Wine Enthusiast Podcast: Taking an Educational Craft Beer Crawl

Beer author Joshua M. Bernstein takes us on a guided tour of the Brooklyn brew scene and introduces us to the professionals who define it.

Tag along with beer author Joshua M. Bernstein for a Brooklyn brewery stroll and get to know a trio of brewers who help define the scene.

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Read the full transcript of “Taking an Educational Craft Beer Crawl”:

Jameson Fink: Jameson Fink, Senior Digital Editor. I’ve been wanting to do a beer podcast for quite a while, but I decided that, you know what? I should probably wait until it’s a little warmer out, so I thought March would be a great time to do this. Of course, yesterday in New York, there was a quasi-blizzard, and there’s ice everywhere. But, I am not daunted, and I’m at Folksbier in Brooklyn, New York with JB.

Josh Bernstein: Hi, my name is Josh Bernstein. I’m a Brooklyn-based beer journalist, author of “Complete Beer Course,” “Complete IPA,” “Brewed Awakening,” and I am a sometime tour guide, as we’ll find out today.

JF: And we’re gonna talk about beer. Josh, what … we were talking a little before we started today, and you had a really interesting point about what makes the Brooklyn brewing scene unique. Can you just tell me that again?

JB: Yeah, I think the Brooklyn brewing scene, ten years ago it basically was Sixpoint, it was Brooklyn Brewery, and that was pretty much it. There were a few other smaller breweries, but nothing else was there. And one of the issues was we didn’t have a lot of home brewers in town that were really creating the … you know home brewers are sort of like the minor leagues of brewing. And you need them to want to step up and go to the pros. And so, what we’ve seen over the last decade is sort of a number of home brew shops have opened up. They’ve made the hobby much more accessible, much more in-your-face. That’s created this great community of brewers.

And so, a lot of the brewers, what we’re seeing now, the … you have Folksbier, we have Threes, we have Strong Rope, Kings County Brewers Collective … all these people, there’s a direct outgrowth from they were all home brewers before. And now they’re professional brewers. We don’t have a lot of imported talent, as coming in from elsewhere. No hired guns. It’s people that have been living in New York City for a while, and really want to take the next step and bring professional beer to the masses.

JF: So, it’s kind of like, and what do you think that kind of … you know, people like from passion to pro? People doing that, well how has it made the scene here a little different or unique from other scenes, just having that home brewer influence?

JB:I think what’s happened to home brewer influence is a lot of the brewers all grew up together in the city and you kind of cut your teeth on brewing. So, you brew at the same home brew competitions, you know. I’ve been leading tours in New York City for nine years, and a lot of these folks were all on my tours before, so we’ve all known each other when we were kind of, you know, just kinda’ starting out, before my writing career had really taken off in a big way, before their brewing career had taken off. So I think it really makes … there’s a sense of togetherness and community that you think New York City, you think it’s a big city, but you know, the worlds tend to be in a circle, tend to be very small.

So everybody, I think, you know everybody by face. And that sounds weird to tell people in a city of eight and a half million, but you know, you know almost every single professional brewer, right now. That may change eventually, and it will as things get bigger, but right now, it’s still very close-knit.

Travis Kauffman: My name is Travis Kauffman. I’m the owner of Folksbier Brauerei. We have four beers in front of us right now. Our flagship, the Helles Simple, is the beer that we make the most of, and Brooklyn drinks the most of. It’s modeled after sort of a traditional Helles beer from Munich, which just means “light” in German. So, this beer is intended to be, you know, sort of a lighter, refreshing style that is clean, malt-forward and covers a lot of bases. It’s great on a hot day, it’s great with food, definitely great with schnitzel or a pretzel. And this is a beer that we’ll be pursuing in our expansion and into the future. We really want to make a lot of this beer the best we can for Brooklyn.

And next up is the Spectral Hare, which is a new beer for us. It’s a Belgian Wit. It’s a little bit of a departure. We don’t make many wheat beers, but we’re starting to. This is a pretty traditional version of this beer. It has a lot of flavor in it, but we didn’t spice it with anything. This is sort of a straight up version of this beer. A lot of tropical flavors, great round mouth feel from all the wheat in there, sort of a luscious, velvety, kind of fluffy beer that’s great for this time of year because it is kind of a transitional beer. It’s a little lighter, but it has some body to it, as well.

