No Brewgods. No Brewmasters.

Congress St-2 (2)There’s something happening here,

What it is ain’t exactly clear.

—Stephen Stills

You can usually tell that a particular brewing trend has peaked when Samuel Adams brews its version. Such was the case when the Boston-based brewer released Rebel “West Coast Style” IPA in 2013. By then it had been nine years since Green Flash trademarked the term “West Coast IPA”; 13 years since Russian River brewed the definitive version (Pliny the Elder); 16 years since Stone began pushing stylistic boundaries with ever stronger, ever hoppier versions; and nearly two decades since Russian River’s Vinnie Cilurzo “invented” the style with his Blind Pig Inaugural Ale—widely recognized as the first double IPA.

For 20 years I’ve watched while Californians—especially those living in San Diego County—had all the fun. In the past half dozen years, though, the epicenter of brewing innovation has shifted to the East Coast. Bubbling up from the brewkettles of Vermont, a softer, gentler breed of IPA has spread throughout New England and is now trickling down into the Mid-Atlantic—close enough for a central Maryland geek like myself to taste history firsthand.

Early this spring, my friend Mike told me that Hill Farmstead taps were popping up at bars in Brooklyn and the Village. This was the closest that any Vermont beer, outside of bootlegs, had gotten to central Maryland. A road trip to the Green Mountain State would be time-consuming and expensive, but by staying with Mike in New Jersey, I could drink Vermont beer on the cheap in New York City. A pub crawl began to take shape.

TURBID TIMES

Whether you call them Vermont-, New England-, or Northeastern-style IPAs, all of these beers are intensely hoppy and juicy but without the bitterness associated with many West Coast styles. Most are brewed with a percentage of wheat or oats, and nearly all of them are unfiltered and hazy—some as turbid as a milk shake.

Used to be, hazy, cloudy beer was a sign of sloppy brewing technique. Nowadays, it suggests a genius in the making such as John Kimmich, Shaun Hill, Jean Brouillet, and a growing cadre of brewers who are turning this former beer flaw into a mark of excellence. Currently, each of the top ten–rated IPAs on BeerAdvocate (all but one brewed in New England) is hazy or even turbid.

Skeptics persist, including Jason Alström, co-founder of the popular online website. In a review of Tired Hands’ murky flagship brew HopHands, he described the beer as “a muddled mess,” railing that “Milkshake beers are not a trend or acceptable with traditional or even modern styles.” He scored the beer “poor” with a rating of 64.

DSC00499The BeerAdvocate community tends to disagree, rating HopHands “outstanding” with a score of 91. “Stupid delicious,” declared Beer Advocate cavedave. “Juicy as all Hell with a very low bitterness. I could drink [it] all day long,” wrote justintcoons. And from BA Kadonny, “Yes, it is super cloudy but I’m not sure why that would detract from the beer itself, I guess I don’t understand. I go mostly on taste, and this beer tasted fantastic.”

I could hardly wait to form my own opinions.

TOPPER THIS

Our original plan was to meet on a Wednesday at Tired Hands in suburban Philadelphia, then, on the following day, troll the Village and Brooklyn for New England-style IPAs. But when the Blind Tiger announced a Brooklyn Brewery tap takeover for that Wednesday, we agreed to begin the pub crawl at the venerable craft beer pub and save Tired Hands for the end of the crawl.

I make the four-hour, 253-mile drive to Mike’s place in Bloomfield on the morning of April 13, 2016, leaving us enough time to catch the 1:50 pm bus to the Port Authority terminal in Manhattan. At $7.50, the bus ride is quicker—just 45 minutes—and half the cost of the Lincoln Tunnel toll for cars, and it eliminates the hassle of parking. We then take the A Train to the western edge of Greenwich Village and walk a few blocks down Bleecker Street to the pub.

