Imbibe Magazine The Ultimate Drinks Magazine, Exploring Wine, Spirits, Beer, Coffee, Tea and Every Beverage In Between Fri, 04 Sep 2015 22:32:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Drink of the Week: Notch Session Pils Fri, 04 Sep 2015 19:57:22 +0000 Hello, holiday weekend! Gear up for Labor Day festivities with today's Drink of the Week.

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beer-lagers-crdt lara ferroniHello, holiday weekend! Today’s Drink of the Week—the Session Pils from Notch Brewing—is primed for your Labor Day festivities, and it also happens to be one of the 50 brews highlighted in our September/October issue. A light, low-proof quencher, it’s one of a dedicated lineup of session beers from brewer Chris Lohring (his entire brewery is dedicated to low-ABV styles). It’s a nod to the herbal, hop-driven pale lagers of the Czech Republic, and it combines a duo of light malts with two spice-laden hops. So go ahead and crack another—Monday is a holiday, after all.

And for our Guide to 50 Beers by Style and Strength, check out our current September/October issue.

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Hop-seasoned Curly Fries Fri, 04 Sep 2015 15:50:18 +0000 What's better than regular curly fries? Ones seasoned with hops.

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hop-head-curly-fries-horizontal-crdt katie chudy
Beer and fries is the quintessential pub pairing, and in the newly released American Burger Revival, co-authors Samuel Monsour and Richard Churdy combine the duo into one suds-soaked dish for these crispy curled potatoes.

For the Citra Hop Seasoning
2 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. Citra hop pellets, crushed with fingers into a fine powder
Zest of 1⁄2 a lemon

For the Cascade Malt Vinegar
1 cup malt vinegar
2 tsp. Cascade pellet hops, crushed with fingers into a fine powder

For the Curly Fries
2 large Russet potatoes, scrubbed clean
24 oz. IPA
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
4 cups canola or peanut oil, for frying

To make the Citra hop seasoning, mix the seasoning ingredients together in a small bowl and set aside until you’re ready to season fries.

To make the malt vinegar, pour the vinegar into a squeeze bottle, add the hops and let the mixture steep at room temperature for 1 hour. Refrigerate until ready to use. (The malt vinegar will keep in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.)

To prepare the potatoes, run them through a spiral cutter (alternatively, slice into long, thin pieces). As the fries are cut, immediately soak them in IPA seasoned with the salt. Soak for at least 1 hour and no more than 4 hours. Drain thoroughly.

Heat the frying oil to 375 degrees F and begin frying the potatoes in batches until golden brown and crispy, about 3 to 4 minutes per batch.

With a slotted spoon, remove the fries from the oil and place onto a brown paper bag. Sprinkle with Citra seasoning. Repeat steps until all fries are cooked.

Enjoy with Cascade malt vinegar. Serves 2-4.

Reprinted with permission from American Burger Revival: Brazen Recipes to Electrify a Timeless Classic by Samuel Monsour and Richard Chudy. Published by Union Park Press.

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Firestone Walker’s Matt Brynildson Thu, 03 Sep 2015 21:14:05 +0000 Firestone Walker brewmaster Matt Brynildson is making the best beer you’ve likely never tasted.

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matt-brynildson-horizontal-crdt jeff clark
Be it bronze, gold or silver, medaling at Denver’s Great American Beer Festival is cause for serious celebration. The feat means you’re the country’s finest, if but for a single moment. Winning once is tough; prevailing multiple times in multiple categories is sustained dominance on order of swimmer Michael Phelps.

America’s most decorated brewer glides far beneath beer-geek radar, in California’s grape-soaked Central Coast. At Paso Robles’ Firestone Walker, brewmaster Matt Brynildson, a bearded master technician, has five times been named the GABF’s brewer of the year and four times the World Beer Cup’s champion brewmaster. Additionally, his trophy chest swells with medals for pigeonhole-defying beers spanning English- inspired DBA, citrusy Pale 31, hoppy Pivo pilsner, Double Jack imperial IPA, Velvet Merlin oatmeal stout and Wookey Jack black rye IPA. Name a category and he’s nailed it.

“I’m always impressed when a brewer can do a lot of different styles, and do them all at a world-class level,” says Dave Brodrick, cofounder of New York City’s agenda-setting Blind Tiger Ale House. Adds former Goose Island brewmaster Gregory Hall, “If you win two or three times or more than that, clearly you’re doing something that’s separating your beer from everyone else’s beer.”

