Blue Point Brewing Company's Sour Cherry Stout. / Tim Dohms/Hopjacks Filling Station
Itís been some time since weíve talked about the actual beer-making process. I recently came across a neat little brewery tidbit that reminded me exactly how complex our favorite beverage is to produce. That, in turn, helps me realize even further what I already know, and that is that Blue Point Brewing Company makes some excellent beer. What follows sheds some light as to why.
When owners Mark Burford and Peter Cotter first began to piece together their dream of operating their own microbrewery ó the first in Long Island, N.Y. ó money quickly became an issue. The bad luck that had visited itself upon many other breweries at that time was turned to the two friendsí good fortune. They were able to procure the essential ó and usually expensive ó equipment for quarters on the dollar through foreclosure auctions.
While scouring a defunct brewery, they happened across a direct fire brick brew kettle that they knew they had to have. Now, hereís where we get into specialized equipment having an impact in the brewing process. For review, we need to go to the first brewing stage.
Cereal grain ó barley ó is milled and added to a tank called a mash tun where itís mixed with hot water. This begins starch development, which means sugar. Those sugars are what the yeast is going to eat to make alcohol and carbon dioxide. Before that can happen, the wort gets transferred to the brew kettle. The hot water from the mash tun is now full of flavor, starch and enzymes that is filtered over to the brew kettle where the first round of hops are added.
In the case of Blue Pointís restored kettle, the direct fire and brick housing impart an additional toasty edge to their products during the boil. To further improve efficiency, they retro-fitted it with a custom-designed heat exchanger that recovers millions of otherwise-wasted BTUs and condenses the steam back into hot water to be used in the next brewing cycle. From there, itís fermentation, filtering and packaging.
One of their seasonal items Iím digging right now, despite the lack of true winter weather lately, is Blue Pointís Sour Cherry Stout. The name only refers to the tart, fresh cherries added to the beer during fermentation. Not sour whatsoever, this Russian Imperial Stout is so dark brown that itís almost black. A milk-chocolate head fluffs up tall and recedes to a nice thin cap that stays for the duration. Itís deeply scented with toast, coffee, vanilla, cocoa and a touch of maraschino. Flavors are rich and rewarding; creamy dark chocolate, roasted grain and candied cherry with a smooth texture.
Is an artist or craftsman only as good as his tools? In this case, I find them elevating each other.
Hopjacks Filling Station, 3101 E. Cervantes St., www.hopjacksfillingstation.com. Hopjacks Pizza Kitchen and Taproom, 10 Palafox Place and 204 E. Nine Mile Road. 497-6073, or visit hopjacks.com, twitter.com/hopjacks, or facebook.com/hopjacks.