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GSN has previously reviewed several New Holland spirits (here and here).  This time around the good folks at New Holland sent our offices a line up of some of their whiskies, including one aged in a beer barrel.  We decided to reevaluate a few of our earlier reviews in addition to trying the new Zeppelin Bend Reserve.

Beer Barrel Bourbon is first aged in new American oak barrels for several years, before a three-month beer-y slumber. Aged bourbon is finished in second-use Dragon’s Milk beer barrels for 90 days.

distilleries-new-holland-artisan-spirits-new-holland-beer-barrel-bourbon-2-250x350Beer Barrel Bourbon (80 proof)
Visual: Rich gold.
Nose: Surprisingly bright and almost effervescent.  Somewhat reminiscent of a root beer scent.
Taste: Slightly sweet and caramel indicative, but with a distinct leaning toward the root beer, sarsaparilla spectrum.  Quite interesting and tasty.
Finish: Medium short, with more of the herbal notes lingering than bourbon essence.
Overall: Light and easy-going.  Perfect for sipping neat. Perhaps not for everyone, but I’ve never had a bourbon quite like this, and I find myself gravitating toward it after an evening meal.
GSN Rating: A-

A straight-malt whiskey, twice distilled and aged in new American oak with a heavy char. Twice distilled to 140 proof. Barreled at 120 proof in heavy-charred American white oak. After a 3-year minimum maturation time in the barrel, the whiskey is transferred out and proofed to 90 proof with deionized water. Zeppelin Bend Reserve goes through a second aging for an unstated length of time in sherry casks.

New Holland - all_112715Zeppelin Bend (90 proof)
Visual: Sunny gold.
Nose: Dark autumnal forest funkiness overlying a chewy and malty nose.
Taste: Tenderly sweet with hints of clove, black cherry, wood smoke and walnut.  A rich mouthfeel gives way to a mid-range of baking spices and toasted bread.
Finish: Long with a softly fading cinnamon tonality.
Overall: Again, a unique take on straight whiskey and one that has more than enough character to distinguish it from others in the crowd.  This is designed for mixing in whiskey cocktails that call for character.
GSN Rating: A

distilleries-new-holland-artisan-spirits-new-holland-zeppelin-bend-reserve-v1-250x350Zeppelin Bend Reserve (90 proof)
Visual: Dark gold.
Nose: Bright and rich sherry nose undergirded with a supportive malt canvas.  Elegant, dessert-like and mouth-watering.
Taste: Rich, sweet, absolutely luscious sherry/malt blend.  This is a very direct and to the point sweet straight-malt, with a powerhouse of flavor that keeps developing over a long time.  One sip and you’ll contemplate, two and you’ll be in heaven.
Finish: Long, long, long.  Which is a good thing, because otherwise I’d be going back to the glass sooner than I should!
Overall: This is just about as perfect an American craft whiskey as it gets.  Highly recommended!
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: New Holland Brew

GSN Alert: OktoberForest

oflogoYour Beer is Forest-Brewed

by Matt Miller

Quick, name the ingredients necessary for a beer: Water. Barley. Hops.

Those are the easy ones. But there’s another you might not have considered.

Forests.

And we’re not talking just evergreen-inspired brews, such as Deschutes Pinedrops IPA or Rogue’s Juniper Ale.

No, it’s much more universal than that. Beer relies on healthy forests, because America’s forests provide more than half of our nation’s water.  And clean water is beer’s main ingredient (up to 95% of a brew).

Without those forests, it’s difficult to find clean water. And without clean water?  No beer.

The Nature Conservancy’s Chris Topik, director of Restoring America’s Forests, knows this connection well. He’s spent much of his career thinking about forest policy and working to ensure that forests are resilient and healthy.

And he knows beer. The son of German and Austrian immigrants, he started homebrewing in the ‘80s as an inexpensive hobby he could do while his kids were young. He and a friend began brewing beers in their kitchen in Portland – just as that city was transforming itself into the place craft beer lovers would come to call “Beervana.”

That’s why today Topik is helping lead the national OktoberForest campaign, a month-long celebration that partners breweries with their neighborhood forests.  Brewery patrons can help, too, by pledging to share information about forests with their friends and favorite breweries.