And then the third up is the Pineapple Glow Up, which is part of our Berliner Weisse series. So this series of beer is inspired by a northern German style of beer called Berliner Weisse, which is a soured beer, and often with fruit. In northern Germany, they’ll definitely maybe use some fruit syrup at the end, after the beer’s done, to serve it. We go ahead and integrate fruit into the different stages of the production. So, for instance, the pineapple went through a souring period, and then, we then boil it again, ad hops to our flavor, and try to match it to the fruit that we’re putting in there. We peeled and juiced 350 pounds of pineapples.

JF: That’s incredible!

JB: And very messy!

TK: And we were thinking that while we were doing it! And we, you know, integrate the fruit into it at the end … different stages, really. But usually at the end of the second fermentation, which is an ale fermentation, and it sort of stimulates another round of fermentation and ferments out whatever juice we put in there. In this case, the pineapple juice was highly fermentable, and it created a really dry, sort of super-tart, kind of laser-focused beer. And the pineapple on this one exists as sort of like, you know, up in the upper part of your palette, in it’s in your nose and all around the actual flavor. But the actual flavor of this beer, I think you could almost mistake for a dry Riesling, which is really interesting. And for us to see how different fruits react different ways is great. And we’re making pineapple, we made an orange one with satsuma mandarins and salt. We’re definitely going to do cherry again. So, look for these. And we’re trying to get on sort of a seasonal cycle with these guys.

And lastly, we have Echo Maker dark rye ale. This is based on a German style of Rogganbiers, dark rye ale beers. And this one is pretty traditional. We try to balance it out really well to create a beer that almost reacts with food like Coca-Cola would, so anything that you would want to drink Coke with, like pizza, Italian food, anything … this beer is kind of ideal for it. Much more sophisticated flavors than Coca-Cola, hopefully, but along the same lines of those medicinal cola nut flavors and toffee, and coffee, and all those.

Our brew style is definitely based in traditional brewing from central Europe. We do a step mash. We’re buying a decoction brewery later this year, and we’re really focusing on the quality of malt and building beers on top of that. So, we make hoppy beers as well, but in some ways, they’re sort of still malt-focused beers. And I think that definitely sets us apart, the interaction between that traditional brewing process and the willingness to sort of mesh that with new styles. And, this is a multi-stepped Berliner Weisse, which I think is something that’s probably something that’s not around too much in the States, and there’s definitely not a lot of multi-step mash lagers or decoction lagers like we’re going into. So, you know, to sum it up, I’d say that Folksbier is all about taking that tradition and meshing it with modern palettes and modern techniques and ingredients.

JF: Cool. And, what was the first two things you mentioned? Concoction mash?

TK: Decoction.

JF: Decoction? What is that?

TK: Decoction mashing is basically a pretty old technique of lager making that’s still prevalent in Europe today. Any of the great European lagers that you like are decoction mash. And basically, I’m going to separate it from sort of like craft, normal craft brewing by saying that normal craft brewing is done with a single mash infusion, where they get the mash and they put water at a certain temperature on it, let it hang out and do it’s saccharification that converts the starches into sugars, and then they flush out the sugars and collect them. In decoction, or step mashing, you actually hit several different temperatures targeting different enzymes and reactions, and it allows you to sort of massage out different sugars that are more fermentable, which is essentially, if you’re trying to make, especially like a lighter, super dry beer, you have to do that in order to make sugars that are almost 100% fermentable and not want to plan on putting hops in to balance out the sweetness.

But, decoction, the physics, or physicality of decoction mashing is that you have your main mash tun with all the grain in it, and you pull off a small portion of it, the densest part of the mash, and you boil it in a smaller kettle. And then, you reintroduce and stir everything up to hit different temperatures of the whole mash.

JF: In my defense, I think we could say that a mash is a concoction of sorts, right?

TK: A mash is just basically, yeah, grain and water in a kettle, yeah.

JB: The thing with decoction mashing, it creates really deep nuanced layers of flavor, so I mean, it’s not going to be so much one note. So, you’re gonna have, just … it showcases malt as really an ingredient in the best way possible. You know, oftentimes malt gets kind of overlooked, I think, with beer. Hops, it becomes so much the star of the show. And what they’re doing is really showing that malt can have complexity. Malt can have beauty. And I really think as everybody gains access to the same malt, same hops, same grains and everything, your technique is really what’s gonna set you apart. So, that’s why I think, even within the course of New York City, that’s what really sets their beers apart. It’s this adherence to tradition and utilizing and showcasing malt in a much bigger way.

