The Brooklyn Growler

"Life is all skittles and beer." — Tom Lehrer

Sampler Pack: Wait, They Sell Growlers in There?

• This week the Brooklyn Brewery unveiled its new production equipment at its Williamsburg plant. The new equipment will help the brewery double its brewing production in the next three years. Currently, Brooklyn Brewery produces 110,000 barrels a year. Brewmaster Garrett Oliver is celebrating the occasion with the limited release of Main Engine Start ale. [The Brooklyn Paper]

• The Bedford Avenue Duane Reade has hit upon a canny idea to fight Williamsburg hipster anti-corporate NIMBYism. Add a growler bar and an extensive selection of craft beers. “In this neighborhood, I feel like that’s something people would go for,” said a man on the street whose quote I have taken out of context. [NYT]

• Exactly how does a beer achieve an “organic” certification? The better question might be, are there any that are actually worth drinking? Craft Beer sets out to answer both questions. [CraftBeer.com]

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Music to Drunk Your Halls & Fa-La-La

Having grown up in the Midwest and lived on the East Coast for the last decade, I have come to rely on the cold times of the year.

I’m spending my second Xmas out in Montana. The cold weather is a comfort. I have on thermals, jeans, a T-shirt, a flannel, and a wool sweater. The snow is about a foot deep. I might go fall down a ski slope later this week. There’s a fridge full of local and West Coast beers. Not too shabby.

Last year at this time, things were not going so well. I was looking at starting the New Year out of work. A writing project I’d been working felt stalled. I didn’t know what was going to happen. Being out of town helped me put some distance on cold reality.

I knew that if I allowed any of the psychic junk going on in my head to interfere with the holidays, I’d not only be a wreck that year – but every year thereafter.

The only way out is through, y’know.

Lately I’ve had that quote from Eleanor Roosevelt circling around in my head: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” And to that I like to add some David Bowie: “I’m not a prophet or a stone age man, just a mortal with the potential of a superman.”

So there ya go.

When it gets cold again, I can think. It’s when I can see how everything falls. This year, 2010, has been a year of incredible highs and incredible lows. I got married. I went to Spain. I got to spend time with a lot of friends and family. I drank some nice beers. Those were the best things.

The bad was bad, and I don’t see the point in dwelling on it. The same goes for the people in my life who make things suck. I have shoved them out the airlock of my brain and watched them explode.

So as December rolls around and things turn towards Xmas, I like to assemble a collection of music that will keep me going through the season.

Here’s some music for you to enjoy. It’s a zipped file. If you want to know what you’re getting into before you get into it, here is the track list –

  1. “Cosmic Christmas” – The Rolling Stones
  2. “Xmas Riff” – T.Rex
  3. “What Christmas Means to Me” – Stevie Wonder
  4. “Who Took the Merry Out of Christmas” – The Staple Singers
  5. “All I Want Is Truth (for Christmas)” – The Mynabirds
  6. “Home on Christmas Day” – Capt. Elmo McKenzie
  7. “Child’s Christmas in Wales” – John Cale
  8. “Getting Down for Xmas” – Milly & Silly
  9. “Christmas Time Is Here Again” – The Beatles
  10. “Little Drummer Boy” – Hoot Owl Boys Choir
  11. “If Christmas Can’t Bring You Home” – The Reigning Sound
  12. “It’s Christmas Time” – Yo La Tengo
  13. “Christmas in Heaven” – Monty Python
  14. “Auld Lang Syne” – The Black on White Affair
  15. “Silent Night” – Leonard Cohen
  16. “Little Drummer Boy” – Lindstrom

Enjoy. Deck some halls. Fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la- Fa-la.

Featured at the top of the post is a glass of Til Fra (To From) by Mikkeller. It’s on tap at the Double Windsor in Brooklyn.

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Annals of Homebrewing: Birch Oatmeal Stout Update

Oh, man, it’s good. This birch oatmeal stout is what Xmas tastes like. It’s one of those beers that doesn’t seem like much when it’s cold but as it warms up, it becomes fantastic – just what we wanted for the season.

It’s on tap at my friend Dave’s apartment. Stop by sometime, whydontcha?

Apologies for the brevity of this post. I’ve been hit with a lot of freelance work lately, and I’m a little fried. There will most likely be one more post to hit before I completely shut down for the holidays. I wish you and yours a very wonderful non-secular winter wonderland of joyous celebration.

Have a beer.