In many ways, brewing beer is more than a hobby. Topik recognizes it as a part of human history, a tradition that has brought people together for millennia.

“Beer is quite frankly one of the keys to the way society developed. Early on, it helped us preserve grains so rats and fungi couldn’t get it,” he says. “Beer is part of our human heritage.”

And so is clean water. “Healthy, resilient forests are vital in ensuring good, clean water,” he says. “Areas that can support a forest can support a stream.”

Forests prevent erosion and serve as filters. They are where headwater streams originate. Those little streams feed into bigger streams as they flow down a mountain, eventually leading to the basins that supply water for a variety of uses. Whether you’re drinking a mass-produced light beer or a super-rare farmhouse sour, chances are it originated in a small mountain stream.

In the West, more than half of the United States’ water supply comes from U.S. Forest Service lands alone.

Through OktoberForest, Topik believes we can help raise support for policies and funding that will help restore America’s forests, and ultimately the waters we use.

This is important because forest experts are watching concerning trends lately:

  • Last year was the worst fire season on record in the United States, with more than 10 million acres burned (larger than New Jersey).
  • The nine worst fire seasons have all occurred since 2000.
  • Forest pests have killed more than 150 million trees since 1990.
  • The U.S. Forest Service estimates half of the forested lands they manage are in need of restoration.
  • Without forest restoration, the U.S. Geological Service believes ash and sediments from severe fires will double in a quarter of all Western streams.

As Topik notes, restoring forests will support businesses beyond breweries.

“Beer is a water-intensive industry, but it’s not the only one,” says Topik. “The tech industry would have difficulty functioning without water. You need pure water to manufacture silicon micro-chips.”

In Colorado, MillerCoors is partnering with The Nature Conservancy to fund large-scale forest restoration in the Upper South Platte watershed that supplies drinking water to Denver; and Anheuser-Busch is supporting a forest restoration project in the Cache La Poudre River basin near their Fort Collins Brewery.

New Belgium Brewing Company (also in Fort Collins), one of the country’s biggest craft brewers, has been calling attention to the effects of fires on their water supply in major media outlets. In Bend, Oregon – arguably one of the best beer towns in the country – craft brewers have teamed together to advocate for forest protection.

As most readers already know, there is an unprecedented interest in craft beer in the United States. There are beer blogs, beer tours, beer festivals, beer magazines. The Great American Beer Festival in Denver in October is huge, with 750 U.S. breweries, which generated $21.9 million in economic activity last year.

American brewers today are pushing the boundaries with new styles, and aficionados meet to discuss the merits of different hop varieties.  It’s time to add forests to the mix.

“We need beer fans’ help with OktoberForest to restore our forests,” Topik says. “Even if you’ve never gone hiking in a National Forest, you benefit from those forests every day, with drinking water, wood products, wildlife, and air quality.

“And, of course, beer,” he added with a smile.

Visit www.OktoberForest.org to:

  • Pledge to OktoberForest— tell your friends and favorite breweries about OktoberForest!
  • Take the OktoberForest quiz— how much do you know about beer and forests?
  • Check out the interactive brewery map— how healthy are forests around your favorite breweries?
  • Read partner brewer stories— is your favorite brewery an OktoberForest partner?

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Every once in a while a hidden gem of a cocktail makes its way into a guide, but there’s rarely any information on who crafted it, or the inspiration behind it.  

