Old plow pilsner, crazy rooster IPA, stars and Annette stout, what the wheat?
Hearing the names of some of the beers created by Chris Kaplan-Walbrecht and Will Stoner of Garden of Eve Farm Brewery makes you curious to taste them, but it’s their enthusiasm for the craft that’s truly infectious.
“‘What the wheat?’ is wheaty and sweet,” Mr. Stoner explained. “Nothing’s crazy hoppy, the pilsner is mild, and the stout is named after Chris’s mother-in-law because she loves our stouts, though she doesn’t drink a whole lot.”
After getting their brewing permit last year, the pair began brewing small batches, about 15 gallons worth and were even able to offer a beer CSA to fall customers. They are again offering a summer CSA and occasionally offer brewery for tours.
“The hard part about being small is when we get a really good batch, we’re tempted to keep it,” Mr. Kaplan-Walbrecht said. “But starting with a small system we can produce 30 gallons a day and that’s where we are now.”
Their original plan was to use as close to 100% New York State products, with a portion coming from the farm. Currently, Mr. Kaplan-Walbrecht grows his own barley, rye, and wheat, as well as some hops, on the Garden of Eve farm he shares with his wife, Eve, in Riverhead. While their beer is not organic, Mr. Kaplan-Walbrecht said 95% of his ingredients are from New York State.
“We’re 100% New York with our grain and Condzella Farms’ hops, but because IPAs need mosaic hops, we do buy some of those,” Mr. Stoner said. “Still we’re way ahead of the rules 10 years from now.”
Under the Farm Brewing Law passed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2012, at least 20% of hops and 20% of other ingredients used in a local brewery must be grown in New York State as of 2018. By 2024, 90% of hops and 90% of other ingredients must be New York State grown.
Attempts to find a malting facility proved too expensive or cost prohibitive, so they decided to do it themselves.
“We reached out to a lot of malters and either they’re booked up or we’re too small,” Mr. Kaplan-Walbrecht said. “They do batches of 5,000 to 10,000 pounds and we had a batch of 800 pounds.”
They began reading up on the process, watched videos and practiced over the winter. Once the grain is harvested, it’s cleaned, then soaked in water to grow the shoots.
“Think of how people cut wheat grass greens for juicing,” Mr. Stoner explained. “That’s taking the protein of the grain and converting it into sugar. What we’re trying to do is optimize the sugar content by first soaking it, then allowing the root, which are the first things to come out.”
Once the roots appear, the grain is drained and dried in the greenhouse on metal racks in the ceiling, where the heat collects. Different flavors are achieved with different temperatures, as well as roasting the grains.
“Roasted malts are a small percentage,” Mr. Kaplan-Walbrecht said. “The beer we’re making today is a golden ale, which just involves drying. The majority of beer is just the dried grain.”
Once malting is done, the fun begins, brewing the beer. During their last tour, they served an IPA, a spring air ale, a pilsner and a stout.
“I want to do an ‘I Love New York’ American pale ale because everything is from New York, which is pretty neat.” Mr. Stoner said.
“We also plan to make a beer that’s completely from the farm, a signature Long Island Garden of Eve Farm beer,” Mr. Kaplan-Walbrecht said. “With the amount of hops that we have we can do that, an all organic Garden of Eve beer. We haven’t decided on one yet, maybe a pale or a golden ale.”
Mr. Kaplan-Walbrecht has another treat brewing, an oak maple porter, made with syrup he collected over the winter tapping his maple trees.
“We used these blue sacks to collect it, boiled it and for every 50 gallons of sap I got about two and 1/2 half quarts of syrup,” he said.
The maple porter is currently aging in oak barrels and will be tapped for Memorial Day.
“It’s our prize beer, so like I was saying we may not want to share,” Mr. Kaplan-Walbrecht teased with a glint in his eye. “It is fun when you drink your own beer.”
He and Will Stoner have no plans to expand or mass produce, preferring to concentrate on quality, rather than quantity.
“Our approach is the same as when we started the farm,” Mr. Kaplan-Walbrecht said. “We started with an acre and a rototiller and built from there by keeping the product where we wanted it. I don’t want to have to crave beer other than my own, that’s my goal.”
Garden of Eve Farm Brewery is located at 4558 Sound Avenue in Riverhead. Taps are now open on weekends and for more information about the beer CSA visit https://gardenofevefarm.com/csa/ or call (631) 722-8777.