Founder Shane Welch on the cans and experimental series that have drinkers buzzing.
Last May, Sixpoint Craft Ales powered up a brand-new canning line and rocketed into the national spotlight. Its bend-the-style approach to brewing had already garnered a fiercely loyal following in New York since its debut in 2005, but with cans reaching a new audience—some smuggled across the country by beer tickers—Sixpoint suddenly lit up the Internet beer community.
“People love the cans; part of their love is the accessibility, and part of their love is the liquid,” says founder Shane Welch. People also love Sixpoint’s dizzying number of projects, which keeps beer rating sites buzzing—a buzz that’s growing as more “moving parts,” as Welch calls them, are added to the lineup this year.
The most familiar parts are the core and seasonal brands like Righteous Ale, a rye IPA, and Crisp, a German and Bohemian pilsner hybrid. Meanwhile, a line of heftier styles continues to unfold; the imperial IPA Resin arrived earlier this year in tall, skinny 12-ounce cans, a format previously untouched by craft beer. Then there are draft-only brews, a testing ground for the canned offerings. Anything goes in the Mad Scientist beer series, like the recent cranberry porter, while the Spice of Life series is an exploration in single-hopping. And if that kind of volume’s not enough to keep rating sites busy, Sixpoint’s set to unleash a new line of small-batch, wild-fermented ales later this year.
Amid the commotion of so many moving parts, the brewery’s newest release, The Apollo, has the Sixpoint founder most excited; the idea came to him as a “beer epiphany” courtesy of his new brewmaster and Weihenstephan Institute alum Jan Matysiak. On shelves now, this bright hefeweizen was sent through a centrifuge before packaging, giving it the look of a pale ale while still delivering on the style’s classic clove spiciness and drying finish.
“The beers are tasting better now than ever before,” says Welch. “We’ve hit the groove.”
“This is our most popular beer. It’s loosely based on the cream ale style, but it’s something that people describe as part wheat, part hefeweizen, part pale ale and part cream ale. You can’t really nail it down; it’s a pure homebrew recipe.”
“Righteous Ale is a rye PA, so to speak. This has the IBUs of an IPA and a grassy, herbaceous hop aroma, and you get some spice from the rye.”
“This beer is the closest thing we make to an IPA. It’s got lots of American and European hops—five different hops in there total—and it’s the inspiration for the Spice of Life series.”
“Crisp instantly became a fan favorite. It’s a blend between a German and Czech pilsner—very hoppy and dry with a lemon flavor that’s great in the summer.”
“Autumnation merges a pumpkin beer with a wet-hop beer. We basically make a pumpkin ale that uses fresh, wet hops from the Pacific Northwest. It’s a beer we only make once a year, and we add a little bit of white pepper and ginger.”
“This is basically a black IPA. It’s got the full body and roastiness of a stout, and the hop character of a black IPA—it’s personally one of my favorites. The hop profile gives it its signature flavor: People have described it as nutmeg or a dank spicy flavor; I think it’s got a little citrus and curry thing going on.”
PLUS: A Garden with a View
Sixpoint’s rooftop was a storage spot for broken kegs until the brewery’s resident foodie, Cathy Erway, decided to flex her green thumb. She had the kegs (as well as an antique bathtub) retrofitted into planters for vegetables and herbs; she also installed a rainwater collection system and a coop for egg-laying hens. Now, the eggs and produce end up in brewery lunches, and her roof-grown Japanese shiso herb is in a limited-edition brew. Erway shares gardening tips on her blog, LunchAtSixpoint.com.