As it turns out there’s a great story behind this cocktail as told by its creator, Brian Miller.  Here’s what he has to say, “It came about oh so many years ago. It was at Tales and I believe it was my first one. St Germain had just come out and I had been working with the brand. Rob (Cooper) had become a good friend of mine and he invited me to Tales to do some work with him. He had organized some sort of Iron Chef competition using St Germain and asked me to be a part of it. I was reluctant because I hate comps but when the boss asks you, you do what he says. Plus he said the winner would get a brand new car. Of course that sounded ridiculous but Rob is generous enough to do such a thing. I was young (yes, there was a point when I was actually young and not the middle-aged pirate you see now) and like everyone else, I loved Rittenhouse rye and old classic cocktails. So I did a simple riff on the Vieux Carré subbing St Germain for the Benedictine. I think I was more concerned with not embarrassing myself than actually winning. So when I won, I was shocked. I was thinking, what the hell am I gonna do with car in NYC? I could hardly afford rent let alone a place to keep a fucking car. Rob came up to me with a big grin and said, “Brian, let me take you to your new car.” We walked out in front of the Monteleone and parked between two cabs was the little Hoopty. We laughed and hugged each other. It was my first trophy in the cocktail world and I still treasure it to this day.  I later on created another cocktail for St Germain called the Hoopty Cooler. A picture of the car is attached.”

This is a 21st century take on a classic for sure.  Everything is quite balanced, lovely and pops on the tongue.  The only change I would highly recommend, is to either serve this with one large cube of ice, or else serve it straight up in a large cocktail glass.  Serious dilution happens when too much ice is left in the glass as I discovered.  I took the simple step of straining the drink into a large coupe with a Hawthorne strainer and transferring the garnish.

hoopty

Carré Reprise
1oz rye whiskey
1oz cognac
1oz sweet vermouth
0.5oz elderflower liqueur
1 dash angostura bitters
1 dash peychaud’s bitters
Garnish: lemon twist

Stir with ice. Strain into ice-filled old-fashioned glass. Add lemon twist.

img_1820Jason Barrett seems to have an endless supply of energy.  As the owner of a full-time distillery in Rochester, NY, he not only supervises the production and aging of the products that make up their extensive portfolio, but he also teaches a quarterly three-day intensive seminar on what it takes to get a distillery off the ground. Jason recently invited me to come experience what the classes are all about.

Starting at 9am sharp on a warm and sunny Friday morning, a group of a dozen students ranging in age from their early 20’s to well past retirement met in the tasting room for a brief overview of the weekend from Jason. As we went around the room introducing ourselves, I was surprised that there were a few people who had traveled quite the distance to be here, and others had come back to take the class a second time.  This was a good indication of the quality of the information that would be imparted.

I asked student Chelsea Washburn from Philadelphia what initially drew her to becoming involved in the spirits industry.  “The cross-cultural tradition of sharing and socializing over a drink.  No matter where you travel or the background of the people you are with, chances are you all can bond over a drink.  Secondly, the craftsmanship, from vintners, brewers, to distillers and even moonshiners. The passion and knowledge these craftspeople carry is historic, cultural, agricultural, scientific, even anthropological! In five years, I hope to have my own well-established brand in the craft spirit market based out of Philadelphia.  So, watch out for the Philadelphia Whiskey Co.”

img_1864We then were walked through the distillation room and out the back door to see the massive grain silos where local NYS corn is fed into the fermentation tanks. The first story Jason told us took place in the early days of the company. He and his fellow workers would start each day full of energy, but by the evening they were completely lethargic, headachy and short of breath.  It turns out that the massive amounts of CO2 generated by the fermenting grains in the building were causing symptoms of hypercapnia, which led to realizing the immediate need for an efficient ventilation system which was promptly installed.

img_1851Once back inside the distillery, we were shown all of the equipment Jason purchased, from the pot and column stills, fermenters, and a large selection of locally made barrels which were aging a variety of products.  On one wall, of particular note a large American flag was prominently displayed.  I later learned from Jason’s father, who also works at the distillery that this was Jason’s grandfather’s flag who had passed away a few years ago.  It is obvious that family means a lot to Jason.  As he later related, his family made their fortunes in the garment button business.  Rochester had 19 button factories at the turn of the 20th century making high quality buttons for suits.  Jason’s family business is the last left in the area.  Interestingly, Jason is colorblind and was told as a child that he would only be able to make black buttons if he took over the family business (Jason’s mother Anne is the president of the company now).  This is where the distillery’s name came from.  Everywhere you look, the Black Button logo is apparent, constantly reminding Jason of his heritage.

img_1865I was surprised at how open Jason was with the information he shared during the class.  Everything from the exact recipes he uses, to the manufacturers of his equipment, along with stories of the failures of some of his first efforts and the mistakes he’s made in terms of underestimating the space needed as the company grew.  A long question and answer period followed.  What amazed me is that Jason knows everything off the top of his head.  He had no reference book or flash cards, and there were no questions that he didn’t know the answer to, or gladly share with us.  In fact, he said several times that he is willing to follow-up with everyone long after the classes are over via email to help with any questions they may have. Chelsea Washburn appreciated this greatly.  “Having Jason so openly show and share some of his methods gives one a better grasp in how to run a well-oiled small-batch distillery.”

