Chat with Canal Street Beer God

October 18th, 2007 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

Boston Beer Works on Canal has as many wide-screen TVs as a Circuit City. I had better entertainment yesterday in the person of Herb Lindtveit.

The brewmaster is a sturdy fellow, who looks like he could tuck a keg under each arm and walk. He came behind the bar when my friend John and I were holding forth on something we likely thought was important. In his heavy dark blue coveralls with Herb on the right pec, he was finishing his day and feeling chatty.

We’re fans of his, even though this was the first time we met him or knew his name. We like a number of his beers, ales and barley wines, and are strong fans of his IPA. We bring IPAs at places like Redbones and the Sunset, which often have many on tap. BBW’s version is our touchstone and we often recommend it to others.

It never hurts to begin a conversation praising the other guy, so long as you’re sincere. We know his work.

Five years ago, Herb made a minor splash throughout the country with his comments about how beer helps build strong bones. As brewers are wont, even there he was talking enzymes and chemistry. It’s refreshing today to run across experts who aren’t about self-promotion.

Hercules Strong Ale shirt detailIn fact, Herb is pretty modest. He readily admitted that the original IPA recipe was from another brewmaster, Steve, from 15 years ago. However, Herb says he makes a lot of it. “IPA sells faster than I an brew it.” He also brews it for the sister Salem Beer Works. They truck the output to Cape Ann.

Salem’s brewing facilities are limited. They can’t brew as many varieties with their smaller equipment. There’s only so much hops they can handle at a time.

He had an answer for my complaint about the rarity of their Hercules Strong Ale, as well as the t-shirt. That shirt, as in the detail here, is surely the most attractive one they ever produced. Plus, mine is wearing out. Herb has nothing to do with the shirt designs and stock, but he does know about the brew.

It is actually a barley wine carrying 11.5% alcohol. That’s twice that of a strong beer. In addition, Herb said that it has to age for several months. Before that, it is what he calls “hot.” It needs to mellow as it age to for its best flavor. He said there was some in storage doing just that upstairs. The Canal Street BBW will release it in a few weeks.

Like summer, when it’s gone, it’s gone.

He talked a bit about yeast too. He said most commercial bottlers and many big micro-brewers develop their own yeast. Others buy from two standard yeast suppliers. BBW has it own.

We all agreed that beer that’s pasturized to keep in stores lacks something fresh beer has. In Herb’s terms, “You can always tell when it’ pasturized. It just doesn’t have that spunk to it.”

Finally, he cleared up the wall mystery. I had asked waitrons and managers, but no one could tell me for sure what that gigantic steep circular door-like thing on the wall over the booths is. Herb said the building used to be a factory. That is the opening to the boiler where they piled the coal. They moved it upstairs as decoration during reconstruction.

Well, I’ll be checking back for more Herc. When it’s gone, it’s gone.


2 Responses

  1. Bryn Evans says:

    Obviously catching up. Last spring I got to taste a sample batch of a new barley wine spin at Salem BW. Haven’t heard a thing since. It would be interesting to have two on the menu. It might also mean walking home.

  2. Harrumpher says:

    Have you gotten your VIP card? (Yet another damned plastic thingummy.)

    Perhaps we need to taste Herc when it’s on. I’ll keep checking and let you know.

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