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Brooklyn Local 1

by Matt O'Connor

Hello neighbor! In today’s society, we’re often told to explore the world around us, starting with where we live. Think globally, act locally; we’ve all seen the t-shirts. So, today I’m bringing to my column a beer that strives to bring together the globe and the neighborhood: Brooklyn Brewery’s Local 1.

While writing in my little corner of The Inclusive, I’ve been keen towards location in what I am choosing to review, since beer availability can vary from place to place. Luckily for me, beer culture in Boston is strong, so I can usually get many of the beers available in most major American cities. This will be my fourth pick and so far all have been American breweries from the Northeast: a limited-release Sam Adams, a tasty brown ale from Delaware’s Dogfishhead, and a great beer from Maine’s Shipyard Brewery.

I promise, soon I will hit the rest of the country and the world. But today, I decided to pluck a beer out of the backyard of many of our readers and staff. Brooklyn Brewery is one of the finest in New York City, and perhaps the entire Empire State (is that as annoying for you New Yorkers as “Beantown” is for me? [ed. note: not until Jay-Z and Alicia Keys]). I hope that this means some interested folks out there will have this as a choice the next time they’re debating a beer to imbibe.

First, the company: Brooklyn Brewery was founded in 1987 by two neighbors living in Park Slope who grew tired of their jobs as an AP reporter and a bank lending officer. Don’t we all wish we could just quit what we’re doing and start a successful beer company? Today, Brooklyn is known for its delicious Brooklyn Lager, Brooklyn Brown Ale, and about a dozen other beers.

From the beginning, they subsisted for nine years contracting their brewing out to a company in Utica, NY. Contract brewing is usually present in two scenarios: the smaller start-up companies without facilities of their own, or companies who choose not to build factories in far flung regions who contract with local brewers to brew their recipes. For one example of the latter, here in Massachusetts, we have recently seen Kona Brewing from Hawaii enter the market, because they are contract brewed by Red Hook in Portsmouth, NH. Brooklyn however, fit the former situation where the small brewer concocts a recipe, provides ingredients, and books open time in the contract brewery.

However, with success comes expansion and Brooklyn’s brewery has been at its current home, a former matzo factory in Williamsburg, since 1996. One of my favorite Brooklyn Brewery factoids is that since 1994, their brewmaster, whose job is akin to an executive chef, has been Garrett Oliver, a fellow alumnus of Boston University. For you BU people who know what this means: CGS’81, COM’83. Oliver is a name in the beer world, even separate from Brooklyn itself, authoring several books about pairing beer with fine cuisine. To get a peek at what Mr. Oliver does, I found this video. In it, Mr. Oliver talks about the brewery and specifically our beer today, Local 1. So, you can stop reading right now and watch the video, after all he brewed the damn beer.

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If you’re still here, I thank you for your attention, or the fact that you’re at work without headphones and can’t in good conscience watch the video, even if you wanted. Local 1 comes in a fantastic 750ml bottle, custom made for Brooklyn, topped with a cork and wire cage. Local 1 fits the style of a Belgian-inspired strong pale ale. The beer is given an extra dose of yeast before bottling, so it continues to mature in the bottle. This re-fermentation, called “ale on lees,” makes beer different from spirits like whiskey, where once the liquor leaves the wooden aging barrel it remains the same in the glass bottle, if kept well, even after decades. For Local 1 and other beers like it, the second dose of yeast keeps fermenting the excess sugars, slightly changing the characteristics of the brew’s taste and even the alcohol by volume (ABV) measurement. Beers like this make great candidates for aging, provided you can maintain a cool, dark place for them to hang out for a year or more.

Today though, this Local 1 is fresh, picked up today when I realized I needed to write this column in the next twenty-four hours! Popping the cork and giving it a gentle pour into the glass, you can see the beer’s golden shine, moderate frothy white head, and relative clarity. The beer smells delicious. At first whiff, you get a generic fruity zestiness, reminding me of passion fruit in particular, and a lemongrass smell that lets me know this will be refreshing. Lastly, before taking a sip, there is a hint of molasses from the Mauritius raw cane sugar, grown off the East coast of Africa (not exactly local, but I digress). This smell is common to Belgian and Belgian-influenced brews, due to the brewing process used, creating the often called “candi sugar” smell, in beer parlance.

Taking a sip, you notice the zip of the hops that make this a refreshing, if drying, brew. The carbonation is abundant but controlled, like a fine sparkling wine, and unlike a cola. The mouthfeel is a pleasant creaminess and with the dry finish, it washes clean. This is one hell of a beer. I’ve had the Brooklyn Local 2 as well, which is a darker ale brewed with local New York state honey, but the Local 1 is a bit better. Widely available for about $10 a bottle that will serve several, pick it up the next time you’re tempted to buy a prosecco or California “Champagne.” I promise you won’t regret the choice. Grade: A+

 

Facts:

Brooklyn Local 1

ABV: 9.0%

Glass: My standby, Crate & Barrel “Bruges” Tulip

Enjoy: Your pick! Some say 50 degrees, but I didn’t notice a huge change as it warmed.

 

Also Try:

Brown’s Oatmeal Stout, Brown’s Brewing Company (Troy, NY). As far as I know, not widely available here in Boston, I procured mine from a friend who’s an RPI alum and brought it back from New York. This is a classic English style, with great scents of vanilla, the obvious oatmeal, and a crisp carbonation, with deep roasted malts. ABV: 5.2% Grade: B

Allagash Dubbel Ale, Allagash Brewing Company (Portland, ME). I have had this bottle aging for nearly a year, so it’s developed a nice aged character, lessened sweetness, but matched with tasty, bready malts. We’ll talk about aging beers in a later column. Grab it fresh and this stuff is also fantastic, if a bit livelier. Also, try Allagash’s Tripel or White Ale. ABV 7.0% Grade: B+

Matt O’Connor lives in Boston and is a proud graduate of Boston University. Explore beer with him as he quits his job in the sciences and starts law school. Send any requests, beer, or job offers to him at: matt.oconnor[at]theinclusive.net