When it comes to beer, Pat Alfred, the head brewer at Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, gets inspiration from everywhere.
Sometimes, it’s demand from the tasting room.
“Recently, people have been coming in and asking for sour beer, specifically fruited sour beer,” he said. “So we take that information and then immediately get to the brew house and cook something up.”
For that one, they made a fresh batch of their popular UPick!, a wheat beer made with seasonal fruit, this one with raspberry and boysenberry. Other times, inspiration comes from a problem.
Every year on the business’s anniversary, Greenport Harbor Brewing Co. drops a beer to commemorate the occasion, the beer’s ABV matching the anniversary. 2021 marks 12 years, but “no one wants to drink a 12% beer in mid-July,” Alfred said. So, he took a step back and thought of the number in a different way.
“12th anniversary — I’m thinking of something that’s in a 12-pack,” he said. Basically, something that drinks easily. “We go super light American lager — a target 4.5% American lager of American malt. We got a little bit of corn in there to lighten up the body and the mouthfeel.”
Alfred started off as a home brewer more than a decade ago, and started bringing in his creations to his local craft brewery, Barrier Brewing Co. in Oceanside, for the staff to try.
Eventually that paid off and he was brought on as a brewer. In 2018, he made the move to Greenport as head brewer and now, he gets to cook up his own creations like Tiki Paradise, a beer inspired by tropical cocktails, something Alfred loves.
“I was really captivated by those flavor profiles,” he said. “I wanted to introduce that into a beer, but keep the beer lower in ABV.”
He started with a wheat beer base and layered in milk sugar for a light creaminess. After the primary fermentation, he added pineapple and then coconut for a piña colada vibe.
“I would consider it very much like a chef’s approach,” Alfred said, referring to how he thinks up a recipe. “We have these ingredients with a general idea of how to work them, and it’s really just manipulating these flavors.”
AT MATCHBOOK DISTILLING COMPANY, taking inspiration from sunchokes and sunburns …
When Chad Arnholt makes a cocktail, he pulls inspirations from four schools of thought. As a mixologist at Matchbook Distilling Company, one of his many responsibilities is creating cocktails with its spirits. The first school is creating the drink around the ingredients. “A pineapple comes in and they’re the freshest pineapples ever. What do I make with these pineapples?” he said. The second school of thought is pairing the cocktail with the food. The third is being inspired by the flavors of the spirits itself and the fourth is an off the wall concept that could stem from anything, like a word.
“It could be like sunshine, or blue, or maybe it’s themed like Tiki,” he said. When it came to creating a cocktail with the distillery’s popular Late Embers spirit, made with smoked sunchokes and honey, many of those schools of thought came into play. “I thought ‘How can I take this rugged-savory thing and match it in a way that is playing off of the flavors that are there?’ ”
Based out of a warehouse in Greenport, Matchbook Distilling Co. is a research and development facility that makes its own spirits, as well as contracts the production of spirits for clients. Its bespoke products are mostly limited release and range from a pumpkin, koji and corn spirit to a pink lemon and rose petal-infused vermouth. They even have a create your own gin class on the weekends. Arnholt joined the crew earlier this year after working across the country in cocktail bars and consulting restaurants to build up bar programs.
One of his first tasks was creating this cocktail, and his inspiration came from the notes of Late Embers itself. Inspired by the traditional process of making mezcal, in which agave plants are smoked over hot rocks and then fermented, Matchbook created this spirit by smoking some 1600 pounds of sunchokes in a fire pit. “It’s a smoky spirit, it’s got a bit of a grip to it. It has a rather big body,” he said. “I wanted some savory notes, but then I also wanted some bright notes. I want something that tastes like sunshine spray.” And the Sun Smoked Sun Cooler was born.
The cocktail combines yellow bell peppers, habanero, pineapple, golden and green apple, mango, carrot, lemon, turmeric, mustard seed and salt. “It has the effect of one of those hipster juices that has all the things that you’d ever need to have in juice.” In the recipe he wrote for the Matchbook website, Arnholt describes the drink as getting just a little too much sun after a lawn chair afternoon.