Thursday, January 25, 2018

"The Brew Crew"

By Jerry Zezima
Stamford Advocate
As a home brewer who once brewed beer in my own home without, miraculously, blowing the place up, I have great admiration for practitioners of the craft of creating craft products that go down smoothly without coming back up the same way.

That’s why I recently quenched my thirst for knowledge by taking a brewing tutorial with Paul Komsic, brewmaster at BrickHouse Brewery and Restaurant in Patchogue, New York.

Paul, 32, started at BrickHouse as a customer and now, seven years later, is brewing the popular establishment’s many fine products, including the one we would be making, a nacho IPA that Paul planned to call Nacho Mama.

This gave me hope, as a BrickHouse customer myself, that I would eventually become the brewmaster, though it might take me twice as long because I am twice as old as Paul.

“How was the beer you brewed at home?” Paul asked.

“Surprisingly good,” I told him. “I called it Jerry’s Nasty Ale. I don’t know why, but it had a smoky taste. My wife and some neighbors tried it and nobody had to be hospitalized.”

“That’s always a good sign,” Paul commented.

“After that, I retired from brewing,” I said. “But I’m coming out of retirement today.”

Joining me in this class, which I hoped to graduate magna cum lager, were three guys who are home brewers and have no intention of retiring: Chris Cordano, 57, a tennis instructor, and the Homeyer brothers, Gregg, 59, an engineer, and Glenn, 52, an electrician.

Offering his able assistance was assistant brewer Brian Smith, 23, who, Paul said, “is me when I was that age.”

“Who were you?” I wondered.

“I was still me,” Paul answered, “but I wasn’t making beer. I was drinking it. Now I do both.”

The first thing we learned in the class, which started at 8 a.m., was that beer makes a fine breakfast treat. BrickHouse had kindly supplied bagels and coffee, but we got to sample small amounts of the brewery’s latest products as the tutorial went along.

The first order of business was learning the steps involved in making beer. Actually, there were three steps that led up to a platform, on either side of which was a mash tun and a kettle. Both are huge. The mash tun, for example, holds 1,100 pounds of grain.

I got to find out first hand, assisted by my second hand, when Paul asked me to dump in some of the 30 pounds of raw tortilla chips that were our brew’s key ingredient. Chris, Gregg and Glenn each got a turn as well.

Also important were Saaz hop pellets, which Paul said would, if you ate one, “set your mouth on fire.”

So I ate one. It set my mouth on fire. Fortunately, I had a glass of beer, which quickly doused the flames.

In went the rest of the pellets, along with other ingredients such as yeast, which Paul said eats the sugar that has been converted from grain to create alcohol.

Along the way, we learned that brewing goes back to the Middle Ages, when the process involved running beer through fish bladders.

“Now I know where the expression ‘drink like a fish’ comes from,” I said. “And we’re in our middle ages, so we’re carrying on a great tradition.”

We also got to glimpse the inside of the mash tun as Paul was cleaning out the grains that would be sent to feed cows at a nearby farm as part of the “Brew to Moo” program.

“Does the milk come out with a head on it?” I wondered.

“No, you can’t get beer from a cow,” Paul said as he removed the screen at the base of the tun, which is, on a much smaller scale, what my classmates do when they make beer at home.

“I have a false bottom,” Gregg said.

“How do you sit down?” I asked him.

The tutorial, which was fascinating and lots of fun, took about four hours, after which Gregg, Glenn, Chris and I had lunch: delicious burgers and, of course, beer, though not the nacho IPA, which wouldn’t be ready for another two weeks.

“I can’t wait to taste it,” I told Paul. “And when you retire, let me know. If BrickHouse needs another brewmaster, I’ll be available.”

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima

Thursday, January 11, 2018

"Color Me Beautiful"

By Jerry Zezima
Stamford Advocate
This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home, this little piggy had roast beef, this little piggy had none. But my little piggies, instead of crying wee wee wee all the way home, said the hell with it and went for a pedicure.

My wife, Sue, who gets pedicures all the time and whose feet are beautiful, thinks mine aren’t. So, to convince her that a little pampering wouldn’t be like putting lipstick on a pig, I arranged to be beautiful, too, by having shiny red nail polish put on my piggies.

I put my best foot forward, followed by the other one, when my office was visited recently by Marianella Aguirre and Jennifer Yepez of Green Spa on the Go, a mobile spa and nail studio in Forest Hills, New York.

Employees could get manicures or pedicures. Even though this is a digital age, and my digits sometimes have hangnails, I decided not to put the man in manicure and instead wanted a trained professional to cure the two titanic tootsies that make me a biped.

That unenviable task fell to Jennifer, who is 28 and has been working at the spa for a year.

“I like your socks,” she said, pointing to hosiery embroidered with fish.

“I’m not wearing socks,” I replied. “The doctor says this rash should clear up in a couple of weeks.”

Jennifer looked stunned.

“I hope you don’t think my feet smell like fish,” I told her.

“No,” she said with a smile of relief as I removed my socks.

“Still,” I noted, “you should have worn a gas mask.”

“Your feet aren’t so bad,” said Marianella, 39, who owns Green Spa on the Go.

“My wife thinks I have the ugliest feet on earth,” I said.

“Don’t worry,” Marianella responded. “Jennifer will make them beautiful.”

And she did. It took a lot of work, but Jennifer’s expert technique rubbed me the right way.

“Be careful,” I warned. “I’m ticklish.”

“OK,” she said, giggling along with me as she massaged my right foot, which she anointed with cream and oil after clipping my toenails and using a pusher to clean them.

“They’re too cuticle for words,” I declared.

They were doubly so after Jennifer performed the same wonderful routine on my left foot (not starring Daniel Day-Lewis).

As Jennifer worked her magic, Marianella told me that Green Spa on the Go has clients throughout the metropolitan area, including my hometown of Stamford, Connecticut, and that some of her most notable customers have been former New York Knicks stars Kurt Thomas and J.R. Smith.

“Those guys are huge,” Marianella said. “Their feet are really challenging.”

“Bigger than mine?” I asked, adding that they are size 11.

“Yours are baby feet,” she assured me.

And, baby, did they feel good. Now all I needed was nail polish.

“Men are going with bright colors these days,” Marianella said. “How about red?”

“Why not?” I replied, choosing the shiniest shade, which Jennifer expertly applied to my nails.

“They glow!” I chirped, paying Marianella a bargain price of $20 and giving a nice tip to Jennifer, who in turn gave me a pair of banana yellow, open-toed pedicure slippers, which I had to wear until the polish dried.

When my colleagues saw my glossy hoofs, they could barely contain their excitement.

“Wow!” Kevin gushed.

“I love your toes!” Francesca enthused.

“You have nice feet for a guy!” Janelle exclaimed.

The person I really wanted to impress was Sue. When my shift was over, I put my socks and shoes back on and drove home, where I told her about my pedicure.

“Don’t tell me you got nail polish, too,” she said.

“Yes,” I replied. “Red.”

“Oh, my God,” she said. “Let me see.”

I took off my shoes and socks. Sue looked down.

“What can I say?” she did say. “They’re lovely.”

“Too bad it’s not summer,” I said. “Then the whole world would see that I no longer have the ugliest feet on earth.”

Copyright 2018 by Jerry Zezima