on April’s Fool Day in 2011—a jab at Anheuser-Busch and Goose Island—announcing its alliance with MillerCoors, another conglomo-brewery.
...or we could just Wait N’ Stop Da Hate.
Blue Point, which opened in 1998, is an iconic institution on Long Island. This is undeniable. And I expected post-announcement disappointment from Long Islanders, because on Long Island, Blue Point is not a brewery, but a deity—a holy and cherished emblem of local.
Anheuser-Busch, conversely, is not an emblem of local. It is faceless, and the producer of Budweiser, once an enemy of Blue Point’s flagship, Toasted Lager.
...but now the enemies are allies.
Long Island feels betrayed. Confused. Abandoned. It’s unfair to assume the death of Blue Point, however, or expect the creation of Toasted Lager Lite. A commercial with Mark Burford and Pete Cotter, riding a pair of Versace-hoofed Budweiser Clydesdales?
The initial opinions—no, judgments—were harsh and premature. As I witnessed a slew of sludge-filled hateballs catapulted toward Patchogue, I wanted to disintegrate-by-deathray them, because Blue Point deserves better. After 16 years of brewing on Long lsland, which will continue under the ownership of Anheuser-Busch, Blue Point deserves our support. They’ve earned it.
I’ll depart with a quote from Jim Richards, brewer at Blue Point, via Facebook:
“Ok so everyone has seen the news Bp has been bought. I am very sad to see such venom and hate being thrown around. Mark and Pete built Bp from nothing and has earned everything they have gotten. This is only going to make us stronger. It will still be Armchair, Eric and me rocking out the brewhouse. We just now have more support and resources at our disposal. This will allow us to do more for our patrons…I will have the ability to make more high quality beer and have some amazing people teaching me more and helping me and the rest our staff evolve into better brewers. It has always been about the beer and always will be. As I said I am just kind of hurt by all negative response. I truly love Blue Point and love the beers we make and all the people I have met by having the honor of brewing our beer.”
STAY TUNED FOR PART II
Drank That Local Sh*t: Barrier Brewing Company Tenderfoot
Drank That Local Sh*t explores the nitty-gritty of Long Island-born beers, with assistance from their creators.
Barrier Brewing Company//Tenderfoot
Date of Birth: 12/31/13
Super Neat Beer Descriptors: Tropical, Juice, Plant-Viney, Not-That-Bitter
“This is a historic beer for us, and for me, personally. This was one of the first homebrewed beers I brought to Shane [C. Welch] when I worked at Sixpoint [Craft Ales], because I felt like I nailed it. And he agreed. It felt great.
Tenderfoot harkens back to the traditional IPA, but not traditional in a balanced sense. It’s traditional as in more of a classic flavor profile sense. It features Cascade, Centennial, and Columbus hops because those were the popular IPA hops at the time—before the Citras and Simcoes became popular—and therefore contribute a more classic 90’s era flavor profile. It was a time when a balance of hop and malt flavors was also preferred over the over-the-top hop bombs that are so commonplace today. That’s why we jokingly call it a ‘historical’ IPA, too. It’s amazing how much the IPA palette has shifted in such a short amount of time. It’s nice to drink a beer from a somewhat bygone era.
Tenderfoot is a well-brewed beer that’s just easy to drink. It’s hoppy, but not too hoppy. Since it was one of my earlier homebrews, I named it after the first rank in the Boy Scouts [of America]. It’s where everyone get started on their path to Eagle Scout, but few make it all the way. I’m actually an Eagle Scout, so being able to brew this early homebrew recipe now in my own brewery feels like a similar accomplishment of making it all the way through the brewing ranks.” [Craig Frymark, co-owner of Barrier Brewing Company]
Blind Bat Brewery…and his (Village) People
This is a line from Paul Dlugokencky’s new song, “In the Recipe”:
I want you,
I want you,
I want you for a recipe review.
Dlugokencky, who released “In the Recipe” on April 09, is owner and brewmaster of Blind Bat Brewery, the first recipient of Super Neat Beer Adventure, Yes!!‘s Most Loyal To Local Award!
Congratulations, Blind Bat!