TK: And it allows us to be on beer menus all around the city with our neighbors, Other Half, who does an amazing job making hop-forward beers. Like, it’s great to be on a menu with them and not really compete for the [inaudible 00:10:15] line, because we make sort of wildly different styles of beer. So, it’s a great position for us with our neighbors, and in the New York market.

JF: Yeah, that’s a really great point about … I think we’re still like hops-mad, you know, that like, it’s like people, like, “Wow!” We’re kind of like focusing … shining light on malt, which seems rare. Because everyone just seems so like, “More hops! More hops! This kind of hops! This kind of IPA! This kind of that.”

JB: Well, you know, malt isn’t exactly sexy. Malt is the soul of beer, you know, but unfortunately, it’s not really the sexy thing that’s … You’re not gonna notice a malt right off the bat. I mean, with hops, you have the aroma and the flavor and the tropical fruit aromas, you know, the intense piney bitterness, you just … these things are very arresting, and you know, malt takes a bit more of time to really understand what it’s doing in there, too, you know.

I mean it kind of almost, I think … This beer’s a great example, you know. Fifteen years ago, when I was first getting into beer, I probably would not have drank this at all. I mean, it would be a beer … I wanted those big, intense flavors. But the more you get into beer, you realize there can be beauty in nuance, and this is a great example of what you can do. Like, there’s beauty in these … it’s not a simple beer, but it’s a smaller beer. And smaller beers can have big, expressive flavors, too, if you pay attention to them.

JF: That’s cool! And actually, another thing I was noticing before we started is you were eating a sandwich, an Italian sandwich with cold cuts. It looked very good. I was not coveting it, just noticing. But, I was thinking about, you know, so much of wine that we do is … and especially when I worked in retail wine, is food pairing. Wine and food is such a big thing, and I know there’s a lot more going on as far as the diversity of beer and food pairing. I just was thinking about, like what kind of a beer would you like with that Italian cold cut sandwich?

JB: You know, I think I’d probably want one of the beers I have in front of me right now! A nice, clean Munich Helles is sort of a “Swiss Army Knife” of beer styles, and so it pairs with everything pretty well. It’s refreshing, it’s got a bit of malt sweetness in there, which can play up the sweetness in the food, it’s got a tiny peck of bitterness, but not too much to really distract from other stuff, and so … And it’s only about four point five percent, I would say? What, what it’s about … Yeah, this, we have about four point five percent, and so you can have a couple of them with your lunch and not feel too bad about it, or pass out directly afterward.

JF: And what are some … I always think of I like unexpected food and wine pairings. What are some of your favorite beer and food pairings that maybe are a little bit of, outside of the box?

JB: Well, I think the ones that people tend to go after, or the one that always really wows, is using carrot cake with IPAs. You know, the bitterness cuts through the richness of like maybe the cream cheese frosting on top, while the sweetness is echoed out in the sweetness of the carrots in the cake. I really like that one an awful lot. And, when I’m doing oysters, you know, oftentimes oysters and dry, Irish stouts are a classic pairing. But I tend to like going with something like a really bright, acidic Berliner Weisse, which tends to … or a salty, sour Gose. So, the salinity of the oysters sort of plays off of the salinity in the beer, as well, and then it goes great with a mignonette or anything like that.

JF: And finally, who’s the Deadhead here? Everyone?

TK: Yeah, I think everyone. Yeah, pretty much across the board.

JF: I think we’re listening to an early 1970s 25-minute [inaudible 00:13:28] in the band. That’s my call.

JB: Munich, Germany.

JF: Is it ’72? Or …

TK: It is ’72.

JF: Whoa! Yes! I feel like a blind tasting, like a blind Dead tape, so I’m pretty impressed! So after a brisk, 20-minute walk, Josh and I are at Strong Rope Brewery, and we’re gonna go in and check it out.

Jason Sahler: My name is Jason Sahler. I’m the owner and brewer of Strong Rope Brewery. We’re a 15-month-old New York State Farm Brewery, about two barrels, so we’re making 62 gallons at a time.

JF: Okay, well, let’s try a couple beers!

JS: Sure!

JF: What is this first beer?

