Tuckahoe Brewing Co.'s coffee stout was named Best New Jersey Beer at the Atlantic City Beer & Music Festival this month.
Not bad for a group of school teachers and an architect who got together in 2011 to share their hobby with other lovers of craft beer in the state. The brewery, in the Ocean View section of Upper Township, is so small, you can stand in one spot and see the front and back doors, says head brewer Matt McDevitt. Yet it offers a Belgian Wit, a pale ale, a pumpkin ale, a smoked porter and that award-winning coffee stout.
"It's fantastic, very drinkable, es-pecially for a stout," said Jon Henderson, producer of the Atlantic City Beer and Music Festival, adding he loves the pale ale most. "A lot of times, stouts can be too strong or overbearing for someone who's - for lack of a better word - 'not a beer drinker.' The aroma is solid and you can really taste the coffee without it being overwhelming."
McDevitt, a Mainland Regional High School teacher from Egg Harbor Township, got together with his buddies Chris Konicki, of Margate, and Jim McAfee, of Upper Township, about 10 years ago to brew at Tim Hanna's Upper Township home. McAfee is the architect. The others are all teachers at Mainland. Soon, some craft beer from a very exclusive micro-brewery could be expected at their pool parties. Their oldest beers are the smoked porter and Belgian wit, the rest were brewed after the Tuckahoe Brewing Co. was established in December 2011.
The self-taught brew meisters balanced raising families with working by day and brewing at night. They studied as every teacher wishes their students would and learned stuff like how to avoid getting that burnt coffee taste in their beer. They also learned sanitization is the most important step in brewing beer.
"Try to keep everything as sanitary as possible, and that includes the spoon or paddle you use to stir in the coffee or the lid when you let it rest," McDevitt said. In brewing, the liquid is boiled to sterilize and sanitize the mixture. The flameout is when you have no time left in the boil. This point can be dangerous because wild yeast bacteria could get into the wort and infect the beer. If you sanitize everything properly, you should be fine, McDevitt said.
Being a school teacher, McDevitt has a way of breaking down the finer points of home brewing for someone who at least understands the terminology. And the brewery currently offers informal tours with samples of four beers on Saturdays from noon to four. In summer, they hope to extend those hours and days.
For the experienced home brewer looking for guidance, McDevitt has more. He can recommend a good retailer: Tap It Homebrew Supply Shop in Egg Harbor City; or a makeshift substitute: A cylindrical cooler will work for holding your mash at the right temperature during starch conversion.
Some other tips in his own words:
•High gravity worts (the liquid that will eventually turn into beer) need plenty of dissolved oxygen, so be sure to aerate well. If you do not have a food-grade oxygen tank and aeration stone (which are available in your local home-brew shop or online), shake the primary fermenter well during and after wort collection. You can aerate wort up to 18 hours after pitching yeast, so the day after you brew, aerate again by shaking fermenter.
•High gravity worts need very healthy and active yeast, so it's a good idea to make a yeast starter for this (coffee) stout. Two days before you brew, boil 4 ounces of light dried malt extract and a few hop pellets in about 16 ounces of water. Chill wort to 65 degrees, pour into sanitized mason jar or beaker, pitch yeast into wort, cover the jar or beaker with tin foil or sponge stopper (do not seal), and aerate well. Store starter at room temperature until brew day.
The guys don't mind sharing their tips with other craft brew lovers or even competitors, McDevitt said.
"It's not competitive, it's more justa bunch of us doing a good job making beer for an area that's really starting to grow in craft beer competition," McDevitt says. "It's very collegial, friendly competition."
With the coffee stout, McDevitt sought the advice of Harry and Beans Coffee owner Harry Gale, who advised him on the Summatran/Honduran blend of grounds he uses. The summatran, for example, is thrown in at the end of the boil and quickly whisked into a whirlpool. The Honduran coffee is cold brewed with a French press overnight in the refrigerator.
"The heat releases an astringent flavor that cold brewering does not," McDevitt explains. "But it also extracts a ton of aroma, which is a big part of flavor."
McDevitt doesn't play favorites, he says he loves all his brews equally, and is happy to share samples and talk about his love of craft brews on the weekends, when he's off from his teaching job. And he is planning a new beer that should delight Henderson: an IPA.
Contact Felicia Compian:
Tuckahoe Brewing Company
New Brighton Imperial Coffee Stout
•16 1/2 pounds 2-row brewers malt (style of malt)
•1 1/2 pounds roasted barley
•1 1/2 pounds barley flakes
•1/2 pound chocolate malt
•1/2 pound black malt
•6.4 gallons water for mash, 170 degrees
•5 gallons sparge water, 170 degrees
•2 ounces first wort fuggles hops
•1.5 ounces Irish moss
•2 1/4 ounces Harry and Beans ground Sumatran coffee
•4 1/2 ounces Harry and Beans ground Honduran coffee
•1 packet liquid Wyeast American Ale 1056 or White Labs California Ale yeast
Mix malt and grains together with 170-degree mash water.
Using a ratio of 1.25 quarts of water to 1 pound of malt, mash in with a strike water temperature of 170 degrees. Hold mash in a cooler at 154 degrees for about 1 hour or until starch conversion. (You can check starch conversion by removing a little bit of wort and dropping iodine in; If it turns black, it's not ready.)
Sparge slowly with about 5 gallons of water heated to 170 degrees, until 6 gallons of wort are collected in kettle. Add fuggles immediately after sparging.
Boil wort for 75 minutes. With 15 minutes left in boil, add Irish moss to kettle. At flameout, add Sumatran coffee grounds to kettle and whirlpool with a sanitized spatula or spoon for 5 minutes. Let wort rest for 10 minutes, then chill to 65 degrees. Aerate wort well before pitching yeast.
Pitch pre-made yeast starter into wort and ferment at 68 to 70 degrees. After fermentation activity slows, begin checking gravity using this calculation:
Original gravity: 1.092
Final gravity: 1.023
Alcohol by volume: 9 percent
International Bittering Unit: 24.5
Color: 52.9 SRM
When gravity reaches 1.025, cold brew a quart of cold brewed Harry and Beans Honduran coffee. Mix coffee grounds and 1 quart of cold water in French press and chill overnight. The next day, pour cold brewed coffee into secondary fermenter and rack, or siphon, beer off yeast into the same fermenter. Age beer for 10 days in secondary fermenter.
After 10 days, rack beer into primed bottling/kegging bucket and bottle or keg. Age for 14 days at room temperature, then chill and serve.
Yield: 5 gallons coffee stout