Anyone who has an interest in American craft beer will no doubt heard of Brooklyn Brewery. Fortunately for me, our chairman David Bruce is an old mucker of founder Steve Hindy and Brewmaster Garrett Oliver. He managed to wangle me a visit to go and have a poke around for a week in their flagship brewery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Guided by the impressively-bearded Jimmy Valm (instant kudos), I was involved in all aspects of the day to day running of the plant. They brew 60 times a week and still manage to have the weekends off. There are separate teams running brewing, cellaring and packaging either working 2 shifts a day or 3 shifts over 24 hrs. The guys cellaring the beer have the unenviable task of being rota’d on for the 24 hr shift pattern and certainly have their work cut out for them. Their brewing process is extremely familiar with the major differences being the dry-hopping methods and packaging. We produce traditional cask beer whereas Brooklyn package to bottle and keg. Filtration is an extremely difficult process to get right and has a dark-artsy quality to it. They use a huge centrifuge that spins the beer very fast, driving the solids out. Beer is then passed through a filter to remove fine sediment where it is collected in a bright tank. There the C02 level is adjusted before sending over to the kegging or bottling line. Sounds simple right?!
Molly, who works on the barrel aging project, showed me a little about what she does there. We sampled some amazing beers that are aged in second-hand casks; wine, whisky, rum, you name it- with the addition of various fruits, wild yeasts, sunflower petals, cider lees, tomatoes (yup, that’s what I thought) etc. The result is uncertain as there is huge scope for infection via wild yeast and bacteria but when it works out, the results are incredible. ‘K is for Kreik’ was a cherry infused, bourbon barrel aged, belgain beer. As complex in flavor as you’d expect but still incredibly well balanced. ‘Wild Horse’ was a barrel aged Brettanomyces-fermented porter. Funky and slightly tart with plenty of roast malt character was also a particular fave.
Brooklyn brewery is run by a small-ish team of extremely passionate people. Their beer knowledge and dedication shines through in every aspect of the business. PLUS they have a beer fridge in the loading bay so obviously get extra cool-points for that. It was a real pleasure to be allowed to tag along for a week and my eyes have been opened wider than I’d ever thought possible.