JS: So, this is American Wheat, Strong Rope’s American wheat. This is a five point eight percent American wheat, so it’s got a lotta wheat character, but it doesn’t have that kind of wheat haze that Wits or Weisse beers’ll have. It actually has a nice balance of malt and hops, and it tends to be actually a little hoppy. We use … the malts are pilsner and wheat malt from Pioneer Malt, outside of Rochester, New York. And we use a triple pearl hops and chinook in the boil, no dry hops. We just really wanted to try to get like a good, balanced, really nice-drinking wheat beer.

JF: And, something we were talking about before we started was where you get your ingredients from, your New York focus. Can you talk about that, and how that influences your beer?

JS: Yeah, so we get our ingredients from all over. When we were starting out we kind of started developing the business plan just as the New York state Farm Brewery License was coming into effect, which stated that you had to use 25% or 20%, something like that, New York malts and hops in your beer to be considered a New York State Beer. We decided to, you know, as we were getting our business plan going, as we were looking for space, the industry started to really come together, in terms of the hop growers and the malt houses. So, once we finally got into, you know, actually opened in 2015, there was a slightly mature or more mature field of ingredients that we could use so we decided to actually kind of push the whole identity of a New York State Farm Brewery. So we went ahead and jumped up to 100% New York hops and about 90, 95% New York malts, and were really pushing it.

And we get the ingredients from everywhere. They’re from Long Island, in the tip of the North Fork, to all the way up towards Niagra and western New York. So, and it’s really all over the place. A lot of it does come from the middle, central New York, Madison County, Cooperstown area, all that. That’s kind of where the original hotbed of hop growing was done in New York prior to prohibition and everything moving out west. And it’s kind of picked up, and there’s a lot going on there, there’s a lot going on in the Finger Lakes, some in the Hudson Valley, and actually, a nice little bit in the North Fork as well.

JF: And do you think there’s … I mean, a lot of times, I look at things on a menu, and I’m like, “I’m going to drink what’s under five percent,” this kind of “session beer” type of thing. Is that a trend, where like … ‘Cause when I first started drinking craft beer, I sort of like, we talked about earlier, like, the bigger the better, like “I want more hops! I want more alcohol! I want the strongest thing!” And maybe you kind of think, like with wine, like, “Oh! This lighter style of beer is going to be like a lite beer, like and L I T E beer.” But it’s going to be like lacking in flavor. So, just can you tell me a little bit about lower-alcohol beers, “session beers,” and what they offer?

JB: Yeah, we’ve always been the nature … oh, sorry. Can I just rephrase that? We’ve always been the nation of “temperance drinking.” You know, lower alcohol stuff, you know, if you look around, we’re still predominantly a lager-drinking nation. Some 80% of the beer is what you consider sort of macro-brews. One in five beers in America, give or take, is still Bud Lite. So, really, attuned to drinking between four and five percent. But what those type of beers are sort of … you know, you’re trying to create beers with the most amount of people are going to drink. So, to do that you have to aim for the middle.

But we’re seeing now, sort of the rise of beers that are lower in alcohol, but full of flavor. So, just because you have low ABV doesn’t mean you have to have low taste. So, I think that’s really what’s happening right now. When the craft beer movement started off, a way to separate what would call “craft” or independent brewers from the rest was to go for these more aggressive flavors, intense alcohol … It really got people’s attention, you know, aggression equaled attention for a long time in beer. But nowadays, I think we’re going back to, you know, we’re going back to lower alcohol beers, much more flavor.

The word “session,” you know … “session” became this hot buzzword a couple years ago and now we see people moving back away from the word session. So, I think … but we are definitely seeing this pendulum swing back toward more accessible beers. And it’s a way for people lower alcohol beers, and it’s a way for, I think, to get the 80% of Americans that are not drinking craft beer … I’m seeing a rise of like blonde ales, Munich Helles, like beers that are not innocuous, but they’re lighter entry points for what we would call craft beer.

But, I mean, like Jason takes a lot of cues from the English traditions, and English traditional beer oftentimes has much more moderate alcohol levels, and just showcasing much more malt flavors on there too. Like, what would you say is sort of your big cues for beer? What type of beer styles do you really love making?

JS: I really, I mean, you kind of hit it on the head. In terms of the balance, I think it tends towards English. We don’t … we use a Scottish ale yeast strain for our beers, but it tends to be pretty clean in terms of the ferment. So, we don’t … sometimes, we don’t get all that English character from the yeast, but we have this balance, or I like to have this balance, between the malt and the hops. So, even in our … we do have some IPAs which are pretty much all hop, but a lot of the beers, even some of our IPAs, do have this nice malt balance.

