The Topic: Syracuse Gordon Biersch and Salt City
Living in Nashville since 1978 I had always wanted to visit a Gordon Biersch. I heard they were an upscale version, and the anchor pub, for the Rock Bottom, now deceased Big River, Biersch chain. The Rivers were changed, so now they have more Rock Bottoms.
You know that really doesn’t sound right when I read it back to myself, but I’ll leave it just for the fun of it.
I had heard Gordon Biersch was more German-lager focused, oh, and dedicated to the Gersundheitgesneezen. Oh, sorry, I always get that wrong! The Reinheitsgebot where they can only use water, barley and hops… then yeast when we all figured out that mini-me magic trolls weren’t passing gas to make alcohol. (Actually not too far from what yeast do, in a sense, only if they were human it would be grosser than that.)
As you can see the pub is pretty upscale.
For a number of years I had been trading Facebook posts with Salt City Brewers in Syracuse, NY and one of their former presidents even tried to get me to judge at NY State Fair. This year I was able, and also lucked out: I made a meeting at none other than Gordon Biersch. Jackpot!
Syracuse’s Biersch is in a mall, which I found odd: pictures of their stand alone pubs I’ve seen are very upscale: even futuristic, looking. But it doth fit well in a mall too! And, as I kept telling the Jonathan, their brewer: to your right, they made very efficient use of their space.
I got there early because I wanted to speak to a manager and see if I could bring in a drop box for my competition: The Old Forge Old Ale Competition, and Robin agreed to make an exception since no one would be drinking the entries at Gordon. I yacked it up with Chris Sack: former president I had traded Es with a few years ago and… surprise! I found out I knew their presidents. That’s right, I typed “presidents:” Sarah and Ben, co-presidents. We all judged at the state fair this year.
Jonathan got us together and arranged small tours: logical since space is limited. Syracuse’s Biersch has a 25.5 barrel Specific brewing system. Jonathan said a normal batch was 15 barrels. Biersch has in house recipes for all their beers and every year they send all the brewer’s samples out to see how close they got. Brewers are judged by those lab results. Consistency is crucial at Gordon. Expectations are exacting: like keeping mash ph at 4.5-4.7. Every aspect of each sample is judged by the lab to make sure the brewers hit their targets. Continue reading “Brew Biz: Werts and All”
Hops – one of the four foundational ingredients in beer – are important to creating a beer’s overall flavor, aroma and bitterness. The female Humulus lupulus plants create hop cones or flowers that contain the chemicals that provide its pungent flavoring. Depending on the brewery’s size, brewers can use just a few ounces of any of the over eighty varieties of hops, or can utilize pounds at a time.
In Maine, and most of the Northeast, it has been much easier for commercial brewers to obtain hops that have been grown in Europe or the Pacific Northwest, where long-standing traditions of hop growing have thrived, and large quantities are produced annually.
In the Pacific Northwest, for example, there are hundreds of beers produced each fall made with freshly harvested hops – those that have been harvested and put directly into the beer within a few days of being picked. This can only be accomplished if the hop farms are in close proximity to their brewers – long distance transportation of fresh hops isn’t possible. The preservation of hops usually involves drying and pelletizing the hops (making them into small, compact pellets resembling hamster food in appearance). Fortunately, importing these pellets are what allow brewers across the country to create strongly-flavored hoppy beers year-round. The taste of fresh hops is significantly different than those of the pellets and their guaranteed freshness (hard to go stale if there’s less than 24 hours from bine to kettle) and strong character makes them desirable to brewers.
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Profiled by Maria Devan for PGA
Pours a beautiful and softly glowing yellow with a slight bit of haze to temper it’s radiance. Has bubbles making their way to the top and a cream colored head of foam that lasted and left sticky creamy lace until it finally succumbed to the 10.1% abv and fell leaving spots and alcohol legs. Truly a handsome beer that in the softer light had some lovely orange hues.
Nose is mango. Not peach. Ripe earthy and sweet. Some pineapple to give it a little sugary backing and some tanginess. Lovely floral hops accentuate all the fruit. The malt is soft as it could possibly be on the nose. A soft sweetness. I observed only a faint fume of the abv and could not even be sure if it wasn’t my imagination.
Taste is outstanding. The malt is perfection in this big beer. It has substance but it also has form. it gracefully does not become too heavy and is made lighter by a good carbonation. The mouthfeel is fuller than the typical IPA but it is very big. The fruit is ripe and prominent. The mango and the pineapple combine to create a sweet tropical sensation. The beer has some alcohol in the mouthfeel as a bit of sweetness and a bit of weight but this beer is not syrupy or too heavy to be enjoyed. It does not have any alcohol presence that could be considered hot, just a mild warmth as it finishes with a hop bitter that seems much weaker than it really is next to all that sweet fruit. Finishes sticky and sweet but drying on the tongue from the alcohol .
Beautiful At 10.1 % ( which is what mine says) this is just a mere point one percent over the limit for Double Imperial Pale Ale and therefore really a triple IPA. It drinks like one. It is not a glug glug beer but it has “drinkability.”. It is the best one I have had without any harsh flavors from alcohol. This is the beer that can show you how this style is done.
Thank you Kerry T. Adair for sending me this beer.
Welcome to the PGA beer rating system: one beer “Don’t bother.” Two: Eh, if someone gives it to you, drink. Three: very good, go ahead and seek it out, but be aware there is at least one problem. Four: seek it out. Five: pretty much “perfecto.”
Maria Devan lives in Ithaca, NY and is frequent reviewer of beer and a beer lover deluxe.