Consider the Apple

October 5, 2015

The author as a boy, considering the mysteries of the apple.

The author as a boy, considering the mysteries of the apple.

Cider season is upon us, and while I’m normally a staunch partisan when it comes to beer as the one true drink of the people* I’ve taken the opportunity to dip my toes in the world of hard cider whenever fall has rolled around over the past few years. Cider used to be a big thing in the United States but fell out of favor after Prohibition. With the consolidation of breweries and the lag time between planting cider apples and production, cider never had a chance in a post-prohibition world. Cider has recently had a resurgence and good cider is getting much easier to find.

If you’ve never brewed a cider before, then no misconceptions await you – it’s quick and fun! For homebrewers who typically brew beer, brewing a cider can be shockingly easy in comparison, with results that are no less rewarding. You skip the time-consuming mashing and boiling aspect of brewing beer and go straight ahead to pitching yeast and fermenting. It feels a little like you’ve cheated the barley gods of their due and that you’ll pay for your betrayal at some point in the future. In the meantime, you can drink the fruits of your labor (literally) in the form of a delicious, dry cider.

New York State is known for the quality of its apples and getting good fresh-pressed cider around harvest time is a remarkably easy affair – no apple press required. Take a walk down to your local farmers market and chat up anyone who is selling apples. In my neck of the woods, Breezy Hill Orchard is always hawking their delicious wares. It is important that you find a producer who offers unpasteurized or uv (ultraviolet) pasteurized juice. Most apple juice/cider sold in stores contains potassium sorbate or sodium benzoate as a preservative (they prevent yeast from working properly) and won’t ferment very well.

The next step is to pick your yeast. Typically, most people will use champagne yeast, like Red Star Premier Cuvee. It’s a reliable yeast that will ferment out dry and produce a tasty cider relatively quickly. It is not your only option though. I’m an inveterate experimenter and have tried a variety of yeasts (both ale and wine) over the years including:

Wyeast 1968 London ESB
Danstar Nottingham
Red Star Pasteur Blanc
Lalvin EC-1118
Lalvin 71B-1122
Lalvin D47

Overall, I’ve been less impressed with ale yeasts (despite what the AHA might tell you) and tend to gravitate towards wine yeasts as they tend to preserve the apple character more fully. I’ve been especially impressed with the Lalvin 71B-1122 and the Lalvin D47. The former is typically used for nouveau wines (young wines meant to be drunk within a short period of time) and the latter is better for something you plan on aging. It’s important to consider the alcohol level of your cider and factor it into your yeast selection. Most fresh pressed cider will clock in with a specific gravity ranging from 1.040-1.050. As ciders will finish dry (all the way down to 1.000) that means your cider could range from 5-7% ABV. Some people add sugars to their cider to boost the alcohol and to add other flavors. In that scenario, I’d offer up the same advice we give for high gravity beers, consider aging them to let them mellow.

I’ve already made five gallons of cider this year (and have consumed at least 2 gallons of that) and plan to make at least five more. I like to split my batches and will be trying two new yeasts next time around. We recently got in a fresh shipment of Wyeast’s Dry Cider Yeast which promises a “crisp and dry [fermentation] with [a] big, fruity finish.” I’ll be splitting that with another (to be determined) wine yeast.

As always, if you’ve fermented something delicious, no matter what it is we’d love to try it at our swap! Join us on the first Wednesday of every month at 6:30pm.


Johnathan Hagen
Certified Cicerone® (aka “Tastemaster General”)

*I’m open to counter-arguments made in the form of a good bourbon.

You Make Your Community

July 10, 2015

Recently there have been some high profile business closures in the Brooklyn beer scene. Most notably Bierkraft closing a few weeks back and the recent announcement by Brooklyn Homebrew that they will close at the end of July.

Although I do not know the exact reasons these businesses have closed, as a small business owner in New York City I can empathize. Rising rents, smaller profit margins, declining sales, taxes, increasing shipping costs and burnout all compete to make running a small business in NYC very difficult. It is not easy owning a small business in such an expensive city.

