Last Friday all of our Beer Managers from each store headed over to Alementary to talk to Co-Owner, and Brewmaster, Blake Crawford. Blake was nice enough to take time out of his busy day to share some beers with us, and just talk about beer and the beer industry in general. The day began with all of us sitting in the tasting room, sipping on A-Game, their flagship IPA. And might I add, the beer was only canned 25 minutes prior to us drinking it. Yeah, it was fresh.
Blake started out explaining the Alementary story to us. Owners Mike Roosevelt, and Blake Crawford left their corporate jobs of chemical engineer, and a molecular biologist, to follow their passion and open up the brewery. Their main goal when brewing any beer is one simple thing: consistency! I say simple, but maybe its not so simple considering so many breweries continue to make the same beer, yet you never know what you’re going to get in the can. Blake and Mike want the beer you tasted last week to taste like the beer you’re going to have next week and the beer you’ll have in three months. Makes sense to me.
I had someone tell me once that they enjoyed a particular brewery because their beers were so inconsistent, and you never knew what you’d be getting. I was totally blown away by how asinine that sounded. That’s like going to a pizzeria that only makes good pizza 50% of the time. I don’t care what anyone says, bad pizza is still not good pizza! And the same goes with beer in my opinion.
Alright, lets get back on track here.
After getting the back-story of the brewery, we started to get a bit more technical with the questions. We learned about the whole brewing process from milling grains, to mashing, fermenting, maturing, filtering, packaging, and then distribution. We then went over some differences in styles that may seem subtle but make a huge difference. For instance, Stouts were originally created to be bolder in flavor, and stronger than other beers. The ‘Stout Porter’ was a strong dark beer which took its name from the street and river porters of 18th century London with whom it was popular with. When the beer moved to Ireland, they turned to roasted barley rather than brown malts and brought a dryness to the beer style. So between Stouts, and Porters, Stouts will have more alcohol, and can have a heavier body, but the major difference between the two is the roasted barley. Stouts will give off much bolder roasted flavors.
Then there are the subtle differences with IPA sub-styles. Did you know a West Coast Style IPA and a New England style IPA both have about the same amount of hops being dumped into the beer? The only real difference is a West Coast style IPA gets all of its proteins filtered out before being canned. A NEIPA is not filtered leaving those proteins in there creating a fuller mouthfeel. Similar to tannins in wine. This is why West Coast IPAs tend to be really clean and clear, and NEIPA’s tend to be super hazy. Then of course you have many NEIPA’s that have lactose added to them creating a sweeter, and creamy-like mouthfeel.
After our chat we proceeded to head across the street to the new brew house Blake, and Mike are building. The expansion is almost quadruple the size that the original facility was. There won’t be a tasting room in this part. Its strictly for brewing the most solid, clean, and consistent beers there are. And the original brew house will be kept for their sour program.
It was a really solid day for everyone, and Blake sent us home with some real great information that we can’t wait to pass along to our customers. Its always great meeting brewers, and hearing their philosophy on the beer they are brewing and why. Its also always a good thing to support your local in-state breweries. If you haven’t had the chance to yet, please go visit Blake and Mike at their brewery right over in Hackensack, NJ. Tell them Bottle King sent you. I’m sure they will give you a high-five and have a welcoming chat with you about beer.
Pro-Tip: If you’re a fan of Founders Solid Gold, then I suggest you don’t skip Alementary’s Hackensack Lager. In my opinion its a cleaner, crisper, and brighter lager. Grab a 6-pack for your next ‘Sunday Funday’ and share with your friends. Thank me later for showing you one of the best lagers around.