queenscraftbeer

Beer as Narrative: A Chat with Anthony & Rob from Transmitter Brewing

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I got off the train with iPhone in hand, trying to figure out the best way to make it across the entrance to the Midtown Tunnel. It was barely 20 degrees and the wind was beating my face, but I was determined to make it to Transmitter Brewing in Long Island City, Queens on time to meet Anthony Accardi and Rob Kolb. As I made it closer to the brewery and peered at the Manhattan skyline, a nagging question raced into my head: Why the heck am I out here freezing my ass off in the first place?  Once I met Anthony and Rob and saw Transmitter for the first time, the answer was clear.

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Anthony and Rob focus on traditional and farmhouse ales, with a special zeal for experimenting with their wide library of yeast strains. They work with over 20 isolated strains of Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, and Pediococcus, as well as other traditional yeast varieties. However, it’s the interplay of all the ingredients of beer that fuel their creativity and passion for brewing amazing beer.

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Before ever trying Transmitter Brewing’s beers, I was struck by the beauty of their bottles. Anthony explained the history of the label design:

The labels are designed by Jeff Rogers and are inspired by something called a QSL card. Amateur HAM radio operators would make contact and then acknowledge the contact with a post card that referenced the technical aspects of their equipment and signal strength as well as usually adding a personal note.

Their bottles are available at various bottle shops throughout NYC or on weekends at the brewery. Consider joining their CSB (Community Supported Brewery) bottle share program. Details are on their website: http://www.transmitterbrewing.com/

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With growing demand for Transmitter Brewing beer, I was curious about plans for expansion. Anthony and Rob recently upgraded to a 6 barrel brewhouse at the beginning of 2015. They also have around 35 barrels of stainless steel fermentation space to play with, in addition to 28 wooden casks of various alcoholic persuasions. That’s approximately 60 barrels of volume for both primary fermentation, as well as longer term aging.

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Rob Kolb (left) & Anthony Accardi (right)

Anthony and Rob have created a wide range of fantastic and unique beers during the past year. Here is their take on the beers that have been the most surprising:

W3 Hibiscus Wit with Orange Peel and Coriander took a long time to come together in a way that we liked. There was some acidity and tannic dryness in the young version that needed time to soften and come around. It did and was a beer that sold out very quickly. I think what is the most surprising aspect is always the temporal element to the beers we make. They are living beers, constantly changing, and it is interesting and fascinating to taste along its journey. There are notes and esters that slowly emerge and fade with time. I love that about our beer. They are not snapshots of a flavor, they are more like movies with a narrative.

Riding the G train back to Brooklyn, I sat and reflected on that last line for quite some time. “They are not snapshots of a flavor, they are more like movies with a narrative.” It occurred to me that this is exactly why I made a crosstown trek to Transmitter Brewing in the bitter cold. This is what compels me to meet random brewers, sometimes jumping on a train and often driving 300+ miles. It’s the artistry in creating something brand new and wonderful from disparate ingredients that fuels my quest to capture its beauty.

Finback Brewery

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Glendale, Queens is not a prime location for craft beer.  I’ve been living in Glendale for the past two years and it’s craft beer purgatory.  With the exception of the decent craft beer selection at my local bodega/deli, there aren’t any bars or craft beer serving restaurants in Ridgewood or Glendale – both neighborhoods share the 11385 zip code. Almost a year ago I learned that two home brewers, Basil and Kevin, found a Queens location for their new brewery Finback.  Of course, I was besides myself with joy. The brewery, located on a quiet block in Glendale, is now fully operational, churning out kegs for bars and restaurants all over NYC. Basil and Kevin took a quick break from their very hectic schedule to show me around the brewery, talk about their upcoming plans, and answer questions from their very excited neighbor.

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History:

Kevin Stafford and Basil Lee were both home brewers for nearly a decade. Active in the Brooklyn home brew community, their paths crossed several years ago eventually solidifying their Finback destiny. It took approximately three years to go from dreaming and idea-mapping to the life-changing day the real estate agent handed them the keys to their new property, a warehouse that would become one of the few breweries in Queens. It took almost a year to find the right location and several more months to get everything ready for beer production.

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The Brewery:

From the inside of the brewery, the space looks like it encompasses at least a quarter of the entire block. Finback is huge, with amazing potential for growth. Basil showed me the various rooms and their plans for each – yeast room, barrel aging room, bar and tasting area, and outdoor space. Right now the focus is the beer, ensuring there is enough supply for the rising demand in the city. I’m not sure how these guys get any sleep. There was a U-Haul van parked inside the brewery, its engine still warm from a recent keg delivery. The beer duo are doing their own distribution, as well. For now, Basil and Kevin are micro-managing it all: brewing the beer, kegging, loading the trucks, delivering the product, marketing and sales, and attending various craft beer events. (I’m sure I left a bunch out.) Back to the brewery – They plan on opening up the backyard space in the next few weeks, hopefully time for the real arrival of spring.  (If you’re in NYC or the East Coast, you know that spring hasn’t really arrived yet.)

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The Beers:  

Unfortunately, they weren’t set up to have me do a tasting, but I’ve had a few Finback beers around town during the past few weeks. Their standard IPA is excellent – 7.2 ABV & 112 IBUs, loaded with Chinook and Columbus hops. I’ve been searching for their Witbier, which is a unique take on the light ale – filled with ginger, Szechuan peppercorns, and chamomile. Look out for these upcoming beers in the next few weeks:

BQE – 11.5% ABV & 63 IBUs
The BQE is our Brooklyn Queens Espresso imperial stout. Cocoa nibs from the Brooklyn based Mast Brothers and Coffee from Queens based Native Coffee Roasters were added to the boil making for a super complex tasty brew.

Moby Hop 9% ABV & 84 IBUs
This double IPA is extra big and extra bitter and still goes down smooth as a white whale.

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Brewing and Music:

I was eager to find out what types of sounds fill the void when brewing. Basil explained that it ranges from classic rock to Guns & Roses and Metallica. Ironically, I was listening to Metallica as I rode my bike over to Finback on a twenty degree winter’s night.

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The Future of Finback:  

As I walked through the brewery listening to Basil talk about plans for the physical space and exciting ideas for new beers, I eagerly wanted to fast forward several months to be able to enjoy Finback beers at their very own tasting room or backyard beer garden. Beyond the sours and barrel-aged stuff they are eager to start working on, there are also collaborations with other brewers on the horizon. If you see a Finback beer on tap at your local craft beer bar or restaurant, order one. Once they have regular tasting hours at the brewery, I highly recommend taking the trek to Glendale. You can also join their CSB (Community Supported Beer program) to have regular growler fills at the brewery and enjoy access to limited release and pilot batch beers.