Why do we do it then? Because we love what we do. The life I have lived since opening Bitter & Esters has been intense. Long hours, low pay, stress, anxiety, and hard work are the norm. That said, we have met awesome people, made new friends, and helped them with a hobby that is incredibly rewarding. We’ve established and supported a strong community of like minded people and drank a lot of killer beers. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s obvious the landscape of NYC is changing, as it always has. Businesses come and go, but I’ve recently started to see more small businesses closing. These closings are part of a disturbing trend and should act as a wake up call to us all. We make the community we want to live in by opening local businesses and by supporting local businesses. It may sound like a cliche, but without you the customer, we don’t exist. You have no idea how much we appreciate you.

By shopping local you keep the businesses you love in business and you make the neighborhood better for it. A small business in NYC doesn’t have the luxury of low rent, or lots of space, so they can buy in bulk and offer the lowest price. If you want low price, shop the internet. Online stores have giant warehouses in low rent areas and benefit from economies of scale. What we offer you first and foremost, is a community. People who care about you and what you are doing. In our case we sincerely care about you and your beer. If your beer sucks then you’ll be unhappy and you won’t make any more. We want you to make awesome beer and we’re here to help you.

We also sponsor events like the NYC Brewer’s Pro-AM, bring in homebrewing luminaries like John Palmer, Charlie Papazian and the Mad Fermentationist. Our monthly beer swap has even grown into a new homebrewing club (the Brewminaries) that had the chance to brew with local breweries like Rockaway Brewing Company. We love our community and want to make sure it continues to thrive. You cannot put a price on that.

So remember, you are the one who decides the type of community you will live in. Support your local business if you want them in your life.

John & Doug

The Mad Fermentationist at Bitter & Esters

April 6, 2015

Michael Tonsmeire

If you’ve ever read the blog The Mad Fermentationist (and I know you have) you know how knowledgeable and concise Michael Tonsmeire is. He is open and honest and I trust what he says. On Saturday March 28th we had the privilege of hosting Michael at Bitter & Esters to sign copies of his new book American Sour Beers. What started as a talk and book signing quickly became a sour beer swap!

Despite Saturday being the first round of judging for the National Homebrew Competition*, we had a great turnout with the coolest part being that just about everyone brought some sour or brett beer. It was a great selection and Michael tried them all! He really liked my business partner Doug’s sour cider. I shot him saying so on video! Michael brought some of his own delicious beers that he generously shared with everyone. A lemon Berliner Weisse, a Flemish Red made with red wine yeast, and a cider that was dry hopped with galaxy hops. All were incredibly delicious. Michael knows his stuff!

Michael has a wealth of knowledge about sour beers and was more than willing to share. We spoke about how Brettanomyces will scavenge oxygen in your beer as all beers will oxidize when hops inevitably break down. Bottle with brett and your beers stay will stay fresher longer, although you will still lose hop aroma. He mentioned that there is more than one type of lactic acid (apparently they are isomers) when I asked him about the difference between lactobacillus and pediococcus (pedio produces both kinds). We spoke about research he is working on involving glycosides (non aromatic compounds in hops and other plants that create aroma when enzymatically cleaved by yeast) and which bretts and yeast have those enzymes to cleave them (they’re still working on finding that out). He prefers oak cubes to barrels (easier and more predictable) and likes to pitch all of his bugs at once. He doesn’t like to mash or kettle sour (too unpredictable) and his favorite concoction for a sour beer is US-05, lactobacillus brevis and a brett. He answered everyone’s questions with good humor and grace, and it felt like he was just one of the gang. It was a geeky, nerdy, beery fun time!

Michael does have a day job as an economist. He gets some income from being “Mad” but he does this mostly for the love of it and it is pretty obvious he loves what he does. After about 4 hours of talking and signing I introduced him to Roma Pizzeria’s grandma pie (which if you haven’t had it, you should) which he totally dug. Afterwards, a few of us went to Covenhoven to continue the beer drinking. Molly of Covenhoven graciously brought us some more food (I told Mike, stick with me and you’ll have all of the beer, bread and cheese you want!). We hung out trying all of the great local beers they have there and talked about, you guessed it, beer!

It was a real honor having Mike at the store and getting to hang out and chat with him. Until we meet again Mad Fermentationist!

Not so mad fermentationist.

John LaPolla Headshot


*I know that more than a few people wish they could have been there. Thank you judges and stewards who couldn’t make it for doing an awesome job of taking care of NHC NYC!

