A HEMMED-IN FORMER AUTO garage seems an unlikely place to snag saisons, bieres de garde and other farmhouse treasures, but here it is: two full-time owner-brewers and a handful of part-time staff brewing 18 to 24 barrels a week of French- and Belgian-style country ales under the Pulaski Bridge. The Doppler whoosh of traffic overhead and the piercing beeps of reversing delivery trucks cast the Long Island City brewhouse as a comparatively quiet refuge.
Transmitter bottles 75 percent of its beers in corked-and-caged 750 mLs, with the remaining quarter kegged and bound for top Brooklyn bars like Covenhoven, Bar Great Harry and The Owl Farm. It has no draft lines in its 10-by-12-foot retail area, just choices of bottles for sale each weekend, and three or four picnic tables wedged inside the brewery at which to enjoy them. A “crowd” of 15 to 20 people feels cramped here. The tables are within spitting distance of the six-barrel brewing system, a few sticker-covered refrigerators and 30 or so wine and spirits barrels currently aging beers.
The vibe is industrial, but the beers are far from it. That begins with the yeast strains, the majority of which are grown in-house. “Some are purchased commercial strains, some are derived from bottles that we admire, and we get some of the funkier strains from yeast wranglers out in the world,” says Anthony Accardi, who opened the doors to Transmitter in March 2014 with fellow homebrewer Rob Kolb. “As a homebrewer, I taught myself enough microbiology and yeast culturing to plate and isolate strains.”
The brewers are yeast fanatics, but the farmhouse sensibility also extends to other ingredients, like the all-New-York-state-grown hops and grains that make up Transmitter’s NY series of beers. Other series include S (saison), F (farmhouse), W (wheat/wit), PH (sour) and B (black, like stouts and porters); no flagships here. Accardi estimates the brewery released 60 beers in its first two years, each iteration marked with a number so that the beers’ names read like a Battleship move: B2, B3, F7.
With each release, Accardi zeros in on more of what he wants from a yeast strain or ingredient: “Is that a flavor we like? Is that something we want to chase?” he asks. “What are people thinking about it? Is it a weird beer? Do they like it weird?” Accardi developed his obsession with process in his former career, when he owned a lab that printed photos for fine artists and photographers. He sometimes made paper by hand, incorporating both historical processes and chemistry—not dissimilar to brewing. “Whether it’s photography as craft or beer as craft, it’s about paying attention to details and taking notes and trying to understand the cause and effect of a process on a product,” he says. “We’re constantly honing the flavors we’re after. It’s not unlike working in a darkroom, always testing and perceiving.”
Accardi’s recommendations for 3 to try:
“It’s a wit we brew with hibiscus, fresh orange peel and coriander with a relatively high ABV for the style, up in the mid-6%. It’s a beer we think of as not intended for guzzling in the sun; it tends to be an early summer beer. We ferment it with saison yeast, so it ends up being pretty dry with not a lot of Belgian fruitiness. It leans a little spicier, which I think lets the background citrus and coriander poke through.”
“This farmhouse beer uses three strains of Brett and a light malt base. The major flavor is super overripe fruit, really juicy with some traditional hay and grassiness from the Brett. It’s got a funkier nose than it does flavor; it telegraphs funk, but then finishes as overripe fruit. I think of the flavors as akin to a melon or strawberry that’s just on that very last day that you want to eat it.”
“This saison uses all New York state ingredients, including some malted corn. I sometimes really like corn in a beer; the maltster that we work with makes such a great product. We also use three strains of Brett, so it’s got funkiness and this underlying grainy, subtle sweetness from the corn. It’s very drinkable and just subtly hoppy.”
The brewery also offers a CSB (community-supported beer) program. A six-month share costs $175 and buys you two bottles a month for pick-up at the brewery, plus glassware and discounts on other bottles.