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Annals of Homebrewing: Birch Oatmeal Stout for the Holidays

Originally the idea was to make up an Xmas homebrew for all of our friends and family. As far as the ol’ pocketbook goes, it’s not a bad idea. Logistically, though, packaging up a few bottles of homebrew and mailing them off to faraway places is just asking for your Xmas gifts to explode in the back of a USPS truck.

(Ask anyone who has knocked over a sixer of homebrew in the closet and see what they’ll say about mailing the stuff. Volatile. Yeast can be volatile.)

But so it’s still getting to be the time of year when a stout really hits the spot. My friend Dave and I got together at his place this past Friday to get a beer going. Pictured above was the main impetus for a new brew – home-grown cascade hops from our friend Steve’s garden in Ohio. Dave received them a few months ago and had kept them in the freezer.

We decided to do an oatmeal stout with some birch shavings to add some extra flavor. A little bit of birch wrapped up in a packet with some hops smells amazing, by the way. The birch, as well as the ingredients, were all purchased from the excellent Brooklyn Homebrew in Gowanus.

We once watched a video of a mustachioed dude demonstrating some homebrewing techniques. Before he got started, the guy cracked open a beer and said something to the effect of, “If you want to brew a beer, you need to drink a beer.” Brewing is only part of it. Sitting around Dave’s kitchen, drinking too many beers and talking shit is the experience.

It’s what made me re-think my approach to this site. I started this thing because, first of all, I like beer. But it’s also a workshop experiment. I have acquired many bad habits in the last few years from my professional writing and editing. I lost my voice trying to emulate someone else in order to survive. Like a beer, this blog will take some time to get right. But that’s what I’m after. I want to be right.

Anyway, we’re going to move the brew over to some of Dave’s soda kegs before both of us depart for our Thanksgiving holidays. By Xmas we should be well and drunk on this stuff. I promise to keep you updated.

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Federal Brewing Co. Leaves Federal Dust

Some things are here for only a little while and then they’re gone, leaving behind very little. In the case of many former Brooklyn breweries, the buildings that once housed these businesses still remain, while the breweries themselves have long since been forgotten.

Brooklyn’s landscape is constantly evolving. Today, many former industrial neighborhoods of the nineteenth century are now full of luxury apartment buildings.

The old Schaefer plant in Williamsburg is now a community center and could, quite possibly, become condos at some point in the near future. A lesser-known brewery – the Leonhard Michel plant in Gowanus – is empty and who knows what will come of it.

Here’s a real deep cut –

The Federal Brewing Co., located at 83 Third Ave. in Boerum Hill, was a short-lived brewery that closed down operations in 1907. But looking at the building today, one would hardly even believe that was the former home to beer.

This brewery went through a variety of names and owners in its fifty-three years of life. Founded in 1854 by Samuel Duell, the brewery produced ales under the name of the Long Island Brewery. It was a small facility but grew in size over the next few years. In 1872, Duell sold the brewery to Arthur A. Brown who maintained the brewery’s name and production of ale.

By 1887, Brown had expanded the size of the brewery and added a lager to the beers Long Island Brewery produced. Arthur Brown died in 1879, passing the business to his son J.W. Brown who ran the plant until 1902 when it changed owners again and became the Federal Brewing Co. The plant held on for a few more years, closing for good in 1907.

As Quality Cosmetics in 1976, from Will Anderson's Breweries of Brooklyn.

The building still remains standing on a patch of Third Ave. between Dean and Bergen. From the exterior, the only major difference is that its turret has long-since been taken down.

After Federal left, the building was occupied by the Pittsburgh Glass Co., something called the Fred Goat. Co., and Quality Cosmetics. Will Anderson contacted Quality Cosmetics for his book Breweries of Brooklyn in 1975. Quality had no idea that a brewery was once housed inside its building.

Today, Federal appears to be an apartment complex and is little more than a footnote in the history of Brooklyn’s breweries.

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Sampler Pack: Get the Astronauts Drunk

• The first beer to be certified OK for consumption in zero gravity is now being tested in weightlessness [MSNBC].

• New York Cork Report offers up this thorough and excellent profile of the Kelso Brewery in Carroll Gardens [New York Cork Report].

• The folks at the Brooklyn Brew Shop are setting pen to paper. Their book on homebrewing will be published by Random House in 2012 [Brooklyn Flea].

• In this experiment by Cooking Issues, both the legal and illegal methods of distilling alcohol are put to the test [Cooking Issues].

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