Ryes of the Brewminaries at Rockaway Brewing Company

March 20, 2015

This past Wednesday Bitter & Esters had the good fortune to brew five barrels of Rye Pale Ale with the fine folks at Rockaway Brewing Company along with the members of the brand new homebrew club, the Brewminaries. How did a brand new homebrew club get to collaborate with one of Queens’ finest breweries?

It all started back in February of this year when I was a guest on Jimmy Carbone’s Beer Sessions Radio along with Chris Cuzme of Cuzett Libations, Kyle Hurst of Big Alice Brewing, and Marcus Burnett of Rockaway Brewing Company. We were discussing the upcoming Brewer’s Choice event where many of the breweries were pouring beer made from New York malts and hops. After the show Marcus asked me if Bitter & Esters would be interested in doing a collaboration brew with them on their five barrel system. They had an open fermenter available in March and since they started off as homebrewers, they wanted to do more events with homebrewers. I said of course, what a great opportunity!

Later that week, Bitter & Esters regular Beer Swap attendees were represented at the great homebrew gathering Brewnity under the name the S.W.A.P Team (Swapping Wonderful Ales Periodically). We even had t-shirts made up, and we all had an amazing time. Afterwards the swappers realized they could combine their efforts and form an actual club. Thus the Brewminaries were born! They took their name from our employee Bobby, who called them our luminaries. The Brewminaries are dedicated to education, experiments and getting together to taste each other’s homebrews. They plan to bring samples of their experiments to our monthly swaps and share them with the community at large. Anyone can become a Brewminary, regardless of your brewing experience. All it takes is dedication and a strong liver. As of this writing they are 30 members strong, have a website and a twitter account. All in just over a month!

As we were deciding how to go about our brew day with Rockaway we realized it would an awesome first project for the Brewminaries! And in what is turning out to be typical Brewminary fashion, they jumped right in with gusto. We decided that they should come up with the recipe and after some wrangling and horse trading, they came up with a rye pale ale hopped with Galaxy and Mosaic hops. Ryes of the Brewminaries was born! I expect that puns will be a running theme with the Brewminaries.

Wednesday March 18th was decided as brew day. All of the Brewminaries wanted to participate but space was limited. So besides myself and Doug, Sheri Jewhurst (President, officially listed as Dictator!), Robert Sherrill (events co-chair), and Barry Wasser (Treasurer) represented the Brewminaries.

We brewed with owner and head brewer Ethan Long. Ethan is a super nice guy, totally chill and brews awesome beers. He put us to work. We did everything from milling the grain, stirring the mash, setting up hoses, cleaning the mash tun and boil kettle and pitching the yeast. It was a lot of work and a great learning experience. You think you clean a lot as a homebrewer? Try what these guys do every day on a five barrel system, it seems like the cleaning never ends!

After brewing we shared some of our homebrews with everyone and they let us taste the eight delicious beers they have on tap. Barry even brought stout brownies!

The beer will be ready by the beginning of May, just in time for nice spring weather. Our plan is to organize a bicycle trip from Brooklyn to Long Island City for the release. That way we can do a bike tour of the awesome breweries in LIC. Ryes of the Brewminaries will be available at some of our favorite local beer bars including Covenhoven. Stay tuned for more info.

Thanks so much to Ethan, Marcus, Ray, Justine, John and everyone at Rockaway, it was a blast! Can’t wait to try the beer. Keep an eye out for more great things from the Brewminaries.

John LaPolla Headshot

Edible Magazine’s Good Cider Event

It was a privilege to attend the first ever Edible Magazine’s Good Cider Event this past Wednesday at Tribeca Three Sixty. Similar to Edible’s annual Good Beer event, Good Cider highlighted over 30 cideries, most of them from the New York area. Good Cider was also a fundraiser for the New York Cider Association who produce Cider Week every year. There were some great food pairings from local restaurants as well.

Hard cider is really taking off nowadays for its fresh taste and local flavor. The place was packed and it was nice to see interest from New Yorkers in a drink that is currently enjoying a healthy revival. Good Cider was a great way to try many of the different flavors and styles of hard cider available. I was able to try a majority of the ciders being poured and as a beer guy I found myself gravitating towards the hopped ciders which were, dry, delicious, and aromatic. I also tried my very first ice cider which is a thick sweet apple dessert wine, balanced and not at all cloying.

