Crooked Ladder: A Straight Deal 8/16/14

http://crookedladderbrewing.com/

The Crooked Ladder Brewery is part of the scene on Main Street in Riverhead.

The Crooked Ladder Brewery is part of the scene on Main Street in Riverhead.

Eight tastes for $9.00—and by tastes they mean about a quarter of a glass—of freshly made craft beer (plus you get to keep the glass) qualifies as a good deal in my book.  We shared one tasting, and felt we’d had plenty to drink.  Downtown Riverhead is working hard at revitalization, with lots of interesting restaurant options, the New Suffolk Theater for live performances, and increasing numbers of formerly empty storefronts being filled, and part of that is the home of Crooked Ladder.   Located in a storefront on Main Street, the brewery has an attractively designed small tasting bar with stools in the front and a view of the beer making equipment in the back.  You may be able to find street parking, but if not, there are free lots behind the stores on both sides of the street.

When we entered we were given a menu of tastes which had information about each beer, which was fortunate as the server’s spiel was limited to, “Here’s the Kolsch.” The information included the ABV (Alcohol by Volume) and IBU (International Bittering Units) for each beer, which I’ve included in case this interests you.  Though the IBU measures the bitterness contributed by the hops, it doesn’t actually tell you how bitter the beer might taste, since the taste is a function of the balance among the various ingredients.  In addition to the tastes, you can also buy growlers, $20 for 64 ounces or $15 for 32 ounces, with a discount if you bring back the bottle for a refill.  At the bar with us were a large group of talkative guys who asked that the TV be tuned to ESPN and a pair of women quietly doing a tasting.

The brewing equipment

The brewing equipment

  1. Kolsch  6% ABV, 32 IBU

This is described on the menu as a German Ale, and it is a mild, fairly light beer, which would be fine on a hot day after working in the garden.  We felt it was pretty tasteless, a good choice for someone who doesn’t really like beer.  “Better than Coors Light, I suppose,” I said.

Summeritis seems like something one would enjoy catching.

Summeritis seems like something one would enjoy catching.

  1. Summeritis 5% ABV, 21 IBU

Summeritis is a fitting name for another fairly light-tasting beer made with “Crystal hops.”  It has a somewhat citrus/orange aroma and pleasant bitterness.

  1. Peach Wheat 5% ABV, 22 IBU

Another self-explanatory name—a wheat beer brewed with the addition of 40 pounds of peaches to each batch.  I don’t usually care for wheat beers, but this one is a pleasant drink, and also good to serve people who think they don’t like beer.  Slightly cloudy in the glass, it has a bit of peach smell and taste.  I could imagine sipping it while resting in a hammock on a hot summer day.

Note the faint cloudiness of the Peach Wheat--and also the generous serving!

Note the faint cloudiness of the Peach Wheat–and also the generous serving!

  1. Gypsy Red 5% ABV, 28 IBU

So this name begged for an explanation, which was forthcoming from our server.  “It’s our flagship beer, “she told us, “the first one we made.  At the time we had no permanent home, and were roaming around, doing brewing in one place, bottling in another, tasting somewhere else.”  Hence Gypsy.  This is my favorite so far, a tasty ale with a reddish color, an aroma of spice and cocoa powder, and a good caramel flavor that would go well with burgers.

5.  Scottish Ale 6% ABV, 13 IBU                                                                                                           Scottish style ale (duh), this is a dark beer with an almost meaty smell and smoky taste that would complement barbeque really well.   It’s about this point that we notice that the server is rinsing our glass after every taste, using a neat device next to the taps that delivers a quick fountain of water to the inverted glass.

6.  Four Day Weekend APA 2% ABV  40 IBU

Why Four Day Weekend?  No idea, said the server.  This is described as an American Pale Ale, using Warrior, Simcoe, and Citra hops—and it is hoppy.  Now this one I really like.  I think it would be good with almost anything.  The aroma is somewhat flinty—wet iron I say—with an unusual and complex flavor.

  1. 70 West IPA 6% ABV  70 IBU

Since the brewery is located at 70 West Main Street, the genesis of this name is fairly evident.  The notes inform us that four different varieties of hops go into this beer, plus some dry hops for another element.  Good balance of bitterness and flavor, this is another beer I could see buying.  Certainly we like it better than any beers at Long Ireland Brewery.

I tend to prefer dark beers, like this porter.

I tend to prefer dark beers, like this porter.

  1. Ponquogue Porter 6% ABV  35 IBU

Named for a bridge that spans Shinnecock Bay, this porter transports us to an English pub.  If you like a dark beer, this is the one for you, with its tastes of somewhat sugary coffee balancing the bitterness of the hops.  Though I prefer Greenport Harbor’s Black Duck Porter, this one is also quite good.

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Reasons to visit you like craft beer; you’re interested in walking around Riverhead to see the progress that has been made in its revitalization; you have some time to kill before dinner or after lunch at one of Riverhead’s restaurants (We’re especially fond of the bison dishes at Tweed’s.) or after a visit to the Farmer’s Market on Saturday; the Gypsy Red, Four Day Weekend APA, 70 West IPA, and Ponquogue Porter.  Note that during the week they may be closed or may not open until 3 PM, so check the hours before you go.