After a quick break for lunch, there were presentations from companies that Black Button works with including filtration specialists and an insurance agent who works with distillers.  It became clear that there is an endless list of concerns from all angles to consider.  One story that struck me was of a brewer who bought a building in the southern tier of NY, filled it with all the necessary equipment and obtained his brewing license.  It was only when he was about to begin making beer that he was told that he couldn’t do it because it was a “dry” town.  Believe it or not, there are still six locales in the state where making, buying or selling alcohol is illegal.  Another interesting story was about someone who wanted to open a distillery just up the road from Jason and approached him to get the ok to go ahead.  As they talked, Jason found out that this guy had suddenly had the idea to open a distillery just a few months prior and felt he knew everything he needed to know in order to start churning out product.  He didn’t even feel the need to write a business plan.  But, after talking with Jason, he apparently reconsidered his rash idea and decided to follow another path.

img_1873The day at the distillery ended with a launch party at Good Luck, a local restaurant who had collaborated on a new whiskey with Black Button.  As attendee Chelsea Washburn remarked, “Not only is it a beautiful dram to sip on but Good Luck astutely highlighted the label in handcrafted cocktails.  The best part is that it’s such a great way to build small business relationships in the community.” After planning, distilling and aging the product, the final yield was only 42 bottles of Black Luck whiskey.  If you want to try it, you’ll have to visit Good Luck before it’s gone.  This is truly boutique distilling.  Other limited products Black Button has crafted recently have been a Lilac Gin and a Garden Gin made in conjunction with the New York Wine and Culinary Center in Canandaigua.  They also have worked with O’Begley Distilling to co-create a whiskey.  Jason is always looking for new expressions to create, which keeps him constantly involved in the process.  All of this in only the past four years, and Jason himself is not yet 30 years old.  Pretty impressive for a young guy to hit the ground running.

As the evening wound down, I asked Chelsea what her three takeaways from the day were.  “First, you cannot make it in this industry yourself, you will need other’s advice and expertise.  Reaching out is easy to do with fellow distillers.  Everyone wants to help as it is such a new or rather refurbished industry.  Secondly, know your story to sell your brand.  As much as people will enjoy your product, they will remember and share your products’ story even more.  Knowing the story behind as to why you make your spirit the way you do or how it comes to taste the way it does or simply why it bears a name so dear to you.  People want to know the passion behind your spirit. Lastly, file your liquor federal taxes…ALWAYS!”

Black Button products are everywhere in the area, as I’ve discovered on several cocktail menus in the western New York region.  Of course having a wide range of spirits and liqueurs helps greatly.  They make everything from apple pie moonshine to bourbon cream, along with vodka, gin, whiskey and limited experimental editions.

Black Button Distilling • 85 Railroad Street, Rochester NY 14609 • cheers@blackbuttondistilling.com • 585-730-4512

A_Midnight_Modern_ConversationBack in my college days, I thought that punch equalled a 1.5l bottle of Silver Bacardi mixed together with a few cans of tropical flavored Hawaiian Punch.  After a few different occasions where this was the beverage of choice, I had enough to last me a lifetime and moved on to other less cloying things like IPA.  In fact, I hadn’t had any punch for a few decades until I read David Wondrich’s phenomenal book Imbibe! back in 2007.  I decided to make a batch of Philadelphia Fish House Punch for my first effort, and there’s been no turning back for me.  Granted, there is a bit of extra work involved than just emptying bottles into a large bowl (oleo-saccharum, anyone?), but it pays off in spades.  Not only is a real punch incredibly tasty, but you realize why punches are gaining popularity again.  These days, many of the best bars offer punch bowls on the menu, and some are even served with antique cups.