Our crawl begins during the waning days of the New York presidential primary: there is electricity in the air and Bernie Sanders bumper stickers on many cars. While I marvel at the entrepreneurial hodgepodge along Bleecker Street (an artisanal butcher shop next to a women’s shoe boutique next to a café that served both lattes and craft beer), Mike spots a Heady Topper decal on the bumper of a Volkswagen Golf. Vermont’s outspoken senator seemingly locked up the beer geek vote the previous summer when he tweeted a picture of himself holding a can of Heady Topper.sanders (Clinton had enjoyed a photo op at the little-known Pearl Street Brewery in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Trump is a teetotaler.)

Heady Topper (8.0% ABV), of course, is the original New England-style IPA, first brewed in 2003 in Waterbury, VT, by John Kimmich of the Alchemist. For eight years Heady was Vermont’s little secret, only available at the Alchemist brewpub. But after Kimmich started canning his brew in 2011, Heady’s reputation began to grow, eventually topping Pliny the Younger on online beer sites as the world’s highest rated IPA. Since the beer can only be purchased from a handful of outlets within 35 miles of the brewery, craft beer enthusiasts from throughout New England and the Northeast have trekked to Waterbury to wait in line, buy their quota, and take some home to share with friends. One of Mike’s Jersey buds had shared a can with him a few years ago. I was still a Heady virgin.blind tiger

WAITING FOR GARRETT

We enter the Blind Tiger at 3:30, early enough to nab a couple of stools at the bar. The pub is filling up fast in anticipation of an appearance sometime after 4 pm by Garrett Oliver, Brooklyn’s head brewer, author, and editor of the James Beard Award-winning Oxford Companion to Beer.

Blind Tiger’s reputation as New York’s premier beer bar seems well earned. Hill Farmstead had made its New York debut here in late 2012, and only Tørst in Brooklyn enjoys a higher rating on BeerAdvocate. The pub is small and intimate with just 15 stools at the bar and 27 table seats. DSC00446The feeling of warmth and intimacy is reinforced by a Z-shaped bar that juts into the main room, allowing patrons to make eye contact with virtually anybody in the pub. Mike nods to three or four brewers, sales reps and beer writers he recognizes. It would be hard to miss Garrett Oliver in this setting.

Of the pub’s 32 taps, nearly half offer Brooklyn beers. A half dozen beers from Jack’s Abbey, the lager specialist from Framingham, MA, were still on tap from the previous week’s tap takeover. But my attention is focused on the two faucets pouring the Hill Farmstead beers Edward and Susan.DSC00444

With the possible exception of the Alchemist, perhaps no Northeastern brewery is held in higher esteem among beer enthusiasts than Hill Farmstead. Every week, fans trek up to the Hill family farm in Greensboro Bend, VT, to fill growlers with whatever beer brewer Shaun Hill has been tinkering with. Production is extremely limited, and distribution, until recently, has been restricted to Vermont.

Hill, as well as fellow Vermont brewer Sean Lawson of Lawson’s Finest Liquids, were early fans of the Alchemist and received valuable insight and advice (and possibly their house yeast) from the Alchemist’s John Kimmich. For his part, Kimmich was trained and mentored by the late brewing legend and author Greg Noonan, who founded the pioneering Vermont Pub and Brewery in 1988. The Alchemist’s distinctive house yeast, nicknamed “Conan,” was originally brought to the U.S. from England by Noonan. Low flocculating and less attenuating than typical American strains, Conan also contributes distinctive peachy esters lacking in the flavor-neutral yeasts commonly used by West Coast brewers.

While my palate is at its freshest, I order a half-pint of Edward (5.2%), Hill Farmstead’s flagship pale ale, named after Shaun’s grandfather. As expected, I am served a rather hazy, almost turbid, beer, apricot in color. I smell lots of grapefruit and tangerine plus some distinctive tropical notes. Five varietals are used to hop Edward, and their complexity seems to grow with every sniff. This beer has traveled 325 miles from the brewery, so I’m not too surprised that the aroma doesn’t leap out at me.

