BrewDogs: Beer Is Good.
The Brooklyn “party” brought together people who were so obsessed with the next beer thing that we were willing to stand outside in thirty-degree weather for two plus hours. Many sporting facial hair discussed past flavors, none of which sounded potable: blue cheese, pad Thai, Sriracha, pecan pie and, oh yeah, hog.
There were documents for the group to quickly review and sign; each face got a number for a photograph; and, finally, a cursory check of ID to confirm legal age. Via a large freight elevator, we made our way to the 7th floor, and then tackled one flight of stairs before attaining a rooftop covered in wooden walkways, AstroTurf, potted plants––and abnormally––the stuff needed for filming a cable television show: cameras, cranes, lights and crew.
The rooftop on Tillary Street belongs to Erica Shea and Stephen Valand, owners of Brooklyn Brew Shop who provided their know-how and home as a temporary stage for the latest episode of BrewDogs, a cable show hosted by Martin Dickie and James Watt, fellow Glaswegians and beer connoisseurs on a quest for nationwide craft beer enlightenment. Their mission: every bearded man’s beer-drinking dream. The brewer from Manhattan’s 508 Gastrobrewery, Chris Cuzme, shared his job title: “I’m the keg washer who also brews beer.” His girlfriend, another beer-centric guest, said she had a book coming out soon titled Speed Brewing, about drinks you can brew at home, including an esoteric Finnish lemonade drink called Sima. The couple also has a radio show on Heritage Radio Network called “Fuhmentaboudit.”
The most popular spots on the roof were the small radii next to the heat lamps, where everyone seemed to treat each other like family. Cuzme turned to Chris O’Leary, Brew York blogger of six years, and joked, “You literally only write one thing: Beer is good.” In slightly different variations, each person in the circle riffed on his joke. The brew manager of Sixpoint Brewing Company, Heather McReynolds, learned her craft on the job, first in Florida, then Georgia and finally in Brooklyn. One male turned to his friend and commented, “She’s the only brewer without a beard.”
Conversation came to a halt when the BrewDogs production assistant hollered out to the freezing huddled masses: “Okay everyone, if you don’t mind, I’m going to start placing the crowd.” His next line was for the shorter people to stand on the raised platform in the center. Yours truly stepped onto the platform. Dickie and Watt took the stage––in this case, a picnic table––and launched into their spiel. Dickie turned his brogue up a notch for the Brooklynites: “We wanted to make a beer that would warm the hearts of New York.” The explanation of how the duo brewed the ale the previous week was complicated. “We made our beer from this entire building,” they attempted to clarify.
“We started with a Belgian golden ale,” the hosts told the assembled, “beginning with”––they pointed to the iconic water tower––“water from the rooftop.” Then: “We knocked on every single apartment in the building.” Several neighbors in attendance nodded their heads. The water travelled downward from the roof, reportedly via hoses. The water was passed through apartment windows and into kitchens where the hops were mixed, yeast was added, and ingredients were sourced. Golden Delicious and Crispin apples were flambéed with “a flamethrower” (possibly an exaggeration), mixed with cinnamon sticks and cloves, then added to the beer. Wood chips soaked in Applejack were tossed in for good measure. The whole mixture was taken down to the basement to ferment for a spell.
While the beer was fermenting, the pair had gone off in search of a world famous chef to add one final ingredient. They turned to none other than WD-50 chef Wylie Dufresne, who selected an American classic. The egg. (“You know, because he’s the egg guy.”) Actually he chose quail eggs, which were cooked sous-vide at 64 degrees Celsius for thirty minutes. The eggs were then cold smoked, coated in cinnamon and brûléed. A single, still-jiggly egg was dropped into each glass of beer before being passed around. “Eggs in cocktails,” they said, “are a blue collar classic.” Holding their beer glasses aloft, the duo described the flavors to the shivering guests: apple pie, clovey spiciness, toasty, big warmth, and a custardy egg finish.
“Does anybody know the most sensitive part of the body to taste beer?” Watt asked. No one answered; we were too cold to think. “Does anyone want to try?” No hands were raised. (Dickie looked on with a smug grin.) Jacket came off. Shirt came off. Hat and scarf remained on. Watt dipped a finger in his beer, and, rubbing his nipple with his beer-soaked finger, he spoke of the effervescence of the ale, as well as the glass his nipple could cut. A voice in the crowd shouted out: “What about the other one?” Watt glared, but gamely put a finger back in his beer and finished the job.
Then he put his shirt and coat back on and ran through the set again, in case the shirtless version was deemed un-funny. This was followed by emphatic and amplified instructions: “Even if we tell you to eat the egg, DON’T EAT THE EGG.” Next to me on the short-folks platform were two other gals who have a web show called “Eat Our Feelings.” They had been apartment sitting when they got a knock from the BrewDogs to mix a batch of ale in their kitchen. One of the girls, a vegan, wondered aloud: “I’m okay with the egg,” she said. “I just don't want to drink it.”
Turns out the egg elicited many a reaction. One guest shared, “At first I didn’t like it. Then I was intrigued.” Another was so enthralled she approached Simone Tong, the sous-chef Dufresne sent to handle the on-site egg situation, and asked if she could have a plain one. Upon eating it she exclaimed, “Oh, it tastes like Wylie.” In the very last take we each drank our beers––for real. The egg was the last drop to be swallowed. “Drink it whole,” the Scots instructed. “Then break the yolk in your mouth and let it wash over your tongue.”
The final instruction was to vote. For this, there were just two options: Brew It or Dump It.