Blind Bat operates from Dlugokencky’s residence—his shed, specifically—in Centerport, creating unconventional beers with seasonal, Long Island-sourced ingredients. Sweet Potato Saison, for example, is brewed with sweet potatoes from Riverhead’s Ty Llwyd Farm or Peconic’s Sang Lee Farms, depending on availability, while Brown Joe, a coffee-infused brown ale, is a collaboration with Gentle Brew Coffee Roasters in Long Beach. Dlugokencky also sources ingredients from his wife, Regina, who soil-creates basil for Honey & Basil Ale and coriander for Hell Gate Golde—
BUT DID YOU KNOW BEFORE BREWMASTERING, DLUGOKENCKY WAS KNOWN AS DISCO DLUGOKENCKY, THE YOUNGEST MEMBER OF THE VILLAGE PEOPLE? YES HE WAS THE GROUP’S BREAKDANCER AT ONLY SIX YEARS OLD. THIS JUST BLOWED YOUR MIND LIKE ALL THE LINKS PEOPLE POST ON FACEBOOK ABOUT 47 EPIC FACTS ABOUT THINGS THAT WILL COMPLETELY ALTER YOUR VIEW OF THE WORLD AND KANYE WEST.
Okay. Dlugokencky was never a member of the Village People, but the influence is obvious. His aforementioned song, “In the Recipe,” was actually inspired by the Village People’s “In the Navy.”
In the Recipe,
You can tell me what you liked,
In the Recipe,
I hope you think I brewed this right.
Okay. The connection between Dlugokencky and the Village People is actually nonexistent, and “In the Recipe” is not a real song. A connection does exist, however, between Dlugokencky and HIS Village People, or customers. This is evidenced by a section on Blind Bat’s website, Judge, which enables drinkers to give direct-to-Dlugokencky feedback on his beers.
“Feedback can be helpful, and also helps me to learn if what I was aiming for is what folks are getting,” said Dlugokencky. “Tweaks may or may not be made based on feedback, but it is a bit of audience participation.”
This “audience participation” actually inspired Dlugokencky’s newest-newest song, “Macho Fan.” It was released…now.
Macho, Macho Fan,
When they review my beer,
They are a Macho Fan.
Okay. “Macho Fan” is bogus. Redo!
Dlugokencky’s latest request for “audience participation” accompanied the debut of Blind Bat’s Long Island Oyster Stout, brewed with oysters from Northport Fish & Lobster Co. (their befriendment started at Northport Farmers’ Market, where both are vendors). The 10-gallon batch was divided into two versions, and Dlugokencky pumped one with Sorachi Ace hops.
“I haven’t heard of any stout dry-hopped with Sorachi Ace, be it Oyster or otherwise,” said Dlugokencky. “Sorachi Ace can lend a lemony, citrusy quality, so the idea here was inspired by the practice by some people squeezing lemon on their oysters.”
After releasing both versions of Long Island Oyster Stout at Babylon Village Farmers Market on November 23, Dlugokencky asked purchasers for their opinions on Facebook, Twitter, and Untappd.
“I likes both, but prefer the non-dry hopped one,” said Keith Palazzolo.
“Young man, there’s no need to feel down,” said Victor Willis.
Dlugokencky will use the feedback, “which was about split on the responses,” to brew the next batch of Long Island Oyster Stout in “either late December or sometime in January.” The batch will, again, be divided and Sorachi-Aced.
More Blog, Please
Dlugokencky also requested “audience participation” in March, with the launch of The Blind Bat Brewery Club.
Brewers Discussing Beer: The Ups and Downs of Contract Brewing by Rick Sobotka (Great South Bay Brew
“It’s a controversial topic, capable of eliciting confusion, discomfort, and, during one unfortunate encounter in Bay Shore, murder. CONTRACT KILLING? NO. CONTRACT BREWING…ON THE NEXT MAURY.”
[:: Changes Channel ::]
“CONTRACT BREWING! It’s controversial, but so hot right now. CONTRACT BREWING.”
[:: Changes Channel ::]
“It’s a controversial topic, capable of instantaneously injecting discomfort into a conversation among, or regarding, brewers.”
