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

(1) https://sites.google.com/site/brunwater/water-knowledge

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


Recipe Formulation

December 5, 2014

George Washington's Small Beer Recipe

If George Washington can write his own beer recipes, so can you.

I have been brewing beer since 1992. At first I brewed other peoples recipes, giving me confidence and knowledge about the ingredients and brewing process. But after a while everyone wants to try their hand at writing a recipe on their own.
I write 99% of all the recipes at Bitter & Esters, both the ones in our recipe books and everything for the Brew on Premises. Quite often I am asked how do I go about coming up with a recipe.

My first step of course is to determine what kind of beer do I want to write a recipe for? If I am brewing for myself I take the season into account. Not just what styles taste good for the season but what temperature I have for fermentation. There are ways to manipulate fermentation temperature but if your closet is at a steady 60˚F during the winter, it’s a good time to make a Kolsch. If it is at 95˚F during the summer it is a good time to make a Saison. I don’t necessarily let that determine the beer I am making as I drink all beer all the time. If I want to make a Saison in the winter, I will make it work. Sometimes it is easier to work with what you have.

Next I will think,what do I want to drink in the next 4 to 8 weeks? That’s pretty easy because again I like to drink everything. I usually like to make something new every time I brew or at least a variation of a style that I have brewed before. Once I know what style I want to make I will then do some research on the style, especially if I have never brewed it before. This is particularly important for the beers I write for the store, because you all are brewing it and I want you to love what you make. The very best way to research a beer is to drink other brewers versions of it. I will go to a beer bar or bottle shop and try the beer style I am attempting and try to determine the different aromas and flavors and take notes on what I like and what I would change. Our monthly beer swap is great for this because I can try other homebrewers takes on beer styles, adjunct/spice additions etc. Brewers are constantly asking each other about the ingredients in each others beer to gain and share knowledge. Research is a great excuse to try lots of beer!

If I am trying to clone a specific brewery’s beer I will look that brewery and beer up on the internet. Many of the craft breweries today will list their ingredients and numbers in the beer description on their site. I have even wrote breweries and had them send me their recipe! Not all breweries will do this but it’s worth a shot. Zymurgy magazine also publishes brewery recipes both in the magazine and online. You can only access this if you are a member of the American Homebrewers Association, so join today!
Sometimes I will look up the style in the BJCP guidelines. This will give me an idea of the parameters that are considered right for the style. OG, FG, alcohol content, beer color, aroma, flavor, and mouthfeel. They also give you history of the beer and what ingredients are traditionally used. If I still need some inspiration I will search forums like Homebrewtalk and see what other people have tried. And last but certainly not least I will refer to Brewing Classic Styles by John Palmer and Jamil Zainasheff. This book has tips and recipes for over 80 styles. They seem to have deliberately wrote these recipes for modification, it is an incredibly handy tool when formulating your recipe.

Once I have a good idea of what I am making, I personally use Brewtoad, which is a free online recipe formulation calculator. You can choose the style you are creating and they will let you know if your recipe falls within BJCP parameters. If you are not brewing for competition it is okay to go outside the box as it were. They are guidelines and it is your beer, but it is nice to see if you are hitting the marks. I will enter my grain bill, my hop additions and my yeast strain. Yeast choice is very important and kind of fun. Sometimes I will split my wort into two fermenters and pitch two different yeasts, or maybe try a blend. Wyeast’s website is great for giving you yeast properties and flavors and what styles work best with what strains.

I will tweak around with my recipe until I get something that looks like the beer I am envisioning. I’ll do the mash calculations and I will also run my water numbers through John Palmer’s water calculator and adjust my mash and/or boil with salts according to style. New York City water is great because it gives you a pretty blank canvas to start from. Once I am happy with the recipe there is only one more thing to do, and that is brew the beer.

