CIA beer mission: Operation Poughkeepsie

By on February 17, 2016

Brewing, at its base form, is cooking. Malted grain is heated with water to make wort. The wort is cooked while ingredients like hops are added for flavor. Brewers add yeast, and fermentation creates alcohol. It’s a simple recipe, but it takes a solid attention to detail to create a good beer. So, it was no surprise when I learned the nation’s number one chef school — the Culinary Institute of America — has created an on-campus brewery. I recently drove four hours north to New York to check it out.

Last year, the school teamed up with brewing heavyweight Brooklyn Brewing to create The Brewery at the CIA. Part of the college’s new Art and Science of Brewing elective, the student run brewery has two flagship brews, Cleaver IPA and Mise en Place Wit. I only had time for one beer during my visit, so I chose the wit.

Mis en Place Wit, named for the cooking maxim translated from French to mean “putting in place,” is a standard wheat-based beer. This brew is simply a standard beer — no bells and whistles. The unfiltered beer brewed with orange peel and coriander clocks in at 4.6 percent abv.

The Brewery at the CIA produces 500 barrels of beer annually, which can be tasted at the student dining area and the many on-premises restaurants at the school.

While I was in the area, I sought out other local breweries and found Mill House Brewing Company in downtown Poughkeepsie. Now, this isn’t the best location for a tourist to wander around, but once inside I felt comfortable and welcome. Mill House prides itself on local fare, especially sausage. Meats like French garlic sausage, beer and cheddar bratwurst, and pork and lamb merguez are proudly displayed at the entrance of this massive brewpub. As enticing as those sound, I was here for the beer.

I started with a flight, so I could get a taste of five of the brewery’s offerings. Köld One is a classic, thirst quenching Kolsch, which is easy to drink. It’s the beer people order when they are not familiar with specialty brewing. The Kilt Spinner is a rich, deep Scottish ale. It gains its flavor complexity by aging in oak barrels.

“Hop heads rejoice,” ends the description of Mill House’s Northwest Territory. Their take on a West Coast IPA has an elevated bitterness and alcohol content, but it didn’t leave my mouth sour like a lot of over-hopped IPAs can. If it wasn’t for their stouts, I’d say Northwest Territory is their best beer.

Mill House had two stouts on tap when I visited, so I tried them both. I don’t know where the bear comes from, but the velvet in the Velvet Panda stout is a spot-on description. This beer may have the best mouthfeel of any beer I’ve ever drank. I want to bathe in it!

Sticking with the panda theme, I also tried Panda-Monium, the brewery’s Russian imperial stout. This high alcohol brew features nine different grains and is brewed with 12 pounds of molasses. It’s a big bear beer. Cheers!

Michael Upton at the CIA brewery.

Michael Upton at the CIA’s Brooklyn Brewery.

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