Bittering a relatively slender 5.2% beer with 85 IBUs of hops sounds like madness. Until you take a sip. Bitterness, where art thou? Somehow, those 85 IBUs had been channeled into hop flavor rather than hop bitterness. This is partially a result of “hop bursting”: saving the preponderance of hops for the end of boil, the whirlpool, the hopback, and the fermentation tank. But New England brewers have added some new twists including hopping with a higher percentage of low-alpha hops. To paraphrase Miller Lite: “Great hop taste. Less bitterness.”

Edward is so hop-forward that I could have sworn I was drinking an IPA and not a 5.2% pale ale. With its low alcohol and a lush palate softened by some wheat or oats, this beer redefined sessionable for me. I could have ordered pint after pint, but Susan was calling me.

Named after Edward’s sister, Susan is a modest 6.2% IPA hopped with Citra, Simcoe, and Riwaka, a New Zealand strain. Like Edward, Susan has a fluffy, soft body and cloudy appearance. Fruity tropical flavors, especially mango, seemed more pronounced, and the overall hop intensity was bumped up a level—again without the bitterness. I had always been skeptical of Susan’s near-perfect 99 rating on BeerAdvocate. What does a near-perfect beer really taste like? Something like this, I think, draining my pint glass.

DSC00443As much as I desire a refill, it is time to dive into the assortment of fine beers from Brooklyn’s oldest craft brewery. Sorachi Ace (7.2%) was my introduction to the unique lemony hop varietal from Japan. Here I have an opportunity to compare it with Brooklyn’s other Sorachi-hopped saisons: Lord Sorachi Ace (9.5%) and the just-released 1,001 Nights (5.7%). More alcohol usually translates into more flavor, but this delicate hop seems to express itself most memorably in the lower-gravity 1,001 Nights.

It is now 5 pm and still no sign of Garrett Oliver. I haven’t seen him since he won the Russell Schehrer Award for Innovation in Craft Brewing at the annual Brewers Association convention in 1998, and I wonde if I will still recognize him. That would seem to be an easy task, considering that Oliver is an African-American in an industry in which people of color are hugely underrepresented. (An examination of the paucity of black brewers and consumers of craft beer recently earned New York journalist Dave Infante a 2016 James Beard Award for his article on the website Thrillist.) So when the first black guy to enter the pub all day is eagerly greeted by a group of friends, we automatically assume it is Oliver.

“Wait,” Mike cautions, “that’s not him. He looks too young.”

Besides, Oliver knows how to make an entrance. Wearing a black cape with red lining, he looked more like a magician that a brewing wizard when he strode into the tasting room of the late Manhattan Brewery in 1989. I was there for a mid-Atlantic brewery tour organized by Charlie Papazian and the Brewers Association, and Oliver had just inherited the burden of reviving the short-lived SoHo brewery on Thompson Street. The brewery failed, but Oliver soon got the chance to work his magic when he joined Brooklyn Brewery in 1994.

It’s now 5:30, and the crowd is growing restless. A brewery rep buys Mike and me a round of Brooklyn Black OPS, a tasty 10.5% Russian imperial stout on cask. We finish the afternoon big and strong with half-pints of the brewery’s Intensified Coffee Porter (11.8%) and Improved Old Fashioned, a monstrous rye beer of 12.8%. Between us, we have sampled 17 beers. It’s time to catch the bus back to New Jersey. As we walk up Bleecker Street to the subway station, we are swarmed by packs of mostly young people walking the other way.