You know, you can get anywhere of this bready, biscuitty character to something that’s more caramel or just a nice kind of baked bread flavor. You know, kind of like our Sandlot Shenanigans is a pale ale that we have. It’s just super … you know, just it’s four point seven percent, light, balanced. It’s got this great character of this citrus, herbal character with this bready, biscuitty malt bill.

JF: Should we try that next?

JS: Yeah, we can do that!

JB: Yeah, like one of the things, too, you know, Jason was talkin’ ’bout the English beers, but I think in this market, you almost have to have a hoppier beer. I mean, I remember coming in here one day. We were talkin’ ’bout the need for Jason to have, like create, a more stable IPA, one to have on tap, and then, I was like, “Everyone’s going to walk in here and ask what IPA they can have and not two minutes after I said that, some woman walked in here, sat at the bar, she’s like, “What IPAs do you have on tap?” And I was like, “See? See? I’m proving my point!” IPAs are just … they’re the King Kong of American craft beer right now.

JF: So, tell me about the pale ale, the Sandlot Shenanigans.

Jason Sahler: Yeah, so, you know, for me, I … the whole Sandlot Shenanigans was kind of hearkening back to those days when I just started getting into craft beer … the IPAs, the pales were much milder compared, back then, compared to they are nowadays. So, I was kinda goin’ for the, you know, kind of hearkening back to that time when you’re in the sandlot, those old school days. And for me, this kind of gets into that with, again you have this nice orange citrus character going on with the hops and it’s just balanced with this nice malt bill. And it’s easy drinking. It’s only four point seven percent, so that’s, you know … And a lot of our pales, a lot of our blondes, tend to kind of be somewhat of this throwback, if you will.

I see a lot, nowadays, when I was looking at, I don’t know, “Beer Advocate,” or someone, some beer rating site. And they … someone was like, “Oh, I love this nice blonde ale! It’s a citra-bomb!” And I’m like … you know, which is a hop. And I’m just like, “That’s not what I want from a blonde ale! I want something that’s a blonde ale. I want them to be distinct.” There’s such a hoppification of so many styles nowadays that it’s kind of just blurring the lines, and I’m just trying to kind of differentiate the lines again, or you know, make them a little bit more straight.

JB: I mean, I’d wager, you know, the lavish usage of hops becomes the dominant strain of American brewing. And it’s really changing the world. Like, I’m doin’ this new book, “Home Brew World,” I think I mentioned, and like, talkin’ to all these brewers across the globe, people in Thailand, and Israel, and China, and I’m like, “What type of beers, where are you taking inspiration from?” It’s like, “American IPAs. American IPAs. American IPAs. American IPAs. American beer. IPAs.” They’re like, “Maybe we’re gonna start doing some sours!” And I’m just like … you see this sort of outsized influence that American brewing has in sort of the global community right now. And it really is hops, hops, hops and more hops.

JF: All right, last stop on our little beer tour. We’re at Threes Brewing. Tell me a little bit about Threes.

JB: Threes Brewing … I’ll start off with the interesting concept where they wanted to not have their own kitchens. They had a bunch of rotating pop-up restaurants just come through here. And it is part of the unique quirk that makes this space so unique. Now they have the Meat Hook is in here full time, but it’s got a restaurant, it’s a brewery, they’ve got an event space, they have a coffee shop … they have everything you could kind of want, like every kind of addiction and fixation you could have, you’re going to find here. Now they even have a, gosh, a can and bottle shop out front, too. They do everything from really clean, crisp pilsners to very expressive IPAs. And really, the focus here is on community and communal good times. They’ve got a beautiful back yard, throw a lot of events, it’s just become a neighborhood anchor in two short years.

JF: All right, and I also wanted to record this outside so people would know we really are walking on this freezing day to all these places. This is not staged!

JB: I am cold.

JF: All right. Well, let’s go inside.

JB: Okay.

Matt Levy: I’m Matt Levy. I’m the head pub brewer at Threes.

JF: All right, Matt. And what beer do we have in front of us? You can tell me a little bit about that.