I was delighted to see so many people chasing their dreams and starting small businesses, dedicated to bringing different varieties of apples back for cider consumption. Every cider producer was passionate and knowledgeable about their product.

More and more restaurants are offering high quality hard ciders along with their wine lists, holding food and cider pairings along with serving ciders on tap. Perhaps we’ll even start to see dedicated cider bars. Apples, they’re not just for eating anymore!


John LaPolla Headshot

P.S. Hopefully we’ll be doing another pressing next fall – check out our previous post on cider here!

Re-pitching Yeast

March 13, 2015

You’ve fermented your beer, it’s tasting great, and now it is time to bottle or keg. At the bottom of your fermenter is a whole lot of goop called trub (pronounced “Troob”). The trub consists of protein, hop material and fats, but roughly 40 to 60% of trub in a healthy fermentation are leftover yeast cells that did their job. Can you reuse this yeast? Yes you can! With just a few extra steps you can save money and pitch a healthy second generation of yeast into your next batch of wort.

During fermentation the yeast will split 4 to 6 times, meaning if you pitched 200 billion cells you will now have 3-4 trillion cells of yeast in your trub. If you were to just pour your new wort right onto the trub you’d over pitching by a significant margin. The general guidelines for fresh yeast pitch rate is 750,000 cells per ml per °plato of wort for ales, and double that number for lagers. (To find degrees plato just divide your gravity points by 4, 1.060 = 15°plato). For repitching the general rule is 1-2 million cells/ml/°P.

So, how do you know how much trub you should pitch? The short answer that I got from Wyeast’s scientists was that a cup to a cup and a half of trub is a good pitch rate for 1.060 wort or lower. But this is very general and there are ways to hone in this number and pitch mainly yeast and none of the other trub material.

If you want to get down and dirty, the first thing you need to determine is how much of your trub is yeast. 40 to 60% yeast cells will provide a healthy fermentation. If you find that you have less than 30% you may not want to use that yeast to repitch. The way to determine your yeast percentage (without using a microscope) is to take a small sample of trub using a sanitized spoon and fill an empty nutrient vial.

Put this sample in the fridge and allow the yeast to settle out. Generally 40-60% yeast solids (the stuff at the bottom) will correlate to 1.2 billion cells per ml.

Yeast as percentage of trub

Yeast as a percentage of trub

Now lets go back to our math. Let’s say we want to pitch 1.5 million cells of harvested yeast/ml/°P.

1.5 million x 18927ml (which is 5 gallons) x 15°P = approx 426 billion cells.

426 divided by 1.2 (our estimated cell count per ml of trub at 40-60% yeast) = 355 ml. or 12 oz or a cup and a half of trub.

What I like do is take about two-thirds of a cup of trub (around 210 billion cells in this example) and pitch that into a 2000ml starter. This allows my yeast to propagate once and get healthy and ready to ferment.

If you’re not making a starter you can pitch the proper amount of trub directly into your next batch or store it up to two weeks in a sanitized jar in the fridge. The yeast will reproduce during fermentation and the other material from the trub will just drop out. But you can also separate the yeast from the trub by rinsing it. (Often I hear people refer to this as washing the yeast. Washing the yeast is a different process that requires using phosphoric acid to help kill of any bacteria. I am not going to get into that, homebrewers rarely need to do it). In order to rinse your yeast take your determined amount of trub and add it to a jar of boiled and cooled (i.e. sterilized) water. Refrigerate and allow it to settle. The yeast is lighter than the fats and proteins and will separate from them. After a few hours you will have three layers. The top layer will be mostly water, while the middle layer is yeast which you can decant into boiled and cooled water if you want to rinse it again. You can also decant the middle layer into a sanitized jar to refrigerate for later use, or you can pitch right into your wort. The bottom layer is all of the fat and proteins and stuff that you can just toss.