“Maybe Garrett showed up after all,” Mike jokes.

wash sqLittle did we know, but 27,000 people were converging on Washington Square Park, just a few blocks from the Blind Tiger, to hear Bernie Sanders denounce Wall Street and call for a political revolution. When Obama spoke there in 2007, he attracted just 20,000. Sadly for the Sanders campaign, many of those 27,000 are not registered Democrats and ineligible to vote in the state primary. Clinton would beat Sanders the following Tuesday by a whopping 16 points.arch

LOOKING FOR VITO

The next morning finds Mike and me riding the C train toward Bedford-Stuyvesant. During the 1990s, this section of Brooklyn was synonymous with urban decay, but the past decade has brought a wave of gentrification, chic eateries, $5 lattes, and $8 pints of craft beer. Our specific destination is a gourmet grocery named Mekelburgs in the Clinton Hill neighborhood just west of Bed-Stuy. It is here that Vito Forte, former proprietor of the legendary Copper Mine Pub, is rumored to have resurfaced as a cheesemonger.

coppermine2For nearly a decade, the Copper Mine Pub in North Arlington, New Jersey, had served as ground zero for Jersey beer geeks, including Mike, who was fortunate enough to live just 10 minutes away. An impeccably curated beer list and the biting wit of bartender/owner Vito Forte earned the pub the only perfect 100 score in the mid-Atlantic from BeerAdvocate. But a dispute with his landlord forced Vito to shut down the watering hole last spring, leaving loyal customers such as Mike to wonder where Vito might pop up next.

DSC00454Like an old-school delicatessen, Mekelburgs beckons modestly from a sub-street level space on Grand Avenue, promising “fine foods and craft beer.” A chalkboard advertises “25% off all frozen meat.” Upon entering, we encounter an impressive cured-meats counter that features such sebaceous delicacies as goat salami, duck speck, and lardo. Even more impressive is the expansive display of cheeses.DSC00459 I ring the service bell, hoping to summon Vito from some unseen larder. Alas, the cashier explains that Vito resigned two weeks ago and was headed to Galax, in southwestern Virginia, to study cheese-making.

Disappointed, but still very hungry and thirsty, we proceed to the bar and small dining area at the back of the store. Twenty years ago, I might have ordered an egg salad sandwich; today I must settle for a chive egg frittata “sammie” with crème fraîche on a Mazzola’s brioche roll. Mike orders a large, single-handled bowl of lentil soup, into which a smoked chubb crostino has been artfully plunged. DSC00458Both “small plates” were quite tasty and surprisingly affordable at $3.75 and $9.00, respectively.

Mekelburg’s 16 taps are as arresting as anything Vito ever poured at Copper Mine, including two more selections from Hill Farmstead: Legitimacy Pale Ale (6.0%), an intensively hoppy beer for its weight, and Shirley Mae, a chuggable 4.0% porter that packs the flavor of a 5 or 6% beer. But the biggest surprise are two brews from the Brooklyn-based gypsy brewery Grimm Artisanal Ales. Liquid Crystal (6.2%), a collaboration with Staten Island’s Flagship Brewing Co., evinces a vivid floral character I’d not tasted in a saison before. Grimm’s juicy double IPA, Tesseract (8.0%), is a tropical hop bomb that punches with a velvet glove. DSC00456Both beers exhibit the same saturated flavors as Hill Farmstead and share the soft, creamy mouthfeel that characterizes Northeastern style beer.

vito-again
Vito Forte, pre-cheesemonger

Vito’s influence, if not in body then in spirit, still lingers at Mekelburg’s. A message chalked on the blackboard in the men’s room says it all: “Love you, Vito”—Town Donkey. On our way out, our knowledgeable bartender, Jeremy, recommends we visit the newly opened Cardiff Giant before leaving Clinton Hill.

NEW YORK MADE

Barely two weeks old, Cardiff Giant is located just three blocks away in the commercial heart of Clinton Hill. This is the same predominantly black neighborhood in which Dave Infante searched in vain for African Americans drinking craft beer in his award-winning Thrillist article. We are hardly surprised to find that Cardiff Giant’s staff and clientele are 100% white.