Brewing the beer is the only way to know exactly how that beer will come out. This is why taking notes during brewing is so important. There are so many variables that can affect your beer and if you are completely happy with how it came out you will want to do it again. Or maybe you want to change something but at least you now have a place to start from. That is the beauty of being a homebrewer, we can do whatever we want and then do it again or do something completely different. The more you research and the more you brew the easier it will be to formulate recipes according to your desires.

Good luck and keep brewing!

LaPolla Headshot

Bitter & Esters 2014 Holiday Gift Guide

November 28, 2014

Hey there homebrewer/beer lovers! Here is our annual guide to all the things you or your zythophile friends might need to satisfy Santa’s relentless desire to make everyone happy. We’ve got a few new options this year, with fun and useful gifts in every price range.

Under $20 – Socks + Candy + Soap + Hop Candles + Beer Journal

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Keep your brewer warm, sweet and clean! High quality socks with images of hops and beer (a true fashion statement), sweet candies made from hops (childproof yet still delicious!) and soap made from beer that smells fantastic. These make great stocking stuffers. Bonus points if you can use all of these things at the same time!

Does your home not smell enough like delicious beer? Do you want your friends homes to smell more pleasant and beery whenever you come over? Beer Candles are the answer to your problem! Coming in aromas like Apricot Wheat, Hoppy IPA and Vanilla Porter these candles are a wonderful gift that smell fantastic.

They say necessity is the mother of invention, but alcohol helps, too. Born from attending a few too many beer festivals, 33 Beers is a beer journal that provides an easy way to record tasting notes in a small, convenient notebook format. It’s designed for beer geeks, by beer geeks. A teeny, tiny amount of real beer is added to the ink in each new edition, which is cryptically noted on the back.

Under $50 – Digital Scale + Kombucha Kit + Books + Wooden Sixpack Holder + Vinator

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Recipes are never written in just one measurement system and a digital scale helps with the pound/ounce conversions and helps ensure that you don’t make bottle bombs when bottling. This is a piece of equipment that every brewer (and cook!) needs but rarely buys for themselves.

Kombucha making kit. From our friends at Kombucha Brooklyn, this kit has everything you need to make delicious, healthy Kombucha.

Brewing books. We carry a full line of books from How to Brew to Advanced Techniques. Plus we carry books on mead making, cider making and kombucha making. A great combo is John Palmer’s Water book with a ph meter or Jamil Zainasheff and Chris White’s Yeast book with a stir plate and an Erlenmeyer flask.

Wooden Six Pack Holder. A classier way to carry your homebrew around town. This laser cut six-pack holder is a marvel of technology that will last far longer than the paper six-pack holders you’ve been using to cart your beer around.

If you find the process of sanitizing bottles slightly tedious (as we all do) then we would suggest that you purchase a Vinator! It uses less sanitizer overall, you can kick out a larger amount of sanitized bottles in a shorter period of time and lastly, makes the process a little more fun. They’re a cheap investment and speed up your brew day a lot.

$50-$100 – The Bräuler + Wort Chiller + All in One Essentials Kit + 101 Class + Fast Ferment

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Bräuler stainless steel growler. This wide mouthed stainless steel growler with insulated jacket will keep your beer cold and fresh for a long time. Add the fresh cap co2 system and keep that beer fresh and carbonated as long as you want!

Wort Chiller. The fastest way to cool your wort down. Our 25 foot immersion chiller is American made and will save you lots of time on your brew day. This is the often the first thing we recommend for folks who are really getting serious about brewing.

All in one essentials kit. Our all in one brew kit has everything you need to start brewing 2-1/2 gallons of beer at home. Perfect for tiny NYC apartments, it includes the brewing equipment and ingredients plus instructions to get you on your way to your first delicious beer.

Brewshop 101 Class. Interested in learning to brew but not sure how to start? Got a friend who keeps mooching off your limited homebrew supply? Give a man a beer and you satisfy him for an hour, teach a man to brew and you satisfy him for a lifetime. Our Brewshop 101 class is the answer to your problems. Our 2.5 hour class will guide them through the process with hands on brewing instruction. They’ll learn everything they need to know to brew delicious beer right, the first time.

