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Friday, March 08, 2013

Brooklyn, Beans, and Portland, an Intercontinental Tale

Some time back, I got an email from Brooklyn, where ten-year-old Sixpoint is located*.  I get a lot of emails from breweries that don't distribute in Oregon, and usually they go straight to the round file--but this one was different.  It was a story about a beer brewed with beans.  Intriguing.  Back in the very olden days, beans were pretty common ingredients in beer (everything was common--including, in one source I've seen, chimney soot).  It turned out that 3Beans was a slight cheat--Sixpoint used cacao and coffee beans along with Romano beans, the real McCoy.

But it turned out to be even more interesting.  The coffee beans came from Stumptown.  (Given that Brooklyn and Portland are often twinned in the minds of Americans as the east and west hipster capitals of America, there's some real harmony there.)  Even more interesting, the tale involves a superstorm and a trip back to the actual Stumptown to procure the final ingredient.  As one of my irregular Friday Flicks, I'll post a video of the beer.




Beers
Sixpoint sent me some of the 3Beans and, bonus, also sent Righteous Ale, Sweet Action, and Resin.  I'm always fascinated to see how trends are evolving in other parts of the country, so it was fun to see what they were making.
  • 3Beans.  Essentially an imperial stout, very rich and creamy.  Lots of chocolate and coffee flavors in a dessert-like presentation.  The Romano beans obviously didn't contribute much in the way of flavor, but I did wonder if they contributed to the texture. 
  • Righteous Ale.  A burly beer with a rustic rye maltiness but a smooth hopping that had lots of melon in it (I'm gonna say honeydew).  It's a key flavor in the Resin, too, and I wonder if the yeast may not be contributing an ester that helps make the flavor pop.  
  • Sweet Action.  Sometimes classified as a cream ale, and not without reason.  The original cream ales were brewed stronger than more debased later versions, and this has lots of smooth drinkability.  I can easily imagine a beer like this from 125 years back.  The hopping is gentle but full, and the whole presentation is very nice.  A strong effort.
  • Resin.  One of the better double IPAs I've tried, Resin is not painfully bitter.  Rather, the incredible density of the beer (the thickness suggest an all-malt bill, no sugar) mutes the bitterness so the aromas and flavors--again, honeydew--come out.  I found the beer continued to open up until I got it almost to room temperature.  Probably 60 degrees is ideal.
The brewer at Sixpoint, Jan Matysiak,is a Weihenstephan-trained German brewer, and I can really taste the impulse he has toward balance in these beers.  I don't know how representative Sixpoint is of the greater Empire/Garden State region, but these are four very solid beers.  If you're out east, try to find a pint.
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*Apparently the beers are brewed in Pennsylvania, though the brewery maintains a small space in Brooklyn where they do test batches and store kegged beer (evident in the video).  It's a subject of some controversy


Update.  I forgot to include this photo.   Sixpoint is incredibly advanced in terms of branding, and their packaging illustrates why.  They're incredibly attractive little cubes.  Their regular beers come in 16-oz cans, and specialty beers in 12-ouncers.  But to maintain a similar profile on the shelf both are the same height--the smaller ones are just skinnier.


6 comments:

Christopher Grzan said...

As a resident of the Northeast, I'd say Sixpoint is fairly representative of the new wave of good brewers emerging in the area. You've got Captain Lawrence and Empire Brewing a little more up state, with KelSo and The Bronx Brewery joining as fairly recent additions. In New Jersey, both Carton Brewing Company and Kane Brewing, both slightly more than a year old, are making excellent, interesting beers. All very much worth seeking out if you're in the Northeast.

Alan said...

Happy am I when I get to scoop some Sixpoint on my cross border shopping trips. At ten bucks max for four tall cans, pretty good value, too.

Kris said...

I just had, and enjoyed, a 3 Beans thanks to a friend. Prior to that I'd had the Resin and recently received a couple more in a trade that I'm looking forward to trying. Their packaging is very distinctive and the use of the skinny cans a nice way to package the specialty beers.

Matthew Searle said...

On a recent trip to New York, Sixpoint was everywhere. And all of them were winners. They even do a Wheatball wheat ale for the Meatball Shop. My particular favourite was a draft only one from their Spice Of Life series, a single-hopped IPA with Wakatu. Love me some Kiwi hops

Pete Dunlop said...

Beer made with chimney soot? Seriously? Wait...I think I recently tasted that beer. It had a lovely sooty aroma and taste. I think it may have been dry-hopped with soot. Yummy.

Jacob Berg said...

I believe that 3Beans is lagered, which would make it a Baltic-style porter. Like you, I wondered if the Romano beans contributed to the body of the beer, a slight creamy minerality. Cheers.

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