If Brynildson cared about self-promotion, he could easily be the loudest shouter in an industry of loud voices. But hucksterism is hardly his style. “I love making beer and I love being home,” says Brynildson, who has a two-year-old son, Mateo, with wife Alison, whom he met at a wine  tasting room. “I tend to travel more to technical conferences and European brewing adventures, where I’m learning more about the process.”

His humility and work ethic were forged in rural Litchfield, Minnesota (current population: 6,726), where his father owned a restaurant. After his parents divorced, he moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan, to finish high school while his mom attended grad school. “In many ways, Kalamazoo was the right time, right place,” Brynildson says. Kalamazoo was home to Bell’s, an early leader in the craft-beer boom. “I give [ founder] Larry Bell credit for getting me interested in craft brewing,” says Brynildson, whose high school best friend, Jon Mangee, is now Lagunitas’ quality manager.

Brynildson attended Kalamazoo College, medical school his target. He studied health sciences, mainly organic chemistry, when his foreign-study program sent him to Spain. While abroad he visited Belgium and Germany, drinking in beer culture. “I came back with a greater appreciation for imported beers and classic styles,” says Brynildson, who soon started homebrewing. His partner? Southern Tier cofounder Phin DeMink.

Post-graduation, Brynildson landed at Kalamazoo Spice Extraction Co. (called Kalsec), his perch in the hops lab. Brynildson pored through Kalsec’s brewing library and picked the brain of sales manager Rudy Held, Stroh’s former head brewmaster, and the company soon sent him to Chicago’s Siebel Institute to learn more about brewing. “It wasn’t until I got to Siebel that I realized I could make brewing a career,” Brynildson says. The mid-1990s were an era of rapid expansion in brewing. To find talent, breweries tapped into the Siebel pipeline, especially Chicago’s Goose Island.

Typically, Hall would ring Siebel and inquire about promising students. In this case, Siebel’s Keith Lemcke (he’s currently vice president) called him. “He said, ‘We’ve got this kid from Michigan, and he’s the sharpest kid we’ve had here in a few years,’ ” Hall recalls. Brynildson was brought on at Goose’s new production facility as a low-rung cellarman, his first professional brewing job.

Brynildson’s lab training quickly proved crucial, and he worked back-to-back shifts to ensure that his beer was flawless from start to finish. “He’s got this curiosity where he wants to figure stuff out,” says Hall, who within six months promoted Brynildson to head brewer. “He knew the brewery as well or better than I did.”

As head brewer he refined the rich and fruity Honkers Ale, and fashioned Goose’s flagship IPA. It was bottled, but Brynildson dreamed of dispensing it via nitrogen, à la Guinness. “I don’t want to say that we were ahead of our time, but it was a pretty bold move,” Brynildson says, laughing.

After four-plus years at Goose Island, Brynildson was ready to make a different bold move. “I had this thing in my head that I’d go to the West Coast and there would be this whole other level of brewing,” he says. In 2000, headhunters for California’s SLO Brewing contacted him. “They flew me out there and were basically like, ‘We’ll pay you twice as much money to make half as much beer and live in California’s Central Coast!’ ” he recalls.

The set-up seemed idyllic. He’d have creative control, operating the same brewing system as in Chicago. The situation was so sunshine-y that Brynildson was blind to SLO’s economic viability, or lack thereof. The good news: Given creative freedom, he earned SLO a GABF award as the country’s best small brewpub. The bad news: Within a year and a half, the bank assumed control and the staff was pink-slipped. “We felt this sense of ownership, or pride, or stupidity, to keep the brewery going,” he says. “I had this notion that if we could keep the brewery running, someone would come by and want to buy SLO and salvage my life in California.”

Though the paychecks stopped, the lights remained on, the silo stuffed with grain. Brynildson and quality manager Jim Crooks kept brewing the easily kegged, private-label draft brands for Trader Joe’s and Humboldt Brewing. A Japanese firm kicked SLO’s tires, then a local winery. But the facility made the most sense to Firestone Walker, which bought the brewery and retained Brynildson as brewmaster, a perfect package deal. “There simply weren’t brewers with his background available on the Central Coast,” says David Walker, who cofounded the brewery with brother-in-law Adam Firestone. “Our day-to-day brew operations were run by our lab manager, who was over the moon that Matt cared about the microbiology as much as him. It was a natural fit.”