DSC00461The pub is named for one of the most celebrated hoaxes of the 19th century, which engendered the huckster credo, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Shortly after the end of the Civil War, a New York tobacconist named George Hull commissioned a sculptor to carve the likeness of a man from a 10½-foot tall block of gypsum, which he subsequently buried on his cousin’s farm in Cardiff, New York. After two workers hired to dig a well on the site discovered the petrified giant, Hull began charging people 25 cents to view it. Presented as tangible proof of the Genesis passage that giants once walked the earth, the artifact became so popular that P.T Barnum offered to buy it for his circus. When Hull spurned his offer, Barnum had a replica made. Asked by a reporter about the existence of a second Cardiff Giant, one of Hull’s financial backers, David Hannum, uttered the oft-repeated quote about gullible rubes, which was eventually attributed to Barnum himself.

Brooklyn’s Cardiff Giant is the real deal, however, “dedicated to bringing you interesting, small-batch, craft-made New York State alcohol.” DSC00462Twenty taps dispense 12 beers, 5 ciders, and 3 wines from throughout the Empire State. A three-tiered price scheme allows patrons to order a small pour (8 oz.), large pour (12 or 16 oz. depending on ABV), or a “share” (one liter). Mike and I take a tour of the state with beers from breweries in Greenpoint (Cuzette), Gowanus (Threes), and Park Slope (Other Half) in Brooklyn; Queens (Finback); Oceanside (Barrier); Glen Cove (Garvies); and Long Island City (Transmitter).

After describing our itinerary, our bartender volunteers that she lives on the same street as Other Half and is frequently awakened after late shifts at the bar by beer geeks queuing up early mornings on can-release days. Despite the inconvenience, she confirms my suspicion that Other Half brews the most sought-after beer in the city. The brewery tap doesn’t open for a couple of hours, but I argue that we should get there as close to its 5 pm opening time as possible. That left just enough time to visit Tørst first.

DUELING DANES

Before Brooklyn’s Lauren and Joe Grimm or Baltimore’s Brian Strumke began producing small batches of beer at other people’s breweries, Mikkel Borg Bjergso pioneered the concept of phantom, or gypsy, brewing in his native Copenhagen. During the early years of the current decade, such Mikkeller brews as 1000 IBU IPA (9.6%) and Beer Geek Brunch Weasel (an imperial oatmeal stout [10.9%] brewed with coffee beans that have passed through the digestive track of the Asian palm civet) gave new meaning to the term “extreme beer.” In the early days, Mikkel focused on brewing the beer, while his identical twin, Jeppe, handled sales. Their partnership dissolved, however, when Mikkel opened his own bar (Mikkeller) in Copenhagen in 2010. This prompted Jeppe to leave Denmark, start Evil Twin Brewing, and move to Brooklyn where he opened his own craft beer bar, Tørst (pronounced tersht).

DSC00466
Mike poses with a Danish pastry to let you know you have arrived at Tørst

Flanked by a Polish grocery and a shabby beauty salon, Tørst squats anonymously behind a white brick and wood facade in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. A menu case mounted next to the entrance is the only indication that you’ve arrived at the most celebrated beer geek bar in the five boroughs.

Tørst’s interior is the epitome of rustic Danish modernism. Old barn wood covers the walls, and a slab of white marble forms the bar. Twenty-one plain steel-and-wood taps protrude from another marble surface behind the bar, above which the day’s beer list is scrawled in white marker along a room-length mirror. Patrons sip their beers, seated in Børge Mogensen chairs. It’s a brilliant bit of design that feels as cold as January in Denmark.

DSC00468Despite the presence of nearly a dozen hard-to-find guest beers, I focus on Evil Twin brews. Indeed, there is no better place to sample them. A $16,000 draft system known as a flux capacitor allows each beer to be served at its ideal temperature and pressure. A half-pint of Citra Sunshine Slacker (4.5%) arrives in an elegant stemmed glass, chilled to a classic cellar temperature of 55 degrees and carbonated just enough to focus the pungent citrusy character of the hops on the back of my tongue. DSC00467Even More Jesus (12%), the brewery’s definitive imperial stout, is so massive and so full of roasty, chocolate, coffee, dark fruit, and woody flavors that I begin to doubt my ability to finish the modest six-ounce serving. I persevere and we stagger out into the daylight and board a train that will take us to Other Half Brewing.