When collecting yeast from your fermenter it is good practice to clear away the top part of the trub and harvest from the middle layer. These will be the medium flocculant yeast. If you want a higher flocculant yeast you can harvest from lower in the fermenter as these are the cells that dropped out first. By doing this you are selecting the yeast that you want to perform a certain way (flocculant vs non-flocculant). It is much easier to harvest from a bucket or conical fermenter than a carboy. I do know of people who harvest from carboys collecting the yeast that blow off during the initial primary phase. I have never tried it so I am not sure about the health or characteristics of the yeast you harvest that way.

Yeast can be used up to 10 generations as long as you are careful with your sanitation.
It’s important to remember when harvesting your yeast to make sure everything is very clean and sanitary and that you work in a draft free environment (good advice for any kind of cold-side operations). Additionally, if your beer had a very high gravity you shouldn’t harvest from it as there are too many chances for mutations. And of course if your beer tastes bad, don’t use that yeast, they don’t deserve another chance!

Have a great harvest!

John LaPolla Headshot

Splitting your batches

February 6, 2015

Johnathan Hagen is the resident Certified Cicerone® at Bitter & Esters. He originally hails from a small town outside of Milwaukee (Algonquin for “the good land”) and will be doing a series of posts on expanding your yeast repertoire. He’s a firm believer that decoctions just aren’t worth it.

I haven’t been able to brew nearly as much as I would like to these past few months (hello fatherhood!) but what I’ve lost in volume I try to make up for in experimentation. I recently started splitting my 5 gallon batches and fermenting in two 3 gallon better bottles (3 gallon glass carboys work just as well) for comparison purposes and to try yeasts that I haven’t used before. I stole this idea from our yeast class here at Bitter & Esters* where we brew the same beer with eight different yeasts to show just how much impact yeast has on the flavor of each beer. While I’m not able to brew 8 beers at a time at home, splitting my batches has helped me hone in on what aspects of each yeast I like best and how I might use them in the future.

One of the big advantages of splitting my batches in this way is that I’m also ensuring healthy cell counts. Homebrewers chronically under pitch their yeast (i.e. not adding enough yeast) and splitting your batches is a great way to ensure that you’re pitching enough yeast. If we’re using a pitching rate calculator (I like Mr. Malty’s) we can see that for a starting gravity of 1.050 we want roughly 175 billion yeast cells which translates into almost 2 (1.9) yeast packs if we’re not making a starter.

Mr. Malty Ale

With this beer, I was actually over pitching a little as I was using two 11 gram-dry yeast packets for what are essentially two 2.5 gallons batches but I planned on fermenting at the low end of ale temperatures (60 degrees). If we adjust the fermentation type to Lager (to account for temperature) we can see that we’d want closer to two (1.7) packets of dry yeast.

Mr. Malty Lager

A quick rule of thumb to follow is that it is easy to under pitch yeast, but difficult to over pitch. If you’re concerned that you’re not pitching enough, consider a second yeast pack or making a starter. (Here are some quick instructions on a starter, but we won’t be covering that in this post).

I recently brewed a very simple pale ale and decided to split the batch between Nottingham and S-05. I tend to gravitate towards liquid yeast merely because there are more options to choose from, but dry yeasts are often a little bit cheaper, have higher cell counts (producing healthier fermentations) and can produce beers that are just as good as those made with liquid yeasts. For this beer, I wasn’t looking for anything particularly complicated and wanted two relatively neutral yeasts that would highlight the malt and hops but otherwise get out of the way (i.e. no esters, no phenolics). Based on my past experience with these yeasts, Nottingham should give more English character with an emphasis on malt character with a pleasant hop bitterness, while S-05 should offer more emphasis on hop flavor and aroma with a serviceable malt backbone.

Nottingham tasting notes:

Aroma: Caramel, Grapefruit, Pine
Appearance: Golden, Slightly Hazy
Flavor: Cereal/Biscuit, Honey
Mouthfeel: Dry, Clean, Smooth, Creamy

S-05 tasting notes:

Aroma: Grapefruit, Pine
Appearance: Golden
Flavor: White bread
Mouthfeel: Dry, Clean, Astringent

Both of these yeasts fell in line with my expectations but overall I found that I preferred the Nottingham. The mouthfeel was creamier/fuller with more complex malt flavoring that was nicely balanced with the hops. The S-05 was thinner, more astringent and hop focused in a way that detracted from the overall balance of the beer. This isn’t to say that I wouldn’t use S-05 again, but I’d probably use it in an IPA that would benefit more from its focus on hop character.

