You could say it was a meating of minds. Or maybe it was time spent with swine. Whatever it was, the result is clear: a new hazy IPA created by Interboro Spirits & Ales, the combination brewery and distillery in East Williamsburg, in collaboration with Pig Beach, the indoor-outdoor barbecue restaurant overlooking the Gowanus Canal.
With a pale-orange sunset-like color, buoyantly juicy flavors of dank citrus and tropical fruit and a slight, gentle bitterness that invites the next sip, it’s called Live at the BBQ, named, like most of Interboro’s beers, for a hip-hop song. (This one’s a 1991 record by Main Source that most notably marked the first appearance of Nas when he was a teenager.)
Live at the BBQ will be available through the summer at both Interboro and Pig Beach, both in 16-ounce cans and on draft. On a recent evening, I enjoyed crushing a few cans from the restaurant’s buzzing outdoor space, a beer garden and barbecue stand beneath strings of lights abutting the skulking canal’s western shores, pairing the pounders with a hatch-vinegar-coated pork shoulder and some purple coleslaw with jalapeño and pineapple. After, I took an Uber (one cannot grab a plane at this beach, because pigs do not fly) to a graffiti-covered warehouse on Grand Street in East Williamsburg that’s home to Interboro and now a second distillery: Arcane Distilling, helmed by Dave Kyrejko, somewhat of a sage of spirits who uses a custom-built two-tiered vacuum still to concoct small batches of hops-flavored fernet as well as a line of robust beer-derived whiskeys known as Lone Wolf.
Large windows provide views of the production area from the airy, light-wood-filled tasting room—during my visit, a mobile-canning company was on site to package The Vapors, a double dry hopped double IPA that Interboro would release the next day—where I sat with Jesse Ferguson, the brewer, distiller and an owner. Over some “low-fills” (these are cans holding a little less than the amount advertised and thus not sold, instead drank by brewers and friends), he spoke about the collaboration with Pig Beach, as well as about its first festival, focused on pilsners, Pils City, set for this Friday.
Edible Brooklyn: How did you team up with Pig Beach? Also, like barbecue, IPA can take many forms. What things did you consider while creating the recipe for this IPA, and did you tailor it specifically for Pig Beach’s food?
Jesse Ferguson: One of the owners Michael Greenlee approached us looking for a brewery to work with on an IPA that would complement their slow-smoked pig and other meats. Most important, we wanted to have an IPA that was refreshing and crushable, especially given the type of year and the setting. It’s safe to say that you’re most likely going to be drinking this outside. I like a somewhat dry and bitter beer with barbecue, and the team at Pig Beach agreed. It has a 6 percent ABV and it finishes very dry, which helps it cut through the fat of pulled pork or ribs. We used some of my favorite hops: Simcoe, Citra, Mosaic and El Dorado. So it drinks very juicy, with a mild bitter finish. After each sip you’ll be hungry for your next bite.
EB: Waiting a couple of hours for barbecue has become routine in Texas—and, here in Brooklyn, in Red Hook at Hometown BBQ—not unlike the waiting lines for new releases of IPAs at breweries around the country. What’s your take on the line phenomenon in beer?
JF: I think it’s awesome that the beer scene has become so dynamic, with breweries pumping out great beer across the country and enthusiastic diehard fans willing to wait for it. I don’t have an opinion either way about it beyond that. I’m just looking to make beer people want to drink.
EB: You’re holding your first festival, Pils City, on Friday at the brewery. What was the inspiration, and what can attendees expect?
JF: Plain and simple, Friday we’re going to be celebrating pilsner and lager. It was inspired by a night out in Nashville during the Craft Brewers Conference this year when Mike Sardina, who is the events manager for Bissell Brothers up in Maine, we were enjoying some really great beers and looking forward to Other Half’s Green City fest. We thought it would be great to put together an event for all the fans and brewers who are coming to that festival to come and crush lager beers the night before. Pils and lager are kind of the other side of the coin from IPA, and these days with the incredibly dank, juicy IPAs that are being produced all over, sometimes a cold, crisp lager is just what your palate needs, or wants. The event is free to get in, and you pay as you go. We’ll have stuff on draft and in cans from breweries like Bissell, J. Wakefield from Florida, and locals like Transmitter. We’ll also have food specials and pilsner cocktails made with our spirits.
EB: Some brewers say that pilsners, and pale lagers in general, are the hardest beers to produce. Do you agree?
JF: I don’t know. I wouldn’t say making a great pilsner is any more difficult than a great IPA, and vice versa. I think it just depends on how much you like making what you want to make. For me what’s really important is to focus on making flavorful beer.
EB: IPA has long fueled craft beer’s growth, but it seems that light lagers are on the rise among the industry’s brewers. But is it that drinkers are demanding these beers be made more, or is it more brewers wanting, after decades of being on the polar opposite of the spectrum, to compete against low-ABV, macro brands in the biggest market space with a fuller flavored light lager?
JF: With the number of draft accounts we have that only want to pour independent craft, I definitely see opportunity to get a line with a pils or light lager. Most of the time it’s a rotating line, but that’s still a great opportunity for us. So in that sense there is a demand from drinkers. In the past people were mostly looking for more bold flavor profiles from craft beer, but now I think they’re just looking for good independent beer across a range of styles, and that includes light lagers.
EB: The day after Pils City, you’re serving at Other Half’s IPA festival, Green City. If you had to brew and sell only pilsner or IPA for an entire year, which would you choose?
JF: If I had to choose one I’d still bet on IPA. New York City loves IPA, and right now drinkers love New York City IPA. It’s a great moment to be brewing here, and I wouldn’t want to miss out on being part of what’s going to happen next with IPA in this city.
EB: Lastly, Live at the Barbecue is named for Main Source’s 1991 song, which marked the first appearance on record of Nas. Is his verse your favorite on the song?
JF: Nas’, hell yes. But everyone rips it. It’s just flat out one of the best posse cuts in rap history, from a classic rap album.