If you’re looking to upgrade your fermentation space, think about the Fast Ferment from the same guys who brought you the awesome FastRack (which must be said fast). The Fast Ferment is a 7 Gallon Conical fermenting chamber than can be mounted on a wall (or placed in a special stand) for out of the way storage and can be used with an optional yeast collection vessel that can help you re-use your yeast from batch to batch. The conical shape also helps funnel trub out of your beer which means clearer beer!

$100+ Complete Kegging System + Brew on Premises + Gift Certificates

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Complete kegging system. Tired of bottling? Want to have fresh beer on tap? Our complete kegging system comes with everything you need to keg and serve your beer. Once you start kegging your beer, you’ll never go back to bottles. This is the perfect gift for the homebrewer who thought they had everything.

Brew on Premises. Our Brew on Premises is a unique and fun way to brew your own beer, without having to do it at home and there is no experience necessary!. We provide an experienced brewmaster to guide you through the process of brewing 6 cases of delicious beer that you take home after four weeks. Great for parties and events.

Gift certificates are also available in any denomination and can be applied towards equipment, ingredients, classes or our Brew on Premises. If you just can’t decide what to get (or aren’t sure what to get), go with a gift certificate as we’re sure it will be appreciated.

If you really want to make yourself (or the brewer in your life) really happy – get the redesigned Blichmann Boilermaker G2. This beauty is made of heavy gauge steel, includes cool-touch silicone handle grips, has an open lip on the top of the kettle that won’t trap water when cleaning and drip leaving water stains. It also includes a new linear flow valve which allows you to easily fine tune your flow rate for sparging, lautering and chilling, increasing the repeatability of your system. This kettle comes in both 7.5 and 10 gallon versions and we carry false bottoms for both sizes.

If you’re still searching for ideas – just come into the shop and we’ll be more than happy to try and find the right gift for that special someone.

Fermentation on Wheels

November 21, 2014

Fermentation on Wheels

It was a real treat to have Tara Whitsitt and Fermentation on Wheels parked outside our store this past weekend. Bitter & Esters did a series of fermented beverage workshops on Saturday and Tara taught people all about fermentation on her bus.

People would ask me, what is up with the bus? What does Tara do? My answer is that she drives around the country fermenting stuff on her bus and teaching people about fermentation. Although that is indeed what she does, there is so much more to Fermentation on Wheels. We met Tara when Bitter & Esters opened in 2011. She lived right next to the store! Tara used to come into the shop and talk about her projects, making mead and wine and fermenting food, plus she would show us her artwork (she is a great artist). One day she told me she was moving back to Eugene Oregon, to live and work on an organic farm. We were sad to see her go, Tara has a positive energy and a passion for what she does. Fast forward to 2013 when she had the idea to renovate a huge bus and travel the country to share her passion for fermentation. She visited B&E in 2013 and again this past weekend.

Our free fermented beverage workshops were a hit. I taught beer and cider making, Eric from Kombucha Brooklyn taught Kombucha making and Mary Izett of Fuhmentaboudit! taught a class on Mead making. The highlight of the day was Fermentation on Wheels. People came to see Tara and the bus because they were into fermented foods and sustainable living, others came out of curiosity. Tara welcomed everyone on the bus, gave samples and spoke about her projects and travels.

Hanging out with Tara and visiting the bus it occurred to me that what she is really doing is showing people that this can be done. You can live a life according to your passion and beliefs. It takes hard work, courage and support. When you visit Fermentation on Wheels the first thing you feel is a sense of calm. Everything is alright on the bus. You smell the delicious smells of fermented food, you feel a life lived with purpose. She has dedicated her life to opening peoples eyes to living sustainably and healthfully. Fermenting food and beverages is not just something you can do, it is something you should do. It’s not just about fermentation, it is about living well. Tara is an inspiration.

