By GREG WATRY
LAFAYETTE — Lafayette Township will soon be home to Angry Erik Brewing, a new microbrewery located just off Route 94, that is poised to open within the next few weeks, hopefully by Super Bowl weekend.
Behind the beer are husband-and-wife team Erik and Heide Hassing.
The goal is to “make beer and hopefully have fun doing it,” Erik said. “Hopefully grow a little bit,” too.
“I think the way we’ve pictured it is to be a destination,” Heide said. “People can go to Lafayette Village and stop by,” she said. Or if there’s bad weather at Mountain Creek during the summer, people can swing by, take a load off and have a beer.
Both born in rural communities, Erik from Arizona and Heide from Maine, the two met while attending Colby College in Maine.
“By the time I met Heide, I was a senior” and on the rugby team, Erik, 41, said.
Heide was told to stay away from rugby players “so the first thing she did was find me,” he added.
“I was very defiant,” Heide, 38, joked.
In 1999, the two were living in a small apartment in Queens. As an activity to do together, Heide bought Erik a home brew kit. Heide, a trained chef, would do the cooking, and Erik would do the brewing.
“Pretty quickly she started saying things like, ‘why don’t you do it this way?’ ” Erik said. Or “why don’t we add this?”
“Or when he wasn’t looking, sneaking ingredients into the pot,” Heide added.
Eventually the Hassings left the city for New Jersey, but the brewing continued.
“We were brewing pretty much every week,” Erik said. But the two had much greater ambitions.
Having a brewery, “it’s one of those dreams that you kind of always talk about, and you’re like someday we’ll do this,” Heide said. “Someday was here, because if you just keep saying someday it’s never going to happen.”
“Most brewers like beer,” Erik said. “We, in particular, like good quality beer.”
And the Hassings’ aim was to produce a beer that matched the quality of their tastes.
On St. Patrick’s Day 2013, the two started an official Facebook page for their brewery, which acted as the impetus to make their dream a reality.
The name Angry Erik originated from a “nickname I didn’t realize I had when I was a prosecutor in the Bronx,” Erik said with a laugh. Heide designed the logo, which depicts a Viking shield, battle axe and dragon.
“I was already researching equipment and stuff like that,” Erik said.
“We’d been going on brewery tours for years” and got to “experience how they do it,” Heide added.
The next step was finding a suitable location and a municipality that would accommodate a brewery’s needs. Luckily they met Anthony Berardi, the landlord of their 2,500-square-foot location at 10 Millpond Drive, whose son is a brewer in Wyoming.
Prior to the brewery moving in, the space was a manned warehouse, according to Erik.
“We kind of lucked into this place,” Erik said. And “Lafayette’s been great.”
After they signed the lease in July 2013, the two submitted the proper paperwork to the federal and state government. In order to get approval from the federal government, the Hassings had to go through the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. For the state, it was the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Luckily Erik, who works as an attorney in Flanders, was able to navigate the paperwork.
Currently, Heide works as a chemist in Lafayette.
The two will keep their day jobs, and hire help to assist in tours of the facility and tastings.
Once the legal work was done, the next step was making sure the facility was up to snuff. At the site, the Hassings are able to produce 10 barrels, or 310 gallons, of beer during a single brew. Much of the equipment is made out of a shimmering stainless steel, but each container has a specific function. The water starts out in the kettle, where it is heated up to a specific temperature. It then moves to a device called the mash tun, where milled barley is added. Depending on the type of beer being brewed, one might add multiple types of barley or a single type.
“You let (the barley) steep in the hot water and that’s when all the sugars come out of the barley,” Heide said. “And so what you’re left with is called wort.”
The wort, which is basically beer without alcohol or carbon dioxide, is drained out. It tastes “like a very sweet tea,” she added.
The Hassings donate the leftover grains to a local farm to be used as fodder. The wort goes back into the kettle, where different flavors and spices are subsequently added. Hops would typically be added, but the Hassings said that in the craft brewery scene brewers add orange peels and lemongrass among other ingredients. “People add everything except the kitchen sink,” Heide said.
The wort rests in the kettle between 60 and 120 minutes, and is then cooled through a heat exchanger, and transferred to a fermentor.
In the fermentor, the beer is cooled down to between 70 and 75 degrees, depending on the beer type and style. During this time, yeast is added to the process. Yeast, which Heide playfully called the brewery’s “employee of the month,” is a single-celled organism. “The old saying is brewers make wort, and yeast makes beer,” she said.
The liquid stays in the fermentor for a few weeks. The time, once again, dependent on the style and type of beer one is making. From there, it is transferred to the brite tank where it is once again cooled to drinking temperature and force carbonate, and finally transferred to the keg.
According to Erik, the beer can be served directly from the brite tank, but they were asked not to do that due to regulations. While the beer can go into any sort of receptacle, Angry Erik will focus on kegs for now.
The Hassings have a list of about 40 recipes to try.
“On a small scale you can try crazy things,” Heide said of the home brew kit. The two even made a beet beer once.
“We might do it here, but that’s a lot of beets,” Erik said. “The brewery might end up red.”
“One of the issues with scaling up is the way the ingredients are utilized in the kettle and in the fermentors is different than it is on a small scale,” Heide said. What you have to be mindful of is “basically surface area to volume ratios, and the different shapes of the containers.
“It’s easy to end up with an accidently good beer,” she added. “It’s much harder to plan a good beer.”
“And recreate it over and over,” Erik chimed in. But on a big system it should be easier to do that.
During the second weekend in January, the Hassings brewed their amber ale beer, their first beer to be sold when they open. On their Facebook page, they held a naming competition, and garnered 50 contestants though no name has been picked yet. The beer will most likely be done fermenting by today, they said.
“We’re going to be doing a porter and our third beer will be an IPA (Indian pale ale),” Heide said.
In memory of their deceased dog Porter, the tentative title for the beer is Mr. Porter’s Porter.
Angry Erik Brewing’s beer will be available at the brewery for purchase in kegs, half kegs and growlers. Tours will be offered, and customers will be able to taste and buy pints after the tour. It’s BYOF (Bring Your Own Food). In the front room of the brewery, two bar tables, with four bar stools, and a picnic table are set up for visitors to kick back with a brew after a tour.
The planned hours for the facility are Thursdays and Fridays from 5:30 to 8 p.m., Saturdays from noon to 8 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.
For more information on Angry Erik Brewing, visit online at www.angryerik.com or call 862-432-9003.