Beer from a Place, Jamie Caligure, Head Brewer

Hydrometer reading shows the sugar content of the sap.

As I make my way to the brewery each day, I think of the countless possibilities and permutations that await me. What can I brew that is totally unique to this place? When I hand a glass to a curious drinker, I am proud to say, “I know the farmer who grew and malted this barley, he delivers it to us in the back of his pick-up.”

My first two months here have seen sneak peeks of spring followed by a stream of winter snow storms, and now in mid-April, I hope warmer temperatures are here to stay. I was keen on brewing a beer with maple sap, but the drop back to below-freezing temperatures in March delayed the flow. Three weeks of waiting and finally Randy Grippin from Mountain Winds Farm called to say the sap was running. While sap is mostly water, there is a small percentage of sugar, as well as minerals and nutrients such as potassium, thiamin, riboflavin, and manganese.  With the help of Ethan Willsie, enough sap was collected from Grippin’s farm in Berne, NY for two batches of beer. The first is a Maple Tripel, a Belgian-style ale. The second is what I have called “Subversive Sap Saison.” Subversive Malting is a relatively new malthouse (and future brewery) located in Columbia County. This beer features their Pilsner malt, made with 2-row Newdale barley grown by West Wind Ag in Schaghticoke.

Having been a teacher in my former life, the educational aspect of the Helderberg Brewery and the Carey Institute is quite impressive. While working at other breweries, I often attended workshops and seminars here, and always left inspired. We are gearing up for some exciting offerings this year, so stay tuned for dates, topics, and speakers.

I also had the pleasure of being a part of the Visiting Brewer Program last spring. It was a great way to highlight New York ingredients with which I was not yet familiar, as well as explore different brewing processes and techniques. If you are, or if you know, a brewer who would be interested in this opportunity please reach out to me at jcaligure@careyinstitute.org.

With spring here, I look forward to longer days, rising temperatures, and the opportunity to explore what is emerging from the ground as inspiration for future brews!