I am so impressed by the fact that Tara does this. It is the type of thing that people will say, “I would do this if I had the time”. You do have the time. You don’t have to travel the country in a bus, but you can follow your passion. Tara is living proof of this. And you should learn more and more about the foods you eat, where they come from and how to utilize them. This is a big part of Tara’s mission, helping people learn about our world.

We had a great time during her visit. I even chopped wood on the bus for her stove! (I was not so great at it, but I got it done). Tara is a friend and someone I really admire. It’s not always easy living on a bus, teaching all over the country, but Tara does it. And we are all the better for it.

Thank you Tara. Good luck on your life’s journey.


LaPolla Headshot

All About Apples

November 6, 2014

These things start the same way, with an idea. When Anthony of Rowan Cider importers asked me if Bitter & Esters would like to do some sort of cider event for NYC cider week, I said of course! Some sort of cider event sounds great, but what kind?

It was Anthony’s brilliant idea to get me in touch with Joy and Jeremy, two friendly home cider makers who make awesome cider under the name Proper Cider. Proper Cider is cider made from fresh crushed and squeezed apples. No sulfites or additives. Just apple cider with yeast pitched. Joy and Jeremy make many batches with a different yeast in each and then blend the cider to taste. That’s the proper way.

It was Joy and Jeremy’s idea to do a Community Apple Press day. They wanted to allow people to bring their apples to them and they would crush and press the apples into cider, for free! The thing that got me about this idea was the word Community. Bitter & Esters is all about fostering community.

Joy and Jeremy graciously offered to bring their grinder (which is like a huge food processor) and their two-20 ton presses to our store. We only had ten slots throughout the day to actually grind and press (it’s a time consuming process!) and they filled up quickly as folks were eager to try their hand at fresh pressed cider.

It was a beautiful fall day and from noon on people brought their apples. We ground them outside and pressed them inside. Grinding is just like food processing, the idea is to get the apples ground down to small bits, but not too small. After grinding we brought the ground apples inside to be pressed. When you press you put about 3 quarts of the ground apples into a piece of mesh, fold it, put a grooved plastic plate on top and then add another mesh of apples. You can do about 8 layers per press. Joy and jeremy put everyone to work pressing their apples, this was a day of community after all. After the 8 or so layers are done, a large heavy slab of wood is put on top and the press comes down and squeezes the apples. Delicious juice flows out of a spigot into a bucket. Each bushel made around 3 gallons with the entire process taking around 45 minutes. What struck me was the incredible freshness of the juice. I could drink it all day.

Once the apples were ground and pressed you took your cider home and added yeast. Primary fermentation is around one month and then you transfer to a secondary for about 5 months. The leftover apple stuff is called pumice. Andy from Aaron Burr cider took the pumice home to feed his cows! During the day, Andy and Joy and Jeremy poured samples of their delicious ciders for everyone to enjoy.

It was a great day. A chance for New Yorkers to get the freshest cider possible, be involved with the grinding and crushing process and ask questions of three awesome cider makers. Thank you Joy and Jeremy, Andy and Anthony. It was such fun and a great community experience. Plus Joy and Jeremy got an amazing NY Post article out of it!

I hope we get to do it again next year. It was a real highlight of the fall. The next step is to try everyone’s cider! Hopefully in 6 months or so we can get everyone back together for a proper cider tasting.


P.S. Thanks to Carla Coria for all the wonderful photographs!

Charlie Papazian at Bitter & Esters

October 31, 2014

Charlie Papazian taught me how to homebrew. Good chance he taught you too. When I first started homebrewing there was no other reference book but the Complete Joy of Homebrewing. It was just me and Charlie in the kitchen making beer. Just hearing his name makes me thirsty!

The title of the book alone gives you an insight into Charlie’s attitude. Joy. Homebrewing is a Joyful experience, you should relax and not worry, and you should definitely have a homebrew. Here’s a quick video explaining the origins of his famous phrase.