LAST TRAIN TO BROOKLYN

Our bartender at Cardiff Giant had warned us that finding the Other Half could be tricky. It got even trickier when Mike’s smart phone died after boarding the G train at the Metropolitan Ave. stop. (A flip-top–toting Neanderthal, I could offer no backup.) Cut off from the Internet and lacking paper maps or even a street address for the brewery, we are riding blind. We get off the train at the 7th Ave. station in Park Slope so I can take a leak. An enlarged prostate like mine can easily derail a pub crawl, but on this occasion it stops us from going too far south into Brooklyn. I enter the closest coffee shop/cafe and bolt for the restroom—derelict behavior that is all the more conspicuous and embarrassing in this upscale neighborhood. An angry look from the cashier prompts Mike to purchase a croissant “to go” while I relieve myself. Two beer-quaffing locals, big fans of Other Half beer, are happy to give us detailed directions to the brewery.

This time, we ride the F train and get off at the elevated Smith and 9th Sts. Station, overlooking the infamous Gowanus Canal. A century ago, this urban waterway brought prosperity to the adjoining neighborhoods of Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill, Sunset Park, and Park Slope. Today it is a toxic eyesore, once reputed to be a dumping ground for Mafia hitmen, and designated as a Superfund cleanup site in 2009.

DSC00470
Despite Mike’s dead phone, we eventually find Other Half Brewing Co.

We wend our way past a quarry, fuel depot, scrap metal facility, and many defunct warehouses until we come upon a McDonalds (“Look for the McDonalds. The brewery is just across the street.”) Thank god for Micky D’s. Without this landmark, you could easily walk past the brewery. Graffiti covers the exterior of what might formerly have been an automotive repair shop. The brewery’s only signage is a logo etched on the tasting room door, which, on this warm day, is propped opened and hidden from street view. I can’t imagine coming here after dark.

The entire space is barely larger than a Jiffy Lube waiting room. DSC00479Seating is limited to a pair of rough tables and benches, while most patrons lean against elbow-high railings along either wall. DSC00474There is no bar, per se, just an employee pouring beer from behind a service counter. A brewery cat is purring contentedly atop one of the tables as we enter.

The draft lineup is a hop lover’s dream. Nine of the 11 beers on tap are hop-centric, ranging from a Moteuka single-hop session ale (4.5%) to an 8.5% imperial IPA hopped with El Dorado, Citra, and Mosaic hops. Hop varietals are listed for each. The only two malt-accented beers are an 11% imperial stout and a 12% wheat wine. As we work our way through five small-pours (4 oz), I begin to wish this was the beginning of the crawl and not the end of it.DSC00476 All of the beers taste intensely hoppy but not bitter—regardless of ABV—and, despite my fatigued palate, I can still perceive each beer’s distinctive the hop profile. The lower-gravity beers impress me more than the hop bombs, but all are first rate and share many traits—haziness, soft mouthfeel, saturated hop flavor—with the Hill Farmstead beers I’d tried earlier.DSC00471

Between us, we’ve tasted 27 beers on the day. The train and bus ride back to New Jersey is long but thankfully uneventful.

NOT SO TIRED

Forty-four beers over two days has taken the edge off our thirst. Mike understandably bails on Tired Hands, our Day Three destination, but since the Philly-area brewery in on my route home, I decide to soldier on.

