Sixpoint Brewery Makes a Smash at NYC Beer Week

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Last week, NYC Beer Week brought beer lovers and beer makers together in a celebration of everyone’s favorite carbonated libation. Unless of course, you are French, in which case you can keep your champagne and go somewhere else. This is America, land of the hops and home of the brew.

NYC Beer Week is special, not only because it provides an opportunity to celebrate, but also a chance for breweries to experiment. Sixpoint brewery, located in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY, did some experimentation of their own and concocted their Beer Week exclusive, Smash. I spent some time at a Sixpoint sponsored Beer Week event before heading over to the brewery itself to discover the process behind producing Smash, of which only 20 kegs were made to be sold for one week, and never brewed again.

I first met Smash at a Sixpoint sponsored event at Beer Culture in Hell’s Kitchen. Here, I got to try several Sixpoint beers, including Smash.

Beer is Culture at Beer Culture- Sixpoint brewery NYC Beer Week event. Smash is the featured Beer
Beer is Culture at Beer Culture- Sixpoint brewery NYC Beer Week event. Smash is the featured Beer

At the event I met Sixpoint sales rep., Adam Zuniga and Beer Culture manager, Matt Gebhard. To say Zuniga was enthusiastic about Smash would be an understatement. Adam seemed to be a genuine beer connoisseur, taking pleasure in describing how Smash came to be. Zuniga was especially enthusiastic about the fact that all of the ingredients that went into Smash were grown and produced in New York.

Matt Gebhard: Manager at Beer Culture (Left) Adam Zuniga : Sixpoint sales rep. in Manhattan. "Everyone was given the same basic raw ingredients," Zuniga said. "...like rye grain and hops, all grown upstate... and every brewery interpreted it in different ways. We decided to make a Steam beer and that became Smash."
Matt Gebhard: Manager at Beer Culture (Left) Adam Zuniga : Sixpoint sales rep. in Manhattan. “Everyone was given the same basic raw ingredients,” Zuniga said. “…like rye grain and hops, all grown upstate… and every brewery interpreted it in different ways. We decided to make a Steam beer and that became Smash.”Texas native and current NYC resident, Matthew Wukman, said he enjoyed the beer itself but was drawn to it because of its local heritage.

Texas native and current NYC resident, Matthew Wukman, said he enjoyed the beer itself but was drawn to it because of its local heritage.

Matthew Wuckman, stage lighting engineer and NYC resident. "I don't always buy seasonal or special edition beers but I felt inclined to because it is all local."
Matthew Wukman, stage lighting engineer and NYC resident.
“I don’t always buy seasonal or special edition beers but I felt inclined to because it is all locally grown… everything, the hops, the rye, its all from here”

I tried Smash and I must say, for such a dark beer its taste is light and but still has a full flavor that both hop lovers and light beer drinkers can both enjoy.

Smash: According to Zuniga, is a steam beer. Steam are similar to traditional lagers except "the lager yeast is fermented longer and at a higher temperature to pull out some of the fruity, more imaginative flavors."
Smash: According to Zuniga, is a steam beer. Steam are similar to traditional lagers except, “the lager yeast is fermented longer and at a higher temperature to pull out some of the fruity, more imaginative flavors.”

I wanted to know more, so I took a trip to the Sixpoint Brewery in Brooklyn. However, if it wasn’t for Google maps and a sign on the door, I would never have known that a brewery lives inside this building.

The unassuming entrance to the Sixpoint Brewery, nestled in Red Hook, Brooklyn
The unassuming entrance to the Sixpoint Brewery, nestled in Red Hook, Brooklyn

Behind that door lies a world of tanks, tubes and pipes, where Sixpoint crafts all of the draft beer sold all over the city. Sixpoint’s canning facility, which is much larger, is located in Memphis, TN.

Photo Credit: Anthony DeNicola
The main room of the brewery, where most of the work is done, houses enormous fermentation tanks. Smash took approximately 2 weeks to ferment.

I got to meet Sixpoint brewer Marcus Lutter, who showed me around the facility and described his experience while making Smash. “The philosophy was to try something new and fun that we hadn’t done before,” he said of Smash’s conception.

Marcus Lutter, Sixpoint Brewer and my tour guide.
Marcus Lutter, one of four Sixpoint brewers, mans the Kegger: If you guessed that this machine fills the kegs, give yourself a gold star. “We were limited on how creative we could be because we had the same malt recipe and the same hops [as other brewers]… but I like it. It was fun to make.”
Before kegging and fermentation can happen, there are several steps in the process that precede. The first step in the brewing process is hydration. The grains are put into a mill, where they are cracked to allow water to hydrate them in preparation for the next step.

The beginning
The Mill: Grains are hydrated and pulled through the pipes by a series of disks on a chain that pull the material through pipes that can be seen going into the wall.

The next step is mashing, which naturally takes place in the Mash Tank. The grain drops in before adding additional water. “We hit a specific temperature and let it sit for about an hour and that will activate enzymes in the grain… so the yeasts can convert the sugars to alcohol,” said Lutter.

Masher
Mash Tank that combines grain, water, and heat to make alcohol. “This basically makes a huge batch of barley tea,” said Lutter.

After mashing, the mixture is brought to a boil and hops are added. After boiling for 60 minutes, the mixture is run through a heat exchanger, where cold water is introduced to the boiling liquid before going to the fermentation tanks (posted above). Once fermented for anywhere from one to two weeks, the beer is finished and ready for kegging.

Kegs
Finished kegs. The Brooklyn facility supplies all draft beer for the region.

While the wrought iron, back gate of the facility is a better reflection of the industrial scene going on within, it is the brewery’s home-grown nature that gives Sixpoint and Smash beer their NYC appeal.

The gates opened and Smash was finally let loose on an unsuspecting Beer Week.
The gates opened and Smash was let loose on Beer Week.
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