Sunday, December 27, 2009

Brewery Tour: Sixpoint's Craft Ales

Vacation is over and it's time to play catch up and so here is the long overdue recap of Sixpoints!

The Deacon and I started with a glass of Gorilla Ale at the steadfast Bar Great Harry in Carroll Gardens. Enjoying our favorite blend of coffee and beer, we met Ben and Mike (brothers and owners of BGH) playing pinball with Andrew, a co-founder of Sixpoint's Craft Ales.

With just a few minutes to drink while they rallied the troops, we polished our beers and got into minivans for the short drive to Red Hook where the Six Point Brewery sits behind an unsuspecting garage door. Once there, we gathered in the company's headquarters for a quick QA with our guide Andrew and a big plastic cup full of Bengali Tiger.

The "headquarters" is a small studio apartment space with two desks, a kitchenette, two dining room tables, a piano and a custom built kegerator. It was recently renovated and a big change from the office/garage below which they moved out of to make more room for grain. While standing in the office (which felt more like a living room) we learned about the founder's (Shane Welch) market testing via parties at the University of Wisconsin and his trip to NYC to start a brewery out of his car. Like many good things, Shane got connected with our guide for the evening (Andrew) over a glass of homebrew and the rest is history. Check out BaseNow for a colorful interview with Shane on the origins of Sixpoints.

The garage below the living-room-turned-office now houses several 2-ton bags of grain, a motorcycle, a cat's litter box and the Sixpoint Enterprise (a homebrewer's dream machine for creating new beers). Adjacent to the garage is the actual brewery (I use the term loosely while smiling), which consists of one boiler, a mash tun, 5 fermenting tanks and a keg cleaner. Grain is fed into the process from a small chicken-coup-like space built on the roof and the whole brewing process happens in this one cozy space. Because of storage constraints, all the beer is packaged into kegs and shipped out as quickly as possible. To say the least, the operations are modest for such a well known and highly respected New York beer.

Keeping things casual, Andrew richly explained where different beer flavors come from and proved himself to be far from a beer snob providing us several memorable quotes such as: "People ask what type of beer Righteous Ale is. They say, 'Is it a pale ale or something else,' and I just tell them it's a really good beer that people like to drink a lot."

The tour ended with a full cup of double IPA (11% ABV straight from the fermenting tank) and a leisurely, yet frigid, walk back to the comfort of BGH. Several beers deeper than we had left, we made friends with our fellow tourists learning of breweries they had visited and how to get there. It was a night full of learning about how to make good beer, the growth of a small brewery, entrepreneurship driven by passion versus money and how many people love this stuff.


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