Af­ter the Fi­nal Pour, Brook­lyn Lager Pre­vails in Bat­tle of N.Y. Brews

How a One­time Re­porter Crafted A Cham­pion Beer

The Washington Post Sunday - - Sunday Source - By Greg Kit­sock

And then there was one. Af­ter a great deal of se­ri­ous sip­ping and ale an­a­lyz­ing by our five pan­elists, Brook­lyn Lager emerged as the cham­pion of the Sun­day Source’s first— and, who knows, maybe last — Beer Mad­ness tour­na­ment. Though our blind taste con­test of Amer­i­can brews had its naysay­ers (mostly cranky­pants beer snobs who wished we hadn’t in­cluded Bud, Pabst and Miller), noth­ing can take away from the im­pres­sive win for the beer from the 20-year-old New York brew­ery. From the out­set of the ran­domly seeded tour­na­ment, Brook­lyn Lager per­formed ad­mirably, dis­patch­ing Coors, Samuel Adams, Rolling Rock and El­lie’s Brown Ale be­fore clinch­ing the ti­tle with the votes of four of the five pan­elists in a show­down with Saranac Pale Ale. (For more on the win­ning brew, read beer colum­nist Greg Kit­sock’s ap­praisal at right.)

Though just over a third of the orig­i­nal 32 beers were from the East Coast, the re­gion pro­duced three of our four fi­nal­ists. Two beers — Brook­lyn and Saranac — hail from New York state, while Do­min­ion Ale is from nearby Ashburn. El­lie’s Brown Ale of Colorado was the only non-East Coast beer in the semi­fi­nal group. (In choos­ing brews for the con­test, we stuck to those of mod­er­ate al­co­hol con­tent that are easy to find in our re­gion.)

For our panel, the semi­fi­nal matchup be­tween Saranac and Old Do­min­ion was a one-sided af­fair. It was the only con­test in the tour­na­ment in which all of the pan­elists agreed on the same beer. Saranac’s 5 to 0 vic­tory brought an end to Do­min­ion Ale’s ad­mirable run through the brack­ets. In the sec­ond semi­fi­nal, Brook­lyn slipped past El­lie’s on a 3 to 2 vote.

Con­grat­u­la­tions, Brook­lyn. And for the rest of you beers, re­mem­ber: There’s al­ways next year. — Joe Heim

Be­fore he founded the Brook­lyn Brew­ery in 1987, Steve Hindy was a Mideast correspondent for the As­so­ci­ated Press. In his book, “Beer School” (Wi­ley, 2005), co-au­thored with part­ner Tom Pot­ter, Hindy re­calls sit­ting in the grandstand be­hind An­war Sa­dat in Cairo when the Egyp­tian pres­i­dent was gunned down in 1981.

Some of Hindy’s col­leagues, who had learned to make their own beer in of­fi­cially dry Saudi Ara­bia, in­tro­duced him to the art of home-brew­ing. Af­ter get­ting one too many mor­tars lobbed in his di­rec­tion, he fi­nally de­cided to seek a safer pro­fes­sion mix­ing malt and hops back in the States.

Hindy con­sulted with a re­tired brew­mas­ter named Bill Moeller in for­mu­lat­ing his first and still flag­ship brand, Brook­lyn Lager. Based loosely on Vi­enna-style beers of the 19th cen­tury, Brook­lyn Lager is an all-malt beer (no corn or rice ad­juncts) with a spicy hop char­ac­ter backed by a smooth, caramel malt sweet­ness. The use of Pa­cific North­west hops gives the beer a slightly pine-cit­rus aroma, a dis­tinctly Amer­i­can touch. Brook­lyn Lager goes well with a variety of foods, from pizza to Tex-Mex to fish and chips to sushi, says Brook­lyn Brew­ery brew­mas­ter Gar­rett Oliver (who has penned his own book, “The Brew­mas­ter’s Ta­ble”).

Hindy be­gan as a con­tract brewer, rent­ing other peo­ple’s tanks. In 1996, he opened his own plant in Brook­lyn’s Wil­liams­burg neigh­bor­hood. But ca­pac­ity there is lim­ited, and Brook­lyn Lager is still con­tract-brewed at the Matt Brew­ing Co. in Utica, N.Y.

Since Hindy sold his first case 20 years ago, the Brook­lyn Brew­ery has re­leased a spec­trum of beers, in­clud­ing the hoppy East In­dia Pale Ale; the in­tensely roasty, warm­ing Brook­lyn Black Choco­late Stout; and a po­tent bar­ley wine ap­pro­pri­ately called the Mon­ster.

But Brook­lyn Lager re­mains the com­pany’s most bal­anced and quaf­fa­ble beer, suit­able for pic­nics, ball­games and evenings at the pub spin­ning your own war sto­ries. Greg Kit­sock is ed­i­tor of Mid-At­lantic Brew­ing News and as­so­ci­ate ed­i­tor of Amer­i­can Brewer mag­a­zine. He is also the beer colum­nist for The Wash­ing­ton Post’s Food sec­tion.

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