(DUN DUN DUN)
“Yes. We are referring to contract brewing…”
The Brewers Association defines a contract brewing company as a “business that hires another brewery to produce its beer. It can also be a brewery that hires another brewery to produce additional beer.” This process, in either scenario, is essentially outsourcing, openly practiced in an industry erected by handcrafted.
Should outsourcing, or contract brewing, be allowed?
Greg Doroski, brewer at Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, e-penned a controversial op-ed on contract brewing for New York Cork Report in 2012, stating “there are far too many ‘breweries’ that brew little, if any, of their own beer,” and “hiring other breweries to produce some or all of their beer is particularly troubling.” Though contract-brewed beer only accounted for 1.7% of sales in 2012, the process is definitely employed—even on Long Island, home of Greenport Harbor. Fire Island Beer Company currently contracts with Two Roads Brewing Company, for example, while Spider Bite Beer Company and Montauk Brewing Company are produced at Cooperstown Brewing Company. Blue Point Brewing Company, the unofficial spokesbrewery for Long Island, even outsources cans and 12-ounce bottles to Genesee Brewing Company.
Rick Sobotka, owner and brewmaster of Great South Bay Brewery, is also connected to contract brewing.
Before opening a 30-barrel brewery in Bay Shore in May, Great South Bay Brewery contracted with Greenpoint Beer Works for nearly three years. Sobotka, a homebrewer for 22 years, never aspired to contract, but—
WAIT LET’S ASK SOBOTKA…BUT NOW, NOT ON THE NEXT MAURY.
Super Neat Beer Adventure, Yes!! asked Sobotka to discuss his experience with, and opinion of, contract brewing.
This is our second Brewers Discussing Beer. Enjoy.
Rick Sobotka, owner and brewmaster of Great South Bay Brewery (Credit: Matt Furman)
The Ups and Downs of Contract Brewing
Great South Bay Brewery took its first steps in 2009, when I decided to rent a small industrial building at 2309 Union Avenue in Bay Shore. While building this one-barrel brewhouse, I was already in the purchasing stages of a 30-barrel brewhouse and began negotiations to occupy a 4,000-square-foot building on an adjacent piece of property.
What seemed like a straightforward deal turned into a complex mess, and a tiresome losing battle. There were county requirements, which presented hard financial strain to expand the brewery to this property, and it just didn’t pan out. Although the one-barrel brewhouse would eventually produce some of our beer, the economics of this small-volume setup did not work out for our company to make a profit. As our licenses and permits were approved, it appeared obvious that my dream of opening Great South Bay Brewery as, well, a brewery, would be delayed. But I had already employed two full-time people—Greg Maisch, as my head brewer, and Phil Ebel, as my salesman. I was left with a difficult decision to make: either delay the opening, or try something else…
Sixpoint Craft Ales had just ended its contract with Greenpoint Beer Works in Brooklyn, New York, and the space was available. In all my 22 years of homebrewing, I had never desired to have anyone else brew my beer. I basically equated contract brewing with store-bought cookies: good, but not nearly the same as homemade. But as a novice in the industry, I was left with no choice. We decided to sign and the first batch of our beer was produced in October 2010. My goal was to contract brew for three months and within that time, our own 30-barrel brewery would be built. We’d use this just to get off our feet…
Greenpoint makes great beer. There is no doubt about it. Having brewed for over 20 different companies, its track record for helping fellow brewers get on the right path was quite admirable. The first discussion between our companies was to choose the styles of beer that it would brew for us, and I decided on two of my favorites as a homebrewer: Blonde Ambition Ale and Massive IPA. The ingredients and brewing notes were given to Greenpoint, and the pricing negotiation ensued. What I didn’t take into account was that Greenpoint brewed on a 30-barrel brewhouse. The math that I had done for our own setup showed a modest but sizable profit for its size, but now, that same profit had to be split between two companies. I was given a fair price for contracting, but it left us with virtually no profit from the reselling of our beer to our distributor. I had not intended to personally profit from brewing at this time, but the sales from contract brewing left us with a big loss for the first two years. Although we appeared successful to our customers and the general public, we actually struggled to make ends meet.
