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Brewin’ Beer

Posted: April 28th, 2012 | Author: | No Comments »

Seven o’clock in the morning is too early for beer. Well, for drinking beer, at least. But when my alarm went off at that hour yesterday morning, I got out of bed, beer on my mind. I had an appointment to spend the morning with Matt Spitz, co-founder — along with his wife, Lauri — of the Moustache Brewing Co.

We’d be brewing Moustache’s porter, one of the signature styles the brewery will serve up once everything was licensed and running. But they don’t have licenses yet, or, for that matter, a brewery. But that’s about to change.

Brewing, for now, takes place at Matt’s parents’ home on the South Shore of Long Island. There, the couple has built a brewing setup from scratch, gradually expanding into more nooks and crannies as the process becomes more sophisticated.

“This is the brewery,” Matt explained as he ushered me into a small room in the basement cramped with jugs of fermenting beer, tubes and buckets and measuring tools, and bags of different grains and malts and other ingredients. There were posters on the wall and a white “NO LITTERING OR DUMPING” sign, and behind all of the brewing materials, shelves held baseball mitts, board games, trophies, and other remnants of Matt’s childhood. As a kid, this had been his bedroom.

Now it was filled with the instruments used by someone who cares deeply about making beer. What started as a hobby in 2005 — the couple was unimpressed with having to travel into New York City to find what they call “interesting” beers on tap — has grown into a professional endeavor. They started asking a brewmaster friend questions about making their own beer, and it’s gotten bigger and better since. “It didn’t start off like this,” he said, pointing to his setup. “This is real brewing.”

We began setting up in the back yard, rinsing barrels and heating the water that would eventually extract the flavors of the mashed grains to create the Moustache porter. That’s when Matt took me to the basement, where he measured out each of the ingredients precisely — by weight, when it came to a batch this large, not by measuring cup the way you do when baking in the kitchen. He pulled the select grains from a cabinet, consulting his phone for the recipe. All of Moustache’s recipes are kept on a website designed to help homebrewers stay organized. There’s an app for that, too, but it’s not as helpful as the website.

He explained what he was doing every step of the way, and at this point, he held out a bag of caramel malt. “You should always try your ingredients first.” I took a few of the tiny morsels and crunched them in my mouth. “Now just let them sit on your tongue for a minute and let the enzymes from your saliva draw out the taste. I did, and it was sweet.

I watched Matt work through getting the entire batch ready until I had to leave around mid-morning. He was precise and patient, stopping to scrub a bucket here, fidget with a valve there. He wasn’t dabbling. He’s serious about his beer. He’s a craftsman, and he’s looking to share his passion with anyone who will listen — or drink.

A few days ago, the aspirations of the Moustache Brewing Co. announced themselves as serious, too. A Kickstarter campaign to fund the licensing process (which can take up to six months) and a new brewing location was launched. The couple hopes to raise $25,000 to get off the ground. It’s a lofty goal, but after just four days, they had crossed the $7,000 mark.

Progress is great, but they can’t relax just yet. Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing proposition. If the entire goal is not met within their own set time of one month, the brewery doesn’t receive anything and the donors aren’t actually charged for their contributions.

By the time the Kickstarter campaign is over, the porter will have just about finished fermenting and conditioning, and I’ll be able to have a pint. Hopefully, we’ll be raising our glasses to a successful fundraising campaign, to the birth of a new microbrewery, to friends whose hobby has become a craft.

It’s beer, and even early in the morning, it’s fun. But it’s serious business, too.

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