Port Jeff Brewing's Favorite Four Party Pours is a four-part series leading to the brewery's fourth-anniversary event on Saturday, October 17.
The birthday bash will feature more than 20 beers of Port Jeff's (most pouring from its tasting room's boat-shaped bar). We asked Mike Philbrick, owner and brewmaster, and Matt Gundrum, head brewer, to discuss their four favorites from the lineup.
Matt Gundrum: Fresh Hop Ale is one of our most unique beers in that it's the only recipe we have using hops that haven't been dried out. These hops are very fresh, or wet; we use them within an hour of being harvested. They're also very local, from Condzella's Farm in Wading River.
Similar to past years, we waited until John Condzella decided that the hops were in their prime condition to be harvested before we made the beer. On multiple visits to his farm we've seen the hops in different stages, and we've even helped harvest them for previous batches. We love using his hops because he puts a lot of care into growing them and it shows in the quality. In fact right now we have a fermenter full of Red Sky Delight, our double red IPA, that has 20 pounds of his dried, whole-cone Cascade hops. We'll also jam a bunch into various casks for special releases.
We designed Fresh Hop Ale with a minimal amount of specialty malts so the drinker can truly taste the hops. Unlike previous years when we've included hops from other local farms, this year we decided to go exclusively with Condzella's. And we used just a single variety, Cascade, as I wanted to showcase the wonderful flavors that they produce. So we jammed 50 pounds of them into our mash tun—normally a beer will have about five pounds of hops per batch—and let the wort steep for about an hour or so before sending it into the fermenter.
The final product was even better than we had hoped. The beer has a light copper color and aromas of citrus and pine. The light bitterness upfront leads to an intense hoppiness in the finish that lingers long on the palate. The hop flavors are very delicate, so it's really important to drink this beer while it's at its freshest as these flavors and aromas will fade quickly over time. Last year's version had a little too much maltiness, so I adjusted the malt bill to really allow the hops to shine through and be the star of this beer. I feel like it's the best beer I've made since joining Port Jeff nearly two years ago.
We love brewing Fresh Hop Ale because we get to showcase a local friend's hard work and show that wonderful ingredients are being grown right here on Long Island. From hops to honey, fruit to malt, there's an abundance of locally grown ingredients that can be used in the production of beer. Not only are we helping out other local businesses on Long Island, but it's certainly wonderful to drink a beer with the person whose hard work went into helping you make it.
Photo: Niko Krommydas