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Long Ireland Beer Company November 2, 2013

http://www.longirelandbrewing.com/

beer sign

If you are heading to the North Fork hoping to make a stop at a brewery, I recommend you drive all the way to Greenport and go to the Greenport Harbor Brewing Company.  Bypass the Long Ireland Beer Company in Riverhead unless saving the cost of gas is your primary consideration.  Why?  Let me tell you about my experience at Long Ireland on a warm, sunny November Saturday afternoon.

We found the plain, industrial-style building on Pulaski Street fairly easily (you can just turn onto Pulaski from Main Road), and walked into the equally plain tasting room, packed with mostly twenty-somethings enjoying their beers.  If you just want a lot of beer for not much money, Long Ireland is a bargain.  For $8.00 you get a glass, which you may keep, which holds 3.5 ounces of beer, and you get to try six of their beers on tap.  A bowl of pretzels graces the bar.  They also offer pints for $5.00 and growlers for $15, for most of the offerings, as well as bottles for a few of the beers for $6.

When we finally got the attention of the server—to be fair, there were a fair number of people for two servers to keep up with—we told her we wanted to do a tasting.  “Okay,” she said, plunking two glasses down in front of us.  “How does it work?”  I asked.  “Is there any order to the tastes?”

“No order, “she said. “Just tell me what you want.”

“What can you tell me about the beers?”  I asked, in a vain attempt to figure out which to get.  For an answer, she pointed me to a list of available beers, eleven in all, with the only information on the sheet being the alcoholic content.  I overheard one customer saying to her friend, “Which has the most alcohol?”  Not really my concern.  So we decided in order to get to try all the types we would each get a full tasting, sharing tastes as we went.  Then two choices were deleted.  So we ended up with ten tastes in all, plus one repeat for both of us. At no time did either server tell us anything about the wide variety of beers on offer.

1)       Celtic Ale                           5.5% alcohol

This is a fairly classic ale, not very exciting, not particularly hoppy or interesting, but an okay basic beer.  By the way, in case you haven’t noticed already, there is a definite Irish theme, with Celtic symbols on the taps.

2)      Winter Ale                         7.2%

I don’t know why this is a “winter” ale, but it has a slightly darker color than the Celtic Ale and some citrus notes, though it is a thin-tasting beer.  Both of these are available in bottles.

3)      Wet Hopped Pale Ale

Not on the menu, this one is only available in bottles, and the server opened a bottle and then gave everyone in the room a small taste of it.  We thought it was a good summer beer, very fresh tasting.

beer bottle

4)      Kolsch                   5%

The taste of this one reminded me of the very ripe grilled pineapple we made for dessert a few weeks ago.  Not very hoppy, it is on the light side of a German-style beer.

5)      Pumpkin Ale                      5%

Inevitable at this season.  Did I want it with a cinnamon sugar rim?  Oh, yes.  Good choice.  The beer itself is just okay, but with the rim it is quite enjoyable.  Like drinking dessert.

The special glass for the pumpkin ale, with a cinnamon sugar rim, which is not the tasting glass.

The special glass for the pumpkin ale, with a cinnamon sugar rim, which is not the tasting glass.

6)      10 Nutty Years                  5%

Do you like Corona?  This has a bit more taste than Corona, but still could have benefitted from a lime.  I wanted to ask about the name, but gave up getting the server’s attention.

7)      E.S.B.                                     6.5%

Though the initials stand for Extra Special Bitter, this is not particularly bitter.  It is like an English bitter, which we came to enjoy on our first visit to England during a warm summer week, when we realized that the bitters tended to be cooler than the other beers on tap.  You can taste the hops in this one, and also a slight wheaty-pancakey flavor.

8)      I.P.A.                                     7.3%

We seem to have reached the initials part of the menu.  India Pale Ale is what these initials stand for, and it is my favorite so far.  On the blackboard it ways “West Coast Style,” but no one tells me what that means.  I’d be happy to drink this with a burger.  This one is also available in a bottle.

9)      Double IPA                         10.5%

Hmmm…sort of funky, a bit of dank cellar, but actually not bad.  It would be good with a sweetish barbecue sauce on ribs.  If you buy this one in a bottle or growler, it costs more than the others.

10)   Breakfast Stout                 3.5%

Back before coffee became the universal breakfast drink, people started the day with some form of alcoholic drink, usually beer or hard cider, both more reliably germ-free than water.  I would guess this is an homage to that custom.  I’m startled by the strong coffee taste, and when I go on Long Ireland’s web site I discover that it is actually made with coffee—and also flaked oats and milk sugar.  Breakfast, indeed.  You could have a pint of this in a cozy pub and enjoy drinking it on its own, though it is certainly no competition for Guinness.

If you’re counting, you realize we should have two more tastes here, but two choices have been taken off the board, so we both opt to end with the Pumpkin Ale, which is at least fun to drink.  Oh, and the servers do rinse your glass with the new taste as a transition between beers, a nice touch.

beer taps

Reasons to visit:

Really none, unless you are determined to go to a beer tasting and you don’t have to time to go to Greenport.  On the other hand, you do get a fair amount of beer for not much money.