We began our first few months with Greenpoint very hands-on, instructing its team how to brew our beer, and the result was really good. Blonde Ambition Ale was very similar to its original taste and took off as the big seller. Massive IPA had to change, however, from when it won a bronze medal at Tap New York in 2010. It was much more expensive to brew now, and to give it a reasonable market price, I had to cut down on the amounts and varieties of hops used to brew it—thus the change in taste. I was initially disappointed but I knew that this version was temporary, so I continued to focus on the future of brewing the original on our smaller brewhouse. But what was supposed to be three months of contract brewing turned into almost an almost three-year relationship. There is a long drawn story behind this delay, but I’ll stick to the topic…
My team grew from three employees to five by 2011, and we worked endlessly to build our brand. Every couple of months, we invested in purchasing new kegs to meet our new demand. Unfortunately, because we had no experience to measure against, we never anticipated our next crisis.
In the summer of 2011, Blonde Ambition Ale sold at an amazingly aggressive pace. We had already doubled our production of this beer, but we couldn’t keep up. A contract brewer basically produces beer with a long term, well-orchestrated production schedule, and to change this schedule is very difficult. It’s difficult because, by brewing more of my beer, the contract brewer faces a few dilemmas, like sacrificing another company’s planned batch, or possibly needing to hire new employees or purchase more equipment. Although we analyzed the brewing schedule with Greenpoint, we couldn’t get supplied with enough Blonde Ambition Ale. What may seem like a good problem to have still haunts me to this very day. By having a limited supply of beer, it wears on the trust of our loyal customers and our distributor, who we promised both there would be more. I figured this was merely a growing pain and within a few months, we would remedy the supply issue, or our new brewery would be built and we would leave contract brewing. Well, to forecast the future a little bit, the problem grew even worse in the summer of 2012, and then spiraled out of control in 2013…
In the summer of 2012 we introduced a new beer: Blood Orange Pale Ale. This had been brewed on our own one-barrel brewhouse, and we experimented with it for quite some time. That’s what we used the smaller brewhouse for, basically. Anyway, our final product is what I believe to be one of the most dynamic beers on the market today, appealing to all types of drinkers. Its fruitiness appeals to novice and fruit-loving palates, while the smooth balance of bitterness greatly satisfies the aficionado. With a beer that had plenty of potential, we were curious to see how it would stack up against Blonde Ambition Ale. The result? Blood Orange Pale Ale outsold it, creating yet another shortage. This was a crisis. Because of it, we lost several customers who, to this day, will not buy our beer. It may seem trivial, but I fully understand the problems the shortage created and it is very difficult to place any blame on my lost customers.
Anyway, we got through that summer and pressed on, introducing many more styles, including Snaggletooth Stout, Kismet Saison, and Splashing Pumpkin Ale. Greenpoint was now producing approximately quadruple the amount of beer it had originally planned for us, but as a result, the relationship grew a bit strained. The plan was always to produce beer on our own, and in the beginning of 2013, we were well underway with the construction of our new 30-barrel brewhouse at 25 Drexel Drive in Bay Shore. But the completion date, which was targeted as January 15, got delayed until March, and Greenpoint again struggled with meeting the change. At the end of March, we were cranking out so much beer that something had to give. Kelly Taylor, co-owner of Greenpoint, gave us one more month. At the end of that month, though, I begged him to brew me one more batch of Blood Orange Pale Ale. It was the longest and most silent conversation he and I had ever had. At the end of it, he agreed to bump another beer and help. He’s really a stand-up guy.
Although we had no beer to sell from May 11-May 21, our brewery was finally ready. We lead a customer-focused campaign to reassure them that we were coming back soon in bigger forces than before—and I feel like we did. We’ve brewed and packaged every single drop of beer since May, and the new brewery has been one of the happiest and greatest successes of my life.
But we’re still proud of our history.
I truly believe Greenpoint did all they could for us. Out of all the batches it brewed for us, only a few were quite different from what we expected. A new brewer there had accidently emptied a stout into our batch of Kismet Saison, for example. Thankfully we were not held responsible to purchase it. Our Blood Orange also had some growing pains. At times it was too orangey, then not so orangey, but ultimately it was remedied.
There are many issues you have to accept when contract brewing, but its a risk I needed and wanted to take. These challenges enabled my company, and myself, to grow, and now, my future looks bright…and beery. —Rick Sobotka
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