Next up I’ll be doing a Robust Coffee Porter that will be split between 1469 West Yorkshire and 1028 London Ale.


Johnathan Hagen
Certified Cicerone® (aka “Tastemaster General”)

*This month’s class has already sold out, but you can always sign up for the April 12th class. Don’t forget about our Hops class on March 8th either. We brew the same beer with 8 different hops! Both classes are fantastic sensory experiences, especially for folks who are looking to expand their palates.

pH meters and Automatic Temperature Compensating

January 16, 2015

hanna ph checkerRecently I have been doing a lot of research for my upcoming water chemistry class with the goal of making a comprehensive, practical class for the home brewer to improve the quality of their beers with water adjustments.

Measuring pH is a large part of my research. In a nutshell, pH is the measurement of acidity or basicity of a solution. As home brewers we are mostly interested in measuring pH for proper mashing techniques and flavors. The best way to measure pH is by using a pH meter. A properly maintained and calibrated pH meter will give you fast and accurate readings.

The one piece of misinformation I keep running into during my research has been about pH Meters with ATC (automatic temperature compensating). The pH of a solution will be lower (more acidic) at higher temperatures. This is because the energy of the liquid makes it easier to split hydrogen protons from acidic molecules in the mash. At mash temperature (140 to 160˚F) the pH can be .2 to .3 lower than at room temperature (68 to 75˚F).(1)

Another reason for lower pH readings at higher temperatures is the meter itself. Warm temperatures change the electrical response of the probe and will create an error in the reading. This is where the ATC function of the meter comes in. It will compensate for its own error when measuring at higher temperatures. It does not compensate for the change in pH from mash temperature to room temperature.

Just like hydrometer readings which assume you have adjusted the reading for 59˚F, the brewing pH that is referenced always assumes that you are measuring at room temperature. The confusion that I have seen during my research is the assumption that if you use a pH meter with ATC that it is compensating for the temperature that you are taking the reading at, and then adjusting the reading for room temperature. This is not true. The ATC function is only adjusting for its own error. Take your reading at room temperature as it’s the best way to assure a proper reading. It’s easy, just take a very small sample and put it in the fridge for a minute or so. Take a temperature reading and then your pH reading. This way you don’t have to worry about error compensation from the meter and you will get the proper target pH reading. An ATC pH meter is not necessary for homebrewing.

Remember to always calibrate your pH meter with fresh calibration solutions, clean the probe with the proper pH meter cleaner and store the probe in pH meter storage solution. You will have accurate readings and your meter will last much longer.

In the future I will discuss more about pH, how and why to adjust it and more about meter maintenance.


John LaPolla Headshot


Low Life: The Night Train of Beers

January 9, 2015

Miller High Life

A dubious comparison to say the least . . .

For those who haven’t heard I have been challenged to brew a clone of Miller High Life. You may ask why I would agree to such a task, which would be a stone cold logical response to that statement. Well… the gauntlet was laid out by Derek, a fellow homebrewer and the owner of 706. In a moment of post workday alcohol fueled braggadocio, I said something to the tune of “I can brew this.” If that doesn’t sound like me to ya’ll, then add the mildest of southern drawls and pepper in some expletives and that should tick off the rest of the boxes on your mental checklist.

So yeah… this is a thing that is happening now. We will be serving it at 706 on the evening of January 31st, and when you accept the High Life challenge, you will receive the one and only champagne of beers and a complimentary pour of my attempt to play God. You must then select which is the original so that Derrick and I can complete our side bet. So, if you have that evening free, we would love for you to come by and revel in my assured failure.

While I cannot promise you a clone of High Life, what I can promise is the closest thing that your average home brewer can muster. Steps are being taken to mimic Big 3 practices at every turn. This beer has been produced from the finest ingredients we carry at the shop that are similar to the genetically modified organisms found in High Life. It has been triple cold boiled, quadruple filtered and pentuple distilled. It was then rehydrated with water from the ice found in the core of the glacier where the old gods are said to slumber. They say the miners who bring us said water hear voices as they dig and eventually go mad. Furthermore this beer will be served from a vortex keg which magically gets cold when you put it ice and then passed through a randalizer of creamed corn. This is just the beginning of the pains I have gone through for you people, because I love you.