The new position necessitated a steep learning curve. Firestone Walker focused on British-influenced pale ales like the rich DBA, that were fermented in an oak-barrel union system inspired by the Burton Union, which was last popular in 19th-century Britain. No brewery in America made beer in that manner. “I was like, ‘This is all smoke and mirrors, right?’ ” Brynildson recalls. Wrong. Working at Firestone Walker meant mastering the way-back contraption. “For the first few years, he earnestly wrestled with the wood, English malts and yeast we were using to optimize DBA’s quality,” Walker says. “The wood was a new challenge and he embraced it.” Though Brynildson honored the Firestone tradition of English pale ales, it was impossible to escape the inevitable. “As a former hop chemist, he was always going to follow the lupulin trail,” Walker says.

Because the brewery’s Windsor Pale Ale was too similar to DBA, he reformulated it as aromatic, citrusy Pale 31 (California is the 31st state), his homage to Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. Pale 31 was dry-hopped, a particular obsession. Firestone’s fermentation tanks sat beneath passive solar panels; hops’ mortal enemy is sunlight. When tank tops were removed for dry-hopping, “you could almost immediately smell the light-struck character developing,” he says. “I feared this would taint the beer.”

His suspicions were confirmed when a local winemaker proclaimed that a pale ale seemed skunky. “I immediately made a rule that no dry-hopping could occur in the light of day,” says Brynildson. More sensible protocols have since been implemented (like painting the panels and using hop cannons), but his obsessiveness left a lasting mark. “My close brewer friends still call me Batman because of it,” he says.

Beyond careful hop additions, another key to beers like Pale 31 and DBA is that they’re blended, a technique learned from local vintners. “The wine industry has been a big influence on our barrel program and in creating balanced beers through blending,” says Brynildson. In 2006, to celebrate the brewery’s 10th anniversary, he blended 10 beers, including an imperial oatmeal stout and triple IPA, which were aged in spirits-soaked barrels and blended with winemakers’ input. The project was a creative breakthrough, leading to barrel-aged releases like Parabola imperial stout and a wild-beer program, not to mention Union Jack IPA, Double Jack and the session-ready Easy Jack. The beers are hits, no misses, owing to Brynildson’s credo: “You can be as creative as you want on the floor, but the lab is the compass that the brewery works by,” he says. “I’d be brewing blind without the lab.”

Sometimes, it seems as if consumers have blinders on to Firestone Walker, which is rarely mentioned in the same rarefied league of, say, Dogfish Head or Stone. “We’re not out there broadcasting that we’re crazy, extreme brewers,” Brynildson explains. For the longest time, Firestone was content to be a regional brewery (only 15 to 20 percent of production is sold outside the state), focusing on sessionable beers. “That’s not what catches the attention of the real crazy beer geek.”

Accolades will come in due time. After all, it’s not like Brynildson plans to depart California, or Firestone. On December 31, 2010, he was made a brewery partner. His achievements are due in no small part to his continued knowledge quest, most recently hitting German hop fields to investigate new varieties like Mandarina Bavaria, which stars in Easy Jack. “As much as he knows, he knows there’s so much more to learn,” Hall says. “He has an insatiable appetite.”

No matter where he boomerangs, Brynildson always ends up back where he belongs, keeping his yeast happy, fine-tuning recipes to medal-winning precision and, batch by peerless batch, making America’s best beer even better. “Our passion lies back home here in the brewery,” he says.

This story originally appeared in the September/October 2015 print edition. 

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The History of NYC Rooftop Bars Thu, 03 Sep 2015 10:53:16 +0000 Contributor Wayne Curtis looks at the illuminating history of New York's original rooftop bars.

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madison square roof garden

It’s summer. The sun sets late, and a honeyed heat persists after dark. And through some dimly understood genetic imperative, a single thought invades the minds of thousands of urban-dwelling Americans every night: “I must to get to a rooftop.” Those with a more advanced genetic makeup follow this with another thought: “And have a drink.”

Rooftop bars are as integral to summer as a Gin and Tonic—with the press of an elevator button, you’re close to the sky and the summer breeze, and away from the fetid smell of the street and the guttural mating calls of free-range bros. It’s the urban version of a tepui in the Venezuelan highlands—those isolated plateaus high in the clouds, where unknown worlds beg to be explored.