Charlie visited Bitter & Esters for one of our monthly bottle swaps to sign copies of the fourth edition of the Complete Joy of Homebrewing and the second edition of The Homebrewers Companion. He visited 508 Gastrobrewery the night before. I was lucky to have lunch and dinner with Charlie and to spend a little time with him at the shop before the swap. Just talking and drinking homebrew. A dream come true. I also did a short interview asking Charlie about his famous phrase and about National Pie day (which he started! It occurs every year on his birthday, January 23rd).

We all know Charlie’s famous line “relax, don’t worry. have a homebrew” Spending time with Charlie taught me that wasn’t just a phrase he says, he lives it. Charlie loves what he does, loves homebrewing and doesn’t stress. It all works out in the end. As the people at the swap can tell you, he puts you right at ease. And yes, he still homebrews!

We had dinner right before the bottle swap. I left early to check on how things were going and the shop was packed! Everyone was sharing and tasting beers and were in a very festive mood. Charlie arrived at 7 and everyone burst into applause. The love in the air was palpable and Charlie felt it, he was grinning from ear to ear. At one point I counted 70 people in the shop! All there for Charlie.

After a brief talk and q&a Charlie got down to signing books. We had set up an area for him to sign but instead he just walked around the crowd, signing, talking and trying everyone’s beers. We were all having a blast and Charlie was one of us. Around 8 we picked four beers for Charlie to try and declare who would win a Brauler and one of Charlie’s books. We shouted out nominations and then pointed to the nominees we felt deserved the chance (very scientific I know). The four nominees were Robert Sherril, Brian DeAngelo, Will Reder and Sheri Jewhurst. I was right next to Charlie as he judged. At one point he turned to me and said,”I don’t know who to pick! They are all so good!” He deliberated for some time and announced Robert as the winner. Congratulations Robert!

Charlie told me all of the beers he tried at the swap were very good. He was impressed and I was happy he got to see a slice of NYC homebrewing. By 8:30 Charlie’s publicist Maria told me they had to go soon, Charlie had a 6am flight! I could tell he would have stayed all night. We were all having such a good time.

What an amazing experience, something I will never forget. Thanks to Aisha, Maria, all of the B&E staff and all of our wonderful friends and customers. Our community is the best.

And of course, Thank you Charlie.


October 24, 2014

This is fourth in a series of posts about lesser known hops that we’ll be featuring in our upcoming Hops class.


When most people hear the word “Glacier” it usually conjures heart-wrenching images of polar bears on tiny ice floes, the spawning point for icebergs that result in intercontinental tragedies (and by that I mean Celine Dion ballads), or even Bill Nye the Science Guy arguing facts backed by empirical data against some dude who just isn’t convinced on Fox News. But we’re not most people, we’re brewers!

As brewers, we should be thinking about this low alpha dual purpose hop. Glacier was released in 2000 by Washington State University right about the same time that the high alpha dual purpose craze was really starting to hit its stride. This may be part of the reason that this outstanding hop has flown somewhat under the radar.

For a lower IBU beer, Glacier’s balanced bittering and low cohumulone levels have got you covered. It yields a peachy/apricot stone fruit flavor which can border on the more pineapple-like tropical qualities in higher concentrations. That is all well and good, but where Glacier really shines is in its usage beyond the 15 minute mark. The aroma it imparts goes right back to that peachy stone fruit thing when used late in the boil, but when used as a flame out/dry hop it brings out earthy, pear-like qualities.

Glacier’s versatility lends itself to any brew with a need for lower alpha bittering (but its higher beta acids should garner some consideration if it is something you plan to store for an extended period) and for just about any pale ale you can conjure up. It will perform well as a later addition in any I.P.A., especially when used in conjunction with more unique hops like Galaxy and Mosaic, or as a contrast hop to round out the flavor of something more citrusy and floral like Centennial. My suggestion is tossing it in as a dry hop in your favorite pale ale. Our very own Resistor, Mystical Cap No. 6, and Paradise Pale Ale are the ones that immediately come to mind, but however you decide to use Glacier, I really don’t think you can go wrong.

Bobby B

Bobby Bendily

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