ML: This is Vliet, our European, German-style pilsner. Probably my favorite beer that we brew. Really crushable, crisp, got a lotta things goin’ on. You get some of the bready malts, you get the lager yeast, and a lot of hop character. Really simple, but also complex, depending on if you’re choosin’ to care about it or not.

JF: And why did you … it’s interesting you said it’s your favorite to make.

ML: Yeah.

JF: Why is that?

ML: I just really like drinking it. I like the history behind pilsners, so there’s just something about making a good one that I enjoy doing.

JF: Yeah, it’s good. It’s really good!

JB: When we go back, pilsners a Revolutionary beer style. Back in the 1840s when they originated, they basically upended the entire global order of beers. I mean, beers were oftentimes darker, murkier, not quite as crisp and clean, but the pilsners, like a golden revelation, I would say, and so the beer … this is basically the grandfather of everything we consider beer in America today, I mean, everything kind of spawned forth from the pilsner.

JF: Yeah, tell us about our second beer.

ML: Yeah, so this is oat IPA, You People. This is 100% Simcoe hops. About 30% of the grain bill is oats, and that just kinda softens up the body. Besides that, I think that the beer is just really drinkable, juicy, doesn’t have a lot of bitterness on it. A trend throughout our beer, is you’ll always find them to be drinkable if they’re done right, even if it’s ten percent.

JF: Yeah, when I … I mean, when I thin of oats and beer, I mean, I just think oatmeal stouts, so this is like, really unique. What is … you said it softens it up, but is it unusual to use oats in this way, or what does it bring to the table?

ML: No, it’s not. I mean, in oatmeal stouts, the oats really help make the beer creamy, which is also an attractive thing in, to play off of hops. It’s becoming very popular. New England style IPAs often use oats, wheat …

JB: Yeah, oats and wheat’s just different ways of creating more body and just having that sort of very illustrious mouth feel. I mean, you can tell, just drinking these beers side-by-side, just the bodies are drastically different on there, too. And I think, you know, in conjunction with all these sort of new breed hops that tend to veer more tropical, or even the Simcoe in this case, I mean, sometimes people talk about being intensely piney. I think used by itself, you get a lot of fruit and tropical fruit in there, as well. And it just creates this great sort of pillowy platform for hop expression.

JF: Yeah, it’s really, it’s like you said, it kind of like tames the hops, kinda softens it up so it’s really approachable, and you get that nice hop character, but it’s not overwhelming.

ML: Yeah, yeah. I kind of feel like all beers should be approachable. I think for a while, beer was really … craft beer especially, was really alienating to people who didn’t drink craft beer. It was like, a lot of the IPAs were sweet and bitter, and heavy. And it was about having the most bitterness, like Arrogant Bastard and IBUs. And I think now we’re at a place where you can take each of these styles and really tame ’em back so that they’re just drinkable. So you could sit and have pints with friends, and not feel like your mouth is just shot.

JB: Yeah, well, I think, you know 20 years ago, when a lot of these big, aggressive beers were coming out then, I think it made sense because there were enough people that were willing to take this aggressive plunge, and new people out there. But I think right now, I think the name of the game for, especially established breweries, is you need to find repeat customers. I mean, trying to find someone to buy one of your bombers of your nine percent double IPA aggressively hopped to the wazoo is really tough.

And so you want people, you want beers … It’s what the big brewers have been playing forever and a day, is like, you know … not the bulk buy game, but really, it’s about repeat engagements with the same beer. And, we’re so promiscuous with our beer choices nowadays that you need to create compelling reasons for people to come back to the beer. And I think drinkability, what we call it, is going to be a big way. ‘Cause if all your beers are just like wild flavor trips, I mean, they’re gonna want to seek out another flavor trip, but if it’s something that’s sort of approachable to you, and that type of thing where you don’t even realize the beer is disappearing, I think that’s what’s important right now.

ML: Yeah, you know, for us it is. And for other people, you know, they’re still making big beers and loud beers, and they’re successful. It’s just interesting that there is a market for a lot of different types of brewers. Definitely at Threes, we’re trying to make refined, simple-tasting beers, but they’re also complex. And our pilsner really, I think, is emblematic of that approach.