We have the good fortune to be alive during a golden age of the rooftop bar. They’re abundant and nearly everywhere today. I’ve sipped a Vertigo Sunset at the Moon Bar, 61 stories above Bangkok, and a blender mojito on the second-floor terrace in the Guatemalan Highlands. Yet the formula for a perfect rooftop bar remains simple: a solid table, an icy drink, a faintly discernible breeze and welcome company.

Bars atop structures are so prevalent in New York that Manhattan in summertime essentially becomes “Rooftop Bar National Park.” Walk into any random commercial building, press the topmost elevator button, and I’d wager you’d have better than even odds of being served a decent drink. They’re so ubiquitous that there’s now an impulse to subcategorize them: Time Out New York last year published its list of “10 non-douchey rooftop bars.”

And all this seems wholly appropriate, for New York is the ancestral home of the rooftop bar. Some historians of high-altitude drinking peg the date of the dawn of rooftop drinking to 1890. That year saw the opening of a “roof garden” atop the Casino Theater, at Broadway and 39th Street. The theatre is remembered for popularizing the chorus line, but it also changed American tastes by launching a small mania for dining, dancing and drinking on high.

The original Casino roof was designed as a place where patrons “could sit for a time in the open air, drinking cooling beverages and listen to music” courtesy of a small orchestra. “The noises of the street were so far below that they blended harmoniously with the brass and strings,” wrote visitor I.D. Marshall in 1893.

Yet, there was a worm in this Eden. “All was satisfactory saving and excepting the refreshments,” Marshall wrote. “There was a clamor for something stronger than lemonade and the like.” To quell the clamor, the Casino began serving strong drink, including “the sparkling vintage of champagne and beer and whisky and all the rest.” The change met with great applause. One wine merchant reported, perhaps a bit hyperbolically, “More champagne was consumed during the first week than was ever before drank in the same time and space anywhere in the world.”

The success of the Casino caught everyone’s attention. Manhattan was land-poor but roof-rich, and rooftop complexes, many modeled after German beer gardens, bloomed from the Battery to the Bronx. Society columnists began referring to a “roof garden season.” The new Madison Square Garden, then under construction, added its own elaborate rooftop garden, and when opened it was the grandest ever seen. The lavish space was adorned with neoclassical arches and ornaments and was large enough to accommodate 800 comfortably, “or 1,200 in a jam.” On opening night, some 5,000 eager guests sought to reach the roof, although only a minority made it; even the band hired to entertain failed to reach the top.

“Owners have grown rich with the money which tired, heat-tortured mortals have gladly given in return for the cool breezes,” noted an account in 1903. By then, the model had moved even further away from its beer-garden roots and toward more sophisticated tipples.

“On the roof gardens of New York, the Mamie Taylor and Remsen cooler are the greatest favorites,” wrote Almer C. Sanborn in 1913. “Go to any of the gardens along Broadway and you will always find someone having one of these drinks.” (The Mamie Taylor was made of lime, gin and ginger ale; the Remsen cooler was a gin and soda with an elegant, spiraling lemon peel. Both are ideal for summer sipping.)

The roof garden began its decline in the 1920s, and every obituary seems to contain one phrase: “air-conditioning.” The first theater in Times Square chilled out in 1925, and others soon fell into line. Combine that with the rise of the talking picture, and Americans suddenly felt less compelled to head to the roof to sip while listening to an orchestra under balmy skies. En masse, America moved from the expansive, open and summery, to the claustrophobic, dank and chilly.

So remember that tonight as you head to a roof to sip something delicious while admiring the lights pinholing the sky. You’re not just closer to heaven—you’re closer to a vital urban past, when tout le monde found the perfect way to escape the tyranny of heat and the dreariness of the street.

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The Heaviest Weight Thu, 03 Sep 2015 10:08:22 +0000 A dose of creamy banana liqueur elevates this tropical delight from Pinewood Social in Nashville.

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the heaviest weight-vertical-crdt josh habigerThe secret ingredients in this rum-based refresher? Beach-fueled fantasies and island dreams.

2 oz. rum (Tocco uses Appleton V/X)
1 oz. Briottet Creme de Banane
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
3/4 oz. pineapple juice
1/2 oz. cream of coconut
1 dash Angostura bitters
Tools: swizzle stick
Glass: Hurricane
Garnish: pineapple leaf and grated nutmeg and cinnamon

Combine all ingredients and swizzle with crushed ice until a frost forms on the outside of the glass. Garnish.

Matt Tocco, Pinewood Social, Nashville

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