Note: this article first appeared on thirstynyc.com
Downtown Dialogues: Beer Is Culture
The newly opened Seaport Studios hosted a one-of-a-kind evening for any beer lover: an in-depth conversation with Sixpoint Brewery Manager Danny Bruckert about the craft of beer making. Bruckert, who received his brewing education at the American Brewers Guild, shared detailed knowledge on the many factors that go into designing a beer.
Beer is an ultimately creative beverage. There are so many things a brewer can do to manipulate even the four basic ingredients: malted barley, water, hops, and yeast. From the barley field it goes to the maltster, who creates an array of color and flavor in the complex process of malting barley. In the brewhouse, while boiling the wort, the enzymes released from the barley when heated affects the body and starchiness of the brew. Each hop has different resinous, sterilizing compounds, and can be used to create bitterness, flavor, or aroma. The water used has certain pH levels and mineral content. And last but not least, the yeast, the living organism from the funghi family, that has the job of consuming the sugars and converting them into carbon dioxide and C2H6O, aka everyone’s friend alcohol. In breaking down the process from grain to bottle, it’s clear that there are nearly infinite permutations to the craft, all choices a brewer can make to affect the color, flavor, body, and carbonation. Brewing is so much troubleshooting, but a labor of love. Good thing there’s something to drink to take the edge off all the hard work.
The idea that “Beer is Culture” has a twofold meaning, of course, beyond the idea that beer is a living beverage like wine. Beer is pretty resilient, having existed the last 4,000 years, and behind all of the science is a tradition of creativity handed down from generations. My favorite anecdote of the evening had to do with the ancient art of stone brewing: before copper and stainless steel kettles were ubiquitous, brewers used wooden vats and tossed in red-hot basalt stones to caramelize the wort, imparting wood smoke, and who knows what other mystery in the pint glass. “Everybody found a way to do it,” said Danny. So in their way, Sixpoint carries on the traditions of experimentation, passion, and representing local culture. It’s even in their company logo, a six-pointed star in homage to medieval brewers’ guilds as well as the nautical star, and the maritime history of Red Hook, Brooklyn. The Sixpoint crew refers to themselves as Mad Scientists, creating beers that are not categorically one style, with consistently delicious and “crushable” results.
TO DRINK, ALREADY!
Lil Raspy, Raspberry Sour, 4.7% Juicy, tart, but not too aggressive. Made with fresh raspberry puree. Drinkable like it’s a sherbert punch at a kids party. It’s draft only, and available at Barcade and Spritzenhaus in Williamsburg, among others.
Jammer Gose, Gose, 4% Made with Jacobsen sea salt and coriander, inspired by the original tale of super-salinated waters in Leipzig, Germany. History revived, and a recipe in development for several years at the brewhouse.
And of course, the canned favorites Crisp Lager, Bengali IPA, Resin DIPA, and Sweet Action Cream Ale.
To wrap up one of the best Q & A sessions I’ve ever witnessed, Danny related his passion for brewing stemming from his love for the transformative quality of beer. “That’s what beer’s all about. Having the right beer at the right time.” At the end of the night, I was left remembering the beer that changed things for me. My senior year of college in Boston, it was a cold February night at a popcorn dive bar called Silhouette in Allston, where you’d be a sore thumb not dressed in plaid. I had a pint of Sam Adams Winter Lager, and after a few sips it all changed. It was like a spell. It wasn’t just “beer” like I’d thought. It turned into adjectives and feelings: warm, happy, spicy, chocolaty, satisfying, smooth. Though Sam Adams has since grown too big for the “craft beer” qualifier in terms of barrel production, it was the point of no return. Craft beer or bust.
To try the wide world of selections on draft, go to Sixpoint.com and search using the handy dandy Sixpoint Beer Finder App, available on the website.