JF: The pilsner just is the kind of thing where, you know, I was talking about this with wine, where sometimes you want the weirdest thing, or something with the most razzle dazzle, like the most esoteric, like orange wine from this area or this country with this grape. But then sometimes you just want like, “God! I just want a really crisp, refreshing, really well-made sauvignon blanc.” I mean, it might be like pilsner. Like, there’s oceans of pilsner out there that are made a certain way, and a certain pleasing way, and consistent way, but when you have one that has a lot of care in it … And there’s kind of no hiding behind it, too, there’s no, “I put spices in it! Or chili or a bay leaf or whatever. And I hopped the shit out of it.” That it really, it’s just like it’s … if it has flaws, they’re glaring.

ML: It’s naked, yeah.

JB: But, I think the pilsner, too, really aligns with Threes’ mission as well, too, because this is a place where food takes a pretty … I think people come here for the food, as well. It’s not just coming here to drink. So the pilsner really aligns well with the cuisine served here as well, and also with this idea of the communal-ness. People come in together, hang out in the back yard, big groups of friends. If you’re hanging out with ten of your friends, you don’t want to drink ten percent beers, you just want to drink beers, oftentimes, that’ll keep the good times going, beers you can buy by the pitcher. And then that’s why the pilsner, the table beers, beers like that tend to work really well as this sort of communal beverage that people can enjoy.

JF: So what are some of the … with these beers that we have here, or maybe some of your other beers, like some of your favorite food pairings?

ML: Especially here, I really like table beer with I mean pretty much everything on the menu, but if I have burger with like pickled onions on there, our table beer is four percent alcohol. It’s a soft saison style, really ester-y, like a little bit of funk, but some really nice tropical fruit, stone fruit aromas. And it’s light, and easy to drink and eat with. But yeah, definitely if we’re talking specifically about our menu here, I’m thinkin’ about our burger, salads, some of those lighter, vinegar flavors playing off of something like table. But I find that Vliet, you can really pair with anything, which definitely is a cop-out answer, but it’s true, and it’s something that we’re proud of.

JF: Something to be said for versatility.

JB: One thing it is, I mean, you don’t always want to go to a restaurant, or go to a brewery, and be like, and have to spend so much time thinking about what to pair with that. I mean, oftentimes, I buy my … I don’t always think on the menu, “Oh, I can only drink this if I’m gonna have this.” I like having beer such as a great pilsner, a great table beer, nice lagers really go a long way. Those beers will go with pretty much anything on there, too. They will like stand up to the intense spiciness of something like a Thai curry, but will do really well with a fatty burger, or even harmonize with a nice, well-marbled steak, and so I think there’s a lot of … there’s something to be said for the ability of a beer to be able to cut across all cuisines.

JF: Yeah, it’s like the thing with food and wine that’s interesting is there’s sort of like the “compare and contrast” or like, you know, I can have the steak with a huge cabernet, but sometimes, maybe I want a lighter wine that kind of cuts through the richness of if and refreshes, and gets you ready for a next bite, which is what, to me the pilsner would be all about.

JB: Yeah, I think beer is just much more forgiving. I mean, beer doesn’t have to hit this bull’s eye of flavor and intensity. Beer can sort of … the carbonation will scrub away anything on there half the time. And so it’s really about finding a … finding what you want to eat, and you’re always going to find beer that will pair with it. The pairings for beer don’t have to be exactly on or focused in for them to be successful.

JF: Josh, thanks for taking me on this little mini beer tour of Brooklyn this afternoon. If people want to find out more about you and what you do, what is the website they should go to?

JB: Oh, they can go by my poorly-updated website, or, I don’t even know. Look for me on Amazon or whatever, and maybe buy my book and buy my daughter a new pair of clothes.

JF: Well, and then just … we’ve gone to three breweries, we’re tried a lot of different styles of beer and a lot of distinct personalities of the people and the beer. What’s kind of like your takeaway from our little afternoon together?

JB: You know, I just, I really love showcasing the diversity of New York City’s beer scene. I think oftentimes, we get this … New York City gets branded a certain way in the media and around the world, and a lot of the people makin’ the beer happen, they’ve all come up from the boot straps, home brewing in their kitchens, doin’ what they’re doin’. You know, it’s a lot of hard dreams come true, it’s not a lot of flash and glitz in the brewing industry. It’s a lot of people putting it all up on the line, you know, and it’s just people with a heart in the right place, and that they want to make great beer for great people and bring everybody together.

JF: Awesome. Well, thanks for being here today, and let’s drink some more beer!

JB: Okay, cheers!

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Published on March 30, 2017
Topics: Podcast

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