So come out and have a glass of what I have lovingly named, Low Life: The Night Train of Beers, and feel free to ridicule me for my failed attempt and just the overall concept of my participation in this exercise in awesomeness.


Bobby Bendily

A look back at 2014

January 3, 2015

Happy New Year everyone! I thought it would be a nice to post a wrap up of the events at Bitter & Esters. As I went over everything that we did I started to realize that 2014 was a helluva year! Filled with special guests, awesome events and of course, lots of great beers.

It was a great year for meeting beer celebrities. I met Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Brewery at the World Science festival where he used one of our fermenting beers for a demonstration. For National Homebrew day in May we hosted John Palmer, the author of How to Brew. I got to brew a beer with him that he wrote for the store! I also spent the next three days touring around our great city and introducing John to New York’s homebrewers and professional brewers (he hadn’t been to New York since he was 19!). A super nice, smart guy that I am still in touch with. An incredible treat.


In October, pretty much out of nowhere, Charlie Papazian, the guy who taught us all to “relax, don’t worry and have a homebrew” came to the store for one of our Bottle Swaps. The store was packed with people and it was an awesome madhouse. It was such an honor for us as homebrewers to have him visit. He had a great time and loved all of you. It was a night to remember.

Other cool events happened this year too. Pouring lager in the old lager caves of Nassau Brewery right around the corner from the store, courtesy of Josh Bernstein. Appearing on Bric Arts television with Cassy Solof for Pride of Brooklyn, plus pouring beer at P.O.B. the next day. Speaking of television, I got to be all nerdy on CUNY Science TV this year talking about the science of beer.

Our very own Pro Am Brewer’s P.I.T. was the event of the Summer . Hosted by our friends at Covenhoven, it was a beautiful day of homebrewers and pro brewers coming together. The winner of Brewer’s P.I.T., Frank Lockwood, got to brew with Chris Cuzme at 508. The release night for that beer was epic.

Cuzme, LaPolla, Sherrill

For New York City Cider week our friends Joy and Jeremy of Proper Cider brought their crusher and presses and we had people bring their apples to get fresh juice to make hard cider. So much fun, thanks guys. This year I hope to taste the ciders that were made that day.

Tara Whitsitt and Fermentation on Wheels visited us the next day. We had free fermentation workshops, featuring Eric Childs of Kombucha Brooklyn and Mary Izett of Fuhmentaboudit! Speaking of Fuhmentaboudit!, I was fortunate to be guest host for a few episodes this year.

Besides being a homebrew shop we are also New York State’s only brew on premises. We had a lot of fun brewing beer with people for birthdays, bachelor parties, even some people doing test batches for their breweries.. Nomad restaurant brewed for their holiday party, Union beer brewed for their cicerone class, Kombucha brooklyn brewed for the hell of it and my favorite one was Rina and Elliot Choi brewing 60 gallons of beer for their wedding. Congratulations!

Cool classes this year too. In addition to our Brewshop 101, all grain, hops and yeast classes, Tamara Connoly of We Are How had one on the business of branding your brew (very important to all you aspiring brewery owners). We also had our intensive three day Brewprenticeship class. We had a couple of popular free demos on kegging and brew in a bag as well.

Lucien John HagenOur friend and employee Sam left for bicycle trips to the unknown and was replaced with Bobby from New Orleans who has hit it off big with our community. Our former employee Ovieh is now back and picking up where he left off and our Certified Tastemaster General ® (aka John Hagen) had a beautiful baby boy.

Speaking of community, our free monthly bottle swaps on the first Wednesday are getting bigger and bigger. The beers pouring are amazing and the community of brewers is fantastic. Congratulations to all of the coveted cup winners. You all rock!

Like I said it’s been a helluva year. It started with Brew for Autism on Staten Island and will start with it again on January 24th.

We have even bigger plans this year. New classes, new recipes, exciting guests, cool events. Stay tuned.

We owe all of this to you. When Doug and I came up with the idea for the store four years ago, we knew we would work hard, have fun and drink a lot of good beer. Your contribution to the homebrewing community has been outstanding. It has been your support and awesomeness that has made each year better than the last.

Thank you.

John LaPolla Headshot


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