Here’s the recipe for PFHP (luckily, it doesn’t actually call for any fish).

Philadelphia Fish House Punch
(Servings: 18 – 20)
1 cup sugar
4 lemons, peeled and peels reserved
4 cups black tea (or water)
1 cup lemon juice
4 cups rum, Jamaican
2 cups cognac
1/2 cup peach brandy
Garnish: lemon wheels and freshly grated nutmeg

In a large bowl, add sugar and lemon peels, and rub together to release the citrus oils into the sugar. (This is called oleo-saccharum).
Allow oleo-saccharum to infuse for at least 30 minutes.
Dissolve sugar with warm water or tea.
Add rum, cognac, lemon juice and peach brandy and stir to mix.
Add a block of ice to chill, and continue to add smaller pieces of ice for desired dilution.
Garnish with lemon wheels and freshly grated nutmeg.
Ladle into individual glasses.

Another quite popular punch is Planter’s Punch, the recipe for which was first published as a poem in the New York Times on August 8, 1908.

Planter’s Punch
This recipe I give to thee,
Dear brother in the heat.
Take two of sour (lime let it be)
To one and a half of sweet,
Of Old Jamaica pour three strong,
And add four parts of weak.
Then mix and drink. I do no wrong —
I know whereof I speak.

Pretty easy to figure out what the measurements are, if you’re handy with a jigger.

Cheers!

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At first glance, this looks like a mish-mash of whatever the hell you can manage to find on the backbar and in the fridge, but it actually works.  The reason is that this is simply a citrus Negroni.  The ratios are completely different, but the end result is quite balanced, tasty and elegant.  In fact, you might consider this cocktail a gateway drug to the more intense flavors of the Negroni.

Here’s what creator Gary ‘gaz’ Regan recently told me about this libation: “It’s a typical regan drink since it’s just a riff on someone else’s well-thought-out cocktail! This drink is actually a rip-off of a drink called the Old Flame, created by Dale DeGroff. gaz regan played around with Dale’s formula a little, then named the drink in honor of Dale’s wife, Jill DeGroff, a graphic artist who executes fabulous caricatures of the world’s leading cocktailian bartenders.”

I like it and will gladly drink this if proffered to me. Cheers, gaz!

The Caricature Cocktail
1.5oz gin
0.75oz triple sec
0.5oz sweet vermouth
0.5oz campari
0.5oz grapefruit juice
Garnish: orange twist

Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Add orange twist.

Note: Use 100% red grapefruit juice, not white.  Very important.

Qtimthumb.phpuick!  How many classic crème de menthe based cocktails can you name? Go!

That’s what I thought.  Highlight the area to the right to see if you got them all -> Grasshopper, Stinger

Crème de menthe is one of those liqueurs that once you try, you will never forget.  For obvious reasons it is used in a fair amount of obscure Irish cocktails, but personally I avoid those.

Crème de menthe is not a cream based liqueur, but rather a category of spirits known as crèmes, which are more syrupy and sugar laden than standard liquors.  It is made from Corsican mint or peppermint and is either colorless (white) or vibrantly green.  Most products today use food coloring to achieve the effect.  The flavors are exactly the same however.

If you want to try making your own at home, here’s a recipe courtesy of Marcia Simmons, co-author of DIY Cocktails which I have previously reviewed here.

DIY Creme de Menthe
1 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves (divided)
1 1/2 cups vodka
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water

  • Measure out 1 cup of mint leaves and tear them in quarters Place mint leaves in a sealable glass jar and pour vodka on top. Shake and let steep for 12 hours.
  • After steeping is complete, strain mint leaves from infused vodka. Return infused vodka to the jar.
  • Bring the water and sugar to a boil, and let simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool, then add syrup to mint-infused vodka.
  • Take the additional 1/2 cup of mint leaves, tear them, and add them to the jar. Shake and let steep for 10 hours.
  • Strain twice to remove all mint leaves, keep in resealable bottle. Keeps for two months.
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