No doubt, a good deal of the fan-boy popularity of such hop-centric breweries as Other Half is perversely related to their limited accessibility, scarcity of product, and lack of amenities. Overcoming so many obstacles makes the reward seem so much sweeter. Tired Hands, however, suffers from none of these drawbacks.DSC00496

The brewery maintains two comfortable, easy-to-find tasting rooms in the Main Line town of Ardmore with easy access to the educated palates at nearby Villanova, Bryn Mawr, and Haverford colleges. The Brew Café doesn’t open till 4 pm, but serves cheese, charcuterie, and simple sandwiches at the original brewing site which opened in 2011. The Fermentaria, Tired Hands’ main production facility, features a full kitchen serving tasty victuals all day. I arrive just as lunch is being served.

DSC00495Occupying the hollowed-out shell of an 85-year-old trolley repair building, the Fermentaria is aptly named. A variety of fermentation vessels—stainless steel, large vertical French oak foudres, and racks of smaller horizontal wooden barrels—surround the dining area. DSC00486The brewery’s inventive graphic theme—human hands attached to undulating, snake-like arms—is integrated throughout, from an exterior pub sign to tap handles to glassware to imaginative wall art.

A dozen beers are offered in five different serving sizes: 4 oz, 8 oz, pint, quart growler, half-gallon growler—the most options I’ve ever been offered. I start with a half pint of the brewery’s signature pale ale, HopHands (originally brewed to 4.8%, but according to the menu, recently boosted to 5.5%). The beer is extremely pale (4-5 SRM) and at least as hazy as the Hill Farmstead brews I’d had in New York. Tired Hands’ owner and brewer, Jean Broillet, has said he acquired the brewery’s house yeast from a “friend [Shaun Hill? Sean Lawson?] in Vermont.” Whether or not the strain is a descendant of Conan, it exhibits the same low-flocculating properties.

DSC00487The flavor is amazingly bright and juicy, “intensely hopped with Simcoe, Centennial, and Amarillo,” the menu informs me. Homebrewers have a number of theories to explain the hop-saturated character of New England-style ales: extravagant dry-hopping, interaction between suspended yeast particles and hop oil, and water treatment with more chloride salts. Judging by his beers, Broillet seems to have learned a lot from his friends in Vermont.

But it’s the texture—soft and silky smooth—that makes the experience of drinking these beers so novel. “Brewed with oats,” says the menu. In fact, all seven of the hop-forward ales I would sample are brewed with oats. Secret Poncho (9.0%), an intensely dank DIPA, is brewed with “an excessive amount of oats.” (A HopHands clone recipe, popular among homebrewers, recommends a grain bill of 20% flaked oats.)

NO BREWGODS

After seven short pours and one half-pint, I calculate my blood alcohol content to be approximately .06. Time to drive home. But as I finish my final sample of Alien Church IPA (7.0%), I notice a rather non-descript guy without boots, apron, or any other protective gear walking freely throughout the brewing area, consulting with numerous employees and engaging in a longer conversation with a guy who appears to be the managing brewer. I observe no swagger, but plenty of quiet respect. Though I’ve never met the guy, I’ve seen pictures of him: It’s Jean Brouillet.

He walks over to the tap tower next to where I’m sitting and pours a few ounces of beer into a glass. While tasting the beer, a server arrives to fill an order. DSC00491The server is wearing a T-shirt that reads: “No Brewgods, No Brewmasters.” The juxtaposition of server and owner illustrates the meritocracy that has driven the North American brewing renaissance to such heights. Nobody cares about your credentials; just brew good beer.

So many craft brewing pioneers—Jim Koch, Garrett Oliver, Sam Calagione, Greg Koch—often seem to be showmen first, brewers second. The industry needed guys like that. Now that craft beer has gone mainstream, however, we’ll need the passion and imagination of the Brouillets, Hills, Lawsons, and Kimmiches more than ever to make the next decade as exciting and innovative as the one we’re currently enjoying.DSC00489

In Part Two of this pub crawl I travel to Massachusetts, ground zero for the most extreme manifestations of New England-style IPA.

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