We Wanna Experiment…

Hi there.

You may remember us from such beers as Wanna Experiment? (Idaho #4) or our latest in the series Wanna Experiment? (With Powder) heading out to bars in Connecticut this week.

If you’re not familiar, the Wanna Experiment series is where we go to try out not only new experimental hop varieties but new forms of hop as well.  This latest batch, features something quite new and promising to the market (as far as we have seen) and, well, it just makes us want to keep experimenting.

Lupulin powder. As soon as we found out about this we knew we needed to try it out. Lupulin is the wonderful little yellow oil pods you see inside a hop cone that contain all of the flavor, aromatics (oils) and even bittering potential (alpha and beta acids). Lupulin Powder claims to be the least vegetal form of hops available without going to CO2 or steam distilled extracts. It arrives in the same package as pelletized hops, but feels like a big mushy block instead of hard pellets.

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Just one of many football fields of hops drying in Yakima. Photo courtesy of Farmer John

In order to pelletize hops, they must first be sent through a hammer mill (or other device to pulverize and make a powder) being punched through a dye in order to form pellets. The immense friction required to do this can create significant amounts of heat, which in turn can activate (isomerize) the bitterng potential, or without specialized pellitizers simply burn the hops and deteriorate delicate flavors or simply burn the hops. Obviously the big guys out in Yakima have specialized equipment to avoid this. In any case, this powder is supposed to contain only the lupulin and bracteole (leaf) – leaving the strig (stem) and any other plant material that may find its way into the pelletizer for the birds.

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It may cost twice as much, but it’s also twice as effective as hops and if used properly can yield 5% more beer.  More important than circular math equations is unlike other hop products which generally do not have some of the more sought after and exciting varieties available – the producers making lupulin powder started out with Simcoe, Mosaic, Citra, and Equinox. So that’s nice.  We chose Citra for our experiment.

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Dry hopping was a whole lot easier too… we’ll share more info about what cleanup is like once the tank is emptied.

And from what we have seen the aromatics of the lupulin powder live up to the hype.  It’s intense yet more delicate and not as heavy handed as the aroma we see from the same usage rates of pelletized hops. Since we did not anticipate brewing this batch far enough in advance to bottle any of it – and we were feeling so inclined to continue experimenting, we figured the perfect opportunity for a packaging and retail experiment….

Growlers.

This coming weekend will mark three months since we opened the brewery to the public on Saturdays. We have released barrel aged beers, mixed fermentations, and started bottling our IPAs all to a very positive response. Enough people to keep us busy and make the expenses and effort involved worthwhile but not so many that there are unbearable lines and make it so that we cannot have a conversation with those coming to visit our farm and brewery. And our goal from day one has been to ensure as good of an experience as possible for those that decide to make the trip; even if that means limiting what we make available.  We would rather have a limited offering executed extremely well than sacrifice the quality of your experience to expand what we offer. After all, we want you to come back.  Seeing as things have been going well and we feel we have the routine down to a point where we can look at how to best expand what we offer for next season, we are going to give growler fills a shot.

It will be a limited experiment, likely the only time this year we do so. We anticipate closing the brewery to the public for the winter sometime in November (weather will dictate exactly when). Assuming all goes well we would certainly like to include it when we open back up in the spring next year.

So here’s how it’s going to work:

  • We will not have any growlers for sale. You must bring your own growler to be filled.
  • No growlers will be sold at the farmers market.
  • We will fill a maximum of 2 Growlers per person since we will have a limited quantity available
  • Growlers must be clean – we hold the right to turn away any dirty growlers
  • There will be two separate entrances – one for growlers and one for bottles so that the entire line is not held up.
  • If you would like growlers and bottles we will have a second cash register where you can b-line up to the counter, purchase what you’d like up to the 9 Liter state limit and pay for it all at once.

Hope to see you Saturday. For a list of available bottles, prices etc click here

One more additional note. This Saturday will be the last weekend of the season we will be offering farm tours.

See You At The Market!

Sometimes, just before you hit “publish” on a rant post you think better of it and crumple up your virtual paper, toss it across the room and start all over.  My original intent here was to rekindle the debate surrounding some recently proposed bills concerning the sale of alcohol in Connecticut.  Back in October I wrote a post about a bill to allow beer made in CT to be sold at farmers markets and the issues I had with it not tying any part of the permit to some use of ingredients grown in CT.  So what made me hit delete?  Well, nobody likes a person who benefits from something and still decides to complain.

I still have very strong feelings that this bill is flawed at best, and could potentially be a road block to any substantive farm brewery legislation in the state, but decided to throw my support behind it last Friday and call for your support to phone Governor Malloy and urge him to sign it into law.  Thank you to any of you who called!

Then a funny thing happened on the way to writing this piece.  While looking online for a full text of the bill I came across the general assembly summary page that said it had been signed into law on Thursday June 4.  Not 15 minutes earlier I had been on the phone with the Governor’s aid who was unaware that this bill (or at least this specific provision) had been signed into law.  I immediately called the Department of Consumer Protection Liquor Control to begin the application process.  Turns out, it takes more than one day for new liquor permit applications to be created and makes it way to the agencies that handle enforcement.  Nonetheless, whenever the application is available, you can bet I’ll be first in line to apply.

The rules are fairly straightforward:

– Breweries that manufacture beer in Connecticut (contract breweries included) are eligible to sell such beer at CT farmers’ markets

– No beer shall be poured at the farmers’ market.  All beer sold must be pre-packaged and sealed ie no growlers will be able to be filled or samples poured for customers at the market.  Cans, bottles, and pre-filled growlers are eligible for sale.

– No brewery shall sell more than 5 liters to any one person

– Breweries must be invited to become a vendor by the market manager

– No brewery shall be allowed to manage a stand at more than three markets

– A bunch of administrative application and licensing fees apply

Aside from not having no tie to Connecticut agriculture, and allowing breweries to act like farms but not make it possible for a farm become a brewery this bill is actually pretty good!  So what does all of this mean for us?

And soon... beer!

And soon… we will have beer! In the meantime, ask Farmer John to see his legs and splits 😉

Well, you will finally be able to buy some of our beer alongside our pasture raised eggs and chicken and say hello to your brewers and farmers while swinging through the New Milford Farmers’ Market on a Saturday morning!  More to the point, here’s our plan.

Despite there not being a requirement to do so, we will do our best to sell beer with ingredients grown in CT at the market.  I would not fault any other brewery who applies for this permit for not following suit as the law does not require it.  After all, not all of our brewing ingredients are sourced locally, but we do our best and will put a focus on these beers at the farmers’ market.

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Zesting and juicing away grapefruits grown a town over… 100% CT grapefruit sour, say what?!

Considering our limited bottle production, it would only hurt our current retail customers if we decided to take supply form them to sell at the market.  Instead, we will use the farmers’ market as a venue for special releases of our barrel aged beer.  Never before has the decision to use the same CT grown malt for our barrel program as we use in Field Beer  seem to pay off.

So where are we with our barrel program?  Every barrel is unique; each with its own microbes and history contributing to the developing character of the beer you age inside it.  After filling the barrels in March we let them rest for more than a month to see what character developed from the wood, and the existing microbes within it.   Our cellar is made up of a mix of 16 neutral red and white barrels, some French oak, some American giving us a small but diverse palate of base beers to work with.  Once barrel character is able to be detected, the decision can be made to add additional yeast cultures and microbes to accentuate and develop even more complex character inside the beer; permanently inoculating that wood for future use.  Certain barrels received multiple cultures, some barrels were left as is because of the clean and beautiful notes developing from them.

Now that Spring/Summer is basically in full swing (lets forget that 45 degree week) the fun is just beginning.  Working with local farms in our area, we plan on adding several different fruits to the barrels, and blending others to create deep complex, brett and sour barrel aged beers.  We’ve already gotten to work on two barrels, adding zest and juice from grapefruits grown just up the road and have plans for several more.   In fact, the rhubarb is already picked!

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Hmm. Which barrel do you belong to?

As for growlers?  Well, we’re working on this one.  Most likely, depending on the time in which the permit is available we will bring a small number of growlers to the market (freshly filled) and have them available for sale.  As things grow, we will work toward a pre-sale system where the market is primarily a pickup location rather than actual point of transaction.  This way, we don’t have to bring unnecessary amounts and there won’t be any growlers that go to “waste”.

All in all, we’re extremely excited to be able to have more frequent and direct interactions with you, our customers and be able to bring CT Beer and CT Agriculture one step closer together.  Progress is progress, and imperfections are a part of the process.  The conversation must continue, and a farmers market is not a bad place to start.  So to that, I say, “See you at the market!”

To those that are interested, I welcome discussion on the efficacy of this bill (and others including the growler law) in the comments section, in person, or via email.