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Torah on Tap: Oceanside Jewish Center, May 23,2013

TORAH on TAP: OCEANSIDE JEWISH CENTER MEN’S CLUB                               May 23, 2013


While I normally do wine events, I was asked to organize a beer program, called Torah on Tap.  Combining a beer tasting with some Bible study led to some interesting discussions, both about the brews available, as well as the study topic, which (appropriately) was the view and role of alcohol in the Bible. The approach was simply to alternate some learning and discussion with a craft brew, until everything was sampled and the attendees were too tired to continue talking and sampling.


It turned out that the date roughly corresponded to Craft Beer Week on Long Island, and we had the good fortune to have not only OJC’s Rabbi Greenspan on hand to lead the discussions and present  the commentary, but also Rabbi Gruber from Rockville Centre , who is also a craft brewer. He was able to provide everyone with a primer on brewing, explaining the steps, as well as differentiating bottom fermented beer, with top fermented ale.


I chose the brews to show a range of styles and tastes, and originally planned to use  standard and higher end commercial brands, but after some research, opted to go with a more handmade  and local selection. We are lucky to have Barrier Brewing (3001 New St., Unit A2, Oceanside NY 11572) right around the corner, from which three of the samples came. They have over a dozen to choose from, and were very easy to work with. I tasted most of their line and chose things that were, in my mind different.  The other three came from Monarch Beverages in Long Beach (505 Long Beach Blvd, Long Beach, NY 11561), a not so typical beverage store in that they have 8 taps from a wider geographic range.


With slightly over thirty folks thirsty for knowledge, three growlers (64 oz.) each of the six selections were available.  Everyone was able to experiment with a range of pretzels, chips, dips and sauces to see what went best with each selection. 


The line up (ABV):

Brew #1      Blue Point Ale (6%)  This is a widely available brew, both on tap and in bottles in the NY area. A very middle of the road ale, not too hoppy or bitter, with a full mouth feel that appeals to most drinkers.

Brew #2    Goose Island Summer Ale (5.1%) A bit lighter than Blue Point as far as mouth feel and alcohol, with a crisp acidity and refreshing hop presence. Also liked by most.

Brew #3      Barrier Cycle Saison (4.2%) Spicy, grassy, herbal and phenolic. Lots of yeast character and earthy hop aromas. Rich malt complexity from a blend of barley, wheat and spelt malt. Dry, yet full-bodied. Very complex for such a low ABV beer.

Brew # 4      Ithaca Flower Power (7.5%) Very aromatic ale that carries over well into the midpalate and finish. Not to everyone’s taste, but a unique brew. The spicy hops are reminiscent of a popular misdemeanor resinous herb, which I am told is a botanical relative.  The high alcohol is well balanced by the taste.

Brew #5      Barrier Icculus (5%) My favorite of the evening, similar to Blue Point, but each component was amplified, except the alcohol. I loved the way it lingered on the palate.

Brew #6    Barrier Lights Out Stout (6.1%) Big, bold, and black. Aromas of burnt caramel, roasted barley, chocolate, piney hops, and peat smoke. Deep malt complexity reveals a smooth sweetness buried beneath heavily roasted malt, coffee, bitter chocolate, and big hop bitterness with subtle peat smoked malt and dry finish.  A love it or leave it brew.


For anyone interested in doing something like this, the initial cost of the growlers, half gallon glass jugs with a good sealing cap, was $5, but can be refilled until you break it. The freshly drawn beer ranged in price from $10 to $16 per half gallon fill. When you compare this to mass produced, it isn’t that much more expensive, since many really insipid canned six packs work out to about $4 per quart. Look around your neighborhood and see what you can discover. You might even leave out the Bible study